There will be a Special Meeting of the Watertown Planning Board on Thursday, May 21, 2015, in the Town Council Chamber of Town Hall, 149 Main Street, Watertown, to hear a proposal to build a new business class five story hotel on the site formerly occupied by Atlantic Battery.
The developer, Cherag Patel, from the Chicago area has owned and developed hotels for the past sixteen years. Mr. Patel said “We are excited about the opportunity to bring another marquis hotel to Watertown. We feel that Watertown’s location is superior to Cambridge and Waltham because Watertown has the unique ability to offer guests both an urban experience like Cambridge, and a suburban experience, like Waltham.
Our market research firmly establishes that there is so much demand for hotel rooms from Watertown businesses such as Athena Health, Tufts Health, the Perkins School for the Blind, and the many other thriving businesses in Watertown, that a second hotel in Watertown will flourish. We are looking forward to the opportunity to build a hotel that will be contribute to the budding renaissance of East Watertown.
The site had formerly been in violation of the Massachusetts environmental law, Chapter 21-e. The current owners recently spent almost $600,000.00 to bring the site into full compliance with the Department of Environmental Protection’s rules and regulations. A few hundred tons of lead contaminated soil were shipped to a site in New Jersey to bring the property into full environmental compliance. If the hotel use is approved by the Planning Board, all of the remaining “residual” contamination at the site will also be removed because Mr. Patel’s plan is to spend an additional $1,000,000.00 to excavate almost the entire footprint of the site to create an underground parking garage. The excavated soil will also have to be sent to a special receiving facility because some of it contains lead.
Mr. Patel’s development plans include creating some attractive open space along Elm Street to promote a positive interface between the hotel and the immediate neighborhood. He plans to add trees and new landscaping along the frontage on Elm Street. The plans also include a comprehensive surface water drainage system to ensure that there will be no adverse affect on the public storm water drainage system.
Mr. Patel has done a shadow study which definitively shows that there are no shadows from the proposed hotel cast on any of the nearby residential properties. In fact, there are no residential properties in the direct vicinity that abut this proposed development.
Mr. Patel’s development plans include a strong emphasis on environmental sustainability employing an energy conscious design with regard to building materials and shading.
The plans also include utilizing energy efficient technology and renewable energy resources and minimizing water use. The lighting has been designed to ensure that there is almost no glare or light dispersion into the neighborhood.
The development team has had two public meetings to allow the neighbors an opportunity to learn about the project and voice their questions and concerns. After the first neighborhood meeting, in response to some residents’ concerns, a peer review was done by Gamble and Associates, to ensure that the proposed new hotel would meet the full intent of the new Design Guidelines under review by the Town of Watertown. In fact the current design represents a dramatic revision from the original proposal and it was favorably received by many at the second neighborhood meeting.
Mr. Patel also said that there are some very good economic benefits for the town of Watertown when a hotel is built. Patel said, “Because Watertown will be able to keep the room tax revenue from the proposed hotel, the total property tax and room tax revenue received by the town of Watertown could be three to four times higher than the tax revenues received from another commercial development. If this project is approved, the tax revenues received by Watertown could easily be more than tenfold the current tax revenue received by the town on the property.”
Whether or not the Planning Board is receptive to Mr. Patel’s proposal remains to be seen. But Bill Dillon, from Landmark Real Estate, who is handling the sale of the property, says that that he has three bona fide back up offers for the property if the hotel use is not approved. The offers are from local and regional business that can utilize the industrial zoning of the property. Those uses include a landscape, brick yard, and building supply business to replace the Pirolli business that will shut down when that property is developed, an auto body shop in desperate need of a new location, and a regional utility company that wants to build a garage and have a service and parking facility for their service and repair vehicles.
These are interesting times for Watertown. How the town evolves and responds to the new opportunities that are at hand will contribute to the quality of life that all Watertown residents will enjoy in the future.
Submitted by: Cherag Patel, Developer of 80 Elm Street site