The major apartment complex with a retail section on Arsenal Street at Irving Street received final approval from the Watertown Zoning Board of Appeals, but a small park remains to be designed with the help of the community.
Known as Elan, the project being developed by Greystar will have 282 apartments and more than 10,000 square feet of retail space. The retail will be on the west end of the complex, and face other stores in the next-door apartment/retail complex being constructed by Hanover/Cresset across a shared driveway.
Developers made a few changes to the plans approved by the Planning Board in May.
The project features a glassed-in bridge connecting the east and west buildings. ZBA members asked for the support columns to be removed so the view through the area is not obstructed. Architects did that by narrowing the bridge and changing the support system.
“I think we can really call it a bridge now,” said Tom Schultz of The Architectural Team. “The supports are not columns, and are up against the building.”
A central driveway will go between the two buildings from Arsenal Street to the back of the property near Phillips Street. Cars will be able to go through the site, but not onto Phillips Street, but walkers and bikers can go through Phillips Street to create a connection to Mt. Auburn Street.
Part of the project is a half-acre park across Irving Street from the complex. Plans for the park were not presented to the ZBA because they will be created with the help of the community, said Chris Regnier, an attorney from Goulston & Storrs representing Greystar. Two public meetings are planned to get input – the first of which will be held on July 8 at 7 p.m. at the Watertown Free Public Library.
Resident Dennis Duff mostly had good things to say about the project, but said that he would have like to have seen a tree planted at the corner of Arsenal and Irving Streets. The addition of a park, however pleased him.
“I have advocated for open space for 40 years,” Duff said. “It is great to see a developer doing this.”
Lisa Feltner, president of the Concerned Citizens Group said she and her group would like to see a structure maintained on the area where the park and potentially used as retail.
“We hope you can repurpose the building instead of demolishing it,” Feltner said. “Since we are in New England, it could be available year round.”
ZBA member Chris Gannon said he was concerned that the park would be built as planned. He asked if a second vote could be taken by the ZBA to approve the park when a design was settled upon.
The board did not require a second vote, but added a condition that the park must be maintained for life, even if a new owner takes over the development.
Resident Elodia Thomas said she trusts that developers will follow through on what they have promised for the park.
“Greystone has worked well with the community,” Thomas said. “They are extremely honest. We also have to remember the park is also for people living in the complex.”
Another change requested by the Zoning Board was toning down the green and orange accents on the building. Schultz said the green would be more of a sage and the orange will be burnt orange.
Generally, the board seemed pleased with the project. ZBA Chairwoman Melissa Santucci Rozzi said she was pleased to have Greystar coming to Watertown.
“Thank you for your investment,” Santucci Rozzi said. “We are extremely fortunate to have a developer of your caliber in town. Most communities would beg to have them in their community.”
Gannon said the project will redevelop a formerly busy industrial site.
“I grew up in this community and saw it as an active brick yard with train cars coming through,” Gannon said. “I am pleased with the outcome.”
The ZBA voted 4-0 to approve the project, with one member – Kelly Donato – unable to attend the meeting.