The firm that put together the Watertown Design Guidelines was honored for its work by being named a finalist for an award from the Boston Society of Architects.
This month, the BSA announced the Watertown Design Guidelines has been chosen as one of the finalists for the Campus and Urban Planning Awards category. The awards will be announced at the BSA’s Design Awards Gala on Jan. 28.
David Gamble, principal of Gamble Associates, put together the design guidelines after holding a series of community forums, as well as working with town officials and the developer of a major project on Arsenal Street. The process started in the fall of 2014, and the Town Council adopted the guidelines in July.
The design guidelines focus on projects in Watertown’s major business districts and main thoroughfares, and give developers an idea of what the town would like projects to look like.
When he submitted the project for the award, Gamble said design guideline projects suffer from three weaknesses:
- A lack of clarity / poor representation and structure
- A lack of “teeth”/ ineffective implementation
- A lack of developer and public buy-in / unproductive process
Gamble created a poster to demonstrate how the guidelines would look when put into place.
He said the process was quite a fast one, and the accelerated schedule helped his design process.
“It was a great project. I would say we were hearing a sense of urgency from residents because of the projects in the pipeline,” Gamble said. “Often times planning endeavors take too long, but the urgency allowed us to keep up momentum.”
It also helped, Gamble said, that the design guideline process came on the heels of the Comprehensive Plan process – out of which came the goal of creating the design guidelines.
During the creation of the guidelines, Gamble had a project to test them on – Greystar’s Elan Watertown apartment and retail project at Arsenal and Irving streets.
“The brilliance of (Assistant Town Manager) Steve Magoon and the town of having the Greystar project as the test case was invaluable,” Gamble said. “We were able to collaborate with the during the project.”
While Gamble’s firm is located in Central Square in Cambridge, he lives in Watertown. He did not believe that provided more incentive, but said it did aid his work.
“I may be more aware of the development pressures,” Gamble said. “More and more people are seeing Watertown as a viable alternative to Cambridge and Belmont. … As people discover Watertown is a great place to live it causes other development pressures.”
Town Councilor Vincent Piccirilli said the award not only honors Gamble, but all who took part in the community forums and other parts of the process.
“It is a testament to the community as a whole,” Piccirilli said.
Gamble said his work will continue in Watertown, with and eye on design guidelines in the town’s residential neighborhoods.
This will not be Gamble Associates’s first award from the BSA. In 2012, the firm won a citation in the Planning Category for their design for a project on a former Brownfield site on the Sanford Millyard in Maine.
Other designers from town have projects up for awards from the BSA, this year. Watertown-based Sasaki Associates has three projects chosen as finalists in the Campus and Urban Planning Awards category – one in St. Louis, one in China and one in Mexico.