The Town of Watertown is teaming with athenahealth to try to take advantage of a state program that would send tax dollars back to town to improve parks, roadways and other resources in town.
The work would be done in conjunction with the Department of Conservation and Recreation. The town and athenahealth have taken the first steps toward applying for $25 million from the I-Cubed program (The Executive Office of Finance and Administration’s Infrastructure Investment Incentive Program).
The money comes from the new payroll taxes that would be generated by athenahealth’s expansion of its campus located in the Arsenal on the Charles complex, said Michael Crowley, athenahealth’s vice president for Real Estate and Facilities at Tuesday’s Town Council meeting.
“It will provide funds that will transform areas of Watertown in ways that really improve the quality of life for those who work here everyday and for those who live here,” Crowley said.
The funds must be spent on areas adjacent to the campus, and a number of projects have been proposed, including adding traffic signals, creating cycling paths and improving the path along the Charles River.
Here are the details for different areas:
- Arsenal Street – streetscape improvements, bus stop and shelters and improved crosswalks
- North Beacon Street – improvements at the intersections at Greenough Boulevard and Charles River Road (including a traffic signal at Greenough), cycle tracks, streetscape and stormwater improvements
- Squibnocket Park – parking, pedestrian access including paths and boardwalks along the river, river overlooks, canoe and kayak launch and storage house
- Arsenal Park and Commander’s Mansion – improvements to Talcott Avenue, a path through Arsenal Park and the Commander’s Mansion
Many of the improvements will be made areas owned by the DCR. Dan Driscoll, DCR’s director of Recreation Facilities Planning, said he has seen great things happen through the I-Cubed program, including improvements to the area near Assembly Row in Somerville. The program improved a park along the Mystic River and created a pedestrian walkway under a busy bridge.
Other projects that received I-Cubed funding are Fan Pier in Boston, Boston Landing in Allston/Brighton, Westwood’s University Station and Market Street in Lynnfield, Crowley said.
The funding depends on athenahealth’s job creation when it expands its campus. A fund will be created to protect the Town of Watertown from financial risk in case the job growth goals are not met, said Town Manager Michael Driscoll.
The fund must be created by the town, he said, but the money to cover the risk will be provided by athenahealth.
If the money is not available, the town will be able to encumber additional property taxes on athenahealth’s property, which is assessed at about $175 million.
Along with applying to the state for approval, the project is dependent on approval of two-thirds of the Town Council, and the approval of the zoning changes requested by athenahealth for their campus expansion, Crowley said, known as the Arsenal Overlay Development District.
The presentation was only an informational one, so the Town Council did not weigh in on the idea. Crowley said athenahealth would be back in front of the Council as the project moves along.