Boylston Properties Principal Bill McQuillan had an urgent message for residents and town officials Wednesday night.
If they want to improve Arsenal Park, now is the time to start figuring out how.
“We knew this was going to come up,” McQuillan said “It’s August 17, we need that park figured out, because we’re not going to do this plan without that park, or without that park we’re going to do a different plan.”
Arsenal Project developers held their fourth community meeting, at the Innovation Space at the Arsenal Mall Wednesday, where they updated residents and town officials on the project’s design direction and presented their latest building and site renderings. The presentation included preliminary plans to create pathways through the park that would connect directly to the property.
Arsenal Park is run and maintained by the Conservation Commission, which would have to approve any proposed changes.
Though the upgrades to the park were included in the presentation, Design Architect Christopher Jones said there’s still a lot of work to be done with the town and community.
“This is really not a design, it’s more of an intent about how we think that space could be utilized for the community,” Jones said.
The idea, Jones said, is to create a secondary entrance to Arsenal Park and make it an “an active play space and gathering space for the community.
“We think that’s a really positive potential enhancement,” Jones said.
While State Rep. Jonathan Hecht said that he was worried that the Arsenal Project’s plan might be tailored to residents living on the property and not the broader community, he agreed it is time to start discussing what to do with the park.
“It seems like we’ve got to start some conversations going soon if we’re really going to really maximize the total benefit here, and not find ourselves on a situation where facts have sort of been created on the ground,” Hecht said.
Resident Elodia Thomas said she was concerned that the Arsenal Project’s design for the park could take away a potential athletic space and cause more pressure on the town to put lights up by Victory Field where she lives.
“I don’t want this pressure now to impinge even more on the pressure where I live, where it just becomes more gung ho for ‘get the big lights up again,’” Thomas said.
Tom Wilder, development and asset manager of The Wilder Companies, said that the plan was a “concept” and that “we didn’t want to be presumptuous here at all.”
“We just know it can be better than what it is,” Wilder said. “We want to connect to something that’s better.”
McQuillan said he approached Watertown’s Director of Community Development and Planning, Steve Magoon six to eight months ago to convene a committee to work with the developers to “talk about exactly what we’re talking about right now.”
Though McQuillan said that Magoon is a “very busy guy” and that he wasn’t blaming him, the committee was never formed.
Magoon acknowledged that McQuillan approached him, but said that his decision not to form the committee had nothing to do with how busy he was.
“The reason we didn’t have the meeting is because we decided the timing wasn’t right,” Magoon said. “Obviously, [after] this conversation tonight a lot of people feel like the timing is very much right.”
Magoon said having a meeting is something that the town “will very much have to take into consideration,” but noted that the park is in the “care and custody” of the Conservation Commission.
“They have to play a very prominent role in deciding how that park should be used, [and] how that park should be designed,” Magoon said
If the discussions don’t happen soon, McQuillan said the company may change its plans.
“And that’s fine,” McQuillan said. “But that’s going to be the town’s choice.”
Read more about the Arsenal Mall renovation: