Town Weighing What to Do with Old Watertown Police Station

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Charlie Breitrose

Crews set up outside the old Watertown Police Station to shoot part of the film, "Patriots Day."

Charlie Breitrose

Officials are looking at reusing the old Watertown Police Station. It was used as a shooting location for the “Patriots Day” film.

Since the Watertown Police move to their new station the old one has largely sat unused, but many departments would love to get a piece of the building.

Tuesday night, the Town Council’s Economic Development and Planning Committee reopened the discussion for how to deal with the building.

The town had a study of the cost of renovating or reconstruction the building and received an estimate of $4.8 million to renovate and $7 million to rebuild, according to Assistant Town Manager Steve Magoon. The largest costs would be putting in an elevator and a stairwell.

Those prices largely halted any plans to reuse the Police Station. Councilor Vincent Piccirilli said the estimates sound high to build a the two-floor, 13,000 sq. ft. building, and he suggested someone take another look at the costs.

Several departments have expressed interest in using some or all of the old Police Station: the Watertown Public Schools, the Watertown Free Public Library, the Health Department, the Community Development & Planning Department and the Recreation Department. The Watertown-Belmont Chamber of Commerce also had a suggestion.

Interim Superintendent John Brackett said the schools could move the administrative offices from the Phillips Building to the former Police Station. This would free up the Phillips School as room for classrooms, either for the short term during the renovations of the town’s schools or permanently.

“I think the space could fit everything we want,” Brackett said. “It would need to be a complete build out – gutted and renovated.”

The biggest issue, however, is finding parking for the 30-35 people, plus another 20 or more coming over periodically for district meeting, Brackett said.

The Watertown Free Public Library is looking for a new home for its HATCH makers space. Library Director Leone Cole said they will soon lose their spot in the Arsenal Mall.

“We need 1,500 sq. ft. of open space, flexible, with a lot of electricity and a restroom,” Cole said.

She added that parking at the library is already tight, and more people parking there from the old Police Station would make it even worse.

The Health Department currently uses the building. The Animal Control officer puts animals in the former cells in the police station. Magoon said the Health Department also needs more space, because the director’s office currently is on a different floor from the rest of the department.

The Community Development and Planning Department has the same problem, with the Planning Department on one floor and the Building Inspector on another, on the opposite side of the Town Hall.

The Recreation Department uses the old Police Station to store equipment, and Director Peter Centola said he would be interested in having a classroom space for recreation programs, too.

With parking at a premium in Watertown Square, the Chamber of Commerce suggested the building be replaced by a parking garage, including the parking lot behind the library.

Magoon said the space would be difficult to put a garage on, and that the municipal lot behind CVS would be a better option for a garage.

The Committee asked to see if the town has money to hire spend on the town’s architectural consultant to get updated prices for renovating or rebuilding the building. Also, if departments in Town Hall move into the old Police Station it would free up space in that building. Councilor Susan Falkoff said she wanted to find out how much space would be made available.

The discussion will be continued at a future Economic Development and Planning meeting.

One thought on “Town Weighing What to Do with Old Watertown Police Station

  1. Nothing is more important than our schools, and I hope the school administration will be moved to the old police station. None of the other uses suggested are as important to our town’s future. If parking is a problem, could the town use the newly acquired land for parking? It is adjacent to other parking areas already, and would be well situated for use by the school admin if it were moved to the old police station.

    Our first proority should be making sure our schools have breathing room, and freeing up Phillips is a good solution given upcoming renovations at other schools.

    It is my hope that the tcouncil will earmark the old police station for the school department also because it would make the area around town hall into a comprehensive administrative location for all town affairs. This seems to me to. me the most appropriate and best use of the space.

    Our schools’ needs should take precedence in this decision because schools are our biggest concern at present and in the foreseeable future.

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