Developers Looking to Turn Former Massage School into Apartment Building

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A rendering of what the proposed new apartment building at 101, 103 Morse St. would look like.

A commercial building on the Southside of Watertown could be turned into an apartment complex with nearly 50 units, but some residents were skeptical about the plans. 

On Wednesday night, developers from FSL Associates of Newton presented their plan for the property at 101, 103 Morse Street. The plan calls for building a four-story apartment building with 48 units on the property that most recently was home to the Cortiva Massage School.

The proposal calls for a mix of unit sizes: 6 studios, 31 one-bedrooms, 10 two-bedrooms and one three-bedroom. The building would not exceed the existing footprint, and some of the asphalt parking area will be turned into green landscaped areas.

In their application, developers argue there is little demand for an isolated commercial building in the area that is predominantly residential. The 60 bedrooms in the 48 units would house 60-80 units, while the current building has more than 300 employees.

“The traffic, both vehicular and pedestrian, generated by the commuting staff, students and suppliers will be greatly reduced,” developers wrote. “The people who come to the site will be residents, not transient occupants. The new residents will be more invested in the future of Watertown, both emotionally and economically.”

Nearby residents disputed the developer’s traffic estimates, according to District B Councilor Lisa Feltner, who attended the meeting. They also said Morse Street is a cut-through street between Galen Street and Watertown Street.

“Residents feel there is a lack on understanding in the application’s traffic report about the flow of previous use (the massage school) and how many students/visitors/clients were on site at one time,” Feltner said. “For example there were no classes in July and August,Sunday activity was limited, cars not parked overnight.”

They wondered if there could be an arrangement with the nearby Hibernian Hall for visitor parking, and they noted that the massage school had an agreement to use parking on a property on Capitol Street.

The site is located near two playgrounds (Casey Park and Boyd Park), so it is convenient for families, the application continues.

The proposed building would be built on the footprint of the current commercial building and parts of the parking lot would be landscaped.

The proposal calls for 43 parking spots for the complex. The parking will be unbundled, meaning residents can opt out and not pay for the spot.

Feltner said residents at the meeting were concerned about the density of the project and lack of parking.

“They are disappointed to see so many units in this 2-family zone, with mostly small sized apartment rentals vs condos,” Feltner said. “Parking seems too limited on site for this many units, including for visitors.”

Questions also came up about whether there could be contamination on parts of the former industrial site, and that the property might be in a watershed area, Feltner said.

The project could be going before the Planning Board at its meeting on Wednesday, Feb. 8. The project would ultimately need to be approved by the Zoning Board of Appeals.

6 thoughts on “Developers Looking to Turn Former Massage School into Apartment Building

  1. Have we not had enough building around here?We DON’T have the room in our schools or our infrastructure. If you HAVE to build more units, why not build more housing for the homeless, Veterans and seniors.

    • What, you don’t like kids? Too expensive? How many kids are there going to be in 10 2 bedroom units and 1 -one- 3 bedroom unit? I expect there would be more cats than children in a building like this.
      And their parents (via their rent and local shopping) don’t contribute to the town?
      You should get off your own lawn and meet your neighbors.

  2. 50 units, again instead of a more conventional residential development I see the purposeful intent to maximization the resident population while ignoring responsibility to the the immediate neighborhood and the ever increasing Watertown resource limitations. Another example of going to far and in doing so sacrificing the more traditional Watertown neighborhood. This is a perfect example of a plan that the Concerned Citizens for Watertown group should be all over!

  3. My observation has been that these recent apartment developments have been cheaply constructed of inferior materials — thin walls, concrete floors, cheap siding, etc. and marketed to relatively transient renters. Leases are for 12-18 months with a 10% increase upon renewal. That’s hardly the way to attract people putting down any sort of roots. Beyond that, the number of one bedroom apartments proposed here clearly emphasizes turnover, unless they are considered senior housing, in which case that should be designated and priced accordingly.

    Why does Watertown keep allowing these grab the money and run schemes by shameless “developers.”?

  4. It looks like they are trying to stuff the largest size building they can in there. It should be setback from the sidewalk like most other buildings are.

  5. Is there any way we can allow for condos vs rentals. There is a precarious balance between rentals and owners. Yes many renters are involved in Watertown but the majority(from voting and other situations I’ve seen)are not, there is no ‘skin in the game’ per se. We need more local ownership in town and less transient population so that when there are harder times, there is more incentive to roll up our sleeves and work things out instead of moving. I agree this is too dense in a two family area.

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