Through a state financing tool called the Infrastructure Investment Incentive Program, or “I-Cubed,” Watertown could see a total of $25 million of funding for improvements to public property surrounding the Arsenal on the Charles campus.
Representatives from Watertown, the Massachusetts Department of Conservation and Recreation (DCR), and athenahealth are excited about their participation in the I-Cubed Program and the public-private partnership the Program creates between the Commonwealth, Watertown, DCR, and athenahealth. Here is how the Program works: The I-Cubed Program earmarks general state funds for local public infrastructure improvements surrounding an applicant’s site. Before state approval is final, an applicant must demonstrate that those public infrastructure improvements ultimately support the company’s job growth at the site, which in turn pays off those improvements.
More than two years ago, the Patrick Administration granted preliminary approval for $25 million in state funding based on collaboration between representatives of Watertown, DCR, and athenahealth.
This collaboration has continued since preliminary approval, culminating in a package of conceptual improvements drawn from the Watertown Comprehensive Plan and extensive input from representatives of Watertown and DCR, and agreed-upon by Watertown officials, DCR, and athenahealth.
$25 million, funded by taxes generated from athenahealth jobs in Watertown, will be granted through I-Cubed provided the Town Council approves Town management’s joining the final I-Cubed application. It is our sincere hope that Watertown Town Council votes in favor of seizing on this unique opportunity.
The ability to leverage private investment to fund public infrastructure improvements is a “win-win” proposition for all involved:
• For Watertown, the improvements selected for the I-Cubed projects were drawn from Watertown’s Comprehensive Plan—“a document put together by the community,” according to Council President Sideris. That Plan was adopted by the Watertown Council in 2015 after years of dialogue between town officials and residents, as previously reported in the TAB. I-Cubed allows Watertown to redirect Town funds, which would have otherwise paid for I-Cubed- funded improvements, to other vital projects.
• For athenahealth, the improvements will help make its Watertown campus an attractive destination for employees and the public alike, which will help the company attract top tech talent. I-Cubed also defrays the cost of off-site public infrastructure mitigation improvements required by Watertown to proceed with athenahealth’s Campus Master Plan. (I-Cubed does not provide athenahealth any form of subsidies or tax breaks from Watertown and athenahealth will remain one of, if not the, biggest taxpayer in the community.)
• For DCR, I-Cubed represents a massive funding source to achieve improvements that would otherwise remain unfunded, including providing vital pedestrian, cycling, and multi-use connections and outdoor parks.
The I-Cubed Program is competitive. If the Watertown Town Council does not authorize Watertown management to jointly apply for the $25 million in state funding, the funds will be lost to other business sectors or communities.
The intent of the proposed changes to the streetscapes and parks surrounding the Arsenal is to diffuse traffic congestion, activate use of public property in Watertown along the Charles River, and manage the effects of storm water runoff without any financial burden to the Watertown community. The ordinary permitting and oversight process that governs infrastructure and construction projects, subject to new deadlines, will still apply after the Town Council and state officials approve the I-Cubed funding.
Construction under the Program must be finished within 3 years.
The proposed improvements to be funded by I-Cubed will be discussed in more detail with residents at an informational presentation that will be held at athenahealth, 311 Arsenal St. in Building 311, Thursday, May 11, at 6:30 p.m. This is an exciting partnership, and Town Leadership, DCR, and athenahealth look forward to working with the community to make these projects a reality.
Mark Sideris, President, Watertown Town Council
Dan Driscoll, Director of Recreation Facilities Planning, DCR
Mark Blair, Executive Director athenaEnvironment, athenahealth