Developers presented a plan for a new condominium building with space for retail businesses on the bottom that would go on what has been a weed-filled vacant lot near the Watertown Square intersection.
The presentation was made Tuesday night at a Community Meeting for the project at 33 Mt. Auburn St., at the corner with Taylor Street. It would have 15 condos and about 1,960 sq. ft. of retail space, said Bill York, attorney representing the developers, 33 Mount Auburn LLC. There will be 14 two-bedroom units and one three-bedroom unit. The two-bedrooms will be between 1,400 and 2,000 sq. ft., York said.
“Lately, units have been smaller in town. We are developing this as condos,” York said. “It will be designed as what we think are attractive units in a smart growth area [with transportation nearby].”
This is not the first proposal for the site. It even had a project approved. The similar project was approved in 2013 and had 24 housing units and more than 2,000 sq. ft. of retail, York said. However, the building permit lapsed and when the developer had financial problems. A new developer has taken over the project.
The building would be four stories tall and have a maximum height of 51 feet 1 inch, according to building designs submitted to the town’s Department of Community Development and Planning. There will be 19 parking spaces and one entrance to the ground-level garage off Taylor Street. The previous design had 36 spaces and two entrances, including one on Mt. Auburn Street.
Due to the number of condos and size of the retail the project will need to get some relief for parking from the Planning and Zoning Boards, said Steve Hurley, principal and architect from Janovsky/Hurley Architects Inc. of Wellesley. They would need 20 spaces under the Town’s zoning rules, but Hurley said they only have room for 19.
Developers will also build a small park at the corner of Mt. Auburn and Taylor which will be owned by the Town and open to the public, but maintained by the owners of the building, Hurley said. He added that the park has not been designed yet.
Neighbors said they are happy to see something going onto the property that has been largely untouched since the demolition of the previous building. York said it used to be the home to Port Oil.
The site has been cleaned of pollutants, and the development would be able to absorb all the rain runoff in stormwater tanks under the building where runoff will be stores and slowly percolated into the ground, Hurley said.
The building will have close neighbors on the back side, with a condo building on Arsenal Street built just behind 33 Mt. Auburn St.
Fred Momayez, who lives in the condos on Arenal Street, said that he and his neighbors are concerned with whether the new building would block the light to the units facing the new building.
“It looks OK,” Momayez said. “I am on the other side, but I worry about those guys on the other side who face the building.”
Hurley did not have an illustration showing shadows or how far the two buildings would be apart. He said he would have them when the project goes before the Planning Board, which developers hope to do in January.
Sibylle DeCarlo, who lives on Riverside Street, said she wants a nice looking building because it will be one of the first things people see entering Watertown from the Square. She is also worried about too many cars coming and going, adding to the traffic on Mt. Auburn Street and through Watertown Square.
York said there is a bus stop right near the building and the Watertown Community Path may be coming down Taylor Street, which would allow for people to get around by bicycle.
Hurley said brick was added to the front of the building where the residential units are located, with masonry on the front of the retail. Other areas will have precast concrete on the exterior. The change to brick was requested by the Town’s Planning Department.
District B Town Councilor Lisa Feltner agreed that she wants the building to look good, but she did not think it is there yet.
“I am glad you are working with the Town and are using brick, but the architecture is underwhelming,” Feltner said.
Spring Street resident Barbara Ruskin said she hopes the retail space will be small retail businesses, and not some sort of office. She would also like to see some public art in the park, noting the development is just across the street from the mural on Baptist Walk.
The project will likely go before both the Planning Board and Zoning Board in January, York said.