I wrote this letter in December 2016 but it is even more relevant today in lieu of the zoning amendment proposal to increase the RMUD height to 197 feet.
To the citizens of Watertown, regarding the Arsenal Project MP/SP proposal, 12/19/16.
In over a year of meetings the issue which I thought would have been a major concern to both the citizens of Watertown, the city councilors, and the city planning department employees was rarely discussed. The issue I am referring to is the development of a 12 story building (building “G”) approximately 100 feet from Greenough Boulevard.
Now the reason the developer wants to build this building is obvious. It is the most profitable. It provides a presence on the Charles River that will go to the highest bidders. What is never discussed is how destructive this building is to the area along the Charles River. This is the last area along the Charles which the
town has not diminished with development.
The Charles River is a blessing which the luck of geography has bestowed on Watertown. History and the federal government has saved this area from the progress of development. It was given to the Town of Watertown to determine its future. Watertown apparently has decided to permit this portion, of what is generally a positive development with little oversight. This building has been part of this proposal since day one. There have been virtually no changes to this design throughout the process. A process which is suppose to look out for the interests of the town. Apparently the tax benefits clearly outweigh all other negatives.
The negotiations to date have never requested from the developer any of the following items. Move the building back from Greenough to reduce its inpact of a 129 foot high 160 foot +/- long wall just beyond a narrow strip of 40 foot high trees which will be thinned out by the developer. It is currently located as close to the Charles as the developer is allowed. A 200 foot distance from the river bank, criteria not imposed by the town but by some other regulatory authority.
Reduce the height from the maximum allowed by the town of 130 feet. This is higher by 4-5 stories than the current condominium buildings on Coolidge Street near the intersection with Grove Street. This is probably a good place to gain some visual understanding of the impact of this proposed Arsenal building. This height is higher than any building in Watertown, including the Perkins Tower (109 feet). Inform us, that being the people of Watertown, of the appearance of this building.
To date the developer has provided the town with architectural construction type elevation drawings which do not even indicate the material of the façade. The Master Plan requires multiple perspectives. The developer has provided three perspectives from the most favorable positions, all three perspectives taken from locations which show the building from its narrow sides. No perspectives from the eastern end of Greenough Boulevard where the building is not hidden by the town park trees. No perspective from views in the winter when the leaves are gone from the trees. No sketches from the walkways along the Charles directly north of the building. No models. No walk through. (A technique the developer used to explain their design along Arsenal Street). One building/street section.
The rational is that this info will be provided at the site plan review process. The problem with this is that once the Master Plan is approved the height and the building footprint are no longer reviewable.
The process which is allegedly an attempt at transparency and co-operation is neither. The adversarial nature encourages each party to never show its hand. The give and take never occurs. The town never provides direction toward better solutions and the developer holds back all compromises for the final negotiating with the planning board. This process has probably produced the worse location for a tall building not the best. A better location would certainly be the ‘Miller Ale House” triangle. A location which might accept a much taller building, which could result in an elegant tower at the entrance to Watertown. A trade off which needs to be considered before Building G alters Greenough Street forever. A trade off which might benefit both parties, the developer and the town.