LETTER: Boylston Properties Responds to End of Agreement with Town Over Arsenal Park

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CDM Smith

A view of the planned renovation of Arsenal Park.

A view of the planned renovation of Arsenal Park.

The following letter is in response to the Sept. 11, 2019 story “Partnership Between Town, Arsenal Yards to Renovate Town Park Over Before it Began”


I want to clear up the facts of the state of our partnership with the Town on the Arsenal Park renovation, and to also put into context the recent exchange between the Town and Boylston Properties that you detailed in your piece. Mark Reich has been a great contributor to our early progress in this hoped for partnership, but his letter to the Town was a one-sided summary of that process.

As you know, we firmly believe that Arsenal Yards will be of great benefit to Watertown. I could list the benefits — the economic growth and tax revenue generation, increase in jobs, and maybe most importantly, a new sense of place and improvement to an already vibrant community — but, for the purposes of this note, I’ll speak specifically to the park renovations.

Part of our ongoing investment in Watertown includes the public space of Arsenal Park, which abuts our property. As noted in your piece, we have a vested interest in the improvement of the park for the benefit of our future guests, and have never denied the benefit to us. We are working hard for it to benefit ALL. The truth is that the Arsenal Park is 40 years old and needs new life, energy, and refurbishment. Seemingly, we are in agreement with the Town on this, as officials plan on renovating the park regardless of our involvement.

Our offer to manage the park renovation was a logical one: due to the economies of scale we achieve with our construction partners, we think we can save the town hundreds of thousands of dollars renovating the park. I suspect I’m not alone in thinking the private sector can move faster and be more efficient than the public sector.

The managing and expediting of this project requires significant energy and hours from many people on the Boylston Properties team. In addition to our time, we have committed a capital contribution of $500,000 to the park’s renovation — a figure that we have doubled since we began conversations with the Town about the park. It’s important to note that if we are not the construction manager of the project, the Town will likely pay a significant construction management fee to another firm to manage the project.

As I indicated in my note to Steve Magoon of the Watertown DCDP [Department of Community Development and Planning], our park renovation contribution of $500,000 is in addition to the more than $4,000,000 we’ve paid to the Town in building permit fees over the last four years. It also does not take into account the daunting reality that the real estate taxes at our Marriott hotel in Watertown are now higher than our same Marriott hotel property in Boston’s Fenway neighborhood. Or that the real estate taxes at the LINX life science building in Watertown are now higher than lab space in Kendall Square. This simple fact, and comparison, makes no sense at all.

We have worked very hard over the last many years with many representatives in Watertown to propel much of the physical and fiscal improvements in the East End. Lots of voices and lots of progress, and we have regularly felt like true partners with Town Boards and officials in that forward momentum. Public and private sector partnerships should always be fair and must be a two-way street for the relationship to work. We fear the real estate tax comparison alone is pointing our partnership in the very opposite direction.

Boylston Properties does not wish to get into a dollar for dollar negotiation with the town — far from it — but we do wish to ensure that the exchange of work and value creation for the town and Boylston Properties goes both ways moving forward.

Bill McQuillan
Principal, Boylston Properties

18 thoughts on “LETTER: Boylston Properties Responds to End of Agreement with Town Over Arsenal Park

  1. Bill McQuillan
    Principal, Boylston Properties

    I appreciate your communication to town residents Partnership is great and I’m glad so much has come from it.

    As a business deal your points seem right on target. I’d ask that you consider a citizen’s perspective as every resident in this town is also a stakeholder in your work here.

    A town like ours takes risk in choosing developments and developers. Will local jobs really be created? The effects on town infrastructure is huge and will continue to impact every resident in Watertown for decades to come.

    I do agree with your point that construction management will cost the town whoever provides it. But as you have not shared data about what other project managers might charge I can’t know if your argument is fact-based. If it is perhaps you would consider sharing some data

    I do not believe comparison of tax levels for LINX and Marriott or the 4,000,000 you have paid for permit fees are relevant/supporting points to this discussion. Watertown has much to offer that is not available elsewhere
    1- proximity and easy access to Boston for your guests, 2-easy access for employees no matter the direction they commute in. Both of these factors increase your attractiveness to visitors and success in hiring and retaining skilled employees.
    3- Open space, a less hectic environment and great local businesses that both your guests and employees can enjoy.
    4- goodwill for your company and the ability to win projects in other towns can’t be quantified, but as you know is critical to business sustainability.

    D Scott

  2. Boo hoo, Bill. You’re making a nice profit for yourself here in Watertown. Join the club, we all pay a huge amount of property tax to live here. At least you don’t have to deal with the huge inconvenience of closed roads and traffic congestion due to your construction project because you don’t live in Watertown. We are also not impressed with the low paying jobs the mall will bring.

    You are renovating a property that will make you millions, but leave us with more clogged streets and pollution. Yeah, I’m looking forward to a better development there, a movie house, etc., but from what I’ve seen with the garage, the building design and materials are cheap. I don’t have any hopes up that you will build anything great, just good enough. Lucky for you, you are not building in Somerville, where they have better planning.

    You are a master of bait and switch and have been doing this since you started (awwww, can I pay less tax now?; awwww, can I go up another 50 feet above the already 50′ you gave me?)

    You are not doing anything really innovative there, just making a buck. That park will be a big amenity to all your tenants, as much as it will be to the town. Spare us the sob stories.

  4. Posts… “but, for the purposes of this note, I’ll speak specifically to the park renovations.” then proceeds to complain about permit fees and taxes on two pieces of property he sold within a year or two after completion (insert eyeroll here),

    Taxes, building permits, park renovations aside, the real sticking point, and issue here seems to be Boylston Properties/Mr. McQuillans failure to negotiate, discuss the management fees in the original resolution voted on (and approved), by the Town Council. Instead, Boylston Properties/Mr. McQuillan attempts to slip in the fees as an ‘Oh, by the way’ last minute bait and switch.

    Why wasn’t this matter discussed and agreed upon beforehand?

    We’ve seen this ploy before with Boylston Properties/Mr. McQuillans dealings with the town regarding this project. When is it going to end?
    Enough is enough already.



    • When was the East End ever that attractive? My wife and I moved to the East End a little over a year ago for it’s convenient location to the city and its many great locally owned restaurants and business, but we also moved in hopes that this area would become more developed and that the new property owners would really help to clean up the neighborhood. Currently, much of the East End is in shambles. This includes an abandoned, decaying factory on Coolidge Hill Road, a house next to Filippello Park that looks like a crack den, parking lots and strips of grass between homes and sidewalks in the Coolidge Square neighborhood that are in dire need of mowing/cleaning up, a road by the Danish Pastry House that is littered with crator-sized potholes, etc., etc. It really seems like this part of town has been forgotten by town officials, and perhaps some of its area residents as well. For this reason, I welcome new developments that will bring new life to Watertown. Ultimately, I hope that they will help to improve the the surrounding neighborhood as well. In some parts, things can’t get much worse.

      • I take issue with your remarks Damian. You paint the East End as if it were the South Side of Chicago. It has been a working class neighborhood for generations. It is not as spit shined as some of its neighboring communities, but many of us find it very comfortable and enjoy the ethnic mix and the food. I have lived here eleven years and find it much to my liking.

        The issue is whether developers like Boylston Properties will be allowed to make exorbitant profits while giving back less than they would be required in other communities because we are so working class and ethnic. Developers will paint a picture of themselves saving a blighted community, which is simply a smoke screen for their rapaciousness.

        By the way, I haven’t noticed any crack dens in the neighborhood and I resent your making such a comment. You don’t happen to be in the employ of Bill McQuillan, do you?

        Stop bashing the East End. We don’t need to settle for crumbs from developers. If you find it run down, perhaps there are other communities that will be more to your liking.

        • Thank you Joe. I have lived in the East End for over 30 years and I love it here. I find all this development sad because it is changing the face of our neighborhoods. No longer are we family homes. Now we are big garages and apartment buildings ( just because you call them codos does not change the fact that they are apartments).

          I think Bolyston Properties has been getting enough deals here in town. They do not need another one and it appears the State agrees.
          It’s funny that they also never mentioned how they have actually added to the decay of Arsenal Park. They keep bringing in heavy equipment that has damaged the grass and paths. Trying to walk daily around the park has become a challenge due to the truck and equipment being everywhere including the tennis courts.

          So instead of complaining they should be giving back. It’s not like they wont use it as a tax break to top it all off.

        • If my wife and I didn’t truly like so many aspects of Watertown’s East End, then we certainly would not have moved here. Unlike more tony surrounding towns (which we likely could not afford anyhow), we also see tremendous growth potential here. Some folks want it to stay exactly the same. We don’t. On a side note – When large swaths of land are being developed in town, is there a fiscally sound option other than large office/biotech space or mega condos? If there is, I’d be all ears.

          • There are few who want things to stay exactly the same in Watertown. The vast majority realize that the passage of time means change. What I think most are concerned about is maintaining a community atmosphere and keeping Watertown accessible to those who are not rich–meaning several strata of the middle class–and especially the ethnic groups and immigrants who make Watertown special.

            Most people who have lived here for many years want to stay, and they are worried about that prospect for themselves and their children. They also want responsible development and solutions to increasing traffic. So far there has been little progress there.

            They want fair trade offs from developers for the burdens development places on the town. I believe that most residents think the developers have gotten away with too much without providing enough in return.

            So community, affordability, responsible development, diversity, congestion are, in short, people’s concerns. I think these are quite reasonable and show pride and caring about what the town becomes as a result of change.

            Nothing wrong with that in my view.

  6. Simple solution: make a business decision. If you can’t afford to pay the taxes take your business elsewhere. By the way, the new parking garage infront of Marshals is ugly and poorly designed. This is the best you could do?

    • Completely agree on the garage…the difference between “drawings” and reality are stark, and the quality is poor. Not very optimistic on the balance of this project and I was a supporter.

  7. Yet another bait and switch from a developer. Not surprising at all that this comes from the infamous Bill McQuillan, who has been tone deaf and belligerent to residents in numerous town meetings over the last couple of years.

    Yes, there are opportunities for change and growth in Watertown, though after living here for almost 30 years, I already love many aspects of this town the way they are. We do not need to become the latest shiny new development, we already have wonderful cultural diversity, economic and ethnic and generational diversity and all of this makes Watertown special and wonderful.

    As we all know, Watertown has had an explosion of new building projects and developments in the last 5 years. We have lived through the construction headaches and are now dealing with increased traffic and congestion, as we all anticipated. As an earlier letter pointed out, this construction has had an immediate, negative impact on Arsenal Park. This park is for everyone in Watertown and we might feel more patient about the short-term pain of construction if there was a solid promise of positive renovations to this park in the future. We all spent considerable time discussing and reviewing plans for repurposing and renovating parts of the park. The proposed partnership with Boylston properties to fast track Arsenal Park improvements was, in my opinion, probably the most positive aspect of the Arsenal Project project.

    Honestly, it is completely shameful that McQuillan and co are now backing down on their promises about Arsenal Park. They now need to wise up and do something decent for this town!

  8. Mr. McQuillan,
    I don’t know what you thought you would accomplish with this letter but I will give you a little feedback from an unbiased reader (I don’t know you nor do I have any issues regarding development) –
    The problem starts with trust or the lack there of;
    You mentioned “In addition to our time, we have committed a capital contribution of $500,000 to the park’s renovation — a figure that we have doubled since we began conversations” yet no details on how or in what capacity this $1,000,000 gift is to be given to the town which makes it rather suspect.
    Then in this letter you talk about building permit fees and taxes on other properties that have nothing to do with the park. Everyone has to pay taxes and permit fees, it’s part of living in America. Why should you be an exception?
    Then when the MOU you sent to the town included the illegal and inappropriate insistence that the Town pay Boylston Properties a 5 percent construction management fee as part of the proposed public-private partnership you not only have taken offense but not apologized for your improper action.
    Finally, from the letter to the editor it’s clear you want something for your gift to the town. It’s also clear you think the town owes you something.
    Well, regarding the $1,000,000 gift you have alluded to, it’s not a gift if you want something for it and the clear intention that you want something for it makes you an untrustworthy person. I hope you see this as constructive advise as it’s just my observation from what you have said in your letter.

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