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.
Principal, Boylston Properties