Dear friends and neighbors,
As many of you may have heard, the Mount Auburn Cemetery’s property on Grove Street is up for sale. Just next door to Filippello Park, the site is currently being leased by the Mount Auburn Hospital for employee parking. Most bidders on the lot are looking to build lab/office or residential space there. This means more cars on Grove Street and no chance at expanding our open and green space in Watertown. There’s also a historic home on the site called the Shick House which isn’t likely to be saved under that scenario. The Shick family once operated a dairy farm from that house in the mid 1900’s.
The Trustees of the cemetery have a fiduciary responsibility to be responsible stewards of the cemetery’s assets for the long-term and have chosen to liquidate the asset. They’re going to make the responsible choice for their institution and one can hardly blame them. Sounds pretty bleak doesn’t it?
But, wait! There is a shining light of hope in this story and that’s where Buckingham Browne and Nichols (BB&N) comes in. This nearby school is bidding on the site with the hopes of building playing fields for their student athletes. They’ve worked with the town to draft a mutually-satisfactory MOU to share these fields with the Town of Watertown AND to save the Shick House. There’s a lot written on the story on WatertownMAnews.com and its worth learning more about if you start Googling it all.
I am in support of the BB&N plan for a lot of reasons but none greater than the alternative future scenario of having another big building full of commuters driving in and out at rush hour every day. The road is already congested as things stand today and can’t take any more traffic. More playing fields is an added bonus. The pro’s and con’s of the MOU are worth debating and some may have concerns with certain elements of it but in the end, the alternative still looms menacingly in full focus for me.
The BB&N purchase and our MOU may never stand a chance if developers win the bid. They have eager financiers and they also have the prospect of zoning variances that could allow building an even more valuable project who’s price-tag would dwarf whatever BB&N could offer. If the Trustees accepted an offer like that it will likely be contingent on Planning Board approval so there is an element of uncertainty that the Trustees may just choose to avoid by choosing BB&N’s proposal. So, fans of the BB&N purchase idea are holding on to hope.
If you want to help make this happen and read a little more about what a group of advocates are saying about the deal, click here, read and hopefully join me in signing a petition to the Trustees: http://chng.it/V6wQpnRyzz
The Trustees have a task-force that’s getting last pitches from their bidders on December 4th so don’t sit on this letter for long. We want to send the petition soon and with as many signatures as possible. Please also share this email with your neighbors and concerned users of Grove Street from surrounding communities.
Oh, and Happy Thanksgiving!
All the best,
(Dushku is a parent of a BB&N student, a WHS class of 2015 graduate and a Lowell School student. He graduated in the WHS Class of 1991.)