Developer Defends Watertown After Globe Article Poo Poos Town as Biotech Destination

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Boylston Properties.

An illustration of the biotech tower planned for Arsenal Yards. It appeared as part of an ad taken out by Boylston Properties defending Watertown as a biotech destination after a Boston Globe article that said Kendall Square is the place to be.

An illustration of the biotech tower planned for Arsenal Yards. It appeared as part of an ad taken out by Boylston Properties defending Watertown as a biotech destination after a Boston Globe article that said Kendall Square is the place to be.

The owners of Arsenal Yards leapt to the defense of Watertown after a Boston Globe published an article about biotech bigwigs snubbing the town as a place to set up business.

The Jan. 26 Boston Globe article interviewed biotech execs and investors who said that Cambridge’s Kendall Square remains the place to be. It quoted Jason Pontin, a biotech investor about the decision to move startup Trilogy Sciences from Watertown to Kendall Square, who said: “We investors don’t want to schlep out to Watertown for the companies we’ve invested in, and the talent and advisers don’t want to work there.”

The author drove home the point in the article with the line “Sorry, Watertown.”

Boylston Properties, which owns Arsenal Yards and has created space for biotech companies in the historic Army Arsenal building, responded to the article by taking out a full-page ad in the Globe defending Watertown. The title on the ad was: “It’s okay. apology accepted.”

The ads’ first line is “When the Boston Globe Compares Watertown to Kendall Square, We’re Grateful,” and goes on the say, “For some in biotech, the measure of happiness might not be ‘the highest rents in New England.’ It might be the ability to build your own company, nurture your science, welcome new colleagues, or even ride a bike and row along the Charles River.”

The Globe article did note that rents in Kendall Square are twice as high as suburban locations where biotechs are setting up business. It also spoke to the CEO of a company moved to Cambridgeport, a mile from Kendall, who said the move made him feel like he was out of the loop, adding that he no longer ran into people from other firms on the street, and had to get in the car to do business with others.

The Arsenal Yards ad in the Boston Globe.

The Boyston Properties ad asks why the Globe is comparing Watertown to Kendall Square. They point out that Alexandria, the largest biotech property owner in Kendall spent over $1 billion in Watertown, and that Boylston and its tenants have invested another $1 billion over the past few years.

“We love Watertown because it’s a town with a growing population of families, young professionals, and great jobs at growing companies,” the ad reads. “A town building two new LEED Gold, Net-Zero elementary schools, plus a new high school.”

The ad also has an illustration of the biotech tower at Arsenal Yards and highlights some of the features of the new complex. It finishes by pointing out that Watertown comes not only with lower rents, but also with the new movie theater, restaurants including Tori Jiro, the Tokyo-based eatery which is opening its first U.S. location in Watertown.

See the Boston Globe article by clicking here.

6 thoughts on “Developer Defends Watertown After Globe Article Poo Poos Town as Biotech Destination

  1. And we have free pahkin’ says the BP developer ad. Yes, let’s bring hundreds of more cars to Watertown -for every new project since everyone loves free parking! Commuters can park in free garages, free streets, curbless and cracked sidewalks, overnight parking most of the year, the residents can keep paying more in taxes in order to… ride a free shuttle or bike or enjoy a new park, local shop -oops. Too much to ask. No public shuttle, no improved MBTA, but more traffic, more noise, bright lights, little green space, little river access. But boy, we have new traffic lights and wires. Thanks for defending Watertown!

  2. Plus the fact that we are absolute push-overs for developers and will jump to change our zoning, lie to neighbors, anything they want, just ask! It coulda been a great town.

  3. Barbara Watertown

    Another comment after talking with someone who has been following this development: We have another terrible case of zoning before planning. The Comprehensive Plan asks for creating a new place in an underused section of Watertown. The river and transit make the space phenomenal for attracting the very best. Where was the Planning Dept in conceptualizing the very best for Watertown? Leaving such a potentially wonderful space as a residential neighborhood, to give back to Watertown a space for living along the river and working on Galen Street–creating a new mixed neighborhood that could be beautiful and lively, day and night and weekends. Providing shoppers for businesses along Galen and in the Watertown Square area. There is a newly office-only zoned space along the river on Pleasant Street (big mistake) that is empty to this day, yet a gorgeous area for residences. And a big waste if the Galen/Nonamtum Street acreage is for business only, a gated business community, dead at night and weekends, and perhaps working with noxious chemicals along the river. Where is the anticipation and creativity we expect of those working in the field in Watertown, with a mission to enliven “South Square,” Watertown? Wouldn’t expanding the neighborhoods with people and small businesses be ideal? Why not demand at least residences along the small Galen St area as a consolation prize since Watertown dropped the ball and the land was sold with the old zoning of industrial use. Or better yet, the residences along the river and offices/labs along Galen Street. A park is nice, but the largest part of the neighborhood along Galen St is further up the street, not at the Square where this park is proposed. Again, we need a neighborhood with walkable streets and connectivity. A terrible loss to Watertown because of inattention to the underlying goals of the Comprehensive Plan. Barbara R

  4. Dear Barbara
    Your rant about everything that’s wrong with Watertown misses a few key points. First, the area off Galen St is zoned for Industrial Use with three small parcels being zoned Limited Business. The company that owns the land didn’t just move into Town. Much of the industrial land on Water Street has been owned by them for years. Yes, recently they purchased the old auto dealership, and oil change shop and a small property. Improving that area has always been a goal of our Town and the residents of the south side. It’s literally the entry way of Watertown and frankly it hasn’t looked impressive for the past 60 years. Second, do we really want to subtract property from the commercial tax base to make Galen St residential? The commercial tax base is what keeps Watertown Property Taxes (as high as they are) from becoming more like Belmont which has very little commercial tax revenue. Also, our schools are already busting at the seams so why would it be a good idea to expand the residential population even more? I learned recently that Watertown has over 1400 housing units either recently opened or coming on line. Haven’t we added our fair share of housing? You ask why not add residential units along Galen St? Have you ever tried to cross Galen St? Yes, I lived in the South Side before it was called the South Side. You literally risk your life crossing that street. In my opinion, many people are also to quick to blame the Planning Department for the sudden explosion of building in Watertown. Or could it be that our Town is located a short ride from Boston/Cambridge and the location just works. Your comments also suggest that the Comprehensive Plan adopted several years ago was merely written on a paper napkin with little or no thought for what is best for Watertown. That’s insulting to a lot of people who worked on the plan that was then approved by Town Counsel. Perhaps the Town should consider adding staff to our planning department as we have one of the smallest planning offices I’ve seen. That said, the people working in our Planning Department deserve our thanks (not disrespect) for their hard work. Achieving Safe Harbor Status for Watertown is the most recent example of their proactive planning work to make Watertown a better place to live and work. You might want to check out how many other communities have achieved Safe Harbor status in Massachusetts. Everyone’s entitled to an opinion, but you lost me when you state that “lab space brings noxious chemicals along the river”. I guess your next letter will be about the failure of the EPA.

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