Town, BB&N Agree to Share Fields at Filippello Park, New Ones School to Build on Grove Street

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The Town of Watertown and Buckingham Browne & Nichols School (BB&N) agreed to a field sharing plan where the school would get some use of Filippello Park, while the Town could use new athletic fields to be built by BB&N on Grove Street.

Watertown residents will have access to new athletic fields to be built by Buckingham Browne & Nichols School on Grove Street, while the school will be able to use fields at next door Filippello Park as part of an agreement approved by the Town Council Tuesday night.

Two full-sized athletic fields, a field house and parking for about 80 vehicles are planned for the 6.1 acres of land that BB&N plans to purchase from Mount Auburn Cemetery. The land directly abuts Filippello Park on the Grove Street side of the park in East Watertown.

BB&N recently entered into a purchase and sale agreement with the Mount Auburn Cemetery. Tuesday night, the Town Council voted to enter a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) for the field sharing agreement with the school. The agreement would last 20 years, with an option of extending it another 20 years.

Town Manager Michael Driscoll said the sale and agreement, which was first presented to the Town Council a year ago, is a unique opportunity.

“I believe this is a very exciting opportunity for partnership with both of the non-profits, but particularly the one with BB&N that will increase the open space for recreation and exercise,” Driscoll said. “And I believe this is an excellent public/private partnership that is beneficial for both residents of Watertown and BB&N.”

Under the agreement, the Town of Watertown and BB&N will each be responsible to maintain and upkeep their own respective fields, Driscoll said.

One of the focuses of the MOU is when each group would have access to the other’s fields.

The school will use the new fields during the afternoons, and Watertown residents will have access in the evenings and weekends, said BB&N Head of School Jennifer Price. The school will use the fields on a few Saturdays, Price added.

The agreement will also give BB&N access to the fields at Filippello Park in the after school hours and all-day during the preseason for sports in August and March.

Price added that she is aware of the school construction projects in the Watertown Public Schools, which may impact BB&N’s use of Fillipello Park.

“We understand Watertown may need to use Filippello Park during construction, and we will be completely flexible with them there,” Price said.

Price said she envisions the border between the BB&N fields and Filippello Park being seamless, and she said there will not be a gate to keep people off the school fields when not being used by BB&N.

(See more details of the field sharing terms below).

Council Reaction

Town Council President Mark Sideris said the agreement will benefit Watertown by adding more places for recreation.

“I think that knowing the difficulty we have here with fields and scheduling, this is going to help significantly with that in the future,” Sideris said. “One key point to Dr. Price’s presentation is there is not going to be any gates to this facility. If no body is on the field you can walk on the field. I think that is key, integrating them as one big recreational facility. I am sure there are going to be other cities and towns that are going to be envious of us.”

Angeline Kounelis, the district councilor representing East Watertown, said the parcel owned by Mount Auburn Cemetery has been eyed by other developers, including one that wanted to build “hundreds of housing units” there. She said this proposal pleased her.

“This is tremendous news. Open green space brings vitality and young people to the neighborhood,” Kounelis said. “As I have said, it is not always about the money. This parcel could be developed and bring in a lot of money for the coffers of Watertown, but I think this is just tremendous.”

Artificial Turf

BB&N plans to install artificial turf on the two playing fields, Price said.

“Given the amount of use there — we are really talking a partnership where we are using these fields seven days a week between BB&N and residents of Watertown — the only way to make those field to be used at that level, at that intensity is to have it synthetic turf,” Price said.

Councilor Tony Palomba commended Cemetery officials for choosing to sell the property to BB&N, rather than other groups interested in doing other types of developments there. He added that he is concerned about having synthetic turf on the fields. He noted that when the Town considered renovating the track area of Victory Field many residents opposed having artificial turf there due to health concerns. Town officials agreed that grass would be installed. The town has a synthetic turf area on the football/baseball area of Victory Field.

The BB&N fields will also have lights installed on them. Price said they will follow Dark Sky compliant lights, similar to what is being installed at the playing fields at Filippello Park.

Historic Home and Uses

Currently, the property is leased to Mount Auburn Hospital, which uses it as off-site parking. That lease is due to expire at the end of October 2021.

Historically, the property was a country estate where “prized horses” were kept, said Marilynne Roach of the Historical Society of Watertown. In the early 20th century the property was purchased by the Shick family (one of Watertown’s first Jewish families) and turned into a dairy farm. The Shick family lived in the High-Style Italianate house, until 2002 and the house still stands on the site.

Roach said the home is one of the few of that style in Watertown and its interior features detailed plasterwork, a carved staircase and carved stone fireplaces. The Historical Society urged that the home be saved, and perhaps used as offices or a bed and breakfast, Roach said.

“The Town’s architectural, agricultural and cultural history is what house represents. Once lost, it cannot be replaced,” Roach said.

Price said BB&N needs the entire 6.1 acres to fit all the fields, the field house and parking it needs for the facility, so it does not plan to keep the Shick House.

“I do want to make the offer, and I know that Mount Auburn Cemetery made the same offer. We are more than happy to gift, to give the Shick House to the Town of Watertown, and to anyone who wants to have it in order to restore it,” Price said.

Timeline

Several things still need to happen before the fields, and the agreement, become a reality, Price said.

BB&N seeks to sell Buckingham Field, near Fresh Pond, to the City of Cambridge, which is scheduled to be considered on Jan. 5.

The school must also do environmental studies, appear before the Watertown Historical Commission (possibly in January).

The school must get bonds approved, and the BB&N Board will have to officially approve the purchase of the land.

The purchase and sale agreement calls for the closing date to be Jan. 29. Price said.

If that all happens, construction could start on Nov. 1, 2021, Price said, with the goal of being completed by the spring of 2022.

Field Sharing Terms

The section of the Memorandum of Understanding about the field sharing terms reads:

The School will allow the Town of Watertown use of its 2 playing fields on the Property as follows:

  • Monday through Friday from 6:00pm to 10:00pm.
  • Saturdays from 8:00am to 11:00am and 5:00pm to 10:00pm except for a limited number of pre-agreed Saturdays for all-school events (such as Homecoming).
  • All day Sundays.
  • Use during other outdoor seasonal recreation periods, such as fall and spring off season periods, summer periods and other dates, when the property is not used by the School.

The Town will allow the School the use of its 2 playing fields on Filippello Park as follows:

  • Monday through Friday during the Fall and Spring athletic seasons from 2:00pm to 6:00pm (The BB&N Fall athletic season starts the week before Labor Day weekend and ends the week of Thanksgiving. The Spring athletic season starts the first full week in March and ends the week after Memorial Day).
  • We understand there are some current users of Filippello Park who have been using the park for at least 2 years before the date of this MOU. In these circumstances, BB&N will end its practice at 5:15pm on the dates that overlap with the historical dates that those users had traditionally used the park.
  • The week before Labor Day weekend and for one full week in March (when the School has Spring Break and teams practice additional hours) from 8:00am to 5:00pm.
  • Non-exclusive use of its playgrounds and spray park at Filippello Park during BB&N’s summer camp weeks as scheduled.

See the Memorandum of Understanding by clicking here.

See the documents from the presentation made by BB&N by clicking here.

24 thoughts on “Town, BB&N Agree to Share Fields at Filippello Park, New Ones School to Build on Grove Street

  1. Why would Mount Auburn Cemetery sell this land?

    Have people in the region stopped dying and so cemetery space is not needed anymore?

  2. Councilor Kounelis commends BB&N’s plans for artificial turf fields as “open green space.” This is misleading and requires correction.

    Artificial turf is green in color only. It’s unequivocally bad for environmental health. Artificial turf absorbs and radiates as much summer heat as pavement does, and generates a ton of industrial waste when it must be torn up and disposed of in 10-15 years.

    It’s a great disappointment that BB&N plans to cover this open space with a vast, soil-killing layer of industrial product rather than invest in living turf. And it’s a great disappointment that Watertown’s negotiators didn’t fight to persuade BB&N not to make that short-sighted and environmentally-unfriendly decision.

  3. The Schick House is one of the last remaining links to Watertown’s farming past, which is only a century distant. The house is also beautiful and architecturally significant. To allow it to be demolished would be a grievous failure on the part of all involved. It would be a disgrace both on the town and on BBN to be party to such a barbarity.

    If we don’t care about our heritage, then it is clear that we don’t really care about the town either. Restore the Schick House.

    • I agree John. The more fields that Watertown residents have access to the better, whether they are turf or grass. The more lights the better too. Just got word that the lights at the basketball courts are all shut off. Kids are in school either hybrid or remote, with sunset a little after 4 would be great on nice nights that they get a little exercise. Unfortunately some don’t even want them doing that.

      • Just curious if you have seen how many kids are at the Victory Field courts and how almost all are not wearing masks. I agree with you that under most circumstances the lights should be on for a bit BUT the blatant disregard for Covid among those using the courts is troublesome. I would hope that if it continues someone would remove those nets or lock the courts.

        As for this agreement being a good thing for Watertown. We shall see. Our town leaders don’t have a very good track record when it comes to making good decisions for the town.

        • I am a little confused by your comment, you say under most circumstances the lights should be on for a bit? I believe pre-covid they were on until 10 pm and as recently as last week they were on until 8pm. I would expect once we get through the pandemic it would go back to 10pm. My hope would be people follow protocols and if they can’t they shouldn’t be allowed in. When someone walks in a store without a mask they ask that person to either put a mask on or leave, they don’t shut the store.

  4. Joe, why don’t you offer the town $1 for the dilapitated old Schick House and then move it yourself to a proper site for restoration?

    • Fred, it’s a shame that you cannot appreciate this cultural asset of our town. Do you always need to be so snarky? Maybe you should learn something about history before commenting.

  5. I am amazed that no one seems to care whether the Schick House is available to the future school children of Watertown, and all of us, to learn about what the town was like before we were born.

    In 1900. Watertown had more than 100 working farms. The young from BBN and Watertown should know that the fields where they play sports once had dairy cows grazing. They should know what Italianate architecture is. They should know about the people who lived there. As the article aptly stated, this was the home of one of Watertown’s first Jewish families.

    That BBN, as an educational institution, doesn’t recognize the importance of this building for their own students seems to me profoundly shortsighted.

    Isn’t this sort of thing exactly why we passed the Community Preservation Act? If not now, then when? After our heritage has been erased?

    Like an individual human being, if a town doesn’t know where it came from, historically, then it has no idea of what it is. We must not demolish what remains of Watertown’s heritage. It would be a transgression against future generations.

  6. We knew all along that 2021 would be the “sunset” year for the Grove Street Community garden, but it’s still disappointing to see no space at all made for any chance to continue gardening there. From this map, it looks like they plan to cover the existing parking lot with artificial turf to create a “green” space, and pave over the existing garden plots to create parking. Makes perfect sense to me! /s

    • The plans for the redevelopment depict a small triangle approximately where the current community garden stands. It’s hard for me to tell how it compares in size. It would be great if the plan allowed for the retention of the Garden in some form. Will they hold hearings on this? Is there a way to advocate for the garden, natural grass fields and new trees?

    • Pam Phillips, a community garden space is being added to Arsenal Park. I suggest you contact Leo Martin, Chair of the Conservation Commission, to learn more about this.

  7. I am a Shick , I will forward this to my Father who grew up in this house. I would love to have it back in our family.

    • If there is interest in the family acquiring the house, I would be interested in discussing with you further. Please contact me at “smagoon@watertown-ma.gov”

  8. My Great Grandfather Jacob Shick purchased the home, I sent this article to my Father who loved there as a child. It would be nice to have it back in the Shick family.

    • Hi Daryl,

      I wrote an article for the Historical Society of Watertown’s newsletter on the Shick house. The article was reprinted in the Jewish Advocate. I was in close contact with Larry Shick, who provided a lot of great information and photos. I’ve reached out to larry again to enlist his aid in preserving this historical treasureThe Historical Society is working to preserve the house. We know it will likely have to be moved, but this is not an insurmountable obstacle. Any help you and your family can give us will be greatly appreciated. Thanks.

      Bob Bloomberg

  9. why didn’t the Town of Watertown buy the property for our own use and preservation of the Schick House?
    I agree that artificial turf is not green space–it may be open, but it does not support life of any kind and has been shown to cause cancers as well as overheating and runoff of the rubber filler–into our drainage system? into the Charles River?

    • The sale of the property is for around $40M. BB&N is essentially selling a Cambridge property to purchase the Grove Street property. The deal has been in the works since at least November 2019. If you read the documents, The parking agreement with Mt. Auburn Hospital will end in October 2021. BB&N plans to start construction in November 2021.

      Why, given all the negatives that continue to be published about artificial turf and the escalating climate change issues, would an educational institution install this toxic material? Is this BB&N’s idea of a good neighbor policy? We have the expertise in this town to install beautiful grass fields. They require proper irrigation, drainage, seed mix, and organic fertilizer. How is this a good deal for Watertown?

  10. Pingback: Ask BB&N To Reject Artificial Turf at Grove Street

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