12 thoughts on “LETTER: Time to Draw Line on Big Developments, Create a Historic District on Main Street

  1. I totally agree with this. With all the Vision Meetings, have we not addressed the issue before? Will the meeting on the 21st be on zoom as well?

  2. Yes, I get it. Many residents are fed up with runaway development, traffic, poor infrastructure (potholes, lack of and/or failing sidewalks, lack of granite cubing), constant tax increases, and more.

    I think most residents would agree that the Watertown Square area needs some serious cleanup, beautification, and revamping to create activity and support for local business and demonstrate pride of place.

    This project raises many questions: Is the looming 5-story building, 146 housing units + retail that is being proposed across from our much beloved library the best that can be done for our community? What about the businesses and residents that will be displaced? What about the edict from the state to create more housing near transportation hubs? Do folks realize that the city is updating our comprehensive plan regarding housing, economic development, open space, historic preservation, etc. and needs your ideas and feedback? And…Could this area even qualify as a historic district?

    So here’s a way to get informed on one of the questions I’ve raised. Attend the MA Historical Commission’s (MHC) workshop – Establishing Local Historic Districts on Tuesday, June 28, 1 pm, and learn more about local historic districts. Register for this workshop at https://www.sec.state.ma.us/mhc/mhcotr/otridx.htm.

    If the time is inconvenient, you can sign up to receive the materials post the Zoom meeting. MHC lists all their Zoom meetings on the website. This is the last workshop being offered until the fall. If you care about this issue, please get informed!

    Local historic districts provide one of the strongest forms of protection for historic properties in Massachusetts. This workshop will cover the process by which communities can establish local historic districts under Massachusetts General Laws Chapter 40C. Learn all about the outreach process, the legalities of establishing local districts, completing a Study Report, and making it through Town Meeting or City Council. This workshop will focus exclusively on establishing local historic districts; administration of local historic districts and design review are covered in a separate workshop.

    Hope to see you at the workshop.


  3. I agree – we need to tighten our up zoning laws so ensure we are thinking at the right scale too. We can’t have all these looming developments that don’t tie into the surrounding infrastructure. It’s important we scale the projects properly and not overdevelop our 4-square mile town. If we do, we’ll certainly lose our close community feel. This month’s zoning update includes yet another 240k SF development on Water St. In addition to concerns about scale we have to be talking about all the impact on traffic. We are reducing lanes on Mt Auburn St but yet not addressing hundreds of more cars in the area. Glad the residents are coming together to hold the town accountable.

  4. Please note: a part of Saint John’s Church on 80(ish) Mount Auburn Street has a interested developer to build yet another large multi-unit property located in the historic district. Beautifying and funding the historic districts for overdue improvements, making Main Street a historic district, and cherishing our history is as important as allowing developers into town to destroy what needs to be preserved. The “cash cow” needs to head to the barn. This town has developed Pleasant Street, Arsenal Street, and many other areas without the consideration of maintaining greenspace and safeguarding our town.

  5. As to Patti Cassidy’s question about zoom. Please consider actually coming to this meeting. A room full of determined residents is far more persuasive!! And, please, let your friends and neighbors know! Thanks.

  6. Sorry but making Main St a historic district is way too little, too late. Watertown will never be the same small and close knit community it once was. Instead, it has been replaced by big box stores and developers.
    Go ahead and make Main St a historic district, though, perhaps as a charming symbol of the community it once was.

  7. More than a historic district, we need to make the square attractive to want to come too.
    Is it nice to be able to go to places to reminisce? sure but if people aren’t attracted to a place then it’s a loss to everyone. Architecture should not just function but inspire. There is little inspiration along that section of Main St. in my humble opinion.

  8. From what I know we have very few historic sites left in the city. We have very little to offer to draw many tourists here for a town that was founded in 1630. If we are a city composed of mostly big housing developments and big bio labs, those can be found in all the bigger cities where they actually have big tourist areas.

    Somehow we need to find and develop a uniqueness for Watertown that preserves its small-town feel while still allowing small and medium sized business to prevail and succeed. We keep trying to limit cars and provide for parking needs and make it more difficult for people, especially the elderly, to visit our local businesses in the downtown area.

    The MBTA keeps failing us in so many areas. They just admitted they don’t have adequate personnel to run the Red and Orange lines safely so they are reducing the travel times to Saturday schedules during the week. They have proven time and time again that people can’t depend on them to get to work or appointments in a timely manner. And not everyone can ride bicycles due to many physical limitations.

    We still need cars and we still need and want local businesses and we need to accommodate both. Let’s try to save the buildings across from the library and help the businesses survive as they’ve invested a lot of their time and money to move into these locations.

    There’s another smaller apartment building going into the former 711 site. The new grammar schools are sadly already showing signs of being full and more apartments bring more kids although the developers deny this. We don’t need more apartments in this area of Main St. A more congested Main St. with more apartment dwellers trying to merge into the backed up traffic lines is not helpful to anyone. Hopefully, we can find some compromises that work for all of us.

    • Joan,
      I appreciate your observations and voice of reason. Too many are focused on more housing or small buildings or the sense of history or any one personal item that is their person favorite.
      Having attractive buildings and services will bring in people who want to spend time in the area around the square. This is what everyone should want. What are the attractions that would bring in people to spend time and what is the architecture that will support that is what we should all be asking.

  9. As a Watertown resident and homeowner, I just want to voice my support for continued housing development. This is a gross misuse of the historic district designation. I want more people living, working, and shopping in Watertown. I want high-density housing located near transit. I want as many new units of housing built in Greater Boston as possible.

    • I agree. And I think that downtown is the best place for housing development as opposed to, say, changing zoning in neighborhoods to cram in more housing. If our downtown were idyllic or attractive currently, then plopping down a structure as the one proposed may cause concern. But it’s not. Razing the current post office/office structure, creating retail on the bottom floor of a new building, and housing above it is a good idea in my opinion.

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