LETTER: Allowing Illuminated Sign on Arsenal Yards Building Would be a “Very Bad Idea”

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Dave Martin A view down the Charles River from the Bridge on North Beacon Street with the 100 Forge (or Building G) building at Arsenal Yards in the distance. An illuminated sign has been proposed to go near the top of the building.

To the Editor,

Boylston Properties is requesting a zoning change to allow it to place a large, illuminated sign at the top of the 130 ft. high Building G in Arsenal Yards. This is a very bad idea for the following reasons:

1.  It constitutes a “branding” of Watertown. Watertown prides itself on being a melting pot, representing diverse people. It is improper for a private developer to appropriate public skies and intrude on public lands with a high impact sign that shouts across the river.

2.  It would constitute a historic zoning change that would allow signs of any kind facing the Charles River over public lands. Never before has Watertown allowed any individual or organization been allowed to display a sign, illuminated or not, across the river. 

3.  Boylston Properties claims the sign will only be fully visible from the Mass Pike and hardly any other places. This is untrue. I took a walk around the area and took many photos of the building rooftop. I provided a link to the photos towards the end of this letter.

Dave Martin A view of 100 Forge, also called Building G, at Arsenal Yards on which an illuminated sign has been proposed.

4.  Boylston Properties shows trees blocking the view from the Charles River. However, they neglected to show how visible the sign would be after the leaves fall and foliage is gone during fall, winter, and early spring. This is deceptive. 
5.  There was no reconciliation of this bright, imposing sign in light of Chapter 6 (Open Space & Recreation) of the Watertown Comprehensive plan. The Planning Department of the City of Watertown are expected to follow formal guidelines before they can recommend and forward such a proposal to the Planning Board and the City Council. This proposal appears to have been rushed to the Council for a quick vote during summertime while many residents were away on vacation and the leaves are still on the trees.

6.  The illuminated sign will add to the light pollution of our nighttime skies. Watertown has required businesses to remove illuminated signs and billboards over the past couple of decades.  Watertown has also tightened up on stray outside lighting for all properties. Shall we now allow one large and well financed organization to reverse this positive trend? 

7.  This could start a signage war with Boston. The new tall buildings across the river on the Brighton side are visibly “quiet,” preserving the peace and tranquillity of our Charles River parklands. A Building G illuminated sign could open the door to signs from Brighton (and Cambridge) that would intrude upon the Charles River parklands becoming quite visible to us.

These photos I took were from various vantage points — some by park benches — on both sides of the river. The link for the photos can be found here on Microsoft One Drive:  https://1drv.ms/u/s!AthjDt3WGpARjHQZy_3R-Gy6mGeJ?e=tZwjBZ. No login required to view.

Please advise your City Councilors that you oppose this change in zoning.

Dave Martin
North Beacon Street Neighborhood

16 thoughts on “LETTER: Allowing Illuminated Sign on Arsenal Yards Building Would be a “Very Bad Idea”

  1. I agree with you 100% Dave. Your pictures are worth a thousand words. Thank you for including them. I hope our councilors will hear the community’s voice loud and clear. Developers come and go. We, the residents, should not be forced to live with destination branding or as some residents have called it “ego branding.”

  2. I agree with the many opponents to the signage. Very good reasons have been outlined in these letters.

    When this was first covered I wrote to each city council member with my opposition. Is there really anyone in the surrounding area who doesn’t know about Arsenal Yards? Based on the bustling scene there, I don’t think so. This illuminated rooftop sign seems like a vanity project to me.

  3. Thank you Dave for taking the time to write this and put into words my very thoughts. The building alone has already ruined the great view I use to have from my house. Adding a lighted sign to it would destroy so a beautiful area.
    Thank you for including the photos as well. They really do tell the story.

  4. Even without any sign the building alone is an eyesore and blight on the landscape. Adding a 10′ illuminated sign perched 130′ in the sky serves no useful purpose other than to inflate the egos of Boylston Properties and Bill McQuillan. Allowing this request will only cheapen and tarnish the ambience of the river way.

    Also, lets not forget that these are the same people that just a few years ago sought to change the zoning laws to suit their purpose by increasing the height of 100 Forge St. by some 60+ feet. Had not the community rallied together to state their objections and defeat that effort we could have easily been looking at an even more unwelcome of an abomination

    Another problem I have with this proposal is that it’s for a change in the existing zoning laws that would not only allow just BP to put their sign in place, but it would also set a precedent that would allow other developers (including BP), to follow suit in the future. We still don’t know the full plans for the redevelopment of the Watertown Mall or any future plans
    for the unfinished life science building on Galen St. and at the Planning Board meeting held on July 13th, the possibility of placing a sign on the Arsenal St side of 100 Forge in the future was not ruled out.

    The City Council would be remiss in their duties and obligations to preserve the small town feel and quality that Watertown has to offer by approving this request. It’s not as if BP will pack up and leave if they don’t have their way on this issue.

    • Thank you, John. Yes, even without a sign (illuminated or not) that building still stands out as an eyesore when viewed from the Charles River. At 130 ft, it is still too tall. it should never have been allowed to exceed 90 ft.

      In addition, a lot of trees were removed between that building and the fence along Little Greenough. I remember a top Boylston Properties representative (I will not name him) stating they were removing “invasive species”. Well, what is more invasive, Boylston Props’ steel, asphalt, and concrete or Norwegian maples?


  5. You are welcome. All you have written with great comments. A special thanks goes to Charlie Breitrose for digging out 2 key photos on my link and displaying them explicitly along with the text. That change adds so much impact.

    Also thanks to Jon Brockian and Joe Levendusky for reviewing my writeup before it went out. This is my first letter to the editor and I was a bit nervous.

    My biggest concern is wintertime when the signage will become much more visible. If there are any councilors who are unsure how to vote now, this could be the deciding factor.


  6. Anytime…ANYTIME…they change zoning, it chips away at the uniqueness of the residential neighborhoods. Don’t kid yourself, Boylston Properties could care less about Watertown’s residents, it is focused on Watertown’s profit making abilities. Don’t believe a word that those hired gun lawyers and consultants say when they propose, “minimal or no impact.” When they take that line, it is bad for everyone.

  7. Dave,

    Thanks for getting you message out! I would be pissed to see a sign like that go up and think I did not have the chance to raise my hand in opposition. It would be an offense to the landscape, especially at night.

    This is our home. This is where we want to relax. Of course we want to walk and ride and row along the Charles. Of course we are there for the trees and the water and the wildlife. And of course we would hate to ruin it with an advertisement. There is too much commercial interest affecting our lives. Let’s not let it intrude on some of our last remaining sanctuary.


  8. In my opinion, this building should have been no higher than 3 or 4 stories. Anything taller than the tree canopy near the river is an eyesore and destroys the illusion that you are in a wooded green area. Watertown doesn’t need ANY 10 foot high signs anywhere and most especially not lighted! No to oversized signage and no to lighting oversized signs.

    Just because a developer thinks it’s a great idea for the town, doesn’t mean the townspeople do. We need to put the brakes on overdevelopment and limit building heights or risk becoming part of Boston. I’m also alarmed at the lack of green space in Arsenal Yards. And if you’ve ever walked around Ben and Jerry’s, you know that the walkway between their front doors and the building in front of them is now a huge wind tunnel.

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