Dear Honorable City Councilors:
For comparison purposes: take a look see at the attached photograph that depicts a simple, tasteful, understated, illuminated sign at the Encore Boston Harbor [Casino] in Everett, MA. Refer to the sign with any number of adjectives; it’s still an elevated, rooftop illuminated sign. Is this what we want intruding on the tranquil skyline of Watertown’s 4.17 square miles? In my opinion: NO.
In 1816, the Watertown Arsenal was “branded” in history. The petitioner knew full well of the City’s position as a desirable destination for development during their site selection process. There was no blindsiding.
Watertown is not for sale to the highest influencer. There should be no consideration given for the proposed RMUD Zoning Amendment to Section 7.07 of the Watertown Zoning Ordinance. Thank you.
Angeline Maria B. Kounelis
Retired District A, East End, Town/City Councilor
55 Keenan St.
Watertown, MA 02472-2904
Watertown City Staff Report:
The number of post on this topic in the last 2 days is getting absurd. There is so much more going on in Watertown at the moment that should get recognized instead of 6 op-eds all making the same arguments that they don’t want a sign.
The Encore is 3 times as tall as the Watertown building in question (the E is 25 feet tall vs. the 10 ft letters proposed). Picking exaggerated examples to make comparisons that are not apples to apples all to fit some narrative about big bad business or that it kills the birds or confuses the fish.
The city of Boston has one of the most iconic illuminated signs in the world next to Fenway and guess what, it overlooks the Charles too. Watertown is not a small town that should stay tucked away from everyone, we are a city on a hilltop that cannot be hidden any longer.
Also, I would much rather have a sign illuminate the Charles river at night than a bunch of Christmas lights in town square illuminating some rundown looking store fronts.
Eric, I think that the number of posts is a measure of how important this issue is to people and how strongly they feel about it.
I wouldn’t ridicule it.
Thank you for that and for your original posting, which compelled me to write to our city Councillors.
The objections are more than just about being opposed to a simple sign… its also about making a statement against this particular developer and any others that have their sights set on Watertown that we are not going to roll over and acquiesce to their demands simply because they’re waving $$$ in our faces.
Boylston Properties has a history of deception, asking for a bigger piece of the pie,bait and switch and changing plans since the inception of Arsenal Yards… a tax break, a road leading from the Home Depot parking lot to Little Greenough Blvd, adding 60+ additional feet to 100 Forge, switching plans for a residential building to a hotel (at the loss of affordable housing units), changing the upper level of the main building from retail to life science labs (at the loss of retail jobs), demanding money from the town for improvements to Arsenal park. Whether or not they succeeded or failed in any of those endeavors isn’t the issue here… its that no matter what, win or lose, they keep on coming back for more.
BP also recently acquired the Home Depot building. What can we look forward to in the future as that parcel and the parking lot undergoes redevelopment? If their past and present history with the community is any indication, nothing good will come of it I’m sure.
In this day and age when everyone has a GPS and maps at their fingertips, claiming that the sign serves as a gateway to Watertown is grasping at straws at best… specious at worst.
I’m sure if they could get away with it, they’d be delighted to place a Boylston Properties/Arsenal Yards bat signal at the top.
I’ll admit, they pay a good amount in property taxes, provide high paying jobs (jobs that are beyond the reach of longtime residents), and they have no qualms about crowing about it and portraying themselves as benefactors to the community, but at some point we have to ask ourselves ‘what did we get ourselves into? Enough is enough, and is it (was it), really worth the headaches in return?.
The sign is just one symptom of the disease.
I definitely agree that the outrage over the sign really has little to do with the sign and more to do with the overall development of Watertown over the last 10-15 years.
I still don’t understand the outrage with BP and the Arsenal Yard development. That mall was terrible and a completely unproductive use of space. The definitely made a number of changes to their plans but they also bought the piece of property and did a great job developing it into an commerce area for Watertown.
I don’t get the comment about “jobs that are beyond the reach of longtime residents” how is that BP’s responsibility ? They just build the buildings for the companies that want them / need the space.
I am curious what they are going to do with the HomeDepot space (will be a real pain if I have to drive all the way out to Waltham to get things). But if it went away is that a terrible thing ? When I read the crime log it seems 50% is people stealing from either Target or Homedepot. We are just wasting tax dollars to pay cops to do loss prevention for the stores. If we can get another business in there that generates similar revenues without the law enforcement overhead, I call that a win. (next they can get rid of the Best Buy, that place is a ghost town)
Wait one minute Eric. The Target and Home Depot are stores to which many folks in the East End can easily walk. They serve a purpose. The issue of crime is another subject entirely.
Ask the police department if they think that they are serving as loss prevention for these stores. It’s more complicated than that.
Many folks don’t have cars and while everyday retail may not be glamorous or uber revenue producing, they are essential to community. I walk to both those stores you mention regularly.
100% Target would be a massive loss if it went away as there is nothing remotely close nearby.
But with home depot, there are other options nearby that are locally owned (Coolidge Hardware, Ace Hardware) and then a larger home depot on the west side of Waltham.
Now is driving out to Waltham to get lumber or gardening supplies ideal, no. But I would be willing to make that trade off to get more out of the Arsenal Yards development.
What I meant by “jobs beyond the reach of longtime residents” is that the upper level was originally planned and submitted for retail establishments. Those jobs might not be high paying or desirable for some, but at least they were job opportunities for those without a college degree in life sciences or IT. Again… another bait and switch by BP
As far as HD goes, I kind of doubt that at this time HD will be going anywhere in the near future, but one never can tell. Anything and everything is on the table. The real value to BP (or any other developer), is in the parking lot; which opens up a whole new slew of possibility’s that I don’t even want to think about. Take a look at the Stop and Shop parking lot at Allston Landing. It’s currently being torn up to make way for a multi-use monstrosity including 1,000+ residential units and god knows what else. S&S used to be one of my go to places for grocery shopping, but no more due to the mess there and along Guest St. Star Market on Western Ave? Harvard and developers are working on that one too (or at least making it less accessible from here).
Theft you say? Sadly that’s part of doing business in an urban area and it’s not just here it’s nationwide, but at least HD and Target are doing something about it. I don’t know what this HD and Targets official policy is, but in many places store security isn’t even allowed to approach or stop shoplifters. It’s neither ones fault that they attract thieves. If your preference is that they should be replaced with something else due to crime, that’s part of the reason why food and pharmacy deserts exist in some communities .
Best Buy? As far as I know that will be gone as well. From the plans for the redevelopment of the Watertown Mall that I’ve seen, the only existing business that will remain is Target due to their long term lease. And if you or anyone else thinks that the mall footprint and parking lot is a sizable project, it doesn’t end there. It goes all the way to, and includes the Auto Zone building and the office building between them and the mall. People might think Arsenal Yards was a huge and ambitious project, they ain’t seen nothing yet once the mall project gets underway.
But back to the issue that started this discussion, the sign (as it were), did actually present numerous problems that were well stated by others, but it does get tiresome after awhile when a developer keeps on testing the waters to see what they can and can’t get away with.
The only thing standing in their way are the community activists and the effects they have on their elected officials. When BP and McQuillan say “we have long listened to the responsible voices in Watertown”, that’s just lip service. They knew that because of the backlash from the community, the City Council was not going to approve their request. It’s better to look reasonable, neighborly and accommodating, back off, lick your wounds and prepare for the next fight.
I wrote earlier that sure the tax base is nice and benefits the community, but at some point is it worth the sacrifice and loss of what was once a real community that people sought out to raise a family in?
For now, I’ll just drop this here as a warning for some because we’re just across the river and probably 3-5 years away from being next on the chopping block.
This is in response to Eric York’s comment not anyone else Thank You
Exactly. It doesn’t matter if the proposed sign is the most tasteful in the world; it doesn’t belong on Greenough Boulevard.
While I am against the proposed signage in Watertown, I must say that the illuminated “sign” at Encore Casino is not a sign at all. We know what a sign is, and is not, and the word Encore affixed to the hotel is not one. It is appropriate for that location, and I do like it, but we do not need one here.
I’ve already put my ‘no’ vote in for this sign, but I also have another question. In the attachment former Councilor Kounelis so generously included, I see that the Boston Globe is listed as the official paper of record for Watertown notices. When did this happen? Why weren’t people officially informed of this change?
We lost our local Watertown Tab and, therefore, lost information on local notices in the paper. I don’t know anyone who was informed that the Globe would be the official paper. I don’t subscribe to that paper and don’t want to. There should be another way for people to get notices of what the zoning board and other Watertown departments are doing in advance. We shouldn’t have to search numerous sources to know what’s going on.
The Watertown News seems to be more of a viable vehicle for informing us of what is coming up to be voted on if Charlie B. is willing to accept this responsibility and an on-line publication is acceptable. More people are becoming aware of this newsletter and look to it for important community information.