The following announcement was sent out by O’Connor Capital Partners:
O’Connor Capital Partners would like to introduce itself and cordially invite you to a presentation of its plans to transform the site in Watertown Square located at 104-126 Main Street, 55 Pleasant Street, 2-10 Cross Street and corner of Pleasant and Cross Street into a vibrant mixed use commercial/residential property which will enhance the retail offered along the Main Street corridor within a thoughtfully conceived design which incorporates design elements of the existing Watertown Main Street design esthetic.
The design uses high-quality materials within a creative design that will preserve the historic row houses along Cross Street. This transit-oriented development will incorporate some of the best sustainability principles while offering public benefits including much needed housing, including an affordable component. The development will help reenergize Main Street and incorporate retail and residential vitality that benefits the greater Watertown community.
We will be hosting an interactive meeting on Thursday, January 19, 2023 at 6:30 PM. We hope you are able to join us for the presentation and look forward to your comments.
CLICK HERE FOR MEETING DOCUMENTS
For ease of access, the meeting will be conducted virtually via Zoom. Just prior to the start of the meeting, please access the link below to join via computer or mobile device. You may be instructed to download the Zoom application. The project team will also attempt to secure a live broadcast spot with local cable access TV. If none are available, the project team will record and make it available through local cable access TV for on-demand viewing.
Meeting Date: Thursday, January 19, 2023
Meeting Time: 6:30 PM to 8:00 PM
Meeting Place: virtual, via Zoom meeting
URL: https://bit.ly/watertown-main-cross-redev [note: if typing, use all lowercase]
Meeting ID: 828 9258 6280 Passcode: 867 5309 Telephone Dial-in: (646) 558-8656
First-time Zoom help: https://support.zoom.us/hc/en-us/articles/360034967471-Quick-startguide-for-new-user
Project Contact: Brett Buehrer O’Connor Capital Partners Buehrer@oconnorcp.com 212-308-7700
This is where the developer holds the community meeting, listens to our concerns and questions and then immediately tells us that there is nothing they can change because of cost, planning, and some other excuse. The developer has already run this by our city planners. Unfortunately this meeting is a box checking exercise.
However, if changes could be made. Would love for more setbacks from the main street side, 1 less floor and a building facade that looks better. These designs aren’t inspiring. We all agree that main street is due for a makeover but this isn’t the right start. Have our town planners toured other communities (lexington center, newton center, weston, etc) or are they just relying on visions created by developers?
Agree with first letter-writer, and then some. Wish I’d been there when the developer “ran this by our city planners,” because the development in question will overwhelm the targeted space vertically, horizontally, and functionally. The traffic in that region is already a major headache in rush and school hours. Just try to turn left off Church Street on to Main Street — I clocked the light at nearly 3 minutes per cycle one day — and negotiating Galen Street is already a migraine headache. Fix that before you add to the thundering herds of trucks and cars!
Additionally, the development in the former Sasaki building for its new uses will couple with this complex to create a monster of congestion and inaccessible use, as well as demand for all-day parking (as already seen regarding the parking places near the Dealtry pool and river walk). At the very least, just contemplate what will happen to Pleasant Street during the months/years of demolition and massive construction is appalling. Agree with everything recommended in the first letter, but suggest that much more thought be devoted to reducing the scale, rethinking the daunting rectangularity and altitude of the planned buildingS, as well as being honest about the impact of traffic in and out of the parking facilities embedded in the plan as well as around the surrounding streets and neighborhoods. Watertown, you can do much better.
… adding to myself in light of subsequent letters below, all of which are full of sense, insight, and realism:
Just want to note that until/unless the behemoth of an intersection at the “heart” of the Square (Mt. Auburn meets Main meets Galen meets Charles River Rd. meets Beacon/Arsenal St.) is made rational with clear, UNconfusing lane stripes/arrows, along with properly aligned traffic signs and lights –and with far more rational timing for everyone on foot or wheels (including those cyclists who never believe a red light is for them) — well, any new development that invites even a dozen more cars wanting passage or parking is deeply impractical.
The pictures show retail space on the bottom floor, but we don’t yet know if the Post Office will be there or if the current businesses will be able to afford to rent spaces there. The high rents are pushing small businesses out of Watertown. If we only end up with high end coffee shops, this is not an improvement to the area. Not all of us want to spend big bucks for a coffee with the high inflation rates affecting us in so many ways. This development may be taking away our needed services and desirable businesses.
If there aren’t enough parking spaces to accommodate visitors to the businesses or restaurants, they will fail. Right now there aren’t enough spaces in the area to serve our needs and the costs on the meters is extremely high. I recently put in two quarters and got 15 minutes of parking outside City Hall. I wanted to go in there and there were no parking spaces behind the library, on the street except for the one metered space I found open after circling around two times, or on the sides of the building to do my business there. This does not make Watertown a business friendly community. People who have disabilities or are elderly can’t walk far distances and many others just won’t and this will affect all businesses in the downtown area.
I know some people want everyone to ride bicycles everywhere, but that is not practical for most people. If you need to drive children and elders to activities, appointments and shopping, etc., cars are needed. And again people who can’t ride bikes or take buses with packages or have physical limitations, especially in New England with frequent bad weather, need to be considered in planning.
At last night’s meeting on the proposed Alexandria development at the Watertown Mall many people spoke to the need for increased bike parking spaces and to reducing the parking spaces in the garage. I am not a fan of that whole development, but again the bikers stressed their needs and only one person defended the need for cars and parking when you have young children and need cars to take them around.
It wasn’t mentioned that people often have to leave work during the day for their own appointments or errands and many of the people who work in these buildings live a distance from their work. They can’t possibly ride a bike to work and we don’t have enough housing to accommodate all these people who will be working in these buildings. If people have to go to a doctor’s appointment on their lunch hour, I don’t think they want to show up at the doctor’s office all sweaty from their biking especially in the summer months, not to mention the time factor in getting around. We need to use some common sense in all these developments and not just look at these pie-in-the-sky green initiatives that often are not practical for a smoothly functioning society.
I am so glad to see such a robust discussion about the Main Street development plans. I’d like to point out a couple of things in conjunction with this:
1. This building will have “affordable housing” units…as configured, exactly how many and exactly how “affordable”? What will be the monthly rent, parking fees, etc.? How big a salary will a Watertown resident have to make to afford these “affordable” units? I want the actual numbers, not just vague promises.
2. There will be a Watertown Square Comprehensive Plan effort starting in February. Wouldn’t it make sense to hold off approving something of this scale until after that process is complete? With this development plan, we have the perfect trifecta…exorbitant housing costs, massive traffic increases and retail space so expensive and limited that only corporate deep pockets can fill it.
3. They say there is retail space with this plan, but what are the exact numbers? How much retail space (including the post office) do we have now, and how much will we have after this plan is acted upon?
4. People say that there are no people on Main Street at night. People need something to actually attract them there. The Talk was a prime example. It had no problem filling up, even on weeknights. The library gets folks at night. People come for games at the field at Saltonstall and the summer concerts at night.
5. With the improvements planned for Saltonstall, how will a row of 5 story buildings on the opposite side of the street make sense? We already have one going up one door down from St. Pat’s.
6. Look around neighboring towns. What do you see? When Belmont lost Filene’s and rebuilt that site, did they see the need to throw the scale of the town center off with a huge, tall building? No. Check it out. They built something compatible with existing architecture. They didn’t tear everything else down to match some new five story monster. Are Newton and Waltham doing that with their centers? I asked a 20 something young man who was helping me with a heavy purchase what he thought of it all. He shook his head and said, “Let me put it this way. If I wanted to live in Cambridge, I’d live in Cambridge.”
7. This may not mean something to everyone, but if you stop and really look at the buildings that are there on Main Street, many need work, but they look darn good for buildings built in the 1800’s! How about capitalizing a bit on Watertown’s rich history? 104-106 Main Street, (Crown Cafe) slated to be demolished, was originally built in the late 1800’s by one of our City’s most prominent citizens, Samuel Walker. For one, he is singularly responsible for the site of our library. He gave the property to this town for that specific purpose! 104-106 Main first housed working people of modest means, including a young widow with 2 kids whose husband worked for the Fitchburg Railroad as a brakeman, fell off the train and under its wheels. His death was not a unique occurrence back then. And the buildings on Cross Street are actual, honest-to-God tenements built in the 1800’s and left over from Watertown’s late industrial period to house workers. They look really good still. I wonder if any of these new buildings will even last twenty years, not 120! Also, in those tenements are actual Watertown residents who will be displaced for this project. Isn’t the brick tenement on Cross Street slated to be some kind of “amenity and exercise center” for residents only. Is that worth losing housing already there for working folk in Watertown? I’m curious about this amenity center…will that be open to the folks in the “affordable units”?
8. And finally, does anyone know where the program for people with cerebral palsy landed who occupied a space in the current building? In preparation for this project, they’ve already been vacated. I’m guessing that they can’t afford Watertown…
I imagine there was once a day when Pleasant Street actually deserved its name. Now the homeowners and residents of Watertown are under assault from every direction by multiple developers. We don’t need any more labs. We don’t need any more buildings that have no setback and no green space. We need more green space, more trees, more (truly) affordable housing, more beautification, more appropriate design, and tougher zoning. My head is spinning with all the building going on nearby. There is so much dirt and dust in the air I find it necessary to clean sills and doorways twice as frequently. Watertown is no longer a convenient, pleasant place to live.