Developers of the six-story mixed-use project on Main Street reduced the number of apartments slightly and increased the landscaping along the public walkway along the building, but that did not satisfy some members of the Zoning Board of the Appeals.
The hearing for the project at 104-126 Main Street, which stretches to Pleasant Street and Cross Street, was continued for a second time after some Zoning Board members said on Wednesday night that they did not think the project met the requirement to provide public amenities.
Meeting that requirement is necessary to get the additional height to allow the sixth story. Attorney William York, representing project developers O’Connor Capital Partners, argued that he believes the sixth floor would be allowed because the building is located in Watertown Square.
The size of the project was cut by two units (143 to 141), and by about 3,000 sq. ft. to 151,550 sq. ft. The reduction was made on the sixth floor, allowing the facade on the Main Street side to be pushed back more than 40 feet to 88 feet.
“You will no longer be able to see the sixth floor from Main Street,” said Matt Marotta from Icon Architecture.
The size of the retail space on the ground floor was increased so that it is 50 feet deep, adding about 900 sq. ft. of space. Three parking spaces were removed to make room for the additional retail, leaving 151 parking spaces.
Plans also show an increased amount of landscaping along the walkway between Main Street and Pleasant Street, known as the art walk.
Brett Buehrer, Senior Vice President at O’Connor, said he has spoken to Watertown Public Arts & Culture Planner Liz Helfer about opportunities for public art along that walkway.
Some of the changes pleased the Zoning Board members, but some still hesitated to throw their support behind the project.
“I want to be clear, I like the project very much as a whole,” said ZBA member Chris Heep. “I have no problem with the overall number of residential units. I don’t have any problem with the sixth story, as you guys have modified it. My personal concerns with the project are whether or not it adequately addresses (the requirement) that the project provides public amenities.”
Zoning Board Chair Melissa SantucciRozzi said she did not see the changes as “overly meaningful,” and also had concerns about the public amenities.
“Frankly, the revisions made from the last meeting to this meeting really need more detail,” she said. “Thinking about if I was going to visit this property, am I going to be lingering there, is there any reason for me to go here if I don’t live here or (are not) using the retail? I think that is lacking.”
ZBA member Gregory Girard said he liked the changes, and addressed some of the public comments asking to wait to approve the project until after the City has completed the study of Watertown Square. Funding for the study is included in the recently approved Fiscal Year 2024 Watertown Budget.
“I think life is what happens when you are making plans, and the idea holding this off until the plans for Watertown Square is in place just runs contrary to that,” Girard said. “Life goes on, development goes on. You can’t sit and wait until plans are tightly done. They never will be.”
The board asked about the future of the Watertown Square Post Office, which is currently located on part of the property that would be redeveloped. Buehrer said O’Connor has reached out to the Post Office to discuss creating space in the retail area.
“To this point we have had no comment for the Post Office to stay in the location,” he said “We have a dialog with them. We know they are looking at other locations. … They have made no positive movement that they want to stay at this location.”
O’Connor asked the board to continue the hearing on the project until the next Zoning Board meeting, which will be on July 26. See the most recent renderings by clicking here. All the project documents can be seen here (scroll down to “Click here for Applications …”).