Arsenal Park Improvements Approved, Project Cost Significantly Higher Than Expected

Print More

Photo by Charlie Breitrose Arsenal Park will be getting a major overhaul. Here it is set up for the Watertown Arts Market.

The second phase of renovations at Arsenal Park was approved by the City Council, which will include improvements to the recreation areas, but came in more than $4 million higher than originally budgeted.

On Tuesday night, the City Council unanimously approved borrowing $10.35 million to cover the cost of the project. The project will make significant improvements to the park in the East End, said City Manager George Proakis.

“Arsenal Park Phase B is a very important, key, really signature project that is going to bring benefits to Watertown for many years to come,” Proakis said.

Phase B covers the western side of Arsenal Park. The first phase, located near Arsenal Yards, was completed recently, and includes a lawn with a path around it, a pavilion and a tree covered area. When Phase B is completed, the park will have a new playground, spray pad, a community garden, tennis/pickleball and basketball courts, skate park, and improvements to the parking area and a new entry.

The project will help connect bicycle and pedestrian path networks in the area, said Assistant City Manager Steve Magoon.

“It has a significant connection with the Community Path making a link from the Watertown-Cambridge Greenway, which gets you up to Alewife and the Minuteman Trail system, all off-road,” Magoon said. “Going across Arsenal Street and through Arsenal Park down to the (Charles) River can get you to points west and east into Boston.”

When the park was first put on the Capital Improvement Plan the project had a budget of $6 million, but the bid came in at $9 million. With construction oversight, a construction resident engineer, and contingency the total cost was $10.35 million, Proakis said. To cover the cost of the project, while not impacting the City’s borrowing capacity, two other projects were pushed back: Casey Park until fiscal year 2029, and Victory Field Phase II until fiscal year 2026.

Scott Landgren from CDM Smith, the design consultants, said the climate for construction bidding has changed.

“It is a signature park project and has lots of complicated details and it is an unusual bidding climate that we are in post-COVID. Local and global supplies and manufacturers that don’t produce things the way that they used to,” Landgren said. “It’s a vast park, not the park acres itself, but seven acres of improvement that we are doing to this park — a l0t of space that is being worked on.”

One area that officials considered cutting to reduce costs was the spray pad. The current one is not connected to the sewer system, which does not meet regulations, Magoon said. The Conservation Commission, which oversees Arsenal Park, wanted to keep the feature. A plan was made to connect the spray pad drainage to the sewer on Talcott Avenue. Part of the cost will be covered by a $250,000 contribution from Alexandria Realty, the owner of the Arsenal on the Charles, because their stormwater plan for that complex did not meet the City’s regulations.

Councilor John Gannon wondered what steps were being taken to make sure that the park is safe, considering the history of the industrial use of the area when it was the U.S. Army Arsenal.

Landgren said CDM Smith is aware that the site was an EPA Superfund cleanup site, and will take steps to account for that.

“There is a lot of complicated work anticipated as part of this project that will be doing various excavation, and the thought is basically maintain all the soils onsite that are on site and covered under today’s regulations, and covered with tested new top soil,” Landgren said. “That is a similar program to what we have done on other park sites in town that have had varied pasts and have soils that really shouldn’t be transported around, including most recently small work we did at Filippello Park.”

The project is expected to begin in the spring and run through late fall, as long as weather permits, Landgren said, and the left over items will be completed in the spring of 2025.

6 thoughts on “Arsenal Park Improvements Approved, Project Cost Significantly Higher Than Expected

  1. I am wondering if anyone knows what the plan is for youth soccer during the spring and fall seasons? Arsenal Park has two fields that serve as the primary home fields for many teams and is typically busy all weekend when soccer is in season. We are already crunched for recreational space in town. Is there a plan to rent field space in neighboring towns like youth basketball has had to do this winter?

  2. Does the plan include any improvements to the amphitheater?

    Anyone involved in building anything these days knows that construction costs have escalated beyond reasonable expectations. Watertown should find the means to make this all happen. Our residents deserve it.

  3. I’m very happy to hear that approval was given and that construction can finally start this year. Also, kudos to Alexandria Realty for stepping up to help fund the necessary infrastructure improvements to keep the spray pad.

    But it’s a bit disconcerting to look back at the timeline of this project and realize how long it has taken. (You can find that info on the city’s website: The first public meeting was in 2017! Since that year, all other design discussions seem to have been limited to sporadic spots on the Conversation Commission meeting agenda, with little direct communication on how this project was progressing. It would have been helpful to have had additional later-stage Arsenal Park-only public meetings organized in similar fashion to the recent Recreation Department meetings on improvements to Bemis and Casey Parks.

    I realize the pandemic may have slowed things down a bit, but that’s also likely why the costs have come in much higher. Now the Casey and Victory Field projects have to pay the price, so to speak.

    I have high hopes that the improvements to Arsenal Park will make it a highlight of the east side of the city. However, while the Conservation Commission maintains a lot of important responsibilities for Watertown, perhaps overseeing any parks that feature playgrounds, courts, and sports fields should rest squarely with the Recreation Department. They do a solid job with the others, so maybe when Arsenal needs another upgrade down the road the Rec Dept. should be at the helm.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *