Options for Watertown Square Redesign Refined and Presented to the Public

Residents gave input about the ideas for redesigning Watertown Square during a meeting on Thursday night. (Photo by Charlie Breitrose)

Designers gave some glimpses of what Watertown’s center could look like if the City adopts a plan to redesign and redevelop the area during Thursday night’s Watertown Square Area Plan meeting. Two main options for reworking the roadways in the Square were explored, both of which would add more open space to the area, and showed retail kiosks on the Delta. The scenarios also looked at how Watertown could meet the requirements to allow more housing to meet the MBTA Communities Act. Buildings with as much as six stories of residential units were shown in the illustrations.

Date for Next Meeting on Watertown Square Area Design Announced

The following announcement was provided by the City of Watertown:

The Watertown Square Area Plan project team invites you to attend our next Public Meeting on Thursday, February 29, 2024, beginning 6:30 PM at 64 Pleasant St, Watertown, MA 02472. 

Following the October kickoff meeting and the November Charrette series, the project team has been busy reviewing the ideas discussed and developing proposed roadway configurations, urban design concepts, and zoning options for the Square. This public meeting will summarize feedback from previous events and continue the conversation with residents, businesses, and other members of the community. The project team will discuss updated scenarios and dive into recommendations based on this evolving conversation. Following this public meeting, the project team will incorporate feedback and present the recommendations and plan in Spring 2024. More details on the meeting agenda and virtual participation opportunities will be released closer to the meeting date.

Redesigning Watertown Square: Areas with Potential, Spots for Housing & Changing Roadways

Urban planner Jeff Speck shows one of the possible new configurations of Watertown Square. (Photo by Charlie Breitrose)

While much of the discussion during the final presentation of the design charrette focused on the redesign of the main intersection in Watertown Square, the design consultants also looked at areas such as what people want to see in their downtown, where housing could be created, what properties could be redeveloped, and other roadways in the area that could be reconfigured. The consultants remarked on the high levels of participation the Watertown Square project drew, compared to similar design efforts in other communities. Urban designer Jeff Speck said that per capita, Watertown had four times higher turnout than other projects he has worked on. Over the three days, 230 people signed in to participate in at least one of the work sessions where they could hear from designers and give input on a variety of subjects.

OP-ED: Turning Watertown Square Daydreams Into a Long-Term Action Plan

By Mark Pickering

The Watertown Square study process offers a once-in-a-generation chance to begin to make the changes that we only daydream about now. If we follow a long-term plan, we can transform the square into a place we can point to in pride a magnet for recreation, entertainment and congregating. What I have heard people saying during kitchen conversations, official presentations and workshops is that residents want the area to become more like Davis Square, Somerville. Perhaps not exactly like that bustling Somerville square, but more like that. So, I’d like to lay out some of the ideas that I’ve gotten from listening to others at various Watertown Square meetings.

Watertown Square Ideas Include Rerouted Roadways, Shops on Expanded Delta, More Paths

Residents look at the maps from the table work sessions in the Watertown Square Area Plan design charrette. (Photo by Charlie Breitrose)

After an intense two days of gathering input from the public and looking at different ways to improve how Watertown Square works, the City of Watertown’s consultants presented two ideas that would significantly change traffic patterns in the intersection, but would not have a rotary. The two main contenders for the new Watertown Square layout are known as “Four Corners” and “Mini Main Street.” Both ideas would significantly shrink the amount of space dedicated to roadways and would increase the size of the Delta and other green spaces, as well as provide parallel parking, wider sidewalks, bike accommodations, and easier bus connections, the consultants said Thursday night. On Wednesday, urban designer Jeff Speck presented three drawings, the Four Corners, Mini Main Street and also one known as the Deltabout, where traffic would flow counter clockwise around the Delta.

First Drafts of Watertown Square Redesign, Changes to MBTA Discussed at Design Workshop

Some of the preliminary sketches for a redesigned Watertown Square prepared by the consultants. (Photo by Charlie Breitrose)

All day, Wednesday, hundreds of residents gave their opinions about what they want Watertown Square to look like when it is redesigned, and the City of Watertown’s consultants showed some first efforts at ways to improve traffic flow, as well as the pedestrian experience in the area. Urban Designer Jeff Speck showed a packed room several options for ways to change the design of roadways in Watertown Square. Some included roundabouts, some opened the roadway around the Delta to all traffic (not just buses as it is now), and many altered the roadways leading into the Square. By eliminating some of the spokes going into the main intersection would make traffic lights simpler, said Ralph DeNisco, a traffic engineer from VHB.

Watertown Square Design Team Discuss Results of Surveys, Some Options for Redesign of Area

Watertown’s three-day design charrette will tackle a big, tangled set of issues known as Watertown Square. The consultants hired by the City of Watertown have invited the public to come discuss what hey would like to see changed in the Square, and beyond, what they want to keep, and at the end of the three days will present some ideas for what the new square will look like. Hundreds of people showed up at the former Sasaki building, 64 Pleasant St., for the opening meeting Tuesday night. The Design Charrette continues there Nov. 29 and 30.

See What Will be Discussed During This Week’s Watertown Square Design Charrette

This week will be an important one for the shaping of the future of Watertown’s center, and many of the main business districts in town. The City of Watertown, working with a team of consultants, will conduct a three-day design charrette where they will seek input from the public about a variety of topics. All the events will take place from Nov. 28-30, 2023, at 64 Pleasant St., Watertown (the former Sasaki building). This is the same location as the kickoff presentation for the Watertown Square Area Plan in October where some examples of redesigns and the consultant’s philosophies were presented.