Arsenal Street becomes hotbed for development
Watertown, get ready: With the economy on the upswing, the town’s planning office is bursting with applications for residential complexes, high-end office buildings, midrise hotels, and shops and restaurants along the Arsenal Street corridor.
“There is a lot going on,” said Steve Magoon, the town’s planning director. “I think Watertown has a lot to offer — there are reasons people want to invest in our community,” he added, citing the community’s proximity to Boston, access to public transportation, and relatively inexpensive land.
Developers seem to agree. Officials last year approved a mixed-use complex at 202-204 Arsenal St., and extending back to 58 Irving St., calling for roughly 300 residential units and 37,000 square feet of retail space. The majority of the commercial space would be dedicated to a grocery store, though the specific company has not been identified, Magoon said.
Developers plan to break ground on the project this spring, he said.
A separate proposal for nearly 300 residential units and about 14,000 square feet of retail space at Arsenal and Irving streets is expected to go before the Planning Board next month, Magoon said. The developers have dubbed the project Elan Watertown. Magoon said they have not specified what would go into the retail space.
New residential and retail complexes aren’t the only developments Watertown is expecting. The town last year approved a six-story hotel with about 150 rooms at Arsenal and Elm streets. Developers hope to break ground on the future Marriott Residence Inn this spring, Magoon said, but did not know when the hotel would be completed.
Watertown officials are also considering a separate proposal to build a five-story hotel at 80 Elm St., which is behind the complex that houses the local Target department store, Magoon said. The site formerly housed the Atlantic Battery Co., but the property now sits vacant. The proposal calls for cleaning up contamination on the site and building a hotel with about 100 rooms and parking underneath, Magoon said. The specific hotel brand has not been named.
However, the hotel proposal “was not well received” by residents at a recent community meeting, Magoon said, noting they mainly voiced concerns over traffic, and the building’s height and aesthetics.
Magoon said he expects the Planning Board to consider the hotel proposal next month.
In addition, the Planning Board will consider next month a proposal to overhaul the former GE Ionics building at 65 Grove St., and turn it into high-end office space with a parking garage, Magoon said. The footprint of the office building would be slightly less than the current building, Magoon said. A tenant has not been named.
Town Council member Angeline Kounelis, who represents District A on the panel, said the development boom is “to be expected” with the economy on the upswing. However, she wants to ensure that potential traffic from 65 Grove St. and other projects do not affect the community.
Kounelis said she is opposing the hotel at 80 Elm St., saying the development is too large and would generate too much traffic.
“This is a postage-stamp-sized lot. We asked the developer to reduce the size and they indicated they cannot,” she said, adding that the hotel would bring more than 500 additional trips in the neighborhood. “Having two hotels on the same street in this densely populated area is just not feasible for the neighborhood.”
Last Wednesday, the Planning Board approved an application to turn the vacant Watertown Savings Bank at 321 Arsenal St., in a complex that also houses Panera Bread and the Arsenal Center for the Arts, into a 2,800-square-foot restaurant with a 4,500-square-foot patio, according to town documents. Developers said the facility would use a beer and wine liquor license granted by the town last year to serve alcohol every day but Sundays. The restaurant space’s tenant has not been finalized, Magoon said.
This Wednesday, developers will hold a community meeting about a proposal to renovate the Verizon site at 480 Arsenal St., turning it into an 185,000-square-foot office building with a parking deck and an entrance onto Nichols Avenue, Magoon said. Verizon uses the space for offices and a warehouse, as well as storage for equipment and trucks, he said. The communications company “is still there, but their lease is up, so they will be vacating in the not-so-distant future,” Magoon said.
The developers hope to market the office space “to high-end tenants — biotech firms and other companies of that nature,” Magoon said. The community meeting will take place at the property from 6:30 to 7:30 p.m.
Kounelis said she does not want the offices at 480 Arsenal St. to open a vehicle access point to Nichols Avenue, citing the impact at local intersections and car trips through the neighborhood.
“The developers need to be respectful of the neighborhoods and the community,” she said. “We need to be able to work with development, and make it harmonious in our community and have a win-win.”
The developers for several of the projects could not be reached for comment.
For more information on projects under consideration by the town, visit www.watertown-ma.gov.