Arsenal St and Smart Growth

Metro West CD welcomes you to our new blog! We intend to use this space to share our thoughts about local issues, highlight other organizations doing great work and spur debate about important issues in our communities. Thank you for reading and we welcome your comments!

Smart growth is a term that gets used a lot when discussing development projects that are proposed or that a municipality wants to encourage, but smart growth is not well-defined and often means different things to different people. Wikipedia defines smart growth as:

an urban planning and transportation theory that concentrates growth in compact walkable urban centers to avoid sprawl. It also advocates compact, transit-oriented, walkable, bicycle-friendly land use, including neighborhood schools, complete streets, and mixed-use development with a range of housing choices…Smart growth values long-range, regional considerations of sustainability over a short-term focus. Its sustainable development goals are to achieve a unique sense of community and place; expand the range of transportation, employment, and housing choices; equitably distribute the costs and benefits of development; preserve and enhance natural and cultural resources; and promote public health.

Basically, smart growth is an effort to create desirable urban neighborhoods that offer multiple choices and amenities to attract a diverse set of residents, employers and customers. Metro West CD strongly supports this type of planning and development.

One example of smart growth planning is the Economic Development Plan created by the Town of Watertown in 2010 and 2011. The Plan sought, among other goals, to “promote appropriate economic development activity” and “identify key opportunity sites within the established commercial and industrial districts.” The plan targeted five such areas, including “Union Market,” the area spanning the north side of Arsenal Street from School Street to Irving Street. Currently the “Hanover Proposal” to redevelop several parcels, including the former Ionics building and a former car dealership into two buildings, including nearly 40,000 SF of commercial space, 297 apartments, over 600 underground parking spaces and a multi-use path through the site. More details are available here.

Withholding judgment on specific design elements, or the exact mix of commercial versus residential development, we think this is the kind of development envisioned in the plan, and encourage all citizens to participate in shaping the mix of development to assure that it meets everyone’s hopes and dreams.

  • Congratulations on the blog.

    I’ve heard comments about this project, but like many, have been too busy to pay attention. Simply providing the link to the materials on the town web site makes this information accessible. I will review –and may contribute thoughts later. Meanwhile, what’s the status of the submission and review process?

  • Stay out of Waltham, Carpetbaggers.

    Ok, just kidding – nice blog launch and an interesting project. That green space looking protrusion on the NW edge is currently a parking lot – I guess they are going to restore that? – now that’s Smart Ungrowth.

    Smart Growth planning at the municipal level is essential. At the state level it often seems to be a way to make cities like Waltham (and Watertown) into density sinks to protect the more tony suburbs. While that’s not intrinsically all bad, it does discourage the spread of mass transit out to the places where millions of commuters already live.

  • I agree that this is the type of development we would like to see per the Watertown Economic Development Plan, but I do feel that Hanover Development has been lacking in community involvement/concerns for the project. Also, as the site directly next to Hanover’s project is very similar in scope and size (Pirolli), this sheds a different light on the area as a whole and its density.

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