Long a blue collar suburb and industrial hub, Watertown has emerged as one of Boston’s most active areas for commercial real estate investment. Watertown’s success is largely driven by its location, bordered by demographically dense and affluent municipalities including Cambridge, Newton, Belmont, Brookline and Boston. As such, Watertown is proximate to MIT, Harvard, the teaching hospitals in Boston and the large life science users in East Cambridge. With a rich history and a heritage of innovation, Watertown resonates with tenants and residents alike.
Much of the recent investment and development in Watertown has been concentrated along a two-mile stretch of Arsenal Street running from the Boston line to Watertown Square. This East End of Watertown, where Boston meets Cambridge, is a dense, walkable, urban fabric that lends itself to a variety of uses including corporate, institutional, residential, hospitality and retail space. The catalyst behind this most recent boom was athenahealth’s 2013 purchase of The Arsenal on the Charles from Harvard University. Since then, athenahealth has embarked on ambitious plans to grow its headcount in Watertown to more than 4,500 employees by 2020. This critical daytime population has spurred significant development and redevelopment.
Arsenal Yards: In 2013, Boylston Properties and The Wilder Companies purchased the Arsenal Mall, a 224,000-square-foot enclosed shopping mall with the idea of long-term repositioning and redevelopment. Today, the vision for Arsenal Yards is for a dynamic, mixed-use project containing 350,000 square feet of retail and entertainment space, 100,000 square feet of office space and more than 500 residential units. The project will act as a new neighborhood hub that offers an urban vibe with the convenience and ease of a suburb consisting of a curated selection of retail, eclectic dining, fresh groceries, existing entertainment experiences and contemporary residential and office space with an energetic, inclusive community. The monumental development is designed conscientiously and respectfully, maintaining the integrity of the landmark while updating it for contemporary use.
The LINX: Situated across the street from Arsenal Yards, Boylston Properties developed this 185,000-square-foot creative office building with wide open spaces and tremendous ceiling heights. Building features include free parking at a ratio of 3.5/1,000; LEED-certified core and shell; a dramatic two-story lobby with seating, food service and bicycle storage and repair; and locker rooms with showers. The site is adjacent to the Watertown Greenway bike path and is steps to Arsenal Yards and the Marriot Residence Inn. LINX offers tenants relief from sky high rents in Cambridge and Boston while providing a more dynamic work environment than older office parks in suburban locations.
Gables at Arsenal Street: Just west of Arsenal Yards at 202-204 Arsenal Street, Gables Residential delivered 297 residential units in October 2016. As part of this project, W/S Development has the potential to deliver roughly 35,000 square feet of retail space that could accommodate an 80-seat restaurant and a 33,000-square-foot market. The project is less than a half-mile from Watertown Square and only three blocks from the Charles River.
Elan Union Market: Currently under development, Greystar is set to deliver this mixed-use projected in spring 2018. When complete, this development will include 282 apartment homes, more than 11,000 square feet of resident amenity space and structured parking for 420 cars. The community will include a 10-foot-wide bicycle path, helping to link the Watertown Community Path to Watertown Square.
The East End of Watertown offers an attractive alternative to the high rents (both residential and commercial) in Boston and Cambridge to the east, while being as accessible to many of the region’s cultural and entertainment attractions. Conversely, Watertown by nature is more “urban” than the bedroom communities located along Route 128 to the west. Watertown offers its tenants and residents walkable amenities, strong economic stability, improving housing options and a vibrant “new economy” ecosystem. With Arsenal Street’s ongoing development, Watertown’s future is extremely bright.
Ben Sayles is a director in the Boston office of HFF with more than 15 years of experience in commercial real estate. He is primarily responsible for investment sales transactions focusing on office, multi-housing and retail properties.
A graduate of Trinity College in Hartford, Connecticut, Mr. Sayles is the Director of the Commercial Brokers Association and an Executive Committee member of NAIOP Massachusetts. Additionally, he is active in several other notable commercial real estate professional groups, including Urban Land Institute and International Council of Shopping Centers.
Sam Campbell is a Real Estate Analyst in HFF’s Boston office. He is primarily responsible for performing financial and market analysis, preparing offering documents and coordinating the due diligence process for both the investment sales and debt placement groups.
Mr. Campbell joined the firm in January 2017. Prior to joining HFF, he worked at Ernst & Young in their tax group serving real estate clients.