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Hello Watertown, Developers Are Calling

Once a forgotten industrial community on the Charles River next door to the hot Cambridge market, developers are looking to Watertown. Among those developers is Boylston Properties president Bill McQuillan, who also will be a speaker at our Future of Real Estate event this Thursday.


Since 2000, Bill and his partners have been building and redeveloping commercial properties here: lab, office, retail and hotel in this once-slumbering post-industrial town bordering busy Cambridge. During this cycle, the company will have about $400M in projects recently completed, under construction or soon to start, he tells us. The aim: complement the wave of new multifamily projects in town with commercial space to create the type of mixed-use neighborhood that’s in demand.


On Arsenal Street, Boylston Properties expects to open a 150-room Marriott on Labor Day, giving Watertown its first new hotel in generations. Boylston's so confident in the new submarket it's also doing a spec office project, converting an old industrial building into a 185k SF office they called LINX.

It expects to attract suburban 128 tenants and urban tech and biotech firms eager for a break from high Cambridge rents or who just can’t find space there. Now, the team is going through permitting for an overhaul of the Arsenal Project, the former Arsenal Mall for which they paid Simon $80M in 2013. They hope to start construction next spring and open in phases, Bill says.


Going forward, Bill sees demand strengthening for “new” submarkets where there’s transit-oriented development and plenty of fun things to do. After work, Millennials want to go for a beer with friends, not sit in traffic commuting. One requirement for developing these submarkets that’s necessary but difficult will be upgrading the region’s public transit system from “C” to “A” quality.

Meanwhile, as some new technologies go mainstream, they’ll change building construction. Bill is considering building a garage. With more people ditching personal vehicles for alternative transportation, there may be fewer cars to fill the garage. That's leading Bill to consider building a structure with upper floors strong enough to accommodate the future construction of residences.    

Hear more from Bill and the rest of our expert panelists at Bisnow's Future of Real Estate event this Thursday at The Ritz-Carlton Boston. Register here.