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Watertown councilors approve measure that would allow a 7-story hotel near Arsenal Mall

Posted by Jaclyn Reiss  February 24, 2014 02:30 PM

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Watertown Town Councilors passed a new ordinance amendment this month that would make it easier for developers to build a seven-story hotel across from the Arsenal Mall.

Councilors passed the zoning amendment Feb. 11 to allow hotels to build to a height of 79 feet or seven stories in the "Industrial 1" zoning district, an area mostly dominated by the Arsenal Mall and the Watertown Mall shopping plaza, said Watertown planning director Steve Magoon.

Previously, hotels could have been built up to 50 feet or five stories, Magoon said.

"We are hoping this will result in a hotel being developed in town, which has been long identified by members of the community as a need," he said.

The new measure comes after Athenahealth Inc. and Boston developer Boylston Properties bought the Arsenal Mall and two nearby properties last summer. Boylston Properties has been pushing for a seven-story hotel on the former Charles River Saab site for months.

The developer still has yet to submit to the town a formal application for building a hotel, but Magoon said they hope to have it in by this spring.

"They have to submit some plans and go through the site plan and special permit process, and then it goes for a public hearing before the Planning Board and the Zoning Board," he said. "They will certainly have community meetings in there as well."

Magoon said the development would likely be a mid-range quality hotel.

"It wouldn’t be a budget hotel, but it wouldn’t be a full-service hotel either," he said. "It would be something with limited services but very nicely done."

The variance amendment also comes as Watertown planners are reviewing a proposed development for Arsenal Street that would add 300 residential units and 37,100 square feet of retail and restaurant space to the area.

Developers from the Hanover Co. submitted a plan late last year to raze a vacant industrial building and other offices at 202-204 Arsenal St. and 58 Irving St. to make way for the mixed-use complex, said Watertown planning director Steve Magoon.

The commercial space would likely house shops, at least one restaurant, and possibly a grocery store, Magoon said. The site plan is being reviewed by town planners, and a formal proposal will be presented to the Planning Board this spring, he said.

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Jaclyn Reiss can be reached at jaclyn.reiss@globe.com

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