Design Guidelines

2015 Design Guidelines and Standards (Adopted June 30, 2015)

  • Adopted Design Guidelines Book (PDF) (Adopted June 30, 2015) - The design guidelines offer nine categories to consider as part of design. 
  • Adopted Design Guidelines Pocket Guide (Poster) (PDF) (Adopted June 30, 2015) - This graphic summary document forms the basis for the guidelines and provides a poster sized pocket guide to the guidelines. 
  • Design Standards (PDF) (Adopted June 30, 2015) - This is the adopted City Council Ordinance that was based on the Public Hearing Comments and initial Planning Board Deliberation on March 31, 2015. It is a companion to the Design Guidelines Book and identifies amendments to the Zoning Ordinance. The final step was a Public Hearing before the City Council June 30, 2015 at 7 pm.

a drawing of a building


Development pressure resulted in a number of projects being built or proposed on Arsenal Street, in Watertown Square, Coolidge Square, and Pleasant Street corridor. As a result, the City of Watertown selected Gamble Associates to conduct an expedited process to create Design Guidelines and Standards. The intent of the project was to develop a set of documents to provide clear guidance and requirements for new development and redevelopment within Watertown's key corridors and squares.

  • The Planning Board submitted a final recommendation report (PDF) to the City Council.
  • Meeting Three Presentation (PDF) (11 mb file slow to download) - This meeting presented the content of the design guidelines and provided a summary of the design standards being considered for integration into the Zoning Ordinance.
  • Summary of comments (PDF) - The meeting comments cards were summarized by Gamble and Associates. The comments cards (PDF) have also been scanned for anyone interested.
  • Handout Showing Structure and Initial Content (PDF): Nine categories are included within the Design Guidelines Framework showing examples of prototypical development. The descriptions and images are a starting point for additional diagrams that will be included under each category. In addition, specific Standards will be developed moving forward which will be included as an amendment to Watertown's Zoning Ordinance.
  • Meeting Two Presentation (PDF) (12 mb file, slow to download): The meeting presentation includes graphics for the draft guidelines and looks at a test case (Pirolli Site at Irving and Arsenal Streets) for how design guidelines could affect one area. (The developer presentation is not included in the slides.)

1989 Watertown Square Design Handbook; A Guide to Facade Improvements

The 1989 Watertown Square Design Handbook is still a useful reference and was intended to guide renovation and facade improvements for the business and property owners in the Central Business District. It offers suggestions on signage and other key characteristics of buildings (as of 1989) within Watertown Square and is intended to be used as a supplement to the requirements of the Watertown Zoning Ordinance, § 5.09. Watertown Square Design Overlay District.

2016 Residential Design Guidelines (ON HOLD)

Residential Design Guidelines Background | Context

The 2015 Comprehensive Plan recognized the importance of protecting the character of our many residential neighborhoods. Watertown residents have expressed concerns about the amount of development that is taking place and the scale of that change. New infill development - if not done well with the appropriate siting, dimensional criteria and typology characteristics - has the potential to undermine the very quality of a neighborhood that makes it a place in which people want to live.

The City is considering Residential Design Guidelines to establish a common frame of reference and an associated language that the public can understand. The Guidelines will clarify expectations about what is permitted (and why) in order to maintain the existing neighborhood character and promote a more harmonious relationship between the existing neighborhood fabric and new construction. Ensuring that setbacks and other dimensional regulations are met for proposed tear-downs and developing guidelines to maintain existing neighborhood character are recommendations of the Watertown Comprehensive Plan.

While the recently completed "Design Guidelines and Standards Manual" addressed the relationship of larger scale, mixed-used use buildings along the Town's primary commercial corridors, they did not address the development that is taking place within the neighborhoods themselves. Establishing a set of Design Guidelines for the residential areas will ensure that Watertown develops in a manner that respects the rich diversity of its architecture and the cherished neighborhoods in which it resides.

Community Meetings

A series of three Community Listening Sessions were held in different locations and in different parts of City to get as much public feedback as possible on the subject.  Three Listening Sessions with identical format and content were held:

  • Listening Session Presentation (PDF) Public Meeting Number 1 Tuesday, October 20 6:30 pm until 8 pm. Location: Coolidge School Auditorium; Public Meeting Number 2 Monday, October 26 6:30 pm until 8 pm. Location: Lower Hearing Room Town Hall; Public Meeting Number 3 Thursday, October 29 6:30 pm until 8 pm. Location: Police Station 
  • Community Forum "Preserving Our Neighborhoods"
  • Public Meeting Number 4 - Thursday, November 12 6:30 pm Location: Middle School Auditorium - 
    • Discussed the common language of Watertown's neighborhoods, provided a perspective on key elements contributing to community character and identified effective tools to encourage, preserve, and support neighborhoods and the community's shared vision for the future.
    • Meeting Presentations (PDF) (large files) 
    • Listening Sessions Summary (PDF) - The three listening session provided many comments and ideas.

Residential Design Guidelines Schedule

To be determined.