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Watch Factory, Phases 1 and 2

Landscape Performance Benefits


  • Reduces the rate of peak runoff discharge to the Charles River by 8.4 cfs or 9% for the 25 year, 24-hour storm event. The Charles River is a diverse ecosystem, home to 28 known fish species.
  • Improves the quality of runoff discharged into the Charles River by decreasing nitrate loading by 30-50%, phosphate loading by 30-40%, and increasing dissolved oxygen by 60%, according to water quality sampling data.
  • Reduces total suspended solids and metals by an estimated 90% and non-point contributors such as oils and grease by an estimated 67% by using vegetated rain gardens to manage roof and sheet flow runoff.
  • Decreases summertime ambient air temperature in the Prospect Street Parking area by 13°F through the preservation of established shade trees.


  • Provides adequate opportunities for recreation and exercise along the waterfront for 78% of tenants surveyed.
  • Demonstrated stormwater management as a unique benefit for 69% of tenants surveyed and piqued the interest of 93%, who indicated that they would be willing to learn more about the stormwater management system.

At a Glance

  • Designer

    Richard Burck Associates

  • Project Type

    Multi-family residence

  • Former Land Use


  • Location

    185 Crescent Street
    Waltham, Massachusetts 02453
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  • Climate Zone

    Humid continental

  • Size

    12 acres

  • Budget

    $3,080,640 (Phases 1 & 2, site work included)

  • Completion Date


A former manufacturing hub on the Charles River, the Watch Factory will ultimately house 400,000 sf of offices, restaurants, and residences within a complex of historic industrial buildings. The site contained hazardous materials from more than a century of manufacturing, electroplating, and polishing timepieces. Contaminated soils were identified and either capped or removed before redevelopment. The renovated factory buildings and surroundings now host offices, 96 loft-style apartments, 4 main parking lots, and 3 courtyards. The design successfully creates complex, yet comfortable outdoor spaces while preserving the industrial scale and character of the site and artfully accommodating stormwater management. All of this is enhanced by a direct connection to the existing Charles River Walk, a regional trail system that connects to downtown Boston and surrounding suburbs.


Mitigating the large quantities of stormwater that would accumulate on rooftops, parking lots, lawns and other surfaces was a primary design concern. The stormwater management strategy needed to limit, slow, and filter runoff from the proposed development, while also offering a visual amenity within the site’s outdoor social spaces. Other design constraints were the limited size of the courtyards of the formal industrial buildings and the existing infrastructure within them.


The movement of stormwater through the site is made elegant and performative in both concept and materiality. Large spans of runnels direct runoff across the courtyards, making water an aesthetically beautiful and visible element that complements the site. Through this system, sediment is removed and the stormwater is cooled, which improves the quality of the water discharged into the river. By bringing this natural process to the forefront, the system offers a subtle opportunity for education and insight.

  • The Watch Factory landscape includes three courtyards. The interior Robbins courtyard is for the exclusive use of residents, comprising a 1,500-sf gravel patio and a 3,850-sf lawn panel with movable benches and seating tables. The Dennison and Pedestrian courtyards are surrounded by commercial space with open access from both the parking lot and building. These also feature ample seating, including 30 movable tables and chairs.
  • Two satellite parking lots on the south side of Crescent Street provide 350 parking spaces for commercial tenants. Stomwater is managed by directing sheet flow into gravel infiltration trenches, which hold the water in underground retention structures and allow it to infiltrate.
  • Cobblestone runnels elegantly direct and runoff from roof gutters into rain gardens, offering a visual display of the stormwater management process.
  • The rain gardens were planted with Pennsylvania Sedge; they include a rubber liner and pipe that discharges the cooled and filtered runoff into the Charles River.
  • Interpretative signage along the riverwalk provide visitors with a large map of the Charles River and its abutting communities, while screening undesirable views of the building’s electrical utilities.
  • A wooden dock directly connects the Watch Factory to the Charles River, providing fishing, kayak and swimming opportunities.
  • Recreational equipment storage in the Robbins courtyard provides residents with 8 racks for kayaks and 45 spots for bikes, available on a first-come, first-served basis.
  • Early in the design process, the design team explored and rejected several alternate designs after gaining more information about the sub-grade within the courtyards. The various elevations of the rubble foundations, which change dramatically from one building to the next, had to be covered by grade, and an underground tunnel that crossed had to be preserved and covered. These constraints were key considerations in selecting the locations for rain gardens and trees. Earlier sub-surface investigations may have revealed these depth constraints sooner and altered the programming in some areas.

Project Team

Client: Berkeley Investments
Landscape Architect: Richard Burck Associates (RBA)
Architect: Bruner Cott & Associates, Cambridge MA
Civil Engineers: BSC Group
Watershed Advocates: Charles River Watershed Association

Role of the Landscape Architect

The landscape architect worked as part of a large team in the adaptive reuse of a former manufacturing hub. Along with engineers and natural resource professionals, the landscape architect developed key strategies for dealing with the stormwater runoff presented by the site. This contribution included the design of rain gardens along with cobblestone runnels to channel water away from the building.


Stormwater management, Water quality, Temperature & urban heat island, Recreational & social value, Educational value, Bioretention, Educational signage, Rainwater harvesting, Revitalization

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