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Belmont's proposed Cushing Village revised again

Posted by Evan Allen  October 10, 2012 10:53 AM

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Representatives for Smith Legacy Partners on Tuesday unveiled the latest scaled-back design for one of three proposed Cushing Village buildings, as well as projected revenue that they say the development would bring the town of Belmont.

Cushing Village, a luxury apartment and retail development that would move into the heart of Cushing Square, was first proposed in 2008, but hasn’t quite gotten off the ground because the developer and the town have been unable to come to an agreement over the project’s size, scale and mass. Residents of the neighborhood where the development would be built have said that it is too large for the “Town of Homes.”

The most recent bump in the road came this past July, when developer Chris Starr threatened to pull his application for the project entirely and replace it with affordable housing after the Planning Board said it probably wouldn’t grant a special permit for a fourth story to be added to the building.

At a Planning Board meeting Tuesday night, architect Peter Quinn showed a new design of that building, the Winslow, with just three stories.

“We’re happy to be back presenting a revised architecture for the Winslow building,” said Quinn.

The building, which would sit at the corner of Trapelo Road and Williston Road, would contain about 10,000 square feet of commercial space on the first floor and 22,500 square feet of residential space on the second and third floors. That area would allow for three to five businesses and about 20 to 22 apartments, said Quinn, most of which would be two-bedroom.

The building would also include a roof deck for residents of the apartments.

“I feel that this is really a natural step after we made some very significant concessions on size, scale and mass,” said Starr.

Peer reviewer Steven Heiken, principal at ICON Architecture, told the Planning Board that he was generally pleased with the new design.

“I think it works very well as a three-story building,” Heiken said. “From my perspective, they’ve addressed the issues raised at the last meeting.”

Sami Baghdady, chair of the Planning Board, said that while it was tough to judge the success of the whole project based on only one building, he thought it was “moving in the right direction.”

“The purpose of this [meeting] was not to judge it architecturally,” he said. “This was just bulk, size and mass, and I think we’re coming close to closing that discussion, at least with respect to this building.”

Representatives for the project said they hoped to have revised plans for a second building, as well as a traffic study, available at the next Planning Board meeting.

There were still some concerns about the Winslow building from Planning Board members. Andy Rojas, Board of Selectmen liaison to the Planning Board, said that five parking spots planned for Williston Road have to go because they block an entrance to the plaza of the building.

He said that the building needs a deeper step-back, and that the tight groupings of windows were “un-Belmont-like” and made the façade look a little flat. A parking lot that Quinn said would double as a special events plaza is devoid of greenery, said Rojas.

Still, the overall reception was relatively positive.

“In my opinion, the building has gotten a lot better,” Rojas said. “You’ve met many of the conditions that the Planning Board has put forward.”

Attorney Mark Donahue, who represents Smith Legacy Partners, presented the financial impact report to the Planning Board. The analysis was drawn up mostly by Starr, said Donahue.

The analysis found that the project would generate more than $675,000 annually in new revenues for the town, and would generate about $359,000 in government services and schooling costs, according to a release handed out at the meeting. The result would be an annual gain of $300,000 annually.

One-time gains would total somewhere around $1.3 million between permitting fees and the sale of a parking garage by the town to the project, according to the analysis.

The $30 million construction project would bring in about $9 million to the local economy, according to the analysis. An additional $2.7 million per year in spending by Cushing Village residents would flow into the area.

The figures presented were based on an analysis of similar developments, said Donahue, and on multiple studies.

Some of the studies that the analysis are based on are unpublished and not available to the public. Starr said that he will do his best to make those studies available.

“For us to judge the reliability of your data, we have to see the numbers,” said Charles Clark, Planning Board member.

The Board has not yet studied the financial analysis.

The next Planning Board meeting is tentatively scheduled for Oct. 23 at 7 p.m.

Evan Allen can be reached at

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