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After two delays, Belmont planners holding final vote on Cushing Village this Saturday

Posted by Jaclyn Reiss  July 24, 2013 10:15 AM

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After being delayed twice this month, Belmont Planning Board officials are slated to render a final vote on the proposed Cushing Village mixed-use development on Saturday, July 27 at an hour-long 9 a.m. meeting.

The upcoming vote comes after the board decided in May to informally OK the proposal after developers cut back the project's scope, square footage, and height.

The May decision followed about a year and a half of tug-of-war between the developer, Chris Starr of Smith Legacy Partners, and local residents who said the original project was too massive at its original 225,000 square feet proposal.

However, Sami Baghdady, chairman of the Planning Board, previously told the Globe that the informal vote was a "milestone" in the project's eventual approval.

Developers agreed to keep the project, which consists of three buildings in Cushing Square with ground-level storefronts and an underground parking garage, at around 160,000 square feet - which is about 30 percent smaller than originally proposed.

The developers also agreed to keep two of the three buildings at three stories high - originally, each building would have been four stories - and also will set back one of the buildings to allow for more space within the development, Baghdady said.

Residents have been concerned the project's size would worsen traffic, block sunlight, and negatively redefine the character of Cushing Square.

"It’s a large development by Belmont standards," Baghdady said. "Even as revised, it’s a large development."

The development's opposition frustrated developers so much that last July, Starr threatened to withdraw his application and submit a proposal under the state's affordable housing law that would take much control away from the town. However, he ended up making some concessions to the project and presented it again to the Planning Board in October.

However, Baghdady has said that replacing the various empty storefronts and the hole in the ground - created when contamination from a previous dry cleaning business was removed - would be better than keeping its current decrepit condition, especially considering the proposal's new smaller scale.

"This project will dramatically improve the square," he said.

The Cushing Village development proposal now calls for just over 100 residential units, with a mix of one- and two-bedroom units, and maybe some studios, Baghdady said.

The project also includes nearly 40,000 square feet for commercial space, and developers have said they wish to have a supermarket, gym, and restaurants in the storefronts, as well as relocate the Starbucks already on site into one of the new spaces, Baghdady said.

The underground parking garage would offer about 225 spots, with 50 spots reserved for municipal use to replace the spots lost when developers build over the current lot on site, Baghdady said. There would also be about 20 surface-level parking spaces.

For more information, visit Belmont's official website.

Jaclyn Reiss can be reached at

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