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[Update] Subway Set To Open in Center

Unanimous Zoning Board vote will see fast-food eatery in Belmont in about three months.

Welcome to Belmont, Jared.

Subway restaurant, the largest franchiser in the US with more than 35,000 locations worldwide, is coming to the former TCBY space at 59A Leonard St.

Late Monday night, the Zoning Board of Appeals voted unanimously to approve the application of Christopher Cho of Waltham and Enrique Colbert of Jamaica Plain to operate what the Connecticut-based restaurant chain claims is a healthy alternative to other fast food operations. 

The Homer Building Art Gallery where the ZBA held its meeting was filled with more people – about two dozen – than usually attend a typical appeal, many of whom were there to express either support or opposition to the Subway moving into the center.

Cho and Colbert will be managers of the limited liability company and sublease it from Albert J. Locatelli Realty Trust for 10 years.

The eatery will use 3,000 square feet; 1,500 square foot on the first floor and 1,500 square feet in the basement.

The Subway’s proposed hours of operation will be 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Monday through Saturday and 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Sundays. The seating will be limited to 42 seats and the décor will be an “upscale Tuscany design” with a variety of tables, chairs, booths and sofas.

Cho and Colbert told the ZBA that they own five additional Subway franchises that are quite successful and outlined the benefits they believe the establishment will bring Belmont.

They point to providing healthy and relatively inexpensive food that is an alternative to the sit-down restaurants on the street; employing 15-20 workers; contributing about 40 percent of sales back into the local community that could equal about $200,000; and honoring a “good neighbor” policy that limits direct competition with other local businesses which, in this case, means not selling pizza, ice cream, frozen yogurt or alcohol that could “adversely impact” Stone Hearth Pizza, Comella’s and Gregory’s House of Pizza.

In his presentation, Cho said the store will operate on two levels with seating for 20 customers upstairs and 20 downstairs. In addition, he said the store will have ample parking in back and showcase the Subway company’s upscale Tuscany II décor with a variety of tables, chairs, booths and sofas.

But, even though saying they had nothing against the applicants, several residents and a business owner questioned the wisdom of allowing a fast-food establishment into the center.

Right place for a chain?

 “Doesn’t the board have a responsibility to see what is best for the Center?” asked Leon de Magistris, owner of the hair salon Leon & Co.

“I feel a chain will be (out of place) in the Center,” de Magistris said.

“(The district) is unique and we are going down the wrong road to open it up to chains,” he said, further pointing out that what might be next is a McDonald’s that could ruin the character of the Leonard Street business district.

ZBA Chairman William Chin advised de Magistris that such a use is allowed in the district and that members of the board are only charged with considering if the establishment will be safe, well run and conform to zoning regulations.

Other residents said having a national chain in the Center is not the best option for Belmont and that the beauty of Leonard Street will be compromised – with an entirely different feeling – should Subway be allowed to open a business.

However, landlord Kevin Foley, whose grandfather built the building where the applicants are seeking to locate, said the Center has had four to six national chains at various times and he believes the district has a good mix of stores and restaurants.

“Subway will draw a lot of people here,” he said. 

“I’m not sure if people are seeing (the version) Cho and Colbert have for this Subway.”

What attracted him to the applicants, Foley said, is their background; both graduates of Dartmouth with business management and law backgrounds and believes their opening the restaurant will expand the Center and bring more customers to it.

Mike DelRose Jr. December 06, 2011 at 03:01 PM
It's my personal feeling that allowing Subway to open in Belmont Center will draw a lot of traffic. I think the additional options added to town over the last decade has vastly improved areas such as the Center and Cushing Square especially. I don't think any establishment has yet marred the small town feel Belmont has to offer. I completely understand those questioning it, but I don't see this as a change that has many adverse effects.
Karen Pike December 06, 2011 at 03:14 PM
I love Subway restaurants. Subway provides lots of healthy sandwich varieties for not alot of money. In these economic times I would think we would welcome this kind of alternative. Not everyone wants to sit down to a $10 lunch. Some of us actually have a limited time to eat. I hope the Town will see the wisdom in allowing this restaurant to open. After all, how many clothing stores and banks can the Center support?
Ned December 08, 2011 at 09:11 PM
"ample parking in back"??? How could there possibly be an alteration in the current number of parking spaces in Belmont Center? Seriously, though, they have to be mistaken, no?
Mike DelRose Jr. December 09, 2011 at 01:34 PM
Yeah Ned I can't imagine any change to current parking conditions. A few years back there were always close spaces. The lack of easy and close spaces is because Belmont Center has greatly improved in what it has to offer. A hassle? Yes. But overall, good. I find Cushing Square the same way, and if that new development proceeds, the town will be gaining a lot of revenue and people in the area will hopefully have a small market.

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