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Cushing Village Developer Brings Details to Planning Board

Developer Chris Starr submits first economic analysis: town nets $300K in tax revenue.

It was show and tell Tuesday night, Oct. 9, for Cushing Village and Smith Legacy Partners, the development company run by Chris Starr, as it came before the Belmont Planning Board. 

And not only did Starr and his team present a "near complete" design for the smallest of the three buildings that would make up the $30 million retail and residential housing development in the heart of Cushing Square, they also came bearing the first view of the project from a dollar's point of view.

In the initial economic analysis of the project, Starr believes Belmont could expect a net annual gain to public coffers of $300,000 once the development is up and operating.

"These numbers show an economic boost for the community which I hope will bring Cushing Square back to its former glory days," said Starr in a press release provided at the meeting held at the Beech Street Center.

While calling both presentations "helpful" and "moving in the right direction," Planning Board Chairman Sami Baghdady said the development will either be approved or denied as "one entity, not because of its individual parts work."

Coming before the board for the first time in a month since accepting several limitations on the development's size, scale and mass he was asked to consider, Starr and his team brought the most complete and detailed architectural plans for any part of the project.

Presented by Smith Legacy Partners' project architect Peter Quinn, the "Winslow" building would be located in what is now the municipal parking lot that borders Trapelo Road and Williston roads and Starbucks.

Reduced to three floors, the building will have 10,000 sq.-ft. of street-level retail for a variety of uses including restaurants, cafes and stores. On the two upper floors will be 20 to 22 two-bedroom condos taking up 22,000 sq.-ft.

On the top floor will be a parapet to hid the building's heating and cooling mechanicals and also provide space for roof deck space for residents.

The total height of the building will be 38 feet with an extra four feet for the parapet.

Designed with arts and craft features using brick and wood with large windows and "Juliet" balconies, the main entry to the residential units off Trapelo Road will have a "typical Belmont front porch" that will have the feeling of "coming home," said Quinn.

"Much more successful"

Outside will be a new "wonderful" public plaza with paved stones in the back of the building, space for passive recreational use, according to Quinn. To the left of the building will be a paved parking lot that can be converted into a "special events plaza" – "it's like an Italian piazza," explained Quinn" – used for a farmers' market or small concert setting.

The design won mostly favorable reviews from Steve Heikin of ICON Architecture of Boston, the Planning Board's "peer" consultant who is working with Quinn on design and architecture.

"Compared with what we saw in July, this is much more successful," said Heikin.

There were issues with five parking spaces that would is sited along the Williston side ("they just have to go," said Andy Rojas, the Board of Selectmen's representative and former member of the Planning Board, of that parking scheme) and the need for a more significant step back of the building along Williston.

In addition, some of the architectural components of the building rubbed some Board members the wrong way, including the use of large windows and balconies on the facade with to Rojas' was "un-Belmont-like."

The images of the Winslow – included in this article – will be uploaded soon to the town's website for public review, said Baghdady.

The economic analysis present Tuesday night was much in line with an earlier report nearly a year ago when the development was initially presented to the public.

In this financial impact report, Starr believes that for every dollar collected in taxes from the project, only 55 cents will be spent on municipal services including school costs – the development team expects only 12 school-age students will be living in Cushing Village's 120 units – to service the project, with the remaining 45 cents as surplus to the town.

With the project expected to pay $657,000 annually in new taxes, a town can expect to generate $300,000 in new revenue from Cushing Village.

In addition, the town can expect $1.3 million in one-time revenue from the sale of the parking lot and in construction permitting fees. Belmont businesses will also benefit from an influx of $9 million into the general economy with local business profits and wages will increase by $2.7 million with nearly 70 permanent jobs created, claims Starr.

Yet some board members questioned how the economic numbers were generated and expect to see more information at the board's next meeting on Oct. 23 when the largest building, the four-story Pamona, will be presented.

John Gallien October 11, 2012 at 12:45 PM
It is repulsive that government bureaucrats have so much power that they rule over people that create wealth. Excerpt from the "money speech" by Francisco d'Anconia in the novel, "Atlas Shrugged" by Ayn Rand: ".... when you see that in order to produce, you need to obtain permission from men who produce nothing - when you see that money is flowing to those who deal, not in goods, but in favors - when you see that men get richer by graft and by pull than by work, and your laws don't protect you against them, but protect them against you - when you see corruption being rewarded and honesty becoming a self-sacrifice - you may know that your society is doomed...." While there may be a couple minor legitimate issues for a town to consider in a development, this is basically non-producing parasites telling creative wealth building people what to do.
David Gold October 11, 2012 at 01:33 PM
Do you remember the smog of the 1970s? Or how about Pittsburgh in the 1950's? Those steel mills were given freedom to create wealth, with little restriction, and poisoned the skies. Their only interest was to make money. There is nothing wrong with that, but I don't think it is reasonable to expect them to watch out for competing interests. And I think it is a bit off the mark to call the planning board corrupt.
Ed October 31, 2012 at 05:11 PM
To John Gallien: You don't even live in Belmont. I think you'd feel differently if this develoment was within a stones throw of your house. Thank goodness we have this planning board in Belmont; Starr's original plans were to build a monsterous structure.

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