Belmont Planning Board Chairman Sami Baghdady learned the news of Macy's leaving Belmont Center like so many residents on Thursday, Jan. 3, via the Internet.
But that was because Baghdady didn't have a chance to retrieve his voice mail from the night before.
"The landlord (Kevin Foley) did give me a call as a head's up but I got it late," said Baghdady.
As the head of the five-member board that is charged to protect and preserve the character and the quality of life that defines Belmont, Baghdady has a keen interest on what will happen with the building at 75 Leonard St. And his first reaction on its possible future lies in its mass.
"No doubt it is a lot of space," said Baghdady.
"Number one 75,000 square feet is a big space so if (Foley) were to rent out the whole space, you would need a large regional tenant so in my mind the biggest issue would be parking," said Baghdady, depending on what type of use will be going into the building and the rate of parking turnover.
"It's good that we have the municipal parking in the back," he said.
The limited parking area adjacent to the building as well as street parking "would not accommodate a large single tenant he won't be able to provide all the required parking on site so he may need to come to (the Planning Board) for a parking waiver," he added.
"I suppose one could argue that a similar use (such as a retail operation) would be grandfathered for parking but that is debatable," said Baghdady.
But while 75,000 square feet is considered quite small for a full-service department store, there are not many retail operations today that require such a large footprint, said Baghdady.
"Probably and more practically speaking, (the building) may have to be subdivided," said Baghdady. If that is a case, the Planning Board has the power to approve its design or any site plan issues.
"That would depend if Foley wished to add more space, such as an additional floor which Center zoning would allow him to do," said Baghdady.
Still, Baghdady is looking forward to see what Foley will present to the public and the Board.
"It's interesting, it's exciting. While I hate seeing Macy's go because it was such a convinance for us, we'll see what will come," he said.