The state of the Cushing Square Village project has caused concern and pain for the neighborhood and for the town. It is concern and pain that I share. The area has become a visual blight and a drag on the successful businesses in Cushing Square as well as on the neighborhoods not only in the immediate area but extending well beyond it.
The municipal parking lot on Trapelo Road is integral to the creation of Cushing Square Village. Accordingly, the Board of Selectmen in place when sale of the parking lot was approved (of which I was a member) conditioned the sale on the developer being able to obtain adequate financing for the entire project; a time limit was placed on the developer’s option to purchase it. This was done to: (1) protect the town’s financial interests; and (2) provide bargaining power that could be used to make sure that the project would be built. While the composition of the Board of Selectmen has changed over time as different people have been elected to it, all Boards of Selectmen have continued negotiations for the sale of the parking lot in accordance with the terms imposed on the sale. As of this writing, the developer has not obtained the financing needed in order to complete the entire project.
A major decision point — the end of the developer’s option to buy the municipal lot — will be reached at the end of March. By the time the Board of Selectmen meets on March 24, I, Belmont, and the Cushing Square neighborhood need to see secure financing and an absolutely credible path to completion of the Cushing Village project. If this has not happened, my focus will be on a fundamental rethinking of Belmont’s options for developing a project that enhances the neighborhood and provides a net fiscal benefit to the Town. Whatever happens, the town will make sure that the buildings are not allowed to cause health problems for residents of Cushing Square or any of Belmont’s nearby neighborhoods.
Update (3/22/2016): There is reason for cautious optimism on the Cushing Square Village project now that Smith Legacy Partners is selling its interest to Toll Brothers, a large national developer. If the sale goes through – as we believe it will – this will be a big win for Belmont, for Cushing Square businesses and for all Cushing Square neighborhoods.