Planning Board Shelves McLean Residential Project As Affordability Takes Center Stage

Photo: The Planning Board in session.

A proposed 125 unit residential development on one of the last large parcels of open space in Belmont was shelved by the Belmont Planning Board as questions of affordability, density and other issues were raised by residents and board members.

“We don’t have the time” to satisfactory review the proposal before a Town Meeting vote, said Board Chair Chuck Clark at the Thursday, March 14 meeting as the board voted unanimously to not bring six bylaw changes to the town’s annual legislative gathering.

The postponement is a victory for affordable housing campaigners who contend the McLean Hospital Zone 3 project is the one best and likely final opportunities to bring a substantial number of accessible units into the town’s housing inventory.

“Let’s slow this down so we all can get to and work together,” said Rachel Heller, co-chairman of the Belmont Housing Trust, which has been advocating for greater income diverse housing through public policy – securing the town’s Housing Production Plan – and with growing activism. 

The delay is a blow to property owner McLean Hospital and Northland Residential, the proposed developer, which were seeking a positive vote at the annual Town Meeting in May to expedite the construction of what a Northland executive called an “age directed” project on nearly 13 acres of land set aside for housing when Town Meeting approved a mixed-use development plan with McLean nearly two decades ago in July 1999.

While the proponents pointed to the success of the nearby Northland-developed The Woodlands as being replicated on Zone 3, board vice chair Stephen Pinkerton said: “there are a lot of issues in terms of density and interest in affordable housing that need to be vetted among a half a dozen entities in town.”

“This won’t pass [Town Meeting] by a two-thirds majority” as Pinkerton motioned to the residents filling the Selectmen’s Room, suggesting the process be “paused.” 

Clark told the Belmontonian the Planning Board will ask the Belmont Board of Selectmen to create a task force with “everybody” including the Housing Trust, residents in addition to McLean “to figure this out.”

“I see this come back to Town Meeting in the fall,” said Clark, referring to an anticipated Special Town Meeting that typically takes place in November. “I suspect we’ll come to an agreement, it will just take a while.”

While campaigners did not have specific numbers or percentages of units, advocates said they are available to assist McLean and Northland either by introducing established affordable developers to partner with the proponents or work independently.

“A task force will create the opportunity for all these voices to be heard and then really think how to develop something that’s beneficial for McLean meets the town’s needs,” said Heller.

The question now hanging over the stalled development is if McLean and Northland will accept a new round of negotiations that could result in a greater affordability component.

McLean and the developer both noted in their presentations Thursday night the nearly 13 acres is currently zoned to accommodate approximately 500 apartment-style units in a high-density complex that includes buildings upwards to six stories tall and generating considerable vehicle traffic.

But it’s unlikely McLean would go that route and the developer admitted the “bankability” of such large assisted living/care complexes has waned considerably in the past decade.

The development – located on the southern ridge of the hospital close to Star Market and Pleasant Street – would be a “senior directed independent living residential community” consisting of 34 large 2 to 3 bedroom townhouses with a sales price of upwards of $1.5 million similar to those in the adjacent Woodlands along with 91 “flat” 1 to 2 bedroom apartments located in four-story buildings. The complex would provide town coffers with $1.6 million in added tax revenue.

Under a revised plan, 20 apartments would be designated “affordable” for those making 80 percent of the area median income (for a two-person family, an 80 percent AMI would be $63,050), an increase from a proposed 9 units that target buyers with an AMI as high as 120 percent ($94,550 for a two-family household). 

When the meeting was thrown open to public comment, it was quickly evident that despite a doubling of the number of affordable units in Zone 3, housing advocates felt, as Heller noted, “we can do a lot better.”

With Belmont still 337 units short of the state’s goal of 10 percent affordable housing. McLean is “one of the few if the only way for the town to get to that 10 percent,” said Heller, who said that rather than townhouses, the community needs more rental units as more than 40 percent of Belmont renters are “cost-burdened” as housing costs take more than a third of their income.

Gloria Leipzig of the Belmont Housing Authority noted the 40-unit Waverley Woods, designated in the 1999 agreement for low and moderate income housing, was built on 1.4 acres, “eight times” the space being proposed for the Zone 3 development.

“Certainly more than 34 large townhouses and 90 [apartments] can be built on this property,” she said.

Squandering The Potential 

As the land was “laid aside for specific community needs,” once a development proposal is adopted, “we can’t take this zoning back,” said Joseph Zarro, pastor of Belmont’s Plymouth Church. “I think we’d be squandering the potential of this land” under the proposed project.”

One resident commented on a statement by a Northland executive who said the new townhouses that would likely sell for $1.5 million was built “for folks that look like me and you.” Elizabeth Lipson of the Housing Trust said she is sensitive to “dog whistle” comments that housing in Belmont should be built with a certain income level in mind.

“One of the objectives of many of us is to diversify our town by income and … also by race,” said Lipson, who found the comment “upsetting.” 

Throwing another wrench into the works was a legal ruling brought forth by attorney Roger Colton who noted a 2002 ruling by the state’s Land Court against the town’s Planning Board and Zoning Board of Appeals (American Retirement Corp vs  et al) limiting both boards “to make its own interpretation of what was ‘best’ for the town” which should be left “to the legislative process.”

With issues of housing diversity, density and a sticking point that the bylaw changes would benefit the current proposal but not alter the existing zoning map, leaving the possibility of a future developer to build to the approved level of nearly 500 units, Clark said there was no chance the board could resolve any of the outstanding issues by the end of the month.

“There are too many moving parts,” he said.

Nearly lost in the residential development discussion was McLean’s earlier proposal to construct a campus for children and adolescence education and a research and development center on an adjacent parcel located to the northeast. Known as Zone 4, the development will not start for upwards to five years as the hospital raises funds for the project, said Michele Gougeon, McLean’s executive vice president and chief operating officer.

Eventually, the site will include a combined academic and residential building and a “small” Research and Development building which will fit inside a 150,000 sq.-ft. envelop.

Clark noted in past agreements, due to the R&D portion is being reduced by more than half of the original, the town could be obligated to pay McLean for that change, a statement Gougeon said would need to be reviewed.

By the end of the night, Clark believed there will be a solution to the issues face all parties.

“I think McLean can do better. I think Belmont can do better,” said Clark.

The Bradford Update: Starbucks Back In Cushing Sq. In May, First Units For Sale This Year

Photo: The plans for the Bradford currently under construction.

Expect the return of $4 cappuccinos as the Starbucks returns to Cushing Square this spring, according to a press release dated Feb. 1 from Otto Weiss, project manager of The Bradford for Toll Brothers Apartment Living.

Weiss’ update on the construction of the largest commercial/housing development in Belmont focused on the progress made on the three structures being built in the heart of Cushing Square. 

Winslow (built on the former municipal parking lot on Trapelo and Williston roads)

Work on the interior and exterior finishes of the Winslow is underway in anticipation of the building being completed in May. The contractor has started work on the Starbucks space and expect to have the coffee shop open in May as well. Sidewalks and outdoor areas around the Winslow will be completed as will the vehicle access between the Pomona and Winslow. 

Hyland (located at Belmont and Common streets)

At the Hyland, the framing of the residential floors has begun and construction will soon start on the roofing and exterior work with the anticipate that the Hyland will be complete later in 2019. 

Pomona (at Common Street and Trapelo Road)

Work continues on the structural steel and wood framing of the Pomona which will have 35,000 sq.-ft. of commercial space. The contractor is concurrently working on the area between the Pomona and Hyland and anticipate finishing the segment in the coming months. The Pomona will be the last of the building to be completed and will be finished in early 2020. 

For residents that have inquiries on leasing information, Weiss said Toll Brothers is not quite ready to start the process “but we will send out information when the time comes.”



Developer Proposes Senior-ish Housing At McLean; Residents Push Added Affordability

Photo: A photo/map of the “senior driven” development on McLean Hospital.
A luxury residential developer came before the Belmont Planning Board on Tuesday, Jan. 16 with a proposal to construct a major senior-ish project on the McLean Hospital property comprised of 34 townhouses and 70 garden-style units in a parcel zoned 20 years ago for comprehensive long-term elder care.
While West Concord-based Northland Residential (which developed the 121-unit The Woodlands on Belmont Hill) contends the proposal is a better fit than an earlier but failed 482 unit, 600,000 sq.-ft. project approved in 2001, several residents and members of the town’s Housing Trust are already pushing for a greater emphasis on affordability that would serve an aging Belmont population.
“There are 1,000 cost burdened seniors living in Belmont and that number is expected to grow,” said Gloria Leipzig of the Belmont Housing Authority and the Housing Trust. “There is a need for affordable senior housing and I think we need to … see this as an opportunity and try and figure out a way to increase the likelihood of more affordable housing on the site.
Flanked by Michele Gougeon, McLean’s chief operating officer, Northland President and CEO John Dawley said the yet unnamed project will be “senior directed” that is unlike the “Continuing Care Retirement Community” concept which includes independent and assisted living as well as nursing home care that the parcel is currently zoned.
“It will have a floor plan that is attractive to 55-years and older,” said Dawley.
Created on November 1999 after Town Meeting approved new zoning for the property that May, a memorandum of agreement between the town and McLean rezoned 238 acres into specific uses including housing, open space, research facilities and senior living.
Since the agreement, most of the land approved for redevelopment would become part of The Woodlands at Belmont Hill, a townhouse development. One of the two final open parcels is the senior-oriented Zone 3 consists of nearly 13 acres near the corner of South Pleasant and Trapelo and a similarly-sized Zone 4 set aside for Research and Development.
Gougeon told the board the hospital will develop Zone 4 into an 86,000 sq.-ft. child and adolescence academic center and then later add a small R&D center. But the parcel’s build-out “will take some time” as the hospital will need to fund raise before building can commence, she said.
In Zone 3, the Northland plans call for 104 independent, non-age restricted units. Thirty-four will be two-to-three bedroom townhouses like those in the Woodlands and two four-story “flat style” buildings with seven to nine units per floor consisting of either two bedrooms or one bedroom and den garden-style apartments. There will be senior or elderly care services as part of the development, just grounds and maintenance staff. Under the current plan, the affordable housing component will remain at nine percent of total units which calculates to nine units.
The development would be situated on the ridge above a proposed assisted living facility along South Pleasant Street. The location has utilities in place and will be ready to be built. As proposed, the completed project will bring in an additional $1.4 million into town coffers, not including permits and fees. 
Dawley said the demographics of those who’ll be purchasing these homes – mostly those 55 and over with no dependent children living with them –  show that they aren’t necessarily downsizing, most will be buying without a mortgage and own a second home elsewhere. Similar townhouse units in the Woodlands run in the $1.2 million range.
The project will need two-thirds approval from Town Meeting as the complex alters existing town zoning requirements. But Dawley said those changes to the bylaw will be “very modest …” as the Northland plan “comports with the zoning very very well.” 
The next step for the board will be “a deep dive” into the zoning and debate the merits of those changes, said Board Chair Chuck Clark, noting the “devil’s in the details.” He also said the changes to the zoning will be presented to the annual Town Meeting as two distinct amendments.
One area that many in the audience of the nearly filled the Board of Selectmen’s room hoped the board and developer would discuss was the project’s affordability component. For Roger Colton, a former member of the Housing Trust, Northland is seeking significant changes to the current bylaw “but for affordable housing, which stays the same.”
The nine units set aside for affordable housing and the acceptance of owners making up to 120 percent of area median income” is unacceptable,” said Colton.
Rachel Heller (who is the CEO of the affordable housing advocacy organization CHAPA) said the Housing Trust is excited by the start of the planning process “because there is a lot that we can do together. McLean wants to be able to sell this land … the town needs more affordable housing so let’s put our heads together and work on it and let us use [the state’s Local Initiative Program] and really maximize the amount of affordable homes that we get out of [the development].”
The Local Initiative helps residential developers and towns develop a plan where a certain percentage of the units are affordable so a project can obtain zoning approval.

Next Year’s Property Tax Rate Falls But Bill Continue Skyward As ‘Average’ Belmont Home Nears $1.1 Million

Photo: An “average” Belmont home that recently sold for $1.1 million (and it’s a ranch!)

Belmont Board of Selectmen Chair Adam Dash said that next fiscal year’s property tax rate approved by the board Thursday morning, Dec. 13 isn’t that onerous compared to charges imposed in other Massachusetts city and towns.

“It’s our housing values that are high,” said Dash, focusing on the annual dichotomy of where lower tax rates result in raising taxes for Belmont’s property owners after the Belmont Board of Assessors presented its analysis of Belmont real estate valuation during its annual tax classification hearing before the Selectmen.

Robert Reardon, long-time chair of the Board of Assessors, announced that Belmont’s fiscal ’19 property tax rate – which begins on July 1, 2019 – will be set at $11.67 per $1,000 assessed value, a reduction of nearly half-a-buck from the fiscal ’18 rate of $12.15.

But the average quarterly bill isn’t shrinking with the new tax rate as the total assessed value of property in Belmont shot up to $7.947 billion from $7.497 billion in fiscal ’18 as home buyers continue to clamor into the “Town of Homes.” 

The healthy increase in Belmont property values also pushed up the average residential home value to $1,090,000, a jump of a little more than 8 percent or $86,000 in 12 months. “Incredible,” said Selectman and lifelong Belmont resident Mark Paolillo upon hearing what the new “average” has become.

With home prices increasing at a steady clip, the annual tax bill in fiscal ’19 on an average assessed valued property ($1,090,000 x $11.67) will be $12,720.30, an increase of $525 from the $12,195.56  in fiscal ’18.

And the town is squeezing every last drop of taxes from the levy; by taking in $89.25 million, it is leaving only $4,003.08 of excess capacity “on the table,” said Reardon. 

When Selectman Tom Caputo asked how the new 7-12 school building on the site of Belmont High School will impact tax assessments, Town Treasurer Floyd Carman said the nearly $215 million debt exclusion will be phased in over three years beginning in fiscal 2020. The town is expected to borrow between $85 to $90 million in long-term borrowing in the first two years with taxes on an average home increasing by $680 each year. The final year will be short-term bonds in the $25 million to $30 million range.

“Think $1,800 plus” total increase on the average property in taxes by the start of fiscal 2022, “assuming we keep our [triple A] bond rating,” said Carman.

As in past years, the assessors’ recommended, and the selectmen agreed to a single tax classification and no real estate exemptions. Reardon – who is director of Cambridge’s Assessing Department – said Belmont does not have anywhere near the amount of commercial and industrial space (at must be least a minimum of 20 percent, said Reardon) to creating separate tax rates for residential and commercial properties. Belmont’s commercial base is 3.9 percent of the total real estate.

“Every year, the layperson ask us why we don’t increase the commercial rate, and the reason is that is such a small, small impact,” said Reardon. If Belmont increased commercial rates to the maximum limit under the law, those tax bills would jump on average by $6,350 while residential taxes would fall to $381, placing an unfair burden on commercial owners and their renters “and make Belmont a less desirable town.” 

“People always assume there’s more money if you go with the split rate when it really is just shifting the cost to the commercial side,” Reardon said.

Belmont Manor Seeks Assisted Living Facility On Pleasant Street, First In Town

Photo: A draft design of a proposed assisted living facility in Belmont.

In the first step of the commercial redevelopment of South Pleasant Street, the owner of Belmont Manor Nursing Home is proposing a 75,000 sq.-ft., 85-unit assisted living facility at 1000 Pleasant St. adjacent to the Star Market parking lot and the Belmont Car Wash.

The three-story building with 30 parking spaces would be the town’s first assisted living facility.

The proposal presented before the Planning Board on July 31 by Steward Karger, Belmont Manor’s full-time administrator, would meet the pent-up demand from aging residents “who would rather stay in Belmont” when they need more help with everyday tasks. Today, assisted living facilities in nearby towns are running at 95 percent capacity with a current need for 400 additional units. 

“It’s a use that’s needed in Belmont with minimal impact on schools and traffic,” said Karger.

The preliminary design calls for the 32-foot tall building to be constructed where a two-story office building owned by the Tocci family currently stands, said Andy Rojas, the project’s architect.

The plans call for three floors occupying between 23,400 and 26,100 sq.-ft. with units averaging from 400 to 600 sq.-ft. The first floor will have a reception area along with units with the second floor mainly apartments. The third floor will be dedicated to residents with dementia and memory loss. A basement will include mechanical space, staff break rooms, laundry area and resident services.

Rojas said the design is in draft form as the land will need to be rezoned – the site lies in an LB-2 zone – to allow for a third floor and a change in use without seeking a Special Permit. Rather than alter the town’s zoning map, Rojas suggested the creation of an overlay district, in which a special zoning area is placed over the existing base zone. The town has created overlay districts in Cushing Square to assist in building the Bradford complex, in the Oakley neighborhood and for the placement of medical marijuana facilities. 

Rojas said the best solution would be to overlay the town’s LB-1 zone on the site and extend it over the neighboring property owned by the Tocci family to Citywide Subaru at 790 Pleasant St. Rojas said with the overlay in place, “you’re going to see that this will be a catalyst for other things” along Pleasant. Rojas predicts the future redevelopment of the Tocci-owned Belmont Car Wash on Trapelo Road and its property further down the street “would be mixed use with retail [on the ground floor] and residential above.”

Despite available land adjacent to the proposed facility, Karger said there are “absolutely no plans” to move Belmont Manor from its current Agassiz Avenue location. He also said he is talking with the Tocci family on the purchase of the land. 

Reaction from the Planning Board was mostly positive with Chair Charles Clark saying it was a “very interesting proposal and a very positive development” in light of the recently passed Housing Production Plan which called for additional housing for the elderly.

The proposal is the second new development set to be built in the South Pleasant Street/Waverley Square. In June, the Zoning Board of Appeals approved the construction of a pair of retail/residential structures on Trapelo Road and White Street by local developer Joseph Destefano. 

New Retail/Residential Project On Trapelo Could Spur Waverley Sq Redevelopment

Photo: The location on Trapelo Road of new development in Waverley Square.

A pair of mixed-use developments slated for the heart of Waverley Square could hearken the beginning of a major renovation to Belmont’s business center, according to the longtime resident leading the

Developer Joe DeStefano is proposing two nearly identical projects with ground floor retail and two floors of residential units, mostly studio apartments, at 493 and 505 Trapelo Rd., abutting the commuter rail tracks. The locations are currently occupied by the Waverley Insurance Agency (493 Trapelo) and “a dated strip style building” housing a fitness center (505 Trapelo).

In his letters to the board, DeStefano said the project will not just “greatly enhance the appearance of Waverley Square.” the new construction will “hopefully encourage further redevelopment along the Trapelo Road Corridor to complete an exciting revitalization of Belmont’s retail and residential neighborhoods.”

Belmont’s worst kept secret over the past two years has been the landowners of parcels in Waverley Square and along the length of South Pleasant Street are actively working in a loose partnership behind the scenes to advance plans to create a large-scale, multi-use development on land currently used for low-impact retail and equipment storage. Currently, the town’s Planning Board has been discussing the development options along South Pleasant Street and Waverley Square.

Last summer, the Planning Board (which, at that time, DeStefano was a member) took a first stab presenting a redevelopment blueprint for Waverley Square when it proposed building a housing development on the site of the Belmont Car Wash – across the commuter rail line from the DeStefano projects along Trapelo Road – centered by a relocated Belmont Public Library. That plan was immediately criticized by neighbors and the Board of Library Trustees which said it was never informed that the library was part of the plan. The proposal died soon after. 

DeStefano’s project, dubbed the Waverley Square Redevelopment, envisions building two, 40-foot tall buildings on the sites with approximately 10,000 square feet of storefront space on the ground floor. The two floors above the retail will be small living units. At 495 Trapelo, there will be six studios on the second floor (with one handicap accessible) and four studios and two one bedrooms on the second floor. At 505 Trapelo, there will be three studio and two one bedrooms on the first and second floors. Parking is located at the rear of the buildings.

Due to the existing business-related zoning bylaw, DeStefano initial attempt in April to obtain a building permit was denied by the Office of Community Development as both developments do not comply with the town’s current zoning bylaw in which a mixed-use building must obtain a Special Permit.

The project is in a Local Business I commercial zone which allows for the highest intensity development, include sit-down and fast-food restaurants and office and retail by Special Permit. The maximum building height is two stories, but three-story buildings may be approved by Special Permit. Belmont has a pair of LB I districts in Cushing and Waverley squares.

Nick Iannuzzi, chair of the Zoning Board of Appeals, told the Belmontonian the board will hold two nights of a public hearing beginning on June 18 to discuss the Special Permit request.

Sold In Belmont: 1 Bathroom, Oil Heat, Nearly $1 Million Dollars On Chilton Street

Photo: It’s a sign of the times 

A weekly recap of residential properties sold in the past seven days in the “Town of Homes.” 

• 50 Chilton St., Side-entry Colonial (1930). Sold: $965,000. Listed at $925,000. Living area: 2,158 sq.-ft. 8 rooms, 3 bedrooms, 1 bath. On the market: 40 days. Last sold: April 2012, $676,000.

Petula Clark had a classic 60s hit called “A Sign of the Times.” And you could say that about the house at 50 Chilton in the Winn Brook neighborhood. This nearly 80-year-old house has a single bathroom for three bedrooms – the town’s assessors shows only two not counting the one in the converted attic –  and as someone who grew up in a single bathroom in Weymouth, I can tell you there will definitely be a line in the morning. It’s also heated by oil fuel which is fast becoming an antique  And for this the new owner paid nearly seven figures for the privilege to live in it. 

But the house has been selling above the assessed value. The 2018 value of $850,000 and In 2012  it sold for $676,000, a 20 percent premium over the $542,000 assessed value. . It does have nice qualities, with nice grey and white with wood floors and with 2,100 smallish rooms 




Sold In Belmont: A Brick House A Smart Pig Would Love and Updated Antebellum on Lake Street;

Photo: A two-family that sold for nearly one and a quarter million dollars? 

A weekly recap of residential properties sold in the past seven days in the “Town of Homes.” 

• 60 Alexander Ave., Postwar Ranch (1951). Sold: $935,000. Listed at $850,000. Living area: 2,230 sq.-ft. 6 rooms, 4 bedrooms, 1.5 baths. On the market: 43 days. Last sold: Nov. 1976, $22,500.

• 140 Prospect St., Colonial (1940). Sold: $1,206,000. Listed at $895,000. Living area: 2,146 sq.-ft. 8 rooms, 4 bedrooms, 2.5 baths. On the market:  days. Last sold: July, 1941.

• 350 Lake St., Brick Colonial (1927). Sold: $905,000. Listed at $925,000. Living area: 1,598 sq.-ft. 8 rooms, 4 bedrooms, 2 baths. On the market: 64 days. Last sold: July, 2006, $590,000.

• 210 Waverley St., First-floor Condo townhouse (1880/Gut rehab 2016). Sold: $760,000. Listed at $799,999. Living area: 2,063 sq.-ft. 8 rooms, 4 bedrooms, 3 baths. On the market: 135 days. Last sold: Nov. 2016, $720,000.

• 55 Alma Ave. Unit 1, Condo (1916). Sold: $492,000. Listed at $499,000. Living area: 1,082 sq.-ft. 6 rooms, 2 bedrooms, 1 baths. On the market: 92 days. Last sold: Sept. 2017, for the building $855,000.

• 55 Alma Ave. Unit 2, Condo (1916). Sold: $520,000. Listed at $539,000. Living area: 1,301 sq.-ft. 7 rooms, 3 bedrooms, 1 baths. On the market: 91 days. Last sold: Sept. 2017, for the building $855,000.

• 354 Lake St., Antebellum Old-Style (1856). Sold: $1,150,000. Listed at $1,200,000. Living area: 2,800 sq.-ft. 10 rooms, 6 bedrooms, 2 baths. On the market: 127 days. Last sold: Oct. 2010, $525,000. 

The pair of Lake Street houses that sold last week may only be across the shortest street in Belmont from each other but they represent worlds of differences in terms of style and structure.

There’s the house at 350 which a smart little piggy would love own to keep the huffing, puffing wolf at bay. Talk about a brick house! This must have been a bear to construct compared to your typical wood frame around the area – it’s one of a pair with its sister just across Lake Street – even the garage and ornamentation is red brick with the roof slate and clay. A house of the earth, to say the least. It’s a relatively modest 1,600 sq.-ft.; it’s relatively easy to understand why there has been no expansion as it would mean carving out a hole in a wall of bricks. And while brick is the most popular exterior in the US, repointing this structure must be a constant drudgery. While there are lots of half brick Colonials and all brick Georgian Revival and Tudors around town, these two stand out in terms of location and the overwhelming use of the material. There has to be a story behind the twins but Dick Betts never got around mentioning it in his books. The interior is a bit tight but there’s a lot of original detail (doors, beams) remaining and it’s so solid it will be one of the few structures still standing if a meteor strikes the vicinity.

The second house at 354 on Lake that sold was built when the street was part of Arlington (then known as West Cambridge) as it predates Belmont’s creation by three years. Known as “old style” by the town’s assessors, it’s just that, a wood frame with strong corner treatment. While having a Lake Street address, the front porch now faces Belmont’s shortest street, Milton Street (Did you know that only one house (#15) has a Milton Street address?) although some may quibble and note Belmont Circle being smaller, it’s a dead end and edges into Watertown. While some people are wary of “old” homes and the surprises they hold, in the past decade the owners put a modern face on it. The renovations began with striping and reroofing ($34,100, yes, it’s expensive), replace all the windows ($25,000) and replastering walls and ceilings. Two years ago the big money ($79,000) went to remodeling the kitchen and baths. and last year $5,000 to renovate the front p0rch. Take a look inside and its actually quite nice, bright and spacy. Worth more than twice for it sold eight years ago as it lies a Tom Brady pass from the Route 2 on-ramp? Someone thought so.

Sold In Belmont: The ‘Quintessential’ Multi-Family First Sale In 2018

Photo: Two-families are just as quintessential Belmont as the Colonial.

A weekly recap of residential properties sold in the past seven days in the “Town of Homes.”

• 28-30 Gilbert Rd., Multi-family (1923). Sold: $825,000. Listed at $899,900. Living area: 2,050 sq.-ft. 10 rooms, 4 bedrooms, 2 baths. On the market: 79 days.

I keep calling the Colonial-style residential structure the “quintessential house in the Town of Homes.” But really, shouldn’t it be the humble two-family? It makes up nearly 40 percent of all housing in Belmont, are located in most neighborhoods and provide some of the limited numbers of affordable and rental housing in town. 

Gilbert Road, which is chock full of “twos,” is where the first house sale in 2018 took place. From the outside, there’s not much to 28-30 Gilbert with its boring white vinyl siding and inconspicuous front entry. But inside are a pair of “starter” homes, especially for Belmont – about 1,000 square feet, five rooms, two beds and a bath. The interior has retained much of the original molding, hardwood floors and period features such as built-in cabinet/hutch. There are no photos of the bedrooms so you can suspect they’re a bit tight space-wise but all in all, a good investment if they are turned into condos. 

Sold in Belmont: Ending the Year with Million Dollar Multi-families

Photo: The multi-family at 7 Pine St. in the arbor-named neighborhood at the corner of Belmont and Trapelo.

A weekly recap of residential properties sold in the past seven days in the “Town of Homes.”

7 Pine St., Multi-family (1913). Sold: $1,199,000. Listed at $1,299,000. Living area: 2,754 sq.-ft. 11 rooms, 6 bedrooms, 3 baths. On the market: 114 days. Last sold: Dec. 2004, $650,000.

32 Chester Rd., Multi-family (1918). Sold: $1,135,000. Listed at $1,199,000. Living area: 2,772 sq.-ft. 12 rooms, 6 bedrooms, 2.5 baths. On the market: 56 days. Last sold: Nov. 1987, $322,500.

50 Bartlett Ave., Condominium/converted multi-family (1927). Sold: $536,000. Listed at $489,000. Living area: 1,140 sq.-ft. 5 rooms, 2 bedrooms, 1 baths. On the market: 50 days. Last sold: Oct. 2015, $448,000.

158 Watson Rd., Colonial (1935). Sold: $1,040,000. Listed at $925,000. Living area: 1,962 sq.-ft. 10 rooms, 4 bedrooms, 1.5 baths. On the market: 42 days. Last sold: Oct. 1992, $295,000.

16-18 Watson Rd., Multi-family (1939). Sold: $912,500. Listed at $825,000. Living area: 2,273 sq.-ft. 11 rooms, 3 bedrooms, 3 baths. On the market: 44 days. Last sold: Nov. 1987, $322,500.

It shouldn’t come as a surprise multi-family homes – which makes up a significant proportion of residential structures in Belmont – would follow the lead of the traditional single-detached dwellings in the ever-increasing escalation in value and sales price in Belmont’s housing market. Take a look at 7 Pine, which oversees the busy intersection of Belmont and Trapleo in the neighborhood of arbor named streets. This section of town, developed a decade or two after the turn of the last century, has seen the myriad of two-families that distinguish the area really pop in popularity due, in part, to the unique post Victorian, pre-Colonial styles – affectionately dubbed “Old Style” by the Belmont Assessors in the town’s property database – and the affordability of renting or owning a condo conversion.

Returning to 7 Pine, the assessed value was remarkably stable for a decade from 2004 to 2014 in the upper $600,000. But in the past three years, the property has increased in value by a third (in one year alone, 2015 to 2016, the assessed value jumped $170,000) to $953,000 in ’18. The property did undergo $30,000 in permitted renovations (replacing the windows a few years back), but other than that, it’s just the bubble-like skyrocketing of the price-tag on anything “Belmont” that can explain the rise in value. It has two nice, smallish units – with an eye-popping color selected for the walls – with original woodwork/moulding, updated kitchen/baths and nice porches. The best feature, for anyone who walks by the place, will know, is the sort-of English-style garden and landscaping.