Photo: Starbucks lack of a lease causes another delay.
After a contentious meeting Friday morning, it appears Belmont town officials would rather the corporate suits at Starbucks’ Seattle headquarters switch from drinking the decaf Caffè Lattes to the high power Clover Brewed Coffee with espresso shots when they are closing real estate deals.
On what should have been a historic day for Belmont and the future of the troubled 167,000 sq.-ft. Cushing Village project turned into a frustrating case of deja vu as the Belmont Board of Selectmen approved Friday, Sept. 30 to push back by three weeks the closing date of the sale of the municipal parking lot adjacent Trapelo Road.
Initially, the town expected developer Pennsylvania-based Toll Brothers to execute the purchase and sale of the lot with a check ($1 million less any credits to the company) heading into town coffers. But it became apparent after returning from an executive session on Sept. 20, the selectmen had little choice but move the expiration date for the final closing to Friday, Oct. 21.
Bu unlike past issues, it was not actions by the developer, Toll Brothers, nor the town necessitating the delay. In fact, they have been ready to “seal the deal” days earlier. Rather it is officials at one of the leading retail corporations worldwide who are dragging their feet much like many of their Monday morning customers.
According to Belmont’s Town Counsel George Hall, the delay is due to a lack of a new lease from Starbucks corporate headquarters that spells out a multiyear agreement between Toll and the coffee giant on yearly payments and the location of the cafe. It will also spell out what financial compensation Toll would provide Starbucks if at any point the store would be forced to shut down during construction.
Hall said the lease “is also integral to the transaction between Toll and the former developer Smith Legacy Partners” which still owns four parcels – including the old S.S. Pierce and A&P/CVS locations – that will make up most of the project’s footprint.
Since Toll can not move forward with knowledge of the primary tenant, the closing has been held hostage to Starbucks’ inaction.
“Starbucks is a very large company with many sites … and they move on their own schedule,” said Hall, suspecting the new lease will arrive “hopefully in a few business days but we have no controls over the parties.”
With all the paperwork complete, deeds ready to be passed and funds transferred a compromise called an “escrow closing” has been agreed to between the town and Toll Brothers.
Much like a standard real estate closing, all the relative signed documents – including the town’s land development agreement and the deeds to the four parcels currently held by Smith Legacy – and the several payments dated for Friday will be delivered by 5 p.m. to a Westborough attorney who is the escrow agent.
“The agent is ready to go to the Registry of Deeds to record the documents and disburse the funds as soon as he’s given the go-ahead to do so once Toll when it takes the property of the new lease,” said Hall.
“All parties will have to agree for this escrow to move forward,” he said.
Not that everyone was enthralled with the last-minute arrangement.
“Of course this is frustrating because we’d like to know that by the end of today the funds would have been into our account,” said Selectmen Vice Chair Sami Baghdady.
While he would be more comfortable if Toll committed “hard money” into Belmont’s bank account, said Baghdady, “but I feel we have made a leap and it would be a shame if we did not support this deal and risk Cushing Square being in its current condition for eight or ten years [until it is] redeveloped.”