Future of New High School Takes Shape Tuesday With Decisions On Configuration, Design

Photo: The bowtie design for the new Belmont High School favored by many.

The future of a proposed new Belmont High School will become more evident today, Tuesday, Jan. 23 at 7 p.m. as both the shape and scope of the building going forward will be decided by members of the school committee and the group overseeing the building project.

Tonight, the School Committee and the Belmont High School Building Committee will come together in a joint meeting at the Wellington Elementary School’s cafeteria to approve what grades will be educated in the school and the design of the building.

The School Committee will first debate and then vote on the project’s grade configuration, selecting from one of three choices: the traditional 9th to 12 grade, an 8th to 12th grade set up, and an expanded school incorporating 7th to 12th grades. 

After that decision is made, the Building Committee will vote on one of four designs comprised of three site strategies: all new construction, major renovation with minor new addition and two approaches that are minor renovation and significant new construction. 

While the two committees facing a wide array of configurations and designs, over the past four months the groups have gravitated towards favorites in shape and scope. After financial analysis from the Belmont School Department demonstrating the traditional 9th to 12th and 8th to 12th schools would not solve the skyrocketing enrollment deficit in Belmont, the group has moved toward supporting a 7th to 12th-grade configuration as it would not require a significant second round of funding to renovate existing schools or requires the building of a new K-4 elementary school.

In going with a 7th to 12th-grade design, the building will rather large at approximately 423,000 sq.-ft, (more than two and a half times the size of the Bradford development in Cushing Square) housing 2,215 students as opposed to a 9th to 12th school at 312,000 sq.-ft. with 1,470 pupils.

As for the future design, both public and building committee feedback has moved towards a major new structure that incorporates the existing Wenner Field House and Higgenbottom Pool as all new construction would require the school to be close to Concord Avenue and residential neighborhoods and require building a new gym and pool without the support of the Massachusetts School Building Authority which is currently putting up nearly 40 percent of acceptable construction cost. A major renovation with new additions abutting Clay Pit Pond would take longer to build and have the highest impact on students as it would require moving pupils from the area.

Of the pair of designs leading the pack, the one known as “the bowtie” (known as “C.2.4”) with extended wings reaching out to the east and west has received the most positive reaction over the other major new construction and minor renovation design which now has a distinctive “L” shape. 

See the four designs and statistics for each here.


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  1. Gregory says

    The updated details are out as the most expensive option is selected by members of the BHS Building Committee. Let’s contrast their expected spending with that of a new high-value property being built in the Seaport.

    The cost to build the forthcoming Marine Wharf Hotel in the Seaport is $156,000,000 at 320,000 gross square feet (GSF) or $487.5/GSF. The $156M includes $110 in direct construction costs so construction is actually $343.75/GSF. This Marine Wharf Hotel is going to be a Gold level LEED certified hotel including 411 hotel rooms, an exterior terrace, a fitness center, an indoor pool, meeting spaces and a 500-seat restaurant, 3,500 square feet of retail and a 75-space parking garage.

    In contrast, the Town of Belmont wants to build a $310,000,000 school at 451,575 gross square feet (GSF) or $686.48/GSF. This excludes any cost for land because the town already owns the land. Yes, the town owns the land so this is pure building cost.

    I support the 7-12 concept and I have kids that will take advantage of the new school but the cost of $686.48/GSF for a new school is just poor management. How can it cost 50% more to build a school in Belmont versus the 15 story Marine Wharf Hotel project that includes a 245-room Hampton Inn, a 166-room Homewood Suites and 19,300 square feet of amenities that will be located at Marine Wharf Hotel?

    I would like to submit a vote of no confidence in BHS Building Committee.

    Gerald Boyle
    Patricia Brusch
    Thomas Caputo
    Adam Dash
    Joseph DeStefano
    William Lovallo
    Robert McLaughlin
    Christopher Messer
    Diane Miller
    Joel Mooney
    John Phelan
    Daniel Richards
    Jamie Shea
    Emma Thurston


  2. Gregory says

    As I said, I support the 7-12 building project. I do not support the idea that is is going to cost $732/square foot. I would be interested to see what additional line items they are tacking onto the project under the guise of a build.

    Those advocating for the project at all costs seem happy to spend as much as possible even if they are only on the hook for a small percentage of it over time. The rest of us have to pay both property taxes and state income taxes, which are now capped at $10k per year for federal tax deduction purposes. The average property tax rate for a house in Belmont likely already exceeds $10k.

  3. Gregory says

    The proposed 7-12 school is 423,000 square feet. Therefore, it is costing $732/square foot to build on existing town land. In contrast, 100 Northern Ave was built in the Seaport at a cost of $581/square foot and recently sold at $866/square foot, which is one of the highest sale prices in all of Boston. These numbers include the cost of waterfront property in the Seaport for a brand new LEED Silver certified building and top-notch material upgrades for law firm, Goodwin Proctor. The town already owns the land. The numbers don’t make much sense.

    I do support the 7-12 configuration but someone needs a crash course in vendor management or competitive bidding. Alternatively, they just need to conclude that the team making these decision needs to be revamped. The residents of Belmont should not have to backstop the town’s overspending and poor management skills.

  4. Dan Coleman says

    Yes, that group of School Community members and the town School non community “cabal” will be more than willing to vote for the most expensive high school in the country! Are you really out of your minds to think that we could afford such an project.

    • Mary Lewis says

      When comparing this project to other schools, one really ought to compare it to TWO schools, because that’s what, in essence, it will be. That is, due to skyrocketing enrollments, what is needed in Belmont. Belmont’s net growth of students is around 100 new students a year, which shows no signs of slowing. All the schools are already bursting at the seams. It is not appropriate to compare the costs of traditional 4-grade high schools with much smaller enrollments to a school that would house 6 grades and around 2,200 kids. It’s the number of bodies that is dictating the cost estimates.

      The true cost won’t be set until the next phase of planning is over. But one thing we know for certain now: the state will, assuming a yes vote by the town, subsidize this up to around 40%.

      If we do not build this school with the state’s help, the state’s gift goes away, but our overcrowding problem does not. It just becomes something for which we are 100% (instead of around 60%) fiscally responsible. We would need to build additions on EVERY school in town if we did not build the 7-12 school, fully at our own expense! In the end, the 7-12 school is the more fiscally responsible choice, and we’ll know more about the actual cost in the next few months.

      • Bill Anderson says

        The cost per sauare foot, before subsidy, is the correct way to view this. $732 /sf seems very high particularly given no cost for the land. Somebody needs to sharpen their pencil as this will not pass at this price. New school, yes. Unnecessarily high cost, NO.

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