Photo: A Gardenia jasminoides Belmont in full bloom (Credit: https://www.gardenia.net)
Will Belmont turn from the the Town of Homes to the Home of Gardenias? The white flower evergreen, which harkens back to the major role agriculture played in Belmont’s past, is looking like it become the town’s new symbol like New York City’s Big Apple and Florence’s lilies as the town proceeds with a rebranding effort.
“I just love this idea,” said Mark Paolillo, select board chair after the board voted unanimously to approve the image of a Belmont gardenia that will be central to the reimagine effort led by the Economic Development Committee.
Known as the Town of Homes, there has been suggestions in past reviews that Belmont could update its outward image with a new ”look” that isn’t as focused on its stock of residential property.
Belmont applied and received a highly competitive grant from the Massachusetts Downtown Initiative which offers a range of services and assistance to communities seeking help on how to revitalize their downtowns or commercial centers. The Belmont grant focuses on wayfinding and branding along the Trapelo Road corridor into Waverley Square to bring forward a consistent image for the community and business centers.
“Community branding allows for enhancing the urban fabric by adding visual quality and elegant function,” said Mark Favermann of Favermann Design, the MDI consultant working with the Belmont EDC.
At the initial Select Board meeting in June, Favermann said besides Belmont’s ”beautiful homes, it has wonderful lush trees and flowers.” With nature in mind, Favermann presented two draft designs to the board: a silhouette of a tree in full foliage as the town is a designated a USA Tree City for more than 40 years and Japanese cheery blossoms associated with the Empress of Japan who lived in Belmont and graduated from Belmont High.
While ecstatically pleasing, “they doesn’t say ‘Belmont’ to me,” Select Board’s Adam Dash relied. “I just don’t know what direction we want to project ourselves to the world” with the designs that were presented, said Dash.
It’s here where serendipity stepped into the picture.
Viewing the June meeting via Zoom was Allison Lenk, a third-generation Belmontian who believed she had a Belmont specific image that could make the cut. Her grandfather, Walter, owned and operated Belmont Gardens, the wholesale greenhouse nursery specializing in flowers located on Sherman Street from 1921 to 1952.
In an attempt to find a less expensive ornamental flower to use in corsages for weddings and proms, the elder Lenk used ultraviolet light to create a hardy gardenia [Gardenia jasminoides] that would go by the Belmont name.
The plant can be found at Logee’s Nursery in Danielson, Ct.
“I thought, ’wouldn’t this be an interesting one to bring to the designer?’ so I found out [Favermann’s] contact information and shared it with him and he said he really liked the idea,” said the Sherman Street resident.
At the Aug. 15 Select Board Meeting, Favermann introduced mock ups of the gardenia design of what line the Trapelo and Belmont corridor. The most popular of the three draft designs is a branch with white flowers against a dark blue background and BELMONT in white capital letters below the design.
”I’ve worked with 40 communities dealing with branding and wayfinding … and this is one of the best examples that really connects to the community and the history of the town in a very natural and authentic way,” Favermann told the board.
Hearing the flower’s backstory and viewing the design, the Select Board gave Favermann’s latest image an enthusiastic thumbs up.
”This is exactly what we are looking for,” said Dash.
Next up on the project’s agenda is for the EDC and town to find funding to install signage and displays in the Waverley Square area and along Trapelo Road. And while the completed project could be done in stages, it looks like Belmont can expect to see the town’s new image on display soon.