Sold in Belmont: A Belmont Hill Colonial With A View

Photo: 68 Richmond Rd. 

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

• 68 Richmond Rd. Brick and frame Garrison Colonial (1937). Sold: $1,157,500. Listed at $1,179,000. Living area: 3,180 sq.-ft. 9 rooms, 4 bedrooms, 4.5 baths. On the market: 55 days.

Real estate is really about location. Not to say that the Garrison Colonial on Richmond wouldn’t have sold for a million plus dollars. In fact, this Depression-era building has a lot going for it – with the exception of the center-island stovetop  – from the period detail, new features (beautiful fireplace), the size (3,000 + square feet with a built-out basement), a traditional floor-plan and the wonderful wall painting that greets visitors. 

But it was likely begin on the sunny side of Belmont Hill and having a view of Boston from the third-floor suite (as you gaze out of, what, that roof outcrop is not a dormer or a widow’s walk. Go figure) in addition to the great lack of supply out there which resulted in this house selling for a quarter-of-a-million dollars greater than the town’s assessment. Not a bad investment since the last time the house was sold 11 years ago for $690,000.

New Belmont Center Parking Pricing Plan Begins May 1

Photo: The new commuter parking spaces along Royal Road.

Postponed three months due to the record snow fall, a new parking pricing scheme for Belmont Center’s parking lot and along a street popular with commuters begins Friday, May 1. 

The plan includes the new fee structure for residents and shoppers using the municipal parking lot on Claflin Street and an attempt to monetize the vast number of commuters who have parked on Belmont streets for nothing, or close to it, for decades.

At Belmont Center’s main parking lot, the daily rate is being upped from $3 to $5. Shoppers will now pay a buck an hour to park there. 

In addition to the hourly and daily fees jumps in Belmont Center, the town created 10 weekday parking spots along Royal Road adjacent to the MBTA’s Belmont commuter rail station in addition to spaces in the Claflin St. lot reserved for commuter pass holders.

Those monthly passes are going for $90 a pop, an increase of $30.

Many Belmont businesses owners were critical of the blueprint when it was approved in December, noting the hardship for many part-time employees. The Belmont Center Business Association suggested cutting the increases to employees and shoppers while pushing more of the costs onto commuters.

Belmont officials noted the new rates were approved by the town’s parking advisory group, and were vital to allow the parking system to pay its own way. 

Belmont Town Treasurer Floyd Carman, said rates have been kept steady since January 2009 while the demand for parking spots is outstripping supply.

“Belmont parking is at a premium. We are not like other towns that either has the space for big lots or a lot of industry that can subsidize parking,” said Carman. “Belmont does not have that luxury; We have a limited number of parking spaces. That’s the facts.”

Belmont Softball Hitting on All Cylinders in Big Victory Over Winchester

Photo: Julia Rifkin running out her triple.

The bats, gloves and pitching were all working Monday, April 27, as Belmont High School Softball romped by visiting Winchester, 14-2, in a game shortened by an inning due to the 12-run rule.

First-inning home runs by co-captain junior catcher Meghan Ferraro (3 hits, 3 RBI, 2 runs) and junior first-base Irini Nikolaidis (2 runs) – both were the first for the players this season – highlighted a six-run opener for the Marauders, which scored in the bottom of each inning. 

That was enough for freshman pitcher Caroline MacLeod (four strikeouts) who limited the Sachems to eight hits over six innings, putting down the first nine Winchester batters she faced. She helped her own cause by singling in the fifth and throwing out a runner at the plate in the fifth.

The girls were showing off the leather, especially from junior third base Lia Muchjian and fellow junior Sofia Cellucci in left who made a fine running catch for the second out in the second. 

But it was the bats that certainly showed up for the Marauders’, who broke a five game losing streak, now with a 4-7 record. Included in the hit squad were Katrina Ruzzo, Muchjian and Celluci with 2 singles and a run each, Kate Lester (2-4 and a run) with a double in the bottom of the sixth and center fielder Julia Rifkin, who slugged an RBI triple in the fifth to go 3-4. 

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White Knight to the Rescue: Cushing Village Partnering with Cambridge Firm

Photo: Cushing Village on the Chinese-language website, Jei Wi. 

After more than 21 months since the town approved its construction, the developer of the multi-use Cushing Village project has apparently found his “White Knight” to help rescue the 167,000 square foot project that has been floundering since 2013. 

In a press release dated April 27, Cushing Village’s developer, Smith Legacy Partners said Cambridge-based Urban Spaces would become its “development partner” in constructing the three-building complex comprising 115 apartments, about 36,000 square feet of retail/commercial space and a garage complex with 230 parking spaces. 

Urban Spaces’ “development expertise will help to ensure that the vision we have for the Cushing Village project becomes a reality,” said Chris Starr, the managing partner of Smith Legacy Partners located in Acton.

Movement on the long-stalled project at the corner of Trapelo Road and Common Street was met with approval from town officials.

“We welcome any news suggesting that the Cushing Village project is progressing,” said Sami Baghdady, chair of the Belmont Board of Selectmen. Baghdady was chair of the Planning Board, which spent nearly 18 months reviewing Starr’s plans for the project before approving the development plans in July 2013. 

Reports have yet to reveal the exact relationship between Starr and Urban Spaces, in terms of an equity stake, or which party has the controlling interest currently or in the future. In Urban Spaces’ past developments, the still young firm – it was founded in 2005 and completed its first major development in 2010 – has a history of continuing to hold onto properties once they are completed. 

“Unlike most developers, who are there to get projects built and move on, we manage all of our own properties,” said Urban Spaces’ Vice President of Operations Jeff Hirsch.

“We’re in it for the long haul,” Hirsch said in an article in the trade journal Construction Now.

The press release announcing the partnership said Urban Spaces “acquires, develops, and manages high-end residential properties in close proximity to urban centers.” 

Town officials are not aware of the partnership arrangement between Starr and Urban Spaces. 

“I am not aware of the nature of Urban Spaces’ participation in the project, but I am sure we will learn more before the developer purchases the Cushing Square parking lot property from the town,” said Baghdady. 

The initial step forward to begin construction of the complex will be the sale of the municipal parking lot adjacent to Trapelo and Williston roads by the town to the partnership for $850,000. That sale will be completed once the new team meets a series of provisions in the development agreement, once of which is identifying the development’s financing. 

The town can expect to receive about $1.5 million in the parking lot sale and fees and permit costs. 

But despite the announcement, nothing has taken place between the partners and the town with no firm date for the beginning of construction, according to Glenn Clancy, the town’s director of Community Development. 

The partnership announcement appears to bring an end to a tumultuous 21 months for Starr – who personally sued each of the Board of Selectmen in 2010 in a dispute over the municipal parking lot – as proclamations to the town of quick start on the project quickly turned into a series of delays and broken promises. 

Stalled by financing

In January 2014, Starr made public statements that construction would begin in the late winter or the early summer with the first stores opening by the spring of 2015. Yet the next time the development team was before town officials was in March 2014 when Starr’s representatives  negotiated with the Board of Selectmen a month-to-month extension to purchase the Trapelo Road  municipal parking lot by paying a $20,000 monthly non-refundable fee.

So far, Smith Legacy has sent nearly a quarter of a million dollars into town coffers. This month, the fee is scheduled to increase to $30,000. 

Discussion within the local business circles indicated that Starr – whose previous development experience has been building a small retail development in his hometown – was finding it difficult finding the necessary development financing to come before the town to purchase the parking lot. 

In addition, Starr had parted ways with his previous development partner, Porter Square’s Oaktree Development before finalizing the building rights with the Planning Board, which many business insiders said only made it more difficult finding a financial backer.

By August 2014, Starr hired Boston Realty Advisors, a commercial deal maker, offering up Cushing Village as a “pre-sale or joint venture development opportunity.”

By the beginning of 2015, the development showed up on the leading real estate website in China,, where it was seeking investors willing to pay up to $8 million to become a financial partner.

While the development stalled, the project lost an opportunity to lease the anchor retail space to a grocery store Starr has longed sought, when Foodie’s Urban Market decided to rent about 30,000 square-feet in the former Macy’s site in Belmont Center. 

It appeared activity was about to occur at the development with the news that the popular laundromat E-Z Duz It at the corner of Horne Road and Common Street was closing on April 30. 

What Urban Spaces brings to the partnership is just about everything needed to start, complete and run the development. The firm, founded by Paul Ognibene (who incidentally is the chair of the Cohasset School Committee), has experience developing Cushing Village-like projects. A recently completed building is a commercial development at 159 First Street in Cambridge’s Kendall Square, totaling 126,000 square feet housing 115 apartments with an underground parking garage and ground floor retail.

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159 First Street, Cambridge, built by Urban Spaces.

Another, currently being planned on the Brighton and Brookline line on Washington Street, would include 130 units on five floors, first-floor retail space with 80 underground parking spaces. In that project, Urban Space acquired a 99-year lease on the property. 

Urban Space is also very active in the property management field and has financed projects it builds such as 7 Cameron Ave. in North Cambridge, and 30 Haven St. in Reading, built in 2012.

Coincidently, Urban Spaces partnered with Oaktree Development in the Reading development. 

“We’re in a big growth stage,” Urban Spaces’ Hirsch said in the Construction Now article.

“We’ve tripled in size in the last year and a half, and our property management business has quadrupled. We have been able to bring in some amazingly talented people with the same core values towards value, quality, and plain old hard work,” he said.

Schools to End Year $536K in the Hole, But They Have a Way to Fill It

Photo: Red ink at the School District.

They scrimped and saved, cut and did without. But skyrocketing costs f0r special education and rapid enrollment expenses will result in the Belmont School District ending the fiscal year approximately half a million in the red, according to Belmont Superintendent John Phelan.

Speaking before the Belmont School Committee on Tuesday, April 28, Phelan said despite the district coming up with nearly $400,000 in new savings this fiscal year – including cuts in overtime, not filling positions and foregoing supplies and educational material – the school district found itself with a $536,000 deficit at the end of the third quarter on March 31. 

“It would have been much higher without if not for the work of our staff [and teachers],” said School Committee Chair Laurie Slap. 

The cause for the debt is due to an explosion in costs associated with special education. With the enrollment of more than 15 students and the related expenses in transportation and out-of-district tuition added approximately $1.4 million to the school district’s budget.

And while there remains “many moving parts” to the budget – such as an unexpected enrollment of special needs students until the end of the fiscal year – the deficit should remain stable until the end of the fiscal year, according to the district’s Director of Finance, Business and Operations Anthony DiCologero.

Since the shortfall was first identified in the second quarter, the town and schools have come up with a financial solution to resolve the shortage, according to Phelan. In June, the district will request from Town Meeting a transfer from the Special Education Stabilization Fund of the entire $250,000 in the account and a $285,000 conveyance from the Warrant Committee’s Reserve Fund.

The requests will require a 2/3s vote of Town Meeting to be accepted. 

While saying she is reluctant to request the entire SpEd Stabilization Fund to the used, “this is the year to do it,” said Slap.

Slap indicated she would seek to replenish the $250,000 by asking Town Officials for a portion of any one-time funds which could be coming from the sale of town-owned property in the near future. 

“We have to be prepared for a similar event in the future,” said Slap of SpEd costs.

Snakebit: Belmont Girls’ Lacrosse Finds it Hard to Reach Win Column

Photo: Belmont High School Girls’ Lacrosse 

Belmont High School Girls’ Lacrosse Head Coach Aimee Doherty knows her team is just that one … something so it can begin being on the right side of the win/loss column.

But every time it appears that the team has come close to solving the issues at hand, the team ends up looking at another defeat. 

It’s not like the Marauders are being skunked in each game. In the three previous games before its game against Newton North Saturday, April 25, Belmont was in the game until the final horn blast, before falling to Lexington (19-16), Reading (15-11) and Arlington (13-12). 

“Overall, we’ve been playing really hard and really well,” said Doherty, whose team has seven seniors and eight juniors. “But in the last two games, we’ve been missing half of our team which five are starters so that’s had a huge impact on our play.” 

On Saturday, the Marauders could have used as much fire power against a talented Div. 1 squad, ending up on the short side of a 16-5 loss.

Key players this year have been seniors Sophia Eschenbach-Smith and Elena Bragg along with juniors AnnMarie Habelow (2 goals Saturday), Katherine McCarthy (also 2 goals) and Kerri Lynch.

“The three biggest things we need to focus on which will help turn our game around are getting possession of ground balls, winning the draws (which occurs after every score) which is really hurting us and placing our shots. We are shooting at the right time but not hitting the right spots on goal,” said Doherty. 



Rematch: Belmont Boosters Brings Super Bowl Champs Pats on May 13

Photo: Belmont Boosters.

They might be the finest players on the gridiron but how well are members of the Super Bowl Champions New England Patriots at a game of hoops on the vinyl court in the Wenner Field House?

Well, you’ll have to come see just how the Pats will do against various “athletes” from the Belmont community – teachers, business owners, students and other community members – as the Belmont Boosters Club hosts its second annual New England Patriots Basketball Game on Wednesday, May 13, at 7 p.m. at Belmont High School.

Anyone looking to get on the court to play against the champs should sign call the Boosters. 

And for those not playing, attendees will have autograph- and photo-opportunities, as well as a chance to win an autographed football. 

Proceeds will benefit the Belmont Boosters, a 501(c)(3) organization, whose mission is to encourage participation in and provide financial support to the Belmont High School athletics programs.

For information and tickets, please call 617-904 7542. Business sponsorships are available.

So join the Boosters in a night of fun in support of Marauder athletics.

Belmont Center Reconstruction Begins This Week

Photo: The sign of the times.

The large electric sign along Concord Avenue near Belmont High School proclaims: “Belmont Center Const,” “Seek Alt. Routes” and “Expect Delays.” 

The warning is the first tangible sign of the beginning of the $2.8 million Belmont Center Reconstruction Project starting this week with prep work for the actual construction to be led by Watertown’s Charles Construction.

This week, April 27, will see the installation of construction signage at various location around the center as well as putting down Digsafe markings, said Glenn Clancy, the director of the Office of Community Service. In addition, reflective and protective devices will also be installed.

On the week of May 4, the center will be surveyed and plans laid out. Large construction work will begin by the start of June. 

It’s expected the reconstruction – which includes the roadway, sidewalks, curbing, signage and lighting – will be completed by November. 

Notices of the construction schedule have been hand delivered to businesses and residents this past Friday. 

‘World’s Worst Mom’ Comes to Belmont Monday to Talk about Raising Free-Range Children

Photo: Lenore Skenazy
In 2008, Lenore Skenazy gave her nine-year-old son, Izzy, a subway map, a MetroCard, $20, and several quarters, left him in midtown Manhattan and let him ride the New York City subway and a bus home … alone! Then she shared the event in her New York Sun column. You can only guess the reaction; Skenazy was called “crazy,” was accused of child abuse and was soon reported nationwide.
For Skenazy, the incident began a conversation on how parents are “swimming in fear soup” raising their children. While “it’s hard not to worry when all we hear about are the dangers posed by bullies, germs, predators, plastic, and the perils of a non-organic grape,” Skenazy tells parents that there is way to “raise safe, self-reliant children without going nuts with worry.” Her Free-Range Kids is a commonsense approach to parenting in these overprotective times.
Keeping with her philosophy, Skenazy is sponsoring the fifth annual “Take Our Children to the Park…and Leave Them There Day” on May 9.
This “Free Range” method of parenting made the news in December when police and state children welfare official investigated Danielle and Alexander Meitiv for let their two children, 10 and 6, walk a mile home through Silver Spring, Maryland, alone. The outcry against the state’s intervention has actually crossed political line with support from Bill Mahr and Fox News Kennedy.
Belmont After School Enrichment Collaborative presents a free talk, How Did We Get So Afraid For Our Kids; A Hilarious Talk With Free-Range Founder Lenore Skenazy” on Monday, April 27, from 6:30 p.m. to 8 p.m. at the Chenery Middle School Auditorium.

Sponsored in part by Belmont Savings Bank Foundation.

This Week: Preparing for Town Meeting, Planting Party, Gallery Talk

Photo: Get your plants started now.

On the government side of “This Week”:

  • The Belmont Board of Selectmen and the Belmont School Committee will be holding a joint meeting at 8 a.m. on Monday, April 26, in Town Hall to discuss the fiscal 2016 budget and review the third quarter of the 2015 budget.
  • The Belmont Housing Authority is holding its annual meeting in Town Hall where it will elect its officers at 5 p.m., on Monday, April 26.
  • The Belmont School Committee holds its scheduled meeting at 7 p.m. on Tuesday, April 27, where it will plan to address the current budget deficit.
  • The Belmont Planning Board meets at Town Hall at 7 p.m. on Tuesday, April 27, where it will discuss the upcoming Town Meeting.
  • The Board of Selectmen, the School and Warrant committees will come together in a joint meeting to take apart the fiscal year 2016 town and school budgets on Wednesday, April 29 at 7:30 p.m. at the Chenery Middle Schoool. 
  • The Capital Budget Committee will vote on the final budget it will present to Town Meeting on Thursday, April 30, at 5 p.m. in Town Hall.

• She’s back! Music & Movement with Rubi is all about moving to songs; recommended for ages 3 to 5 but 2 year olds are welcome.  There will be two sessions, at 9:30 a.m. and 10:30 a.m. on Monday, April 27, in the Belmont Public Library’s Assembly Room.

• The Belmont Food Collaborative – the people who run the Belmont Farmers Market – is meeting on Monday, April 27, at 7 p.m. in the Flett Room of the Belmont Public Library.

• Tuesday is story time at both of Belmont libraries. 

  • Pre-School Story Time at the Benton Library, Belmont’s independent and volunteer run library, at 10:30 a.m. Stories and crafts for children age 3 to 5. Parents or caregivers must attend. Siblings may attend with adults. Registration is not required. The Benton Library is located at the intersection of Oakley and Old Middlesex. 
  • The Belmont Public Library on Concord Avenue will be holding two sessions of Story Time for 2’s and 3’s, at 9:30 a.m. and 10:30 a.m. 

• The Beech Street Center is celebrating the arrival of spring with an outdoor’s Planting Program on Tuesday, April 28, at 10 a.m. They will be planting seeds to take home and also have some simple garden crafts; don’t miss this opportunity to connect with nature. All supplies will be provided.

• Be the next Charles Schultz or just someone who will have fun drawing as the Belmont Public Library presents “Learn to Cartoon,” a two-hour workshop on Tuesday starting at 6:30 p.m. See more here. 

 • The monthly meeting of the Belmont Art Association will take place on Tuesday, April 28,
7 p.m. in the Belmont Public Library’s Flett Room.

• The Belmont Democratic Town Committee Meeting is meeting on Tuesday, April 28, at 6:30 p.m. in the Selectmen’s Room in Belmont Town Hall for socializing and to hear State Sen. Mike Barrett  discuss his proposed legislation on climate change.

• Sustainable Belmont is meeting in the Belmont Public Library’s Flett Room at 7 p.m. on Wednesday, April 29

• The annual meeting of the Board of Library Trustees will take place at 7:30 p.m. on Wednesday, April 29, in the Assembly Room.

Photographer and historian Jonathan Hansen will be giving a gallery talk on his show, “Cuba from a Different Angle, An intimate, knowing look at Cuba’s geography, its architecture and the lives of its people” on Thursday, April 30 at 7:30 p.m. at the Belmont Gallery of Art, located on the third floor of the Homer Building (in the Town Hall complex), 19 Moore St.

• Aneta Braam, Springwell’s registered dietitian, will present a workshop on “Cooking for One,” a cooking demonstration about how to prepare easy, delicious, and healthy meals for one or two people. There will be a taste test of the dishes afterward. The demonstration will take place on Friday, May 1, at 1:15 p.m. at the Beech Street Center.