BREAKING: Another Delay for Cushing Village; Now It’s Starbucks Missing Lease

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.”

Who Wants You To Register to Vote? Only ‘The Hanger’ Knows

Photo: The sign.

The sign and its message are simple and concise:

“Wed. Oct. 19th


Register to Vote!

Your Conscience”

“That’s great,” said Belmont Town Clerk Ellen Cushman of the sign that is taped to a clothes hanger and placed in the holes of sign posts running along Trapelo Road from the Waltham line near Beaver Brook to the Cushing Square Starbucks. 

“The date’s correct and we do want people to know when to register,” Cushman told the Belmontonian Friday, Sept. 30.  

But Cushman said neither she nor her office has anything to do with the hanger signs. Nor is this a cost effective campaign from the Belmont League of Women Voter, said member Bonnie Friedman who was in Town Hall for a Board of Selectmen’s meeting.

Then who is “The Hanger” who took the time to place the signs on the posts along one of Belmont’s busiest corridors?

  • Is it high school students doing a project for social studies class?
  • An operative of a political party committed to guerilla marketing?
  • Could it be a fan of US Senator Ted “Vote your conscience” Cruz?

If you placed these signs on Belmont roadways, write to the Belmontonain why you did it.

Run For Innovation Education at the Scharfman 5K Sunday, Oct. 3

Photo: This year’s poster.

The Foundation for Belmont Education, a non-profit group that supports educational excellence and enrichment in the Belmont Public Schools, is pleased to host the fourth annual Dan Scharfman Memorial Run on Sunday, Oct. 2 at 9:30 a.m. 

The Scharfman Run takes place from 9:30 a.m. to noon, beginning at the Belmont High School Harris Field track and takes a scenic route past the town’s schools, Payson Park Reservoir and Clay Pit Pond.

Runners and walkers can register the day of the race at the Belmont High School track. 

Proceeds from the run enable the FBE to fund new programs in the Belmont Public School system and give educators and students the best tools, technology, and training to foster innovation and love of learning. 

The following road closings will occur on October 2nd to ensure the safety of participants:

  • 6 a.m. – 12 p.m.: No Parking on East/West side of Concord Ave between Cottage Ave and Underwood;
  • 6 a.m. – 10:30 a.m.: No Parking on Goden Street between School Street and Concord Ave;
  • 9:30 a.m. – 10:30 a.m.: School Street closed between Myrtle and Philip Road;
  • 9:30 a.m. – 10:30 a.m.: No exit onto Oakley from Selwyn and Hurd;
  • Between 9:30 a.m. and 10:30 a.m.: Drivers should be aware of runners on the 5K course (Concord Ave / Orchard Road / Stone Road / School Street / Philip / Elizabeth Road / Jacob / Payson / Oakley / Goden / Concord / Underwood); and
  • Between 10:45 a.m. and 11 a.m.: Concord Ave Westbound will have young runners in the bike lane running against traffic between Underwood and Goden. Cones will separate runners from traffic.

The Foundation thanks the residents of Belmont and the Belmont Police Department for their support of the Dan Scharfman Memorial Run and appreciates the community’s understanding of the disruption in normal traffic patterns.  

The Foundation for Belmont Education is a community-sponsored, non-profit, charitable organization run by volunteers. The FBE was founded in 1993 to support educational excellence and enrichment in the Belmont Public Schools and is a 501(c)(3) charitable organization dedicated to making a difference in the Belmont Public Schools.

Sports: Birch Hill Road’s Molly Hahn Takes Third in International Senior Tennis Team Tourney

Photo: Molly Hahn (Credit: Carolyn Nichols)

Not all the big sports stars in Belmont are high schoolers, the slew of marathoners in town or the occasional Olympian.

Last week, Birch Hill Road’s Marjorie “Molly” Hahn, 67, placed third in the Kitty Godfree Cup (for women 65 and over) at the ITF Super Senior World Team Championships held Sept. 12-17, in Umag, Croatia.

The former Tufts University mathematics professor joined Kathy Barnes of San Jose, Calif., Susan Bramlette of Houston and Captain Toni Novak of Charlotte, N.C. on the team that defeated Great Britain, 3-0, to secure third place. 

The tournament is the senior tennis equivalent of the Davis Cup and Fed Cup competitions, with top American tennis players representing their countries in the 65-, 70-, 75-, and 80-and-older age groups. The event is the most prestigious team competition on the ITF Seniors circuit.


(from left) Kathy Barnes of San Jose, Calif., Susan Bramlette of Houston, Molly Hahn of Belmont, and Captain Toni Novak of Charlotte, N.C. (credit: Carolyn Nichols)

Only Five Belmont Market Days Left This Season, Get the Fall Produce

Photo: At the market

It’s another market day in Belmont. But looking at the calendar, there are only five Farmer Market Thursdays left in the season! What are you waiting for? 

With the fall weather arrives with fall produce: in the fruit category, there are apples, pears and the last strawberries. Vegetables in season are broccoli, carrots and cabbage, the last of corn on the cob, garlic, leeks, potatoes, pumpkins and sprouts along with tomatoes and winter squash. 

Market hours are 2 p.m. to 6 p.m. The market is located in the municipal parking lot behind Belmont Center at the corner of Channing and Cross.



Performances in the Events Tent
• 4:30 p.m.: Sandy Ridge Boys play traditional, straight-ahead bluegrass on banjo, dobro, fiddle, guitar, mandolin, and bass.

Tasting in the Events Tent
• 2 p.m.: Tasting by Spoodles Soup Factory, a new Belmont restaurant next to the Studio Cinema.

• 4 p.m.: Stories for all ages, sponsored by the Belmont Public Library.

Community Table
• Lisa Fiore from the Belmont School Committee.

[BREAKING] ‘Blue Ribbon’: Butler Awarded National Education Honor

Photo: The Butler School.

Belmont’s Daniel Butler Elementary School was named a 2016 “National Blue Ribbon School” for being an Exemplary High Performing School, according to U.S. Secretary of Education, John. B. King, Jr., who made the announcement on Wednesday, Sept. 28, in Washington DC.  

Butler is among 278 public schools receiving this honor along with 50 private schools. 

The Butler is the most heterogeneous of Belmont’s four elementary schools with a highly diverse student population, coming from two dozen countries speaking more than 35 different languages and dialects.

“I congratulate all of the Butler teachers, students, and families,” said Chenery Middle School Principal Mike McAllister, who was Butler’s principal from 2009 until this June. 

“I cannot think of a community more deserving than them. I am so proud of them.”


Michael McAllister.

Schools are nominated for the award by the state department of education, and are recognized in one of two performance categories:

  • Exemplary High Performing Schools and 
  • Exemplary Achievement Gap Closing Schools. 

Exemplary High Performing schools have a high number of achieving students as measured by state assessments. 

“This achievement is a testament to the passion, strategic effort, education and teamwork that each person in this community contributes,” says current Butler Principal Danielle Betancourt.


Danielle Betancourt.

McAllister will represent the Butler School at an awards ceremony in Washington, D.C. on Nov. 7 and 8. 

For more information, go to the National Blue Ribbon Schools website.

Down to Three: New High School Will Configure for Building with Either Grades 7, 8 or 9-12

Photo: Belmont Superintendent John Phelan. 

The Massachusetts School Building Authority has spoken, and Belmont residents, and educators will select from one of three school configurations which, by sometime next year, will become the design for the renovated Belmont High School.

And the options are:

  • Grades 7-12
  • Grades 8-12
  • Grades 9-12

By March of 2017, residents, educators, and students will be able to comment on the first preliminary designs of a new Belmont High.

The decision from the MSBA was revealed by Belmont School Superintendent John Phelan at the Belmont School Committee held Tuesday night, Sept. 27 at the Chenery Middle School. Phelan will make the same announcement before the Belmont High Building Committee on Thursday morning, Sept 29. 

It is now up to the building committee “to become comfortable with the state’s decision” said Phelan and accept the trio of school configurations – which it is expected to do – moving forward on the $110-$120 million building project.

Since it was selected by the MSBA in January to partner with the state on renovating the 45-year-old school off Concord Avenue, the town, and school district have moved forward on the project, selecting a building committee and working with the state on what could be built at the site and what options should be dropped. 

This summer, Belmont sent the MSBA a wide-ranging list of possible uses in the school. In addition to the traditional 9-12 and 8-12 grades, options included building a separate structure to house the town’s Pre-K and Kindergarten programs in an effort to lessen the overcrowding in the district’s elementary schools.

The MSBA concluded that even if part of a new high school campus additional structure would need to be a separate application for state funding. The state is expected to reimburse the district in the range of a third of the actual building expenses. 

After the Building Committee approves the three options, the state will send the town a revised letter it initially sent in June 2016 – including the state’s estimate on total student enrollment  – which the committee must sign and returned to the MSBA by Nov. 7. 

After some give and take with the district, the MSBA has settled on a school with a “design enrollment” of 1,475 pupils. But Phelan said the actual number of students attending the school is expected to be higher than the state’s number as the high school’s “design capacity” – which is determined by the number of educational programs offered by the school and requires added space requirements – will bump up that figure.

After the revised letter is in the MSBA’s hands, the district will formally enter into the next phase of the building process which is building a design team. The first bids from the building committee will go out seeking a project manager and architects sometime after the first of the year.

“Once the letter is sent to the state, all this becomes a building committee project,” said Phelan, as the district will step back from the process.

Beginning in the spring of the New Year, residents and other parties will be asked to be involved in selecting one of three configurations offered.

The first building schematics by designers will be presented by approximately March 2017 “and give the general public a chance to see a 7-12, 8-12 and 9-12 school would look like in a way that the average community member, teacher, and student would be able to say, ‘Oh, that’s how they would organize that type of school.'”

“And that would allow people to have a better and more informed decision on what configuration they would support,” said Phelan.

The public process for selecting the best arrangement of grades will be done parallel to the committee’s work, to be led by an experienced education facilitator “that can help us bring information from the public to the project manager and the design architects.”

Soccer Night in Belmont Kicks Off Under the Lights Saturday, Oct. 1

Photo: Belmont High Girls’ Soccer getting the word out on the first “Soccer Night in Belmont.” 

The Belmont High School Boys’ and Girls’ Varsity Soccer teams will headline the inaugural “Soccer Night in Belmont” on Saturday, October 1, joined at the event by hundreds of younger players from Belmont 2nd Soccer and the Belmont Soccer Association, coaches, and other members of the Belmont soccer community.

Soccer Night in Belmont will feature a doubleheader under the lights at Harris Field with the Boys’  taking on Wayland High at 5:30 p.m. followed the BHS Girls’ vs. Middlesex League rival Reading High at 7:30 p.m. 

Preceding each game, 2nd Soccer and BSA players will parading out with players during the pre-game ceremonies, acting as ball boys and girls, and competing in mini-games on Harris Field during halftime of the games.

“This event will not only showcase our successful varsity teams, but will recognize the role of Belmont 2nd Soccer and BSA in nurturing the talent that makes up these teams year in and year out,” said event organizer John Carson.

“We hope to have a big crowd, and it will be a really fun night that builds bonds between our ‘little kid’ players and ‘big kid’ high school players, virtually all of whom came up through the Belmont youth program.”

Admission to Soccer Night in Belmont is free, and the first 100 elementary grade kids wearing their team uniform will receive a commemorative soccer ball donated by Belmont Savings Bank.  Concessions, organized by Parents of Music Students (POMS) including pizza, hot dogs, snacks and drinks will be available so families can come for the games and feed the kids at the same time.  

Soccer Night in Belmont is sponsored by Belmont 2nd Soccer, Belmont Soccer Association, Belmont Savings Bank, The Rising, Phoenix Landing, with special thanks to Friends of Belmont Soccer (FOBS), and Belmont High School Athletic Director Jim Davis.

Further information for soccer players who wish to participate on the field will be distributed through their 2nd Soccer and BSA coaches in the coming weeks.  Those wishing to volunteer at the event should contact 

Oy Vey: Selectmen’s Liquor License Meeting Moved to Thursday, Oct. 6

Photo: The initial meeting on the transfer of a full alcohol license.

The Belmont Board of Selectmen has rescheduled the continuance of a meeting on the proposed transfer of a full-liquor license, moving the date from Monday, Oct. 3 to Thursday, Oct. 6.

The move was necessitated after the board realized the Jewish holiday of Rosh Hashana begins at sundown on Oct. 2 and ends at nightfall on Oct. 4. 

“We didn’t want to offend anyone, so that’s why we moved it up three days,” said Mark Paolillo, Selectmen chair at its regularly scheduled meeting on Monday, Sept. 26. 

It is expected the meeting, involving the request by Faud Mukarker, the owner of Brighton Road’s The Loading Dock, to transfer the business’ full alcohol license to the corporation that owns Star Market, which will use the license to place a 2,000 sq.-ft. beer/wine/liquor department in its Waverley Square store. The company would compensate Mukarker $400,000 for the loss of the license.

The initial meeting on Sept. 19 ended in acrimony as the Selectmen would not approve the transaction at the time to the dismay of Mukarker and his supporters.

We’re #1: Belmont Schools Earn Top-Ranked Level 1 Status, Butler a ‘Blue Ribbon’ Candidate

Photo: Butler Elementary.

The Belmont School District and its six schools earned the Level 1 Accountability Determination as the district continues to show “the strong, positive results of well-aligned curricula, high-quality instruction, and high expectations for all students,” according to the state’s Department of Elementary and Secondary Education which released 2016 accountability data for schools and districts on Monday, Sept. 26.

All schools, and therefore the district, earned the Level 1 Accountability Determination for meeting the gap-narrowing targets for “all students” and the “high needs subgroups.”

“Our students’ performance on the state assessments and growth measures continues to be impressive,” said John Phelan, Belmont Public Schools superintendent, adding that the district earned the Level 1 Accountability determination for meeting the gap-narrowing targets for “all students” and the “high needs subgroups.”

The state’s accountability system sets the goal of narrowing proficiency gaps by half in six years, as measured by the Progress and Performance Index (PPI). 

“High needs” is the unduplicated count of all students belonging to at least one of these three subgroups: 

  • students with disabilities, 
  • English Learner (EL) and former EL students, and 
  • economically disadvantaged students.

Additionally, two Belmont schools received special commendation for their assessment outcomes:

Daniel Butler Elementary School is one of three Massachusetts public schools the U.S. Department of Education is considering as a candidate for the 2016 National Blue Ribbon School Candidate for High Performance. Last year the Butler was commended for High Achievement.

Mary Lee Burbank Elementary School is recommended for High Progress.

Belmont High School earned a Level 1 Accountability Determination, up from a Level 2 from last year because the progress of students in the “high needs” subgroup last year was not sufficient to meet their particular gap narrowing goals. Thanks to their careful analysis of the data and action plan to address the issue, performance of students in the high needs subgroup improved.

“The high school administrators, teachers, and students are to be commended for developing the school’s accountability determination to Level 1 this year,” says Janice Darias, AsstSuperintendent of Belmont Public Schools.

“I extend my gratitude and congratulations to all who worked to support our students’ learning,” she said.

The annual Progress and Performance Index measures a district’s, school’s, or subgroup’s improvement towards its target over a two-year period on up to seven indicators: 

  • narrowing proficiency gaps in English/Language Arts, mathematics, and science; 
  • student growth in English/Language Arts and mathematics; 
  • and the annual dropout rate and graduation rate for high schools. 

Detailed information is available on the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education website. Here is the link from the Belmont Public School website that will take you to the information.