Photo: Traffic and parking has returned to Belmont Center.
One week after Leonard Street in Belmont Center was shut down for the summer, drivers today – Thursday, June 18 – discovered the street now allows one-way traffic through Belmont’s business hub after town officials implemented a traffic plan from business owners that they hope will help retail shops as well as restaurants that have been closed for the past three months due to COVID-19.
The change comes four days after businesses expressed their concerns to the Select Board on Monday, June 15.
Starting today, traffic from Pleasant Street can travel through the center to the commuter rail tunnel. Vehicles can also use the parking spaces along Leonard Street. Jersey barriers are used to create bump-outs into the street to allow outside dining and seating for three eateries – rancatore’s ice cream & yogurt, il Casale and El Centro – along the western side of the street.
Vehicles traveling from the tunnel towards the Center will need to detour at Moore Street as the street to Alexander Avenue is closed to accommodate outdoor dining and retail space.
Town officials said the change to the street is an effort to follow through with the concerns of the town’s business leaders.
“The Town was eager to be responsive to the merchants in Belmont Center,” said Patrice Garvin, town administrator.
“We hoped the first plan would be received well, but we quickly realized we needed to give the merchants and patrons more flexibility. We implemented the current plan and will be monitoring its progress,” said Garvin.
Retailers said they were happy that the town took quick action on what they felt was a workable compromise that will assist all businesses in the center.
“I expected that they would move quickly because there were so many people that weren’t happy,” said Lisa Castagno, owner of Revolve who helped generate a response to the initial plan.
Gerry Dickhaut, owner of Champions Sporting Goods and president of the Belmont Center Business Association, said the group used a portion of the $4,600 raised from businesses and landlords to rent the jersey barriers along the street to create a safety border between vehicles and customers and employees. It will use the remaining funds to beautify the barricades and bring in live music to the newly pedestrian street.
“I’ve got to tell you the Select Board, [Garvin], Glenn Clancy [town engineer] and Mike Santoro [director of the DPW’s Highway Department] all have been so helpful to get this going. It took just a week from when we approach them for the compromise to be in place. We all worked together and got it done.”