Sold in Belmont: Clifton Street ‘Vacant Lot’ Tops $1.2M

Photo: Ready, set, build!

You knew when Colleen Baxter O’Connell arrived at the Chenery Middle School from her home on Clifton Street on Belmont Hill.

“You’d see Colleen drive her Camero into the school’s parking lot,” said Ellen Cushman who was taught by O’Connell in the early 1970s when she was already in her 60s, who was known for her no-nonsense approach to teaching mathematics.

And her thrill for speed remained with her well into retirement.

“You didn’t start the Belmont Garden Club meetings until you heard Colleen’s driving up in her sports car,” said Cushman.

And in the past two weeks, O’Connell was remembered once again as the now vacant lot where her house once stood was purchased by a yet-to-be-named buyer for a cool $1.24 million from the Belmont resident who bought and quickly tore down what was a dilapidated Colonial two years ago.

The house – 2,642 sq.-ft., 10 rooms, 3 beds, 1.5 baths – was built in 1929 and the type of home a middle-income couple could afford in the 1950s, even with a Belmont Hill address. O’Connell spent nearly 50 years in the house, first with her husband, Harrison, and two children, and then by herself until she died in April 2004 at 99 years old.

After her death, the family attempted to make a go of the house by reportedly having renters stay in the building. But the overall condition of the house was rated by town assessors as “below average.” Yet the battered appearance didn’t appear to affect the home’s assessed value which nearly doubled from $542,000 in 1993 to $1,052,000 in 2003. 

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Finally, a decade after O’Connell’s dead, the property was sold in late 2013 to Claflin Street resident Paul Emello for $750,000. Emello then promptly took a wrecking ball to the house and placed a “for sale” sign on the street. The list price: $1.8 million. Wow, that’s chutzpah to attempt to flip a vacant lot for a million dollars.

Clifton Street is located on Belmont Hill which, it turns out, isn’t the same as Beverly Hills. A drop in price was expected, a reality set in. Within a year, the list fell to $1,349,000 and by November 2015 it took a $70,000 haircut to $1,279,000. Still nothing. Then in late June, a deal was made: step back another $40,000 and that’s that. 

So who bought it? It hasn’t been recorded at the Middlesex South Registry of Deeds. But it won’t be an empty lot for long as the land is being groomed by a well-known Belmont landscape company. 

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