Photo: The Colossus of Dalton.
A weekly recap of residential properties sold in the past seven-plus days in the “Town of Homes.”
• 21 South Cottage Rd. Townhouse condominium (2010). Sold: $1,400,000. Listed at $1,499,900. Living area: 3,700 sq.-ft. 9 rooms, 3 bedrooms, 3.5 baths. On the market: 204 days.
• 185 Dalton Rd. Colonial (2014). Sold: $1,435,000. Listed at $1,450,000. Living area: 4,040 sq.-ft. 10 rooms, 4 bedrooms, 2.5 baths. On the market: 72 days.
• 15 Albert Ave. Antebellum “Old Style” house (1853). Sold: $567,500. Listed at $649,900. Living area: 1,608 sq.-ft. 6 rooms, 3 bedrooms, 1.5 baths. On the market: 78 days.
• 11 Rayburn Rd. Ranch (1952). Sold: $950,000. Listed at $969,888. Living area: 1,983 sq.-ft. 7 rooms, 3 bedrooms, 3 baths. On the market: 82 days.
Drive down Dalton Road from Washington Street and you’ll encounter a familiar symmetry of houses in this typical residential neighborhood of Belmont, which for the past six decades has allowed generations of folks the ability to live in a community with great schools and safe streets.
But now … out of the ground … emerges … the blue Colossus of Dalton! In a community where homes max out at 2,000 square feet, this massive mass squats its 4,000 square feet of livable space down onto a 7,000 square-foot lot, like a fattened goose waiting to become foie gras.
This colonial-style house feed growth hormones lauds over the neighborhood, blocking out sunlight, depriving the neighbors of a view (other than a wall) and dominates the sight line of all the neighboring properties. This sort of house would look great … on a cul-de-sac in a gated community in Atlanta! It’s then appropriate to view the trio of third-floor, front-facing dormers as castle turrets, from where the new owner can view their “common” neighbors from the heights of this eighth wonder of East Belmont.
I have just one query for the architect: You forgot the moat.
And to boot, it’s visually and architecturally boring. It’s a box! I swear the designer must have graduated from the University of LEGO.
Simply put, the Colossus of Dalton is a crystal clear example of what can only be called space pollution – not the debris hovering above the earth, but a builder’s disregard of the neighbors and lot size to cram as much into a space that no one ever thought would be subjected to this level of land abuse.
In the past, big homes were to be placed on big lots, so not to impose yourself upon the community that was laid out with more modest housing in mind. If you wanted to build a big house in Belmont, head over to the Hill or Marsh Street. But not anymore. This construction of mostly shapeless mega-residentials is occurring throughout Belmont. A quick spin around Plymouth, Bradford, Arthur and Brighton will find four super-sized homes including what surely be the poster child of “big and ugly” at the corner of Arthur and Brighton.
Is it any wonder why many in the Shaw Estates neighborhood are rushing to next month’s Town Meeting to have a moratorium placed on similar buildings? (And not that this is a Belmont-centric reaction; the Los Angeles City Council has placed a two-year moratorium on McMansions in several neighborhoods.)
Why is this happening in Belmont? As they say, God isn’t making any more land, and developers are coming in to exploit that fact in a town many people still want to come to live.
Let’s make no mistake, this trend of mega-homes is only based on extracting a big profit without much effort. You need only look as far as the Colossus: The lot was once home to a six room, three bed, 1 and a 1/2 bath Garrison Colonial built in 1952 with 1,600 square feet of space. In 2013, developer Marsh & Oldham Homes purchases the building for $610,000, knocked it down, put up the “box” for $367,500, and takes off for home in Billerica with a tidy $500,000 profit. And the neighborhood is left with a blue Colossus too big for its lot’s britches.
And there’s the rub – they leave Belmont’s established neighborhoods with these oversized McMansions thumbing its noses at the need for privacy, proportionality, and community.
Does that mean there can never be new construction in Belmont. Of course not. In fact, there are three wonderful examples of new construction fitting into an existing neighborhood a two-minute walk from the Colossus on the Cambridge side of Grove Street: architect Keith Moskow’s “Red House” (a bit big at 2,800-square-feet but it could be scaled downward) adjacent to builder-developer Duncan MacArthur’s house detailed with plated copper and the former brick ranch at 161 Grove St. demolished to build a wonderful 2,600 square foot airy modern house.
Any of those would have been a welcome addition to a neighborhood.