Photo: The proposed Cushing Village.
The meeting held Monday night, Feb. 22 in the Chenery Middle School’s teacher’s lounge took longer than expected. But what is an extra half hour when the subject under discussion is a troubled commercial project more than 900 days behind schedule?
In attendance at the executive session were the Board of Selectmen (which called the meeting), Chair Liz Allison and Barbara Fiacco of the Planning Board, Town Counsel George Hall, Treasurer Floyd Carman and Town Administrator David Kale with only one agenda item on the schedule: Cushing Village, the proposed 164,000 sq.-ft. residential/retail/parking complex at the corner of Common Street and Trapelo Road in the heart of Cushing Square.
While nothing was officially revealed at the closed doors conference, enough was evident from the people assembled, the time spent in conference as well as off-the-record comments from town officials; Belmont is preparing to move on the troubled Cushing Village project, with or without the currently designated developer, Smith Legacy Partner Series.
This new united front will likely be unveiled tonight, Tuesday, Feb. 23 at 7 p.m. as the Planning Board will receive another “update” on the project from the development team, a requirement the board imposed on Smith Legacy after it failed to meet “three agreed to ‘milestones’ with the town” set the first week in December to begin the initial construction phase of the $63 million project with the purchase of the municipal parking lot adjacent to Trapelo Road.
To keep its option to buy the municipal lot for $850,000, Smith Legacy has paid more than $600,000 in penalites to Belmont, with the knowledgment that half of that amount would be used towards the purchase of the parcel when financing is secured.
The project, beset with endless delays and missed deadlines, has been in a development purgatory as the team – comprised of Smith Legacy and its partners Urban Space and the recently added NJ-based Micheals Development Company – has been unable to secure the myriad of financing sources required to construct the three-building complex with includes 115 residential units, 225 parking spaces and approximately 38,000 square feet of first floor retail space.
The apparent breaking point for the town came earlier this month when Starr announced respected industry leader Cornerstone Real Estate Advisers was no longer involved with the project to provide important mezzanine financing to the project.
Yet, as one observer who is in banking said, the best case senario for Belmont is to push the developer towards giving up control of the parcel to either its lead lender, Wells Fargo, or sell the development rights to an established developer rather than simply declare the developer incapable of completing the project in a reasonable time.
“You don’t want to go through the [Planning Board] process again. You want a smooth transition,” she said.