Two Years Late: Cushing Village Taking First Step Towards Construction

Photo: The municipal parking lot up for sale in Cushing Square is adjacent Starbucks.

Exactly two years to the day after the town’s Planning Board approved a special permit granting him permission to begin construction, the developer of the troubled Cushing Village complex will be before town officials early next week seeking to purchase a critical piece of town-owned property so he can finally begin construction on the long-stalled project. 

The Belmont Board of Selectmen’s Monday, July 27 meeting agenda calls on the board to initially meet in executive session before proceeding to vote whether or not to sell the municipal parking lot at Williston and Trapelo roads to a newly-formed partnership consisting of original developer, Smith Legacy Partners, and its new business associate, Cambridge-based Urban Spaces.

The price tag for the parking lot adjacent Starbucks – set two years ago – is $850,000; along with fees and permits, the final price is closer to $1.3 million. The property will house the first of three buildings making up the 186,000 square-foot retail/housing/parking development in the heart of Cushing Square.

The vote to sell the property marks the two year anniversary when Smith Legacy’s Chris Starr was granted the 25-page special permit from the Planning Board at the culmination of an 18-month design review phase on the project made up of 115 residential units, 38,000 sq.-ft. of retail space and 235 parking spaces. 

At the time, Starr proclaimed an accelerated project schedule. Starr told media outlets construction on the first building – located on the parking lot – would be open for retail businesses and resident housing by the late fall/early winter of 2014. The entire project would be completed by mid-summer 2016, said Starr.

But it soon became apparent Starr was unable to find a financial source willing to back him due to his lack of experience building large-scaled projects. In March 2014, Starr struck a deal with the town to extend the closing on the parking lot by a month for a $20,000 fee. The fee increased to $30,000 a month after a year.

By Sept, 2014, Starr hired a Boston realty firm, Boston Realty Advisors, to unearth a partner or sell his stake in the development. The campaign went international with large ads on a leading Asian real estate website.

In the end, a young development firm, Urban Spaces, joined with Starr. It remains unclear the partnership arrangement between the two, including whether there is a majority stakeholder or arrangements for future management of Cushing Village. 

And it does not appear the partnership has been damaged with the arrest of Urban Spaces’ CEO and founder, Paul Ognibene, who was arraigned last week on one count of sexual conduct for fee after he was arrested by Cambridge Police in a sex sting.

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  1. Matt says

    At this pace it’ll take 6 months to get demo permit then another 6 for the building and foundation permits. Let’s revisit at the 3yr anniversary of the plan’s approval.

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