Belmont Manor Seeks Assisted Living Facility On Pleasant Street, First In Town

Photo: A draft design of a proposed assisted living facility in Belmont.

In the first step of the commercial redevelopment of South Pleasant Street, the owner of Belmont Manor Nursing Home is proposing a 75,000 sq.-ft., 85-unit assisted living facility at 1000 Pleasant St. adjacent to the Star Market parking lot and the Belmont Car Wash.

The three-story building with 30 parking spaces would be the town’s first assisted living facility.

The proposal presented before the Planning Board on July 31 by Steward Karger, Belmont Manor’s full-time administrator, would meet the pent-up demand from aging residents “who would rather stay in Belmont” when they need more help with everyday tasks. Today, assisted living facilities in nearby towns are running at 95 percent capacity with a current need for 400 additional units. 

“It’s a use that’s needed in Belmont with minimal impact on schools and traffic,” said Karger.

The preliminary design calls for the 32-foot tall building to be constructed where a two-story office building owned by the Tocci family currently stands, said Andy Rojas, the project’s architect.

The plans call for three floors occupying between 23,400 and 26,100 sq.-ft. with units averaging from 400 to 600 sq.-ft. The first floor will have a reception area along with units with the second floor mainly apartments. The third floor will be dedicated to residents with dementia and memory loss. A basement will include mechanical space, staff break rooms, laundry area and resident services.

Rojas said the design is in draft form as the land will need to be rezoned – the site lies in an LB-2 zone – to allow for a third floor and a change in use without seeking a Special Permit. Rather than alter the town’s zoning map, Rojas suggested the creation of an overlay district, in which a special zoning area is placed over the existing base zone. The town has created overlay districts in Cushing Square to assist in building the Bradford complex, in the Oakley neighborhood and for the placement of medical marijuana facilities. 

Rojas said the best solution would be to overlay the town’s LB-1 zone on the site and extend it over the neighboring property owned by the Tocci family to Citywide Subaru at 790 Pleasant St. Rojas said with the overlay in place, “you’re going to see that this will be a catalyst for other things” along Pleasant. Rojas predicts the future redevelopment of the Tocci-owned Belmont Car Wash on Trapelo Road and its property further down the street “would be mixed use with retail [on the ground floor] and residential above.”

Despite available land adjacent to the proposed facility, Karger said there are “absolutely no plans” to move Belmont Manor from its current Agassiz Avenue location. He also said he is talking with the Tocci family on the purchase of the land. 

Reaction from the Planning Board was mostly positive with Chair Charles Clark saying it was a “very interesting proposal and a very positive development” in light of the recently passed Housing Production Plan which called for additional housing for the elderly.

The proposal is the second new development set to be built in the South Pleasant Street/Waverley Square. In June, the Zoning Board of Appeals approved the construction of a pair of retail/residential structures on Trapelo Road and White Street by local developer Joseph Destefano. 

Planning Board Unveils ‘Big Idea’ To Transform Waverley, So Pleasant Street

Photo: A rendering of a privately developed Belmont Public Library anchoring a mixed use development in Waverley Square. 

In a presentation that if implemented would alter the face of Belmont for generations, the Planning Board last Tuesday revealed a rough draft proposal to transform Waverley Square and South Pleasant Street into vibrant urban centers while breaking a logjam in the construction of critical – and costly – capital projects.

Dubbed “The Big Idea” by Planning Board Chair Liz Allison, the plan envisioned by the Board’s Raffi Manjikian would consist of a multi-use development built on the site of the Belmont Car Wash at 521 Trapelo Rd. combining senior housing with a new Belmont Public Library that would be privately-built and leased back to the town by the project developer. 

While the senior living/library project is in the preliminary talking stage, “the [property] owner said they are open to the concept,” said Manjikian.

“It’s time we come out to the community and begin to have this conversation with people at home, and perhaps even the developers engage with the town … to think through this idea and … contemplate something that is workable,” he said.

Nor would the library/senior living venture be a stand alone project such as The Bradford is to Cushing Square but likely the initial step in the redevelopment of South Pleasant Street running from the car wash on Trapelo Road to approximately Snake Hill Road. The three property owners have been quietly scouting their development proposal in the past year.

If the Planning Board’s blueprint goes from pie-in-the-sky to reality, it could jump start a much-needed transformation of a section of Belmont nearby residents believe has been neglected. In return, several property owners will be able to profit from what is currently an inefficient use of the land, while the town would have a new avenue to resolve at least one of its long-standing capital project demands.

The genesis of the big idea came from the Planning Board’s earlier meetings on the future of Waverley Square. Despite being a transportation hub for three towns with a history of commerce, the square has not attracted the business or housing other locales have seen.

During previous meetings, residents and the board felt the square needed “additions” for it to become a vibrant neighborhood especially those that attract people whether it be businesses – much talk has been associated with a “pub” in the area – or retaining the Waverley MBTA station. The meeting participants noted the area could absorb a substantial increase in density especially housing (including affordable units) but respect the residential nature of the nearby streets by limiting the additions’ massing. 

She also said any development should not move forward if it “generates very substantial costs to the town” such as large scale residential projects which would be “selling seats in the Belmont school system.” 

After putting forward the preliminary guideline of a new Waverley, Allison produced a chart that she noted isn’t seen at Planning Board: a financial worksheet showing a bottomless pit of red ink associated with the four capital projects staring Belmont taxpayers in the face.

With a new Belmont high school ($187.5 million), police station ($22.5 million), Library ($24 million) and Department of Public Works ($28 million) on the horizon, ratepayers are likely facing a $262 million price tag to meet the town’s capital needs. “And the cost will not go down,’ said Allison.

If financed by a 20-year bond at five percent, just the cost of the four projects would require the current property tax rate to rocket from $12.69/$1,000 assessed value to $15.88/$1,000, resulting in an annual tax increase for the average single family homeowner of $3,190. And that is before town folks face a Prop. 2 1/2  operating override expected in 2021.

“These are big numbers for a lot of people; I dare say a majority of people in Belmont,” said Allison. After ruminating through the guidelines and speaking to landowners, at a recent meeting, Manjikian asked himself “what if we were to think about a leaseback situation” in Waverley Square?

A fairly standard transaction in academic and commercial circles, a “sale/leaseback” is when an owner of a property sells an asset, typically real estate, and then leases it back from the buyer. Feedback to Manjikian’s off-the-top-of-his head proposal was overwhelmingly positive from town officials and the property owners.

The affordable senior housing would be in a convent location with a library, Star Market, a major bus line and the MBTA commuter rail station all within walking distance, said Allison. It would also free the current library location to be redeveloped for a new police headquarters.

Allison said the library was selected for the public portion of the project as it met many of the Planning Board’s objectives; it would be a gathering spot and a mooring for future development.

Allison said she is “very sympathetic” to library officials who told the board they were “less than enthusiastic” for the plan after finishing in February a five-year long feasibility study which proposes a new library at its current Concord Avenue location. Allison believes providing the library trustees with “some reality in a timely fashion” they could be convinced of the merits of a Waverley Square site.

Anne Marie Mahoney, chair of the Major Capital Projects Working Group – established this year to create a “sound plan for building, sequencing, and possible financing which will lead to a successful and timely completion of these projects” – who traveled from New Hampshire to hear the presentation, sounded a supportive note for the scheme.

“Personally and collective from the group we are very excited about this,” said Mahoney, saying it “frees up finances and resources, time and energy.”

“By doing something like this, it just opens the whole process up and allow the town to have a library a whole lot faster than they would if they had to wait for the town to fund it one at a time,” said Mahoney. The project would “anchor” Waverley Square with a major town building and says to the square “you are an important part of [Belmont].” 

While many who attended the meeting were supportive of the concept, concerns on traffic and congestion along with financing the project were raised as potential sticking points. 

“As always, the devil will be in the details,” Roy Epstein, chairman of the Warrant Committee, told the Belmontonian after the meeting. Head of the financial watchdog organization for Town Meeting, Epstein took a measured approach to the project, noted straight off that a leaseback would likely require a significant annual allocation from the town’s budget – likely between $1 to $2 million – possibly requiring an override.

Allison said there needs to be a “real enthusiastic response” from the public and Town Meeting by a two-to-one so the board can move forward on the preliminary plan. The significance of the two-thirds margin represents the number required at Town Meeting to alter the town’s zoning bylaws to allow for the greater use of height and density to make the entire project viable. 

“We will have to be open and creative if this is going to succeed, but there also has to be some ground rules that will be proposed by the board,” she said.

Making Belmont Shine for the Past 50 Years

In 1964, the newly-opened Belmont Car Wash & Detailing on Trapelo Road was a small operation both is size and the number of people when Paul Tocci Sr. waved in the first car to be cleaned.

“We were in a much smaller site with 11 employees. That year we did 15,000 cars,” said Paul Tocci Jr. who owns the car wash with his brother, Adam.

“Last year, we did a 100,000 cars with 50 employees,” said Paul Jr. after he and Adam were joined by town dignitaries to cut a red ribbon to begin the celebration of the businesses half-century in the community.

During the day-long event, held on Saturday, June 21, the cost of a wash reverted back to 1964-era prices of $1 and $2, barbecue was served to customers, there were tours of the newly-renovated  building and popular radio celebs came by.

For the brothers, Saturday was a great day not just for their business but also for their father, who died a few years back.

“Everything we’ve done here is with our dad in mind. He was prominent in all of our planning,” said Adam.

“We hope he sees us and what we’ve done and he’s happy,” said Paul Jr.

And while the car wash is a business, Belmont Car Wash has become much more of a community resource.

“We call Belmont our hometown. We grew up here so giving back to the community is very important to us,” said Adam, who is the general manager.

Much of that outreach comes in terms of fundraising events that takes place at the site.

“We try to be as proactive as we can with all the community groups,” said Paul Jr. Adam said there are usually six large fundraisers a year with nearly weekly in raffles, charity auctions and sponsoring events.

“That’s part of being a good business neighbor,” said Paul Jr.

“Belmont Car Wash has been in Belmont five years more than I have,” said lifelong resident and Selectman Sami Baghdady. “So it is a staple to the Waverley Square area and to Belmont being a valuable service and it has employed many of our kids.

Will the brothers be around for the next 50 years?

“We won’t but our children will be around. It’s a generational thing. One of them will be here in 2064,” said Adam.


Belmont Car Wash Celebrates 50th Anniversary with 1964 Prices

It’s like “Hot Tub Time Machine” but for your car.

Belmont Car Wash & Detailing in Waverley Square will be marking a half century in business today, Saturday, June 21, by returning to 1964 prices; a buck for a Soft Touch wash (regularly $9.99) and $2 for the Super Shine wash (a $13.99 value) from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.

The ribbon cutting at the renovated facility at 521 Trapelo Rd. – adjacent Shaw’s Supermarket and the MBTA commuter rail line – will occur at 10 a.m. kicking off a full day of activities including food, entertainment, music, giveaways and a display of 1964-vintage autos.

One of Belmont’s longest running family-owned businesses – run today by Paul and Adam Tocci – recently finished a massive renovation to both the interior and exterior of the facility, making improvements to the wash-tunnel equipment as well as the customer waiting area. It is also known for activity supporting school and charitable causes by allowing them to fundraise at the site.

“This is an exciting time, and we are thrilled to be able to celebrate our anniversary with our community,” said General Manager Adam Tocci in a press release.

“Our father established this wash in 1964, and my brother and I continue to do everything we can to make sure Belmont Car Wash and the Tocci name are synonymous with good neighbors and strong business partners for the town.”

Open Houses In Belmont: Seven Figures for the One Percent

Here are a few of the open houses in Belmont this weekend.

In fact, this week, how about the homes that are selling for a pretty penny; more like 100 million pennies: homes that are listed for more than $1 million. And according to the Seattle-based real estate brokerage firm Redfin, the most expensive one percent of homes nationwide are hot, hot, hot, with sales up 21 percent since January, while sales of the 99 percent of “lower end” housing are off 7.6 percent.

“There are haves and have nots, and the haves are the ones out buying,” Redfin CEO Glenn Kelman said.

531 Concord Ave. Open house: Sunday, June 1, Noon to 1:30 p.m. Three-story Georgian Revival (1926), 7,277 sq.-ft. on 1.6 acres. 18 rooms, 7 bedrooms (it has 7 fireplaces, a “Gone With The Wind” staircase and its own museum section. MUSEUM! Price tag: $3,950,000.

20 Wellington Lane. (a stone’s throw from 531 Concord) Open house, Sunday, June 1, Noon to 1:30 p.m. Brand new Colonial”-ish” structure. 5,701 sq.-ft. (with 2,200 square feet still unfinished). 18 rooms, 5 bedrooms. (Looks finished but the photo shows the driveway not connect to the garage.) Price tag: $2,775,000.

• 529 Concord Ave. (next door to 531 Concord) Open house, Sunday, June 1, Noon to 1:30 p.m. Brand new “contemporary.” Only 5,664 sq.-ft. (with 2,100 square feet left unfinished) on a “mere” half acre. 18 rooms, 5 bedrooms. Price tag: $2,745,000.

 26 Cedar Road (designed by H. Thaxter Underwood who built in the same year the Underwood Pool bathhouse.) Open house, Sunday, June 1, 1 p.m. to 3 p.m.; Monday June 2, 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. Antique stucco Colonial (1912). 3,700 sq.-ft. 11 rooms, 6 bedrooms. (Brokers contend the house is located on a hill in Belmont; Walnut Hill. That’s a first.) Price tag: $1,795,000.

• 85 Woodbine Road (in what’s called “Old Belmont Hill” abutting Habitat) Open house, Sunday, June 1, 1 p.m. to 2:30 p.m. Another stucco Colonial (1948).” 3,244 sq.-ft. 9 rooms, 4 bedrooms. Price tag: $1,595,000. (Recently reduced!)

 7 Prentiss Lane (described as a “mini estate”) Open house, Sunday, June 1, Noon to 1:30 p.m. Custom brick “cottage” design (1926). 2,381 sq.-ft. 8 rooms, 4 bedrooms. Price tag: $1,580,000. 

 232 Prospect St. Open house, Sunday, June 1, Noon to 1:30 p.m. What says Belmont better than a “Belmont Hill Classic Center Entrance Colonial” (1932)3,220 sq.-ft. 11 rooms, 4 bedrooms. Price tag: $1,415,000. 

 6 Highland Road Open house, Sunday, June 1, 12:30 p.m. to 2 p.m. Colonial that was gut-rehabbed (1941) on the bottom of “Walnut Hill.” 2,237 sq.-ft. 8 rooms, 3 bedrooms. Price tag: $1,349,000. 

 117 School St. Open house, Sunday, June 1, Noon to 2 p.m.; Monday June 2, 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. Antique Victorian Shingle-style house. A classic from 1895. 3,122 sq.-ft. 10 rooms, 6 bedrooms. Price tag: $1,199,000.

 49 Payson Terrace. Open house, Sunday, June 1, 1 p.m. to 2:30 p.m. A 1925 brick center entrance Colonial (. 2,731 sq.-ft. 10 rooms, 4 bedrooms. Price tag: $1,095,000.

 37 Pilgram Rd. Open house, Sunday, June 1, Noon to 2 p.m.; Monday June 2, 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. A BIG Tudor-style Colonial on a small – 0.13 acre – lot. (1936). 3,100 sq.-ft. 12 rooms, 5 bedrooms. Price tag: $1,048,000.

Hard Winter on Your Car? Get It Washed and Help Kids in Need

Take the winter salt and grim off your car this Saturday, April 12 at the Belmont Car Wash in Waverley Square and  at the same time help children in need.

Members of the Belmontian Community Service Club of Belmont High School will be at Belmont Car Wash drying off your cars and all tips for their work will go to benefit Cradles to Crayons, the Boston-based non-profit that provides children from birth through age 12, living in homeless or low-income situations, with the essential items they need to thrive at home, at school and at play.

The day of service, sponsored by Belmont Car Wash, will be held from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m.