Belmont Street Undergoes Restoration, July 6-10

Photo: Map of Belmont Street to be restored next week

Approximately third-quarters of a mile of Belmont Street will be under construction beginning Monday, July 6 to restore the roadway which was dug up late last year.

Bannon Paving of Hyde Park will be grinding and overlaying this large second on Belmont Street from the Watertown line on Lexington Street to Common Street for the entire week from July 6 to July 10.

The work will repair the street impacted by the installation of new PVC gas-main installed by National Grid/Feeney Brothers late last construction season to connect the new Toll Brothers development in Cushing Square.

Toll Bros Update of Cushing Village Development Thursday, April 27

Photo: Under construction.

The developer of the Cushing Village project now under construction in Cushing Square will hold a public meeting this week to provide residents an update on where the development is at and where it is going.

Toll Brothers Apartment Living, the apartment development division of Toll Brothers, Inc., the nation’s premier builder of luxury home, is hosting the meeting on Thursday, April 27, from 6 to 8 p.m. in the Belmont Art Gallary on the third floor of the at the Homer Municipal Building

Toll Brother officials will discuss the status of the project and construction schedule. The Cushing Square project calls for construction of three mixed-use buildings, which will include retail space on the ground floor and 115 apartments above.

Cushing Village Demolition Begins Next Week; Residents Concern on Process

Photo: Bill Lovett, senior development manager at Toll’s Apartment Living, speaking to residents.

The demolition of structures on the proposed Cushing Village site will begin next week, according to a Toll Brothers representative speaking at a public meeting held at the Beech Street Center on Tuesday, Jan. 24.

“The big equipment will be mobilizing this Friday and early next week is when the demolition will begin,” said Bill Lovett, a senior development manager at Toll’s Apartment Living before 45 residents who braved the stormy wet weather to discuss a broad range of concerns from what will be done with contaminated soil and groundwater, parking to beautifying the area during the 24 months of construction.

At 164,000 square feet, Cushing Village consists of three separate buildings with approximately 38,000 square feet of commercial space, 115 dwellings units – 60 two-bedroom and 55 one-bedroom units – and 225 parking spaces including 50 public spaces. The development will also include 12 affordable apartments.

Lovett said the former S.S. Pierce & Co. building at the corner of Common and Trapelo and the First National/CVS at Common and Belmont would be brought down away from the streets with the debris placed on the property’s asphalt parking lots before being hauled away.

After the balance of the demolition is complete around March 1, the developer will begin deepwater treatment of the site.

By early April, work will commence on the foundation of the Winslow Building, which is located on the municipal parking lot at Williston and Trapelo roads. Lovett said while the development will take approximately two years to be completed, he expects the Winslow building to be open for ground floor retail occupancy by next summer.

Lovett also addressed a question that many residents had: what would happen to Starbucks during the construction. He said the national coffee cafe has two options; it can attempt to remain opened while work goes on around the shop, or close at some point for the duration of construction. He noted that if Starbucks does shut down, the period of construction will be shortened.


SAGE’s team: Rick Mandile (left), Molly Cote, and Jacob Butterworth.

Lovett introduced representatives of SAGE Environmental which will lead the monitoring and cleanup of the soil and groundwater within Toll Brothers’ development plan. The site was once home to dry cleaners as well as a gas station, the municipal parking lot, retail space and a supermarket.

Rick Mandile, a principal at SAGE, told the audience that Toll’s plan is to dig up about 90 percent of the site, upward of 30,000 tons of soil – which less than 10 percent or about 2,700 tons is likely contaminated with chlorinated hydrocarbons such as trichloroethylene – which will be treated before being moved to a landfill.

Working from a 700-page draft Release Abatement Measure (RAM) Plan, SAGE’s Molly Cote, a project manager told the residents that groundwater on the site would be treated at the location before being sent into the municipal storm drains, which is allowed by the state.

Lovett said work on the site would occur between 7 a.m. and 3 p.m. with workers using a shuttle bus to arrive at the site. He said a plan for parking and bringing in dump trucks to the site are still being formulated.

Several residents raised concerns about the monitoring program of contaminates and the removal of the soil, asking for special care when it is trucked from the location to keep dust under control. The Belmont Board of Selectmen has recently hired a licensed site professional to do a peer review of SAGE’s draft RAM.

Beginning Tuesday, residents have a 20 day comment period to write to SAGE’s senior project manager, Jacob Butterworth ( of their concerns and any questions they wish to be answered in the RAM before it is sent to the state’s Department of Environmental Protection for its approval.

John Mattleman of Poplar Street told Lovett that “the little things are big and the big things are big” on a project that requires this level of monitoring and remediation.

“Communications will go a long way as we are now partners in this,” he said.

Town To Peer Review Toll Bros. Plan To Clean Cushing Village Land

Revised on Tuesday, Jan. 24 to update status of RAM material.

Photo: A public meeting Tuesday will discuss how the land of the future Cushing Village be cleaned to allow construction to begin.

The Belmont Board of Selectmen voted Monday, Jan. 24, to hire an environmental firm to peer review the state-approved plan developer Toll Brothers will use to clean the contaminated property where the 167,000 sq.-ft. Cushing Village project will be built.

The remediation plan along with an initial schedule for the project will be presented at a public meeting scheduled for tonight, Tuesday, Jan. 24, at the Beech Street Center. The meeting will start at 6:30 p.m.

The meeting will start at 6:30 p.m.

Selectmen Chair Mark Paolillo said he and some residents felt it would be prudent for the town to have an independent licensed site professional (LSP) conduct “a town-sponsored review” of the developer’s Release Abatement Measure (RAM) Plan. The plan details the environmental contaminates in the property located in the heart of Cushing Square and how the firm’s contractors will remediate the land, so it is safe to build the three building development. 

An LSP oversees the assessment and cleanup of contamination property. More information on what an LSP does can be found at the LSP Association website.

The plan details the environmental contaminates in the property located in the heart of Cushing Square and how the firm’s contractors will remediate the land, so it is safe to build the three building development. 

Besides retail stores, a supermarket and a municipal parking lot, the property also was one home to dry cleaners.

The draft Cushing Village RAM will be sent to the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection by Toll Brothers’ LSP after the 20-day comment period. It would then take a week for the state to approve the RAM.

“I’d like [Belmont’s LSP] to look at the RAM” that will occur during a state-mandated 20-day comment period that starts when the plan is presented to residents and business owners Tuesday night, said Paolillo.

While the state prohibits additional language or requirements from being added to the abatement plan, Toll Brothers “have expressed to [the town] it wants to be collaborative” and would seriously consider concerns from the town’s professional, said David Kale. Belmont town administrator. 

“The RAM is what the RAM is,” said Paolillo, “we just want to provide our comments.”

Cushing Village Update: Municipal Lot Closed To Public Wednesday

Photo: From parking lot to construction site.

In the first tangible indication construction on the long delayed Cushing Village development is about to commence, signs notified the public the municipal parking lot adjacent Starbucks was official closed to vehicles.

“THIS PARKING LOT Located on the corner of TRAPELO ROAD and WILLISTON ROAD WILL BE CLOSED EFFECTIVE JANUARY 18th, 2017” read several signs in the near empty lot.


At the Williston Road entry, another sign said “Construction Entrance Only” and “Lot Closed 1/18/17,” placed by Nauset Construction, the Needham-base constructon management firm hired by the project’s national developer, Toll Brothers. 

Toll Brothers officially took possession of the town-owned lot on Oct. 19, 2016 after purchasing the parcel for $1.335 million, according to town records.

Despite assurances the lot would be closed within days of the sale, it would take three additional months for the Pennylvania-based Apartment Living subsidiary to secure the first of several permits from the town and state’s environmental protection agency to allow construction to precede and to finalize a long-term lease with Starbucks to secure a space in the project.

Cushing Villiage is a 165,000 square foot, three building development with approximately 38,000 square feet of commercial space, 115 apartments – 60 two-bedroom units and 55 one-bedroom units – and 225 parking spaces including 50 municipal spaces.

Bill Lovett, a senior development manager at Toll Brothers’ Apartment Living, said in August the earliest date for construction to begin on Cushing Village is late spring of 2017 with a completion date of the summer of 2019.

BREAKING: Another Delay for Cushing Village; Now It’s Starbucks Missing Lease

Photo: Starbucks lack of a lease causes another delay. 

After a contentious meeting Friday morning, it appears Belmont town officials would rather the corporate suits at Starbucks’ Seattle headquarters switch from drinking the decaf Caffè Lattes to the high power Clover Brewed Coffee with espresso shots when they are closing real estate deals.

On what should have been a historic day for Belmont and the future of the troubled 167,000 sq.-ft. Cushing Village project turned into a frustrating case of deja vu as the Belmont Board of Selectmen approved Friday, Sept. 30 to push back by three weeks the closing date of the sale of the municipal parking lot adjacent Trapelo Road.

Initially, the town expected developer Pennsylvania-based Toll Brothers to execute the purchase and sale of the lot with a check ($1 million less any credits to the company) heading into town coffers. But it became apparent after returning from an executive session on Sept. 20, the selectmen had little choice but move the expiration date for the final closing to Friday, Oct. 21. 

Bu unlike past issues, it was not actions by the developer, Toll Brothers, nor the town necessitating the delay. In fact, they have been ready to “seal the deal” days earlier. Rather it is officials at one of the leading retail corporations worldwide who are dragging their feet much like many of their Monday morning customers. 

According to Belmont’s Town Counsel George Hall, the delay is due to a lack of a new lease from Starbucks corporate headquarters that spells out a multiyear agreement between Toll and the coffee giant on yearly payments and the location of the cafe. It will also spell out what financial compensation Toll would provide Starbucks if at any point the store would be forced to shut down during construction.

Hall said the lease “is also integral to the transaction between Toll and the former developer Smith Legacy Partners” which still owns four parcels – including the old S.S. Pierce and A&P/CVS locations – that will make up most of the project’s footprint. 

Since Toll can not move forward with knowledge of the primary tenant, the closing has been held hostage to Starbucks’ inaction. 

“Starbucks is a very large company with many sites … and they move on their own schedule,” said Hall, suspecting the new lease will arrive “hopefully in a few business days but we have no controls over the parties.” 

With all the paperwork complete, deeds ready to be passed and funds transferred a compromise called an “escrow closing” has been agreed to between the town and Toll Brothers. 

Much like a standard real estate closing, all the relative signed documents – including the town’s land development agreement and the deeds to the four parcels currently held by Smith Legacy – and the several payments dated for Friday will be delivered by 5 p.m. to a Westborough attorney who is the escrow agent.

“The agent is ready to go to the Registry of Deeds to record the documents and disburse the funds as soon as he’s given the go-ahead to do so once Toll when it takes the property of the new lease,” said Hall.

“All parties will have to agree for this escrow to move forward,” he said. 

Not that everyone was enthralled with the last-minute arrangement.

“Of course this is frustrating because we’d like to know that by the end of today the funds would have been into our account,” said Selectmen Vice Chair Sami Baghdady. 

While he would be more comfortable if Toll committed “hard money” into Belmont’s bank account, said Baghdady, “but I feel we have made a leap and it would be a shame if we did not support this deal and risk Cushing Square being in its current condition for eight or ten years [until it is] redeveloped.”

Toll Bros. Agrees to Parking Lot Sale Sept. 30; Cushing Village Under Way

Photo: Cushing Village.

If you were not listening for it, the announcement would have quietly passed by without much notice.

But the news from the Board of Selectmen on Monday, Sept. 19, that national developer Toll Brothers will sign the purchase and sale agreement to obtain the municipal parking lot adjacent Trapelo and Williston roads on Sept. 30, has brought to an effective end more than three years of delays and controversey that has haunted Cushing Village, the 164,000 sq.-ft. apartment/retail/parking complex set to be built in the heart of Belmont’s Cushing Square.

After a brief unceremonial signing of the documents by the selectmen concerning easement rights and updated land and parking agreements, the town will wait for a check for reportedly $1 million while Toll will soon retain the deed to the property, said Town Consel George Hall. 

“This is the light at the end of the tunnel we have been waiting for,” said Belmont Selectmen Chair Mark Paolillo.

There was no representative at the signing from Toll Brothers’ Apartment Living subsidiary that will construct and own the property for the Horsham, Penn.-based firm.

It is believed demolition of the existing structures on the site – the former S.S. Pierce & Co. building at the corner of Common and Trapelo and the First National/CVS at Common and Belmont – will proceed within the next two months. Speculation is that Starbucks, which is adjacent to the parking lot and is a key tenant for the new complex, will continue to operate at its location for the time being. 

Bill Lovett, a senior development manager at Toll Brothers’ Apartment Living, said in August the earliest date for construction to begin on Cushing Village is late spring of 2017 with a completion date of the summer of 2019.

The development consists of three separate buildings with approximately 38,000 square feet of commercial space, 115 dwellings units – 60 two-bedroom units and 55 one-bedroom unit – and 225 parking spaces including 50 municipal spaces provided as a result of the sale of the municipal parking lot.  The development will also include 12 affordable housing units.

After more than two-and-a-half years of delays and broken promises to begin construction, the long-troubled multiuse development was sold in March to Toll Brothers which purchase of the project’s development rights and two land parcels from the original owner, Smith Legacy Partners.

It was Smith Legacy which shepherd the project through an 18-month permiting process, winning the right to build the complex in July 2013. But a failure to find the necessary funding doomed the project for the owner.

Planning Board OKs Cushing Village Construction Extension

Photo: The Cushing Village site.

The Belmont Planning Board welcomed to its Tuesday, Sept. 6 meeting the representative of the new owner of the proposed Cushing Village development with a slight caveat.

Don’t come back!

In reality, the board wasn’t so tactless or dismissive. Rather, the members explained to Bill Lovett – a senior development manager at Toll Brothers’ Apartment Living division which will develop the $80 million project that includes 115 units of rental housing, 38,000 sq.-ft. of retail and approximately 200 parking spaces – that he shouldn’t expect the board to approve any additional time extensions that would further delay the building the long-delayed project.

After the warning had been sent, the board unanimously supported Toll Brothers request to give the Pennsylvania-based home builder a seven-month extension of the Special Permit from December to July 2017.

(The issuance of the Special Permit allows a developer to begin construction on the site at the corner of Common Street and Trapelo Road in the heart of Cushing Square.)

The Planning Board’s directive is similar to the message Lovett received from the Selectmen which agreed to Toll’s request to extend the separate purchase and sale agreement of the town-owned municipal parking lot adjacent Trapelo and Williston roads.

When asked by Board member Charles Clark if Toll Brothers is likely to buy the car park site and begin construction by Dec. 31, Lovett agreed that was a possibility.

So why then, Clark pondered, is an extension of seven months for the Special Permit being required by Toll Brothers?

Lovett said while it is indeed possible that the building could commence by the end of the year, it would be an unlikely to actually commit to that timeframe because the structure’s foundation will be “complicated” to build as it sits below the ground water level and will also host the garage. Lovett said the earliest likely date for construction to begin on Cushing Village is late Spring of 2017.

And while Clark suggested providing the developer with half the number of months requested in an attempt to move the project forward, Lovett stated Toll Brothers request for the full seven months was calculated relying on the firm’s due diligence formula, adding a margin of safety for any unforeseen complications that would force a delay in construction.

A long time from the start

Clark retorted that he remembers sitting in the same room more than three years ago in 2013 approving the Special Permit. This latest delay will likely move back the completion date of Cushing Village to mid-2019.

“Six years is a long time [for a project such as this],” he commented.

At Tuesday’s meeting, the board also brought up one of the most significant issues facing developers building on older commercial sites; ground contamination.

Quired by the Planning Board’s Barbara Fiacco, Lovett said the land is contaminated to the point where it would need to be remediated. The underground garage will be built on the former site of an old dry cleaner which used organic compounds such as perchloroethylene likely seeped into the surrounding soil and groundwater.

But Lovett said while Toll Brothers doesn’t know “what exactly is going to happen … with the remediation of the soil” and that some unanticipated finds could delay the “physical construction of the site,” he said the request for a delay in the Special Permit is not due to any soil contamination.

Lovett said the provisions of the Special Permit – allowing the construction of the development to proceed with the myriad of conditions and restricts to the structure’s bulk, height, and mass which the Planning Board negotiated with the initial development team over an 18 month period of meetings and discussion – will kick in only after the building’s foundation is laid and a plan of action on cleaning out the polluted soil has been taken.

But Fiacco was not sufficiently mollified by Lovett’s explanation.

“But I still don’t have a comfort level that you’re not going to be back here asking for further extensions in light of environmental issues,” she said.

Lovett said it’s likely the soil will be removed from the site “as quickly as we can” to move forward.

“It’s in the best interest” of Toll Brothers to move forward on the site, he added.

Fiacco ended her comments by telling Lovett the firm should decide early on what remediation and construction solutions they will use rather than be reactive to any problems it may encounter.

“I want to impress on you to get all your ducks in a row … so this project can go forward, and we can see something other than a hole in the ground,” she said.

Toll Partners With Former Owner To Lease Cushing Village’s Retail Space

Photo: Bill Lovett,  a senior development manager at Toll’s Apartment Living, before the Board of Selectmen.

It wasn’t the one-month extension the town gave Toll Brothers to close on the municipal parking lot adjacent Trapelo Road critical to the building of the long-delayed Cushing Village project that created the big buzz at the Belmont Board of Selectmen meeting on Monday, Aug. 22.

It was who the new developer is partnering with on a significant feature of the $80 million project that was a total surprise to the nearly dozen residents who sacrificed a beautiful summer evening to attend the meeting at Belmont’s Town Hall.

Chris Starr, the Bedford resident who spent almost a decade of his life attempting to construct the three building complex before giving up and relinquishing the site to the Pennsylvania -based firm, will either control “whole or in part” the leasing of 38,000 sq.-ft. of retail space in the new development.

Revealed by the Selectmen at the meeting, the news of Starr’s return to the project that he failed to complete was a startling announcement to those in attendance.

“This just didn’t make much sense at all,” said Doug Koplow of Oak Avenue.

Bill Lovett,  a senior development manager at Toll’s Apartment Living – a relatively new whole-owned subsidiary within the Horsham, Penn.-based firm – would only say the details for the company’s arrangement with Starr are in the new draft Land Development Agreement, the nuts and bolts legal document describing what will occur during the construction.

The LDA notes Starr’s involvement as taking “whole or part” of the commercial portion of the project once the space is built out and the town has provided a temporary certification of occupancy. The earliest that will take place is at least two years away.

Speculation of Starr’s return leans towards Toll’s expertise in the residential development yet having little knowledge of commercial leasing. Having spent the better part of a year attempting to land a big retail operation for his project, Starr’s contacts would be seen as valuable to Toll. 

Some residents expressed a worry that Starr’s background – during his tenure he could not put together the necessary financing to build the project nor find an anchor store for the site – could lead to further troubles for the project.

“[Starr] hasn’t shown much competence when he had Cushing Village and I don’t see much changing,” said Rita Butzer Carpenter of Precinct 6.

But for Selectmen Chair Mark Paolillo – who said the board was equally “surprised” by the arrangement between the present and past owners – a new near-luxury development on three town blocks at the intersection of Common and Trapelo would be a draw for most commercial retailers.

“We have the confidence that the commercial space will be very appealing to a wide range of retailers once [Cushing Village] is built,” said Paolillo. “It will be a very beautiful place to be located, and you’ll have 115 units of people who are customers inside the building.” 

Before the Starr bombshell landed, most residents were eager to hear why Toll was seeking to an extension on the deadline for the parking lot purchase and, as Lovett noted, seeking next month before the Planning Board to move the deadline for the Special Permit on Dec. 3 up by several months.

In March when Toll Brothers took tentative control of the project’s development rights from Starr, Lovitt sought and received a six-month extension, until Aug. 26, to sign the Purchase and Sale for the municipal parking lot.

Since then, the firm has been performing environmental tests and other audits as part of the company’s due diligence of the site and past agreements.

Lovett said the company’s reviews “just took a bit longer than anticipated.” The delay forced Toll to push back the start of its negotiations with “a retail component” (i.e., Starbucks), said Lovitt.

“We needed to dot the ‘Is’ and cross the ‘Ts’ before moving forward,” said Lovett.

While the added month may, as Selectman Jim Williams noted, be standard fare for a project of this size and past difficulties, one selectman was less than pleased.

“I feel let down by you,” Selectman Sami Baghdady told Lovett, who said that many residents saw Toll as the “white knight” when it rescued the project in March.

“There are many frustrated people as you can tell,” Baghdady said of those in the audience, wondering what assurances does the town have that Toll will not come back in the third week in September “asking for more time?”

Lovett said the company has spent “thousands of dollars” in preconstruction costs and is eager to add Cushing Village to its portfolio of projects including a completed apartment complex in Westborough and one soon to be under construction in Natick.

While saying Toll Brothers “will not find [another extension] here” should it come back in a month with the similar request, Paolillo said the added time “is our last best chance” at guiding the project towards construction.

“There is not option B,” he said as the extension was approved. 

Cushing Village’s New Owner Seeking Added Concessions From Town

Photo: The current state of the location of Cushing Village.

The more things change, the more they stay the same.

That 19th-century French saying has a ring of truth to it when the discussion turns to the long-stalled Cushing Village residential/retail/parking development as it appears the new owners are seeking their own set of concessions from the town.

Approved for construction in July 2013, the project suffered through two-and-a-half years of delays and missed opportunities under the former ownership of lead developer Smith Legacy Partners.

So there was hope in the community when national housing firm Toll Brothers purchased the development rights in March of this year that a change at the top would allow the $80 million project – 115 units of housing, 38,000 sq.-ft. of stores and approximately 200 parking spaces – to move quickly to the construction stage.

In fact, representative of the Pennsylvia company said then it would not seek changes to the project which would warrant restarting the process, expressing confidence it would make the Aug. 26 deadline for the firm to sign a purchase and sale agreement with the town to buy a key town-owned land parcel, the municipal parking lot adjacent to Trapelo Road and Starbucks for $1 million, that would allow building to commence. 

For the town, Toll Brothers’ commitment to the site would stop the “endless loop of uncertainty” hampering work from commencing, said Selectman Sami Baghdady in March.

But what was said in the Spring appears to have fallen to the wayside in mid Summer. According to documents from the Board of Selectmen, Toll Brothers representatives will come before the Board at its Monday, Aug. 22 meeting seeking a new extension to the P&S deadline taking place four days later. 

In addition, the firm will request amendments to the Land Development Agreement – which for commercial property is a development plan that typically includes the time frame for completing the project, the property description, design sketches, and other details. 

The details of the changes and why they are being sought by Toll Brothers have not been publically flushed out – both the town and Toll are not speaking on the matter – as both sides appear ready to present their arguments on Monday.

Earlier this month, the board and the town appeared ready to sign all necessary paperwork on the 22nd, with current board chair Mark Paolillo saying that “both sides want this to go through.”