That long delayed project, Cushing Village, is finally underway. When it has been completed, it will revitalize Cushing Square. Toll Brothers will be responsible for construction and Chris Starr, the original developer, whose efforts to obtain working partners failed repeatedly, will deal with commercial properties in the complex. Demolition has begun, site remediation is underway. While not perfect, this is real progress.
Cushing Village — Concerns Moving Forward
Nevertheless, it is fair to say that the repeated delays have engendered concerns including but not limited to: (1) communications and transparency on the part of the town and the developer; (2) environmental impact; and (3) effects on Cushing Square vendors and residents during construction. Area residents — be they abutters or those who live in the area — are understandably very skeptical. They look to the Selectmen and the Planning Board to help as the construction occurs.
I am a civil engineer and attorney with years of experience handling projects of this kind both for the Commonwealth of Massachusetts and for the Army Corps of Engineers. The Cushing Village project requires both technical and legal oversight if it is to be completed in a way that benefits Belmont.
I have the combination of technical and legal expertise that is essential to ensuring that Toll Brothers and Chris Starr meet their commitments to complete the project. I have the technical expertise to oversee safety and environmental issues.
Communications are an important part of this effort. Setting up specific processes to be used by the developer and the town to make sure that residents are informed and included is crucial. When/if communications do not occur smoothly, the appropriate officials, including but not limited to the Selectmen, must find out what has happened and improve the process.
In addition, there should be an on-going exchange of information and concerns. The communications loops should go from my colleagues and me to community members and from community members to my colleagues and me.
The town has maintained an area on the Belmont website devoted to the legal aspects of the Cushing Village development. It can be found at: http://www.belmont-ma.gov/planning-board/pages/cushing-village-development. Now that the project has moved into the construction phase, this area should be expanded so that it includes notices and information needed by the community. Website information has been shared with the community by the Cushing Square Neighborhood Association (CSNA), a group with which I expect to work closely as construction proceeds.
Cushing Square Development
Cushing Village has drawn enormous attention but it is not the only issue that must be considered. Cushing Square residents – consisting of both abutters and those who live near Cushing Square — are concerned about future development of the area. This is something that must be undertaken with both town and neighborhood input; the CSNA will be an important participant.
Planning the development of town areas is crucial to making sure that Belmont retains the character that makes it so desirable. A revision of the Cushing Square Overlay Plan that utilizes both town and citizen efforts could serve not only Cushing Square but become a model for other Belmont areas where development is possible.