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Wanted: $2.4 million to remake Belmont Center

Posted by Derek McLean  July 8, 2011 06:30 PM

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Belmont selectmen have approved a plan aimed at making Belmont Center more friendly to pedestrians, bicyclists, and shoppers looking for a place to park. Now all they need is $2.4 million to implement it.

Officials are looking into grants to fund the steps set out by the Belmont Center Concept Plan, which Board of Selectmen approved in June.

“The roads in and around Belmont Center are in very poor shape and need to be repaired,” said Glenn Clancy, directory of Community Development.

Now that the concept plan has been approved, the next two phases are design and construction.

“We don’t know how it’s going to be funded yet,” said Clancy, referring to construction costs. “Obviously $2.4 million is not something that the town could handle on its own. There are grant opportunities through the state that we will pursue.”

The town will pursue grants from the MassWorks Infrastructure Program. If all grant opportunities fall through, there is no backup plan at this time.

The estimate for the design is $210,000, which will be paid for by the town. "We have not started design yet because we are still trying to come up with money to pay for the design.”

Clancy said the design will most likely be completed by the summer of 2012. He predicted that the earliest the town would be able to begin construction would be in the spring of 2013.

There have been no discussions about implementing an override to pay for the costs, Clancy said. “From where I’m standing, I don’t think an override is going to be necessary to fund this project,” he said. “I am certainly not counting on an override.”

Clancy said the center has a high volume of traffic during peak hours, but is normally quiet and quaint.

“Through this design process we want to recognize the fact that there really are two personalities in the center,” he said. “We’re trying to manage that the best we can during the peak hours and still have it as a destination for shoppers, bicycles, pedestrians, and try to improve its amenities.”

The plan includes several projects. One of the projects will widen the sidewalks in the entire commercial area to make them more accommodating to pedestrians and shoppers in the center.

The town will also put in a crosswalk system at the intersections between Channing Road, Concord Avenue and Leonard Street. “That will make it easier for pedestrians to get around in the center,” said Clancy.

Also, the green area between Leonard Street and the front of Belmont Savings Bank will be expanded. This will eliminate the small access road, Leonard Street extension, which separates the bank and the green area and holds nine parking spaces. Jay Szklut, Belmont Planning and Economic Development Manager said, “The expansion of that green area is pretty significant and it will give the town a real Belmont Common.”

Concord Avenue, from Town Hall down to the steel railroad bridge, will be widened to clear room for parking spaces and to create a bike lane. “This will allow parking on both sides of Concord Avenue,” said Clancy.

Clancy first proposed the plan to the Board of Selectmen in the spring of 2010.

The plan has received mixed reviews from local merchants.

“I don’t like the plan,” said Tony Tavares, owner of Gregory’s House of Pizza on 27 Leonard Street. “They want to extend the park that nobody uses and get rid of the spots in front of my store.” Tavares said the plan would get rid of about six parking spots in front of his store.

“The road needs to be repaved,” said Suzanne Schalow co-owner of the Craft Beer Cellar on 51 Leonard Street. “Things need to happen in the town center. I know they are going to put in a bike lane and I know they are going to change up the parking. I think it’s going to help. We are going to be gaining parking spaces and ultimately that’s a good thing.”

Derek McLean can be reached at dbmclean1@gmail.com.

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