Demolition began this week on a vacant ice skating rink in Belmont a little over a month after the property owner submitted plans to build 48 townhomes on the site.
Belmont Iceland occupied the site at 815 Old County Road for nearly 60 years before it went out of business in 2016. The building has since sat vacant.
Lafayette-based Branaugh Development secured a permit to demolish the former rink a couple of months ago and that work began earlier this week, said Community Director Carlos de Melo.
In July, Branaugh submitted plans to the city to build 48 for-sale townhomes on the site, de Melo said, adding that the city requires 15% of the units in for-sale residential projects — in this case seven townhomes — to be sold at below-market rates to those earning moderate level incomes. The moderate income level is 120% of area median income, with comes out to $99,450 a year for an individual or $142,100 a year for a family of four.
De Melo said staff is still reviewing the application and did not provide any additional details about the project or when it might be the subject of a public hearing.
Councilman Charles Stone said the location, just a few blocks from the Caltrain station, would be perfect for much-needed housing.
“The entire Bay Area, including the Peninsula, San Mateo County and Belmont, is in dire need of more housing and there’s no better place for it than along existing transit corridors,” he said.
Stone also noted that proposals like this often change as they wind their way through the city’s entitlement process.
“I’m encouraged anytime I see interest in building transit-oriented developments in Belmont, but projects like this one often change quite a bit by the time they get to a City Council,” he said. “I look forward to learning more about this project in the coming months and hearing input from our excellent staff, fantastic Planning Commission as well as members of the public and my colleagues on the council.”
While Belmont Iceland has not been an operable ice rink since 2016, the ice skating community is sad to see the window close on any chance of it reopening.
“The group is very disappointed in the outcome, both with the developer and the city,” said Sarah Feldman, president of the Silicon Valley Ice Skating Association. “Demolition of the Belmont rink is proof no ice rink is safe. We’re keeping a watchful eye and the Belmont ice skating community is not going away.”
Feldman said she hopes some piece of the former rink is preserved by the Belmont Historic Society because of the facility’s impact on the sport internationally.
“It’s had such an impact even internationally because it spurred so many Olympians, including Brian Boitano and Peggy Fleming,” she said.
Mayor Davina Hurt said many miss Belmont Iceland, but saving it was outside of the city’s control.
“Like the rest of the community I’m sad that something that was such an important landmark in the city left, but it was privately owned and we can’t force people to be in certain industries,” she said, adding that before the rink shut down it was in need of costly repairs that the former owner was not interested in paying for.
Stone echoed the mayor and offered additional context behind the demolition.
Stone said everyone misses the ice rink but saving it was outside of the city’s control.
“A private property owner discontinued the Iceland business and sold the property to a willing buyer several years ago and the new property owner came forward and complied with the applicable rules to demolish,” he said. “Everyone misses the rink, I know I do, and my kids skated there when we were little and it was important part of us creating community bond. But the market didn’t support it and nobody came forward with viable plans.”
Stone suggested alternative properties, including the site formerly home to Orchard Supply Hardware in San Carlos, would be suitable for an ice rink. Hurt suggested a partnership could be formed to bring a seasonal ice rink to the city or somewhere nearby.
The city briefly considered including an ice rink in a future remodel of the Barrett recreation center, but that particular amenity did not garner sufficient support in community surveys and in stakeholder meetings.