Developers expect to build "220 condominium units and an upscale hotel on the northwest side of the planned addition to the retail complex," mall representatives told the Natick Planning Board, according to the MetroWest Daily News. An "open-air park would connect the buildings to the existing mall."
I haven't seen latest plans, but the design of that park, as well as entry ways to the buildings, will be critical in determining whether residents and visitors will actually *use* the park, and be encouraged to walk through it; or it will simply exist but be too off-putting to use (you know, like existing sidewalks on Rte. 9 and Speen Street around the current mall. See many people walking on them?)
The simple existence of open space is not enough. Designed incorrectly, the "park" could be an open-air wasteland that nobody uses (or even worse, used for the sorts of activities you'd prefer to discourage, not encourage). Designed properly, the complex could offer residents a pedestrian-friendly streetscape that encourages them to stroll and sit outside in nice weather.
Preliminary designs for the Natick Mall expansion were NOT encouraging. Walkways around the planned new mall building offered no screening between pathway and whizzing traffic -- a big no-no for a pedestrian-friendly ambiance; and plans to "connect" the mall with the Cochituate Rail Trail had the trail simply dump into a parking lot, which gives you an idea of the importance developers initially placed on creating an attractive pedestrian environment.
Hopefully, things have improved as the design evolves.
The condos will include 15% "affordable," starting around $150,000, to pricetags of more than half a million dollars, the News reported. The tallest building would be 80 feet high, but most would be shorter. The hotel is allegedly going to be "non-chain, small, upscale."