June 13, 2005

‘Urban’ Lifestyle In Natick Mall Condos?

About 150 people have paid $1,000 deposits to be on the waiting list to move into condos planned for the new Natick Mall, according to the MetroWest Daily News. The move is part of a growing mall trend to mix residences with stores.

Many would-be Natick Mall condo-dwellers are attracted to being close to planned high-end shopping; others are tired of the demands of home ownership and are interested in condo living in general, according to the story. However, I think some seeking urban living in the suburbs may end up a bit disappointed.

Great urban living gives a payback for population density, noise and pollution that goes beyond being able to walk to your favorite stores -- attractive, appealing streetscapes in which to do that walking. So far, from what I've seen of the preliminary new mall designs, there may be an extremely appealing environment within the mall, but the area outside it is extremely disappointing. (Case in point: the Cochituate Rail Trail "connection" dumps walkers into a parking lot, with no good path directly to the actual stores.) Early drawings showed a plan clearly designed for traffic flow and convenient parking, but not necessary things for enticing walking environments outside. Hopefully, that will change.


  1. This is the first time I've seen this site, and it's quite interesting.

    The concept of combining residential and retail is an intriguing one, but, I agree
    with you, the Mall experience will fall short of a real downtown area. What do you
    think of Mashpee Commons on the Cape? I find the simulated downtown environment more
    pleasant personally than an enclosed Mall. They've tried to liven things up with
    outdoor concerts and the like. They've now added free Wi-Fi, and, although I haven't
    been there this year, I guess people can now sit around outdoors with their laptops.

    Even when the promised residential units are built, there are still a myriad of
    things about a real downtown that a Natick Mall or Mashpee Commons has a hard time
    duplicating. Still, I like the idea that they're trying, rather than building the
    same old suburban model of isolated retail, residential, and community functions.

  2. Thanks for stopping by! I think there are some good ways to mix residential and retail in suburbia without necessarily creating an actual urban environment. Traditional compact walkable downtowns are appealing as well. Waltham did a very good job with the housing at the old Grover Cronin store on Moody Street, for example - I have to say I was skeptical when I first heard about the idea, but the mix of residences and entertainment has worked very well there. I haven't been to Mashpee Commons, but it sure sounds better than conventional malls.