March 9, 2006

250 condos OK’d for Natick Mall Expansion

The Natick Planning Board unanimously approved 215 condominiums as part of the Natick Mall expansion, according to the MetroWest Daily News. The units are expected to be priced between $300,000 and $1 million.

Unless the design has changed markedly since I've seen it, though, those residents won't be living in a very walker-friendly environment. Sure, they'll be able to walk inside to the mall stores; but I don't see the outdoor ambiance being conducive to any sort of strolling or pleasant outdoor activity. Nor is the new center being integrated well with the surrounding residential and commercial area, such as the nearby movie theater and Shoppers World. And the promised spur of the Cochituate Rail Trail just dumps into a parking lot, instead of being a well-thought-out part of the complex.

Update: Josh added a comment below, about the West Natick Neighborhood Association meeting regarding the mall expansion.


  1. I figure solutions will come after people start buying and moving in. They won't be the best solutions because they won't have been planned in advance. But people that pay that much for a condo are probably going to complain a lot if things aren't just so. The people who live in Marina Bay in Quincy really seem to enjoy the paved trails around the area (I liked it better before the condos went up but that's another story).

    I was noticing your links on the right - isn't it a little weird that Framingham and Natick seem to have completely separate rail trail groups?

  2. Natick and Framingham folks have never blended very well. (one critic I read a few years ago stated "Natick got the Mall, and Framingham got the power center". This was in criticism of the new Shoppers World where walking isn't recommended when shopping)
    Getting back to the rail trails, Framingham groups work on the walking aspect, while Natick folks think about ways they can make money off it. Discuss on the forum at if you'd like.

  3. The Natick Bicycle and Pedestrian Advisory Committee is a good resource if you want facts on what is happening
    regarding the Mall and pedestrian access. It's probably worth checking in with them or Natick's Community Development
    office before making too many assumptions; many people in Natick are working to make sure the new development is

    Natick and Framingham have different, but complementary rail trail groups. Many Natick residents have been active on
    the Framingham section, and the reverse will surely be true. Unlike Framingham, the Natick section is active until
    this June, then things may start to happen although much depends on CSX.

    Dave, the Natick approach is to get money for mitigation to offset the huge impact of this development, while looking
    ahead to ensure a more walkable community. The walking trails that are springing up around Natick suggest that things
    are not quite as simple as you make it sound. We can and will do better, of course.

  4. When the new Shoppers World was built, people probably thought it was fine to have big-box stores surrounding a parking lot. Architects and City Planners have a way of looking at things in a vacuum, not considering the surroundings and practicality. Today, when visiting Shoppers World, does anyone think they'll leave the car in one spot and go shopping in several stores without moving the car? I doubt it. Hindsight helps to move forward. Let's stop letting experts draw pretty pictures and believe what they say, for it's been proven that they may not have as much common sense as we'd like to think.

  5. On March 8, there was a meeting of the West Natick Neighborhood Association at the Cole Center. The focus was traffic, pedestrian, bicycle and safety improvements to Speen Street. Representatives of the Mall, various town agencies and boards, police, fire, traffic planners and neighbors participated. We saw plans including pedestrian access all around the Mall expansion, and a number of alternatives for Speen Street from route 9 to 135. The WNNA web site may have some of these plans on the web in the near future - see - as may the town. The planning is in the early stages; the timetable for most of the roadwork is to start in Spring 2007, because there are water and sewer upgrades that must come first.

    Dave makes a good point about Big Box stores. In practice, people park where it's most convenient, whether they are visiting one store or several.
    It's common to see people walking from one store to the other (not surprising, considering that that is much easier than re-parking).

  6. The original Shoppers World was designed well, with the shopper in mind. The power center, as it's called, was designed for the retailer whose store doubles as a warehouse. Anyone who wants to see what an outdoor mall looks like when converted to indoor, can check the South Shore Plaza.
    If one wants to know how the Arade project will transform downtown Framingham, just realize that the owners have penciled in CVS as the anchor store in the old Woolworth's space. Oh well, at least the drawings looked good.