January 28, 2007

The New Mall’s Impact on Natick, cont. Um, What About Framingham?


The Boston Globe's West edition has written yet another article about the Natick mall expansion in the works, including breathless marketing-like phrases such as "Developers aren't just adding size. They are adding swank and high style to the staid indoor mall of decades past." Swank and high style? Because of "a rolling gold sign that is inspired, designers say, by the folds of a women's skirt"? "A mezzanine 'floating' above a water fountain"? It all may indeed be as spectacular as advertised, but shouldn't we leave the PR-like accolades until after the new mall actually opens, and we can see with our own eyes whether it's glitz or kitsch?

That aside, though, I'm getting a little tired of all the coverage focusing solely on the mall's impact on the town of Natick, considering that you can walk from the mall to the Framingham town line. (Well, you could on a very low-traffic day. Christmas Day when all the stores are closed, maybe. But it's close enough that one could walk, with proper pedestrian-friendly design.) Traffic will obviously affect Framingham roads, unless all the SUVs and other vehicles coming from points west are helicoptered in. Residents and workers getting on and off Mass Pike exit 13 will deal with the extra traffic as much as those in Natick. If there is an impact on local merchants, it will be felt in downtown Framingham and Framingham Center as well as Natick. The retail "Golden Triangle" encompassing the mall in Natick also clearly includes Shoppers World and other retailers in Framingham. Yet the Globe West Weekly story reports only that "The [Natick] Planning Board's overriding concern has been making sure Natick is compensated for the impact the expansion will have on the town."

So, Natick gets $15 million in mitigation for things like road improvement. Lucky them! The mall is planning a potentially more pedestrian-friendly storefront facade on the Natick Rte. 9 side. Nice improvement for the Natick stretch of Rte. 9, but I've heard nothing about improving the pedestrian streetscape on the Speen St. or Rte. 30 sides close to Framingham office workers like me.

It's good that the mall and the town could solve the dispute over using the name "Natick" (I come down squarely on the side of the town over that one. Natick is the name of the town; if a retailer wants to use it, it should be as an adjective, not stand-alone). Now could the media please move on and also consider the impact of this major project on surrounding areas outside of the Natick town line as well as in the town itself?


  1. Natick Mall commentJanuary 29, 2007 at 3:01 AM

    I believe the town of Framingham will receive nearly $1M in mitigation from the Natick Mall in cash contributions (road improvements, contribution to the city's open space fund, etc.) and design and construction improvements (pedestrian road improvements and study recommendations). But yes, the Globe article failed to mention this.

  2. A million dollars is pretty much chump change in this day. It won't even cover the cost of a pedestrian bridge over Rte 9. Although it might cover a few more miles of sidewalk somewhere nearby.
    As far as preserving open space, that's the proverbial carrot on a stick. Almost as cliche as the marketing terms they've been using to get the Natickites all worked up.