There’s been a lot of hoopla recently over an addition to the suburban Natick Mall. The renovation was so extensive it even resulted in a foofy new name: The Natick Collection.
In addition to the added shops (all high end: Tiffany, Nodrstrom, Nieman Marcus, etc…) a residential component was incorporated. Yep, luxury condominiums are being built with direct access to the mall. I’d been curious to scope this redevelopment out and last night I had the perfect chance: I needed to pick up a gift for Randy and the only store in Massachusetts was, you guessed it, located near that mall. Excuse me, near the “collection.”
First off, this 17 mile journey took nearly an hour as a result of traffic (there is no train access). How people drive to work in this everyday is beyond me. WHY somebody would do this is an even better question. I mean, at least on a train you can relax and read. And don’t give me crap about how trains are always delayed and such. Even if the train is delayed, you can still sit in a climate controlled environment and read/rest. Besides, based on what I witnessed on a typical Wednesday (in perfect weather) you’re going to be delayed as a result of vehicular traffic, too.
OK – that’s not the point of this thread.
So, I arrived at the mall and parked in the new wing. It is nice, I’ll give you that. But with all of the swirling rooflines and white on-white (with occasional wood) color schemes, I can’t help but wonder how dated this will look in 10-15 years. I mean, I’m sure the people at the Liberty Tree Mall were impressed when that first opened, too. But this new wing is so different, that there isn’t much one can do to “update” it without completely removing the ceiling. It also doesn’t blend with the existing mall at all. The new wing is all curves and open spaces while the old wing still has the standard linear mall walkway with annoying kiosks in the middle. You can tell the new wing screams “affluence” (Tiffany, etc…), while the original mall screams “suburbia” (Sears, JC Penney, Spencers). There really is no successful transition.
But the component I don’t get is the condos. I’m all for new urbanism. I’m all for mixed-use development where people can live without the need for a car. Hell, I think I feel more strongly about such things than any of my friends. Any sort of development that reduces the need for more automobiles is smart-development.
Or so I thought.
Nouvelle at Natick (the name for the condo portion) is weird. I mean, I can understand city dwellers wanting to live above/attached to a mall. For example, there are residences at Boston’s Prudential Center and Copley Place shopping malls. I’d love to live in such a location. You have easy access to the mall, plus you’re in the heart of EVERYTHING the city has to offer (Back Bay, South End, shops, restaurants, parks, supermarket). Hell, even suburban ones (like Mashpee Commons, designed as a small village with streets, shops, post office…even a church) can be successful.
If you lived at the Natick Mall (I mean, the Natick Collection) you’d have access to….
…a suburban mall.
There is no supermarket attached. There are no pedestrian streets around you. There is no onsite train service to offices or the city. It’s surrounded by parking and a million other strip malls. And a recent article in the Boston blog had a future tenant raving about her ability to watch the traffic on the Mass Turnpike. Wait…that’s a selling point?
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