FRAMINGHAM – With a standing room crowd of more than 300 individuals, the owner of the almost-empty Nobscot Shopping Plaza said there is no supermarket coming to the neighborhood.
Owner Andy Rose said in 2003, he signed a lease with the owners of Shaw’s to renovate the plaza and bring a Shaw’s supermarket to the former Countryfair Star Market site on Water Street. But two weeks later, Shaw’s was sold. And in the last 13 years, the owners of Shaw’s have only opened one location in Boston.
Shaw’s has a “master lease” on the property for 40 years, with an option for another 40 years, Rose explained to the crowd, which at times shouted at him from their chairs.
He said the “master” lease gives the owners of Shaw’s full control of the site, including maintenance and upkeep. Residents complained the plaza is an eye sore and is blighted. They said the parking lot should be repaired.
Rose said that is not his responsibility, but Shaw’s.
The 6-7 acre Water Street property which once was full of retail now has only a CVS and a Chinese food take out store. The plaza opened in the 1950s.
“The neighborhood didn’t support the businesses,” Rose told the crowd, which reacted to him with boos and shouts that he was lying.
Rose of Centercorp Retail Properties said the plaza is in need of a $4 million investment. And, that type of investment in the plaza, would mean high rents for any new tenants, including the Sabrina Wong’s, which Rose said is paying half of what its rent was in 2003.
“There’s just not enough business in today’s economy to make that investment and earn those rents,” Rose said.
One resident told Rose that Trinity Optical moved out because the rent had tripled. Rose said that was “false.” Again, he said the neighborhood did not support the businesses in the plaza.
Rose said he is diappointed the plaza is almost-empty, but said of the 40-50 properties in the Centercorp’s portfolio, this is the only one not fully rented or leased.
Rose said back in 2003 there were 30 independent grocery businesses, and today there are just 4, including Donelan’s which has no interest in opening a supermarket in Nobscot.
He said there are 6 supermarkets, including Whole Foods, Trader Joe’s, Shaw’s in Sudbury, and two Stop & Shops within 2 miles of the Nobscot Plaza. He said there is a Wegman’s coming to Natick, and that there is just no interest in anyone opening a supermarket in Nobscot.
The plaza is located next to the new Christa McAuliffe branch library on Water Street and across from the Nobscot fire station.
No Supermarket, What Then?
The ideas were discussed with Rose and a representative from Shaw’s.
The proposal is for 156 high-end rental apartments and retail space along Water Street. The current CVS would move to the corner of Water Street and Edgell Road and occupy an area where the chapel, an office building, and the former Texaco station once stood. Rose said his company owns the office property.
Rose said Shaw’s is interested in the proposal, and might be willing to walk away from their lease, if the town agrees to re-zone the area for mixed use. Any zoning change would take a minimum of 1-2 years said Town Manager Halpin.
The crowd of 300, at the beginning of the night, seemed split on the proposal. Some started yelling “no” from the audience, and others wanted a vote within the first hour on yes or no on the proposal.
Instead town leaders allowed residents to ask questions about the plan and to Rose about the property and its master leae for more than 90 minutes.
By night’s end the crowd applauded Rose, and seemed a little more enthusaistic about the mixed-use plan of apartments and retail as opposed to decades of an empty plaza in their neighborhood.
Concerns addressed by residents were the number of apartments. Several felt 156 was too many. Rose said that number is needed to make the project “financially viable.”
Some residents questioned why high-end apartments and not condos. Rose said the market is in need of these type of apartments for “snow-birds,” “empty nesters,” and those young professionals without children. The apartment complex would have a pool and a clubhouse.
The proposed apartments would be 1 and 2 bedrooms and a maximum of 1,000 square feet.
One residents said apartments is not what is needed in Nobscot as it would bring “crime” and “drugs.”
Under the mixed use proposal, there would be about 8,000 square feet of retail along Water Street, that could be occupied by 3-6 businesses. A Starbucks would occupy about 2,000 square feet, if it chose to open in the proposal. An independent hair salon might take about 1,200 square feet, said Rose, as another example.
Many residents complained about traffic on Water Street, Edgell Road, and Edmands Road. Town Manager Halpin said the town plans to address that business intersection in the next year or so.
Rose said a supermarket would bring more traffic than this mixed use proposal.
Residents said between Hemenway Elementary on Water Street and the proposed school for autistic children being constructed on Edmands Road, traffic is only going to get worse, and adding 156 apartments is not what is needed.
Below is an architect’s rendition to the proposed mixed-use proposal. The blue in the plan is the aprartments. The orange is retail. The orange square on the left is where the new CVS would be located. The yellow is the club house and the pool for the residents of the high-end apartments.
The plan would also give the McAuliffe library about 18 dedicated parking spaces.
Also below is the architect’s rendering of what the retail space would look like, with pitched roofs.