Westwood Station, outside Boston, is a 125-acre project that will take 10 years to complete.
WESTWOOD, Mass. — Westwood Station, the 125-acre mixed-use project being built in place of a former industrial park in this Boston suburb, may help dispel the metropolitan area’s reputation for being averse to big developments.
“The size is almost unprecedented for this area,” said Jay Doherty, president of developer Cabot, Cabot & Forbes. “It’s been challenging explaining to people around here that we’re not just building a mall with some residences and offices. This will be an integrated town center, with its own grid of streets, and a relationship with transit, open space and major employment.”
Greater Boston is notorious for high land costs, an archaic permit process and bureaucracy. Some projects, such as the redevelopment of the 135-acre Assembly Square Mall in Somerville, Mass., have been stalled for years because of anti-sprawl groups.
“The barriers to entry are high and it is difficult to get things done here but that creates value,” said architect David Manfredi of the Boston firm Elkus Manfredi, which did the master plan for Westwood Station and also designed The Grove in Los Angeles, The Shops at Columbus Circle/Time Warner Center in Manhattan and The Americana at Brand in Glendale, Calif. “You know value is protected when it’s not that easy to enter the market.”
Doherty envisions almost 10,000 people living, shopping and/or working at Westwood Station, located about 22 miles southwest of Boston. The full build-out of 4.5 million square feet is estimated to cost $2 billion and take 10 years, but the first component — 1.3 million square feet of retail and 400 residences — is to open in fall 2009. Five million square feet of construction will break down, roughly, to one-third retail (1.3 million square feet), one-third residential (1,000 condos) and one-third office space (nine buildings).
The retail town center is the heart of the project. There, Elkus Manfredi has drafted a varied streetscape of limestone, fieldstone and red brick, materials used in Westwood’s historic town buildings. All of the Sixties-era industrial warehouses, several of which were vacant, will be demolished.
Manfredi described the new town center as “New England, but not nostalgic.”
Buildings will run about four stories, with retail at the base and three floors of residences on top. Streets will be open and wide, with pedestrian paths weaving through. Retail is positioned along a curving axis dubbed Market Street near the existing Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority and Amtrak station. After phase one is completed next year, offices, a hotel and additional residences can be built as market conditions warrant without leaving the project feeling incomplete, Manfredi said.
Despite a weak U.S. economy and competition — a 675,000-square-foot lifestyle center, Legacy Place, is being built in neighboring Dedham, Mass. — Westwood Station’s retail is about 85 percent leased. The announced mix, including Sur La Table, Chico’s, Eddie Bauer, Talbots and Brio, is a lineup of traditional mid- and better-tier mall tenants and restaurants.
Target and Wegmans, an upscale supermarket making its entry into New England, are the anchors to date.
“There has always been a hole in this market,” said Stephen Karp, chairman and chief executive officer of New England Development Co., which is handling the retail component. “Fifteen years ago I tried to put a regional mall here, but the development costs and the position of the town were not as favorable. Since then, the demand and the demographics have only gotten better.”
Condos will run in the low- to mid-$500s per square foot, Doherty said. If the condo market “isn’t as warm and fuzzy as we’d like it to be next year, we’ll lease the units that don’t sell and I would expect a lot of people will grow into buying them.”
There is a 250,000-square-foot space open for a department store, but, with some retailers slowing expansion plans because of the economy, Macy’s struggling to integrate former May Department Store Co. doors and Nordstrom committed to four stores in the Boston market, there have been no takers yet.
Manfredi said Westwood Station is designed to be an active, seven-day-a-week, year-round community.
“The historic thinking about retail is that it’s anchored by two department stores and you fill in what’s in between,” he said. “Westwood is planned as much around open and public spaces as anything else. It’s about encouraging people to come here for the whole environment, not just to run an errand.”