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Year in Review: 2005

2005 served almost as a conclusion to the cliffhangers of 2004. The Natick Mall and Lowe's were both approved, and construction has begun on both. Yet questions still remain: what tenants will fill the Natick Mall Expansion... and for that matter, what will the mall be called? How will property owners around the country deal with the demise of May, and will vendor relationships be damaged in the process? In the Midwest, will the only May store with a fighting chance, Marshall Field's, get May to reverse their decision in one case? Perhaps we'll find out in 2006, but now, here's the Year in Review for 2005:

JANUARY: GGP announces that the Natick Mall will split into two phases, intending to get around the project's growing appeals. Motherhood Maternity and Mimi Maternity at the Natick Mall close and reopen as a Destination Maternity superstore further down on Rt. 9 in Natick.

FEBRUARY: Renovations begin at the Old Connecticut Path Stop & Shop. La-Z-Boy opens at Natick Promenade. Lowe's gains full approval from the Framingham Planning Board to construct a store adjacent to Target. May Department Stores appeals the Natick Mall expansion project on February 26, two days before Federated Department Stores announcese that they will acquire May for $11 billion dollars.

MARCH: Vacancies grow in the Natick Mall as many 10-year leases come to a close. Phase I of the Natick Mall Expansion is approved.

APRIL: Bob's Discount Furniture opens in the old Circuit City building. Framingham settles its appeal of the Natick Mall for $1.04 million dollars.

MAY: General Growth provides more details on the Natick Mall's condos.

JUNE: The office building at 350 Cochituate Road begins to come down, after construction loses one month as a result of the NSTAR strike. Natick community development director Sarkis Sarkisian resigns. Neiman Marcus reveals the exterior of their future store. GGP announces that mall expansion will open on September 7, 2007.

JULY: Federated announces store branding strategy: all May department stores will convert to the Macy's brand; while an announcement is made at a later date regarding which Downtown Crossing store will close, what will be done with Lord & Taylor, and whether Chicago-based Marshall Fields will rebrand. Locally, the Macy's store at the Natick Mall will close, while the Filene's store at the mall becomes a Macy's.

AUGUST: Saks Incorporated-owned Club Libby Lu announces that the store will open at the Natick Mall in March (2006).

SEPTEMBER: Federated drops its appeal of the Natick Mall Expansion, while GGP breaks ground on the mall on September 4th. Federated chooses to close the Downtown Crossing Filene's, and also plans to cut the 1,100 jobs at the Filene's-Kaufmann's headquarters. At the Chestnut Hill mall, Filene's will close and will be remodeled into a Bloomingdales, as the Bloomingdales at the other end of the mall is closed. Lastly, Federated announces that the Marshall Fields chain out of Chicago will be cut, although most research advises them to do otherwise.

OCTOBER: Dick's Sporting Goods opens. White House/Black Market opens at the Natick Mall, along with "The Maxx", a concept from TJX.

NOVEMBER: Phase II of the Natick Mall Expansion is approved. Changes are made to the Natick Mall Expansion's floorplans, under the consideration that Macy's will be shuttered.

DECEMBER: Lowe's construction continues; construction on the ramp to the second floor can be seen, along with a nearly completed steel frame of the building. Natick ponders how to use their millions from mall construction.

2005 was certainly an interesting year for MetroWest retail with plenty of changes. We'll have to see how 2006 plays out to change the skylines (and street level views) of Framingham and Natick.

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