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From the Natick Mall (1966) to the Natick Mall (1994), Natick (2006), Natick Mall (2007), and Natick Collection (2007)

Address: 1245 Worcester Street, Natick, MA, 01760

Original Facility built: 1966

Construction Stage: 1992-1994

New Facility opening: 1994, renovated 2006

Known stores in former: Sears, Filene's, Sears Auto Repair, Fanny Farmer, Thomas Cook, This End Up, Brentano's Book Store, York Steak House, Parklane Hosiery, Thom McAn, Woolworth, Brigham's Ice Cream, The Sandwich Board, CVS Pharmacy, Boston Baby, Kay Bee Toys, Orange Julius, Spencer Gifts, Electronics Boutique, car dealer(?).

Current stores: 167, with Sears, Macy's, Lord & Taylor, and J.C. Penney. See mall website for full list.

Mall website: http://www.natickmall.com

News stories: Shopping mecca comes to Natick from the 1995 Guide To The MetroWest, Federated Announces Plan to Expand Macy's Brand in 2006; About 330 May Company Stores to Convert to Macy's Nameplate Following Merger, Natick Mall Reveals Exciting New Interior

The Natick Mall was the first enclosed shopping mall constructed in the Boston area when it opened in 1966, and was one of the first built east of the Mississippi River. Some sources indicated that there was initially a stand-alone Sears on the site, and the rest of the mall was added around it. The Natick Mall was anchored with the afformentioned Sears at the east end and a Filene's at the west end, both of which were two stories tall. The Filene's store featured men's clothing on the first floor, and on the second floor had women's clothing along with a restaurant.

The shape of the mall was essentially a large rectangle, with windows near the tops of the walls that allowed lots of light into the mall. A Boston Baby store, located on the back side of the mall, originally acted as somewhat of a mini-anchor. Over time, the store was demolished, creating a wing with a small food court and various small stores. Today, the site of this wing is roughly where Macy's is located. Some other stores in the mall included a women's shoe store, a men's clothing store, a bank, a barber shop, and a florist and a key shop in an open area in front of the Sears. Near the Sears end of the mall was a large water fountain, which during winter months was shut off and a "Santa's house" was placed on top of it. The Sears store also had an outlot where automotive services were performed, unlike today when auto repair is in the main building.

By 1991, the mall was in the hands of S.R. Weiner, and had been left virtually unchanged throughout the 1970s and 1980s. Not unlike Shopper's World, the mall also hosted various meet-and-greet events during its lifetime, one being a visit by wrestling star "Macho Man" Randy Savage in the early 1990s. In 1990, Filene's began renovation of its store which had also remained unchanged since 1965. The remodeled Filene's held a grand opening ceremony on November 1, 1991. However, the rest of the mall remained entirely the same until its closure three years later. The mall was evidently showing its age, and lacked many popular stores of the time such as Abercrombie & Fitch. The lack of retailers led many local customers to head 10 miles east to Newton's two shopping malls, the then-new Atrium Mall and The Mall at Chestnut Hill. These two malls contained many more stores than the Natick Mall, and were not only modern but also in a desirable area. Losing customers to Newton was becoming disastrous for the Natick Mall, and not only did customers need to be won back, but the mall desperately needed to be renovated and expanded.

Enter Homart Development, the real estate division of Sears Roebuck. In 1992, the company purchased both the Natick Mall and the adjacent Shopper's World center, and began a five year plan to entirely renovate both centers, including demolishing and rebuilding the entire Natick Mall, other than the then-renovated Filene's store, in 1992. The Star Market next to the mall also closed around this time, although it remained intact (the future of that parcel is covered on the From Star Market to Disney Store/Ben & Jerry's page). In prior years, Melvin Simon and others had attempted to remodel Shopper's World into a massive retail/office hybrid that would have easily shuttered the existing Natick Mall. Yet their plans failed to become reality as the result of a picky Framingham Planning Board that refused to grant the needed permits. Knowing that Framingham would certainly have an issue with a massive, enclosed Shopper's World, Homart went ahead with remodeling the Natick Mall instead. Video of the demolition process is now available on YouTube at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=507yyxa3joc.

On October 12, 1994, the new Natick Mall opened its doors. The 3 new anchor stores had opened on a rainy day a few months earlier, but construction delays kept the interior of the mall closed. Sears remained on its former site, where the existing store was demolished and a new two level store was constructed with an internal auto service center. Jordan Marsh moved from its dome at Shopper's World to a new three-leveled store on the north end of the mall, and Lord & Taylor entered the MetroWest region by constructing a two-floored store on the south end of the mall. The entirely-new interior of the mall contained a two-floored corridor, and 167 new stores; creating a presence in MetroWest for chains that have now become household names. The new mall also contained a food court, featuring then-popular restaurants such as 1 Potato 2 and Soupmasters along with tenants like Sbarro, which still remain. The renovations also brought about three parking garages, A, B, and C; of three floors each.

Since the opening of the new Natick Mall in 1994, the facility quickly grew into one of New England's premier super-regional malls. The mall has served as the launching ground for the J. Jill mall chain of stores, and has received other not-so-successful concepts as well, including a small Kitchen, Etc. store and a small TJX concept entitled "The Maxx". For years, the mall's anchors remained the same; that would change significantly with the Federated-May merger. On July 28, 2005, it was announced that Macy's operations at the Natick Mall would relocate into the Filene's building, thus shuttering the existing Macy's building. And so, in late March 2006, Filene's closed their doors forever at the Natick Mall, after serving as the mall's longest continually operating anchor store.

The mall proposed several plans to deal with the shuttered Macy's building. The mall initially considered taking the vacant building and converting it into some form of lifestyle center, which would have featured upscale restaurants in addition to more retail space. However, before long, the mall began receiving proposals from traditional department stores, convincing management that the space could be re-opened as a traditional anchor store. By mid-2006, both the MetroWest Daily News and The Boston Globe indicated that J.C. Penney was in the process of negotiating a lease, and by fall of 2006 a lease was signed. In November, J.C. Penney began work to convert the building, including con

When Homart sold all of its malls in the late 1990's, it sold Natick Mall to GGP (General Growth Properties), as well as Shoppers World. Shoppers World was later sold to DDR (Developers Diversified Realty), who continued to have success with the mall. In 2002, the mall purchased the former Wonder Bread factory next door, after it's failed endeavor as TechCommons, and began to plan out an expansion for the Natick Mall. More information on that project can be found on the From Wonder Bread to the Natick Collection 2007 Expansion page.

With the construction of the Natick Mall expansion underway, General Growth did not plan to leave the existing Natick Mall behind. On March 20, 2006, mall officials began work to refresh the slowly-aging existing mall. The $14 million dollar renovation, designed by Beyer Blinder Belle, the architect firm behind the mall's expansion; included new tile floors, glass hand rails to replace the originally wooden rails, modern ceilings and new landscaping. The renovation also calls for extensive remodeling of the food court, with the addition of new fixtures as well as new restaurants. Through these efforts, General Growth made the Natick Mall's interior mirror that of its forthcoming expansion.

The work was officially completed on November 17, 2006, when the mall held a grand reopening celebration. In the process of renovating, the word "Mall" was also dropped from all official references, as the mall picked up a new identity as "Natick". However, this name would be extremely short lived. By mid-January, controversy had begun to brew over the new name. Many feared that long-term, confusion would grow between the town of Natick and the retail complex Natick. This was taken to the next level when the mall attempted to copyright its new logo which included the word Natick. In an effort to appease the town, the complex temporarily changed its name back to the Natick Mall on January 18, 2007 while beginning the search for a new name. Finally, on February 20, 2007, General Growth announced that the facility's permanent new name would be their second choice all along, Natick Collection.

On March 4, 2007 at 10:00am, J.C. Penney held a soft opening of its new store at the Collection, in tandem with the new Parking Garage F adjacent to the store. On March 9, the store held its official grand opening with six other stores nationwide.

With the grand opening of the Natick Collection's expansion on September 7, 2007, the size of the mall exploded to 1.7 million sq. ft., with six anchor stores (Macy's, J.C. Penney, Lord & Taylor, Neiman Marcus, Nordstrom, and Sears) and over 270 individual retailers.

My Pictures: August 21, 2007

Cheesecake Factory under construction

In early 2007, General Growth proposed constructing "The Promenade", a small lifestyle center component, in the parking lot between Macy's and Lord & Taylor. With The Cheesecake Factory needing a MetroWest location badly (at the corporate level, the company had been criticized for lacking a location in such an affluent area), the restaurant was rushed through the Planning Board and will be the first component of the lifestyle center when it opens October 18th.

My Pictures: December 13, 2006

New JCPenney from access road

The east side of the future J.C. Penney store, formerly Macy's (1996-2006) and Jordan Marsh (1994-96), as seen driving down the new temporary Natick Mall Road. An interesting detail of the store is the "entrance from nowhere" that is visible in the picture. Those doors, of course, led to the former Parking Deck B; it's unclear what will happen to the entrance as J.C. Penney prepares to open.

New JCPenney side view

Here's a view of the west side of the future J.C. Penney, with the still-intact bridge to Parking Garage A. The notices on the store's doors indicate that the building is, for the time being, a "hard hat zone". Penney's gutted much of the interior of the store, and is currently working to renovate the interior of the three-floored building to their specifications. One feature of the store will be a Sephora "mini-boutique".

Another side shot of JCPenney

The northwest corner of the future J.C. Penney, along with the side of the new six-level Parking Garage F. Check out that accent lighting along the side of the store; hopefully they can come across some new lightbulbs before the store opens in three months.

My Pictures: November 17, 2006

Renovated food court

The food court was one of the areas of the mall that was renovated in 2006. New metallic accents, decorated columns, and luxurious tones help to set the mood for the clientele that Natick seeks in the future. The chairs and stage are there for Natick's grand re-opening ceremony; you can see a full gallery of photos from that event here.

Where the old and new malls meet

The wall behind the elevator which says "Unique." will serve as the point where the existing mall and its expansion will join in September 2007. The elevator will be razed to make the expansion a bit more awe-inspiring, while that small portion of the original (1994) railing will be replaced as well.

Penney's to mall connection

The walls ahead temporarily cover the entrance of the future J.C. Penney, which will open in March 2007.

Mall entrance to the new Macy's

This is the mall entrance to the new Macy's (formerly Filene's). No labelscar is visible, however. Hopefully the forthcoming renovations to the Natick Macy's will bring about a more stunning entrance.

My Pictures: June 18, 2006

The new Macy's store at Natick

Here is the new Macy's store at the Natick Mall, in the space that has long been the home to Filene's. Hopefully there are exterior renovations slated for this store; it's a noticable downgrade from the old Macy's store that is slated to become J.C. Penney. At the least, you'd think that they could powerwash the building!

Aerial Photo: circa 1995

Aerial photo of the Natick Mall

This picture is from 1995, one year after the Natick Mall was completed. The three parking garages are very clear from the photo, as well as the four anchor stores. Going clockwise from the northwest corner, are Parking Garage A, then the future J.C. Penney, rectangle-shaped Parking Garage B, Sears on the right side of the photo, then Parking Garage C below it. Finally, there is Lord & Taylor to the left of the garage, and on the left side is Macy's. Parking Garage B and the Wonder Bread factory just north of it was where the mall's 2007 expansion was constructed, creating a curved corridor going essentially from the Lord & Taylor, through the since-demolished parking garage and factory.

Media: Photos of Natick Mall Signage, Photos of Natick Mall Parking Garage Construction, Video of Natick Mall (1966) Demolition, Picture of Natick Mall (1966) remains from this site, Picture of parking garage B from this site, Picture of Natick Mall construction from this PDF, Interior Photos of the Natick Mall (1966-2006), Natick Grand Reopening Press Conference and Expansion Tour

Related Links: From Wonder Bread to the Natick Collection 2007 Expansion, General Growth Properties, Natick Collection at GGP.com, America's Premier Shopping Places, Natick Collection at Labelscar: The Retail History Blog.

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