Wonder Bread to the Natick Collection 2007 Expansion
330 Speen Street, Natick, MA, 01760
Facility built: 1964
Stage: 2004-2007. Construction continues on Nouvelle component.
Facility opening: September 7, 2007
stores in former: Wonder Bread factory, Wonder Bread factory store,
TechCommons of Natick.
stores: Nearly 100, with Nordstrom and Neiman Marcus. See
mall website for full list.
MetroWest, Neiman Marcus To Open At
Natick Mall, Construction of State's First
Nordstrom Underway, Natick announces plans
for grand opening gala, Tiffany to Open Store in
Natick, Massachusetts, Sel de la Terre Brings a Taste
of Provence to Natick, Natick Collection Announces Charity
Partners For Grand Opening Gala, Natick
Collection, New England's Premier Trendsetting Marketplace, Set To Open
In September 2007, Nordstrom
Opens First Store in
Massachusetts at Natick Collection, The Cheesecake Factory Opens in Natick,
Chocolate Co. Opens First East Coast Chocolate Cafe, Abercrombie & Fitch Hosts
Investor Tour at Its First Gilly Hicks Store
of the Natick Mall was transferred in December 1995, when Cedar Rapids,
IA-based General Growth Properties (GGP) announced the acquisition of
Homart Development (a division of Hoffman Estates, IL-based Sears,
Roebuck and Co.) for $1.85 billion. The acquisition was the largest
real estate acquisitions in American history, and resulted in General
Growth's subsequent relocation to Chicago. The mall
during this time, but by the start of the new millennium, it became
clear that the center could support a wider variety of retailers. For
the most part, MetroWest shoppers
left the mall for Newton
early-1990s had returned, but the dot-com boom brought a new
upper-middle class to MetroWest that sought more upscale shopping.
While retailers previously exclusive to Newton like Abercrombie &
Fitch now had Natick outposts, tenants such as The Cheesecake Factory
and J. Crew were not to be found; nor were Newbury Street-type stores
like Burberry and Gucci.
for General Growth,
the 240,000 sq. ft. Wonder Bread bakery located directly north of the
vacant. Wonder Bread served as an important contributor to the local
the factory opened in 1964, but as the years went on, the outdated
the rising cost of doing business in Massachusetts
led to the closure of the Natick
factory in September 1999, as operations were relocated to a new
factory in Biddeford, ME.
A sale of the property to Providence-based "Leach Family Holdings"
failed, which would have created retail on the site. Instead, the
factory wound up in the hands of Scarsdale, NY-based development firm
"TechCommons", which did minimal interior work in fall 2000 to convert
the building into a telecom hotel, known as "TechCommons of Natick".
However, the facility was a complete flop, never exceeding 50%
occupancy, and in early 2002 the property was placed back on the market.
the summer of 2002,
General Growth scheduled a meeting with the Natick Planning Board to
discuss the future of the Natick Mall, but the meeting was cancelled as
the company was not ready to make a presentation.
meeting would eventually take place in late September 2002, where GGP
giant announcement concerning the future of the mall. General Growth
expand the Natick Mall onto the land of the Wonder Bread factory, into
new upscale wing that would include upscale restaurants and boutiques
addition to two new anchor stores and a boutique hotel. This expansion
Natick Mall would be modeled after General Growth's Tysons Corner
located in McLean, VA; an upscale suburb of Washington, D.C.
the course of the following
year, General Growth's plans evolved considerably although they
much under wraps. By March 2004, announcements were becoming constant
in local newspapers, although they were with several changes to the
plan. While there would still be two anchor stores as well as various
restaurants and boutiques, the plan for a hotel was scrapped. This was
of the stumbling economy at the time, and with the realization that
already an excess of hotels in the area, including the adjacent Hampton
the newly-built Courtyard by Marriott. In lieu of the hotel, General
would instead construct two 8-floored condominium towers, which would
people to live in luxury at the mall.
slowly came along
as the mall debated with the Natick Planning Board over the proposed
Throughout the approval process, traffic continually came up as the
issue. General Growth also kept quiet about potential tenants for the
Then, on May 24, 2004; Nordstrom announced that they would become one
of the new anchors, utilizing a two-floored, 144,000 sq. ft. building
to create their first store in Massachusetts, which would open in late
2006 or early 2007. That announcement was followed on July 1, with the
announcement that the mall would also include a 100,000 sq. ft. Neiman
Marcus, which would open its doors in spring 2007. At this time, the
rest of the expansion was slated to include 4
upscale restaurants and 65 other retailers.
mall nearly gained approval
on June 30, but ongoing debates regarding landscaping and public
held up the approval process. At last, at 1:00am on the morning of July
2004, the Natick Planning Board voted to approve the addition to the
Mall. In the coming days and weeks, that approval would turn out very
Many groups soon became
the mall's expansion. One group that displayed distain with the plans
Town of Framingham;
specifically, the Framingham Planning Board. The Board was
that the mall's expansion would add significantly to traffic in
Framingham, specifically at the Rte. 30/Speen St. intersection and
various intersections on Rte. 9. While Natick received $3 million in
initially received nothing. While General Growth and the Town of Framingham
agreed to meet, the two sides were unable to negotiate. Therefore, on
the Framingham Planning Board announced that they would appeal the mall
expansion on the basis of traffic.
Framingham quickly gained company. Federated Department Stores, which
owned Macy's, chose to appeal the project based upon General Growth
breaching a clause in their lease. The lease between Federated and
General Growth in regard to the former Macy's/currently J.C. Penney
building stated that anchor tenants would have a say in any mall
expansion. Further, Federated also cited customer safety, claiming that
additional traffic on Natick Mall Road in front of the store would
cause issue with customers trying to access the store's parking lot.
Shortly after, a third
appeal was filed
of Nolan Brothers, which owned the adjacent self-storage complex on Speen Street
on the basis of traffic. With this many appeals, the future of the
expansion appeared grim.
of the mall expansion would be delayed, General Growth was eager to
on the mall. Although the Wonder Bread factory had closed nearly 5
earlier, the building was still standing. Alas, on September 28, 2004,
company held a gathering for former Wonder Bread employees atop Parking
B. Following a luncheon (including Twinkie sushi, amongst other
several speeches, an excavator hit the factory and the building began
demise. By Thanksgiving, the Wonder Bread factory had become a relic of
time to settle the
many appeals, General Growth filed plans in mid-November 2004 to
connector building between the Natick Mall (1994) and the new wing. The
connector, which would contain no retail, would become part of the
mall, and the mall saw it as at least some progress to get the
As it turned out, the connector would never be built before work began
entire project. However, the plans for the connector soon developed
General Growth would determine as Phase I of the mall project.
that a lot of the
opposition to the mall derived from the residential component of the
General Growth redefined their plans for the mall in January 2005 by
the construction into two parts. Phase I would include the retail
the project, including the Neiman Marcus and Nordstrom, and Phase II,
completed at a later date, would consist of the condominium towers and
connector to the existing mall. By not connecting the expansion to the
mall enabled GGP to denote the Natick Mall Expansion as an entirely
mall, which allowed them to get around the first part of the Federated
people on the Natick
Planning Board showed opposition to the new plans, with the biggest
being the changed road layout in the new mall plans. Another problem
mall plans were the local bicycle coalitions, who continually demanded
mall not be approved without a connection to the "adjacent" rail
trail. Unfortunately, the rest of the rail trail was located across the
busy Speen Street.
Despite suggestions such as a crosswalk connection and an overhead
connection, the coalition demanded the construction of an underground
with the opinion that many of the upscale shoppers served by the new
would want to bike there.
"pedestrian-friendly" feature that was added to the mall plans were
an overhead walkway going across Flutie Pass
and connecting the
new mall to a vacant space between Parking Garage B and Macy's, and the
would likely be connected to both of the above. The coincidence in the
was that with a direct connection between the inside of the mall
the inside of Macy's, Federated couldn't really complain about customer
time around, General
Growth scheduled a public hearing with the Framingham Planning Board in
February 2005. The Planning
Board was overall satisfied with the company's latest plans, and it
became clear that a resolution could eventually be made between the two
groups. But as the mall
toward approval, it gained one more party in opposition.
owner of Filene's and Lord and Taylor, appealed the initial expansion
reasons: parking concerns, pedestrian safety, and traffic. May had
superior rights, however, as unlike Federated, they owned the Filene's
building outright. However, May's abrupt appeal, which was strange
largely because of the company's prior concession, was even more in
question with the announcement that Federated would acquire May in
February 2005. Regardless, with three of the mall's four anchors
opposed to the project (and the fourth likely too involved in the
creation of Sears Holdings to comment), would the expansion ever happen?
news for General Growth was no better from its two future tenants.
Nordstrom and Neiman Marcus gave General Growth a 45-day ultimatum: if
the mall was not going to be complete
end of 2007, then the two stores would be freed from their contracts
be able to look elsewhere in MetroWest for vacancies. Fearing the death
of the project, the
Planning Board was forced to make a premature vote on Phase I of the
Mall Expansion. It passed with a 4-1 vote on March 14th, 2005; but
considering the widespread opposition, it seemed unlikely that it would
there was light at the
end of the tunnel. Framingham was not
give up easily, especially seeing how much money Natick was able to pull out of GGP.
signed a deal with GGP for a total of $1.04 million in mitigation money
exchange for dropping the mall appeal.
talks in place with
Nolan Brothers, Federated, and May, none of which had appealed the
plans, General Growth Properties was granted permission to construct
after the appeals process ended on April 5, 2005 at 5:00PM.
slated to begin in July 2005, with the grand opening for the mall
expansion to take place in fall 2007. After several delays, the
groundbreaking for the project took place on August 30, 2005, with
General Growth officials flying in for the ceremony. Just a few days
earlier, Federated agreed to drop its appeal of the overall project
pending its merger with May.
I complete, GGP proceeded to unveil plans for Phase II, the residential
component of the project in May 2005. Condominiums would be available
in one, two, and three bedroom variations. 15% of the housing would be
considered affordable housing, and the construction would consist of
two 80-foot towers, each with 8 stories. The mall was also faced with
the issue of constructing a tunnel beneath Speen Street to appease
advocates of the nearby Cochituate Rail Trail. Rail Trail officials
were satisfied with the proposal of a $100,000 stream-cover tunnel, but
mall officials found the design unattractive, and found that an
attractive tunnel would cost upwards of $4.8 million dollars.
met little general opposition from the Natick Planning Board, but the
decision was made to take approval of the overall project, not design,
to town meeting. On October 11, the Natick Board of Selectmen voted to
pass an article regarding the project: were Phase II to be approved at
the next Town Meeting, General Growth would be obligated to pay an
additional $11.5 million in mitigation money, with up to $500,000 more
if the affordable component of the project were to be built at a
different site in Natick. And that was exactly what happened on October
27, with an overwhelming vote of approval for constructing a
residential component on the Wonder Bread site.
months of meeting with both the Natick and Framingham Planning Boards,
General Growth was given final approval for the construction of 215 condominiums,
located in both a 120 foot 12-story south tower, smaller 10-story north
tower, and 9-story connector building, as part of the mall's expansion
on March 2, 2006. While GGP initially planned to open Phase II in
tandem with the rest of the mall, delays have put off the expected
opening of the condos to late 2007 and early 2008, with the planned
hotel following some time after that.
residential project at last on track, construction continued throughout
2006 on the retail portions of the project. Out of the leveled site
that once housed Wonder Bread, steel began to rise for the project.
With construction on track for Neiman Marcus and the rest of the mall,
construction on the expansion's largest anchor began in May 2006 as
Nordstrom took control of their pad. On October 4th, with construction
of Phase I at its peak height, a topping-off ceremony was held as
construction workers in tuxedos set the final piece of steel into place.
2006, the future name of the parcel also began to make the rounds. The
name "Natick" was chosen to envelope both the existing and new malls,
and General Growth chose to make the mall's symbol a large script "n",
citing Nordstrom, Neiman Marcus, and the residential project, Nouvelle.
With both malls under the name Natick, the new components of the
project on the Wonder Bread site became known as the 2007 Expansion.
Growth also worked to renovate the interior of the existing mall and
many of the exterior entrances during
2006, and by November of that year, the work was complete. To mark its
completion, a fashion show and press conference were held on November
17, featuring speeches by the CEO of General Growth Properties, the
mall's general manager, and the chairman of the Natick Board of
Selectmen. But the morning was not only devoted to the existing mall:
Growth used the opportunity to announce several of the tenants slated
to open at Natick. The official list released during the conference
consisted of Louis Vuitton, BCBG, Stil, a relocated Coach store,
Lacoste, Oakley, The North Face, J. Crew, Zara, Johnston & Murphy,
Martin + Osa, and Teavana.
2007, General Growth held a topping-off ceremony for the mall's
"Nouvelle" residential component, marking that steel on the 12-story
south tower had marked its peak height.
legal threats from the town of Natick, the mall and its under
construction expansion were renamed the Natick Collection on February
20, 2007. At that time, the mall also named Betsey Johnson,
Anthropologie, Hanna Andersson, Puma, and Burberry as tenants in the
expansion. Those would be followed up exactly one month later with the
announcement that Tiffany & Co. would also become a tenant. On
April 17, Sel de la Terre announced details regarding their new
restaurant at the Collection, and named Daniel Bojorquez head chef.
proceeded through 2007. In late May, signage was installed on the
Nordstrom building. The project received some visibility when, in its
June issue, Boston Magazine held a photo shoot at the expansion's
construction site. Also in June, the Food Network taped an episode of
"Dinner Impossible" at the construction site, where a chef was
challenged to create a lunch for 1,000 construction workers out of two
Salvation Army canteen trucks. Meanwhile, the future tenants of the
expansion had begun advertising job openings by the start of the
summer, effectively bringing the names of the tenants public. On July
4, Calvin Klein announced that they would open a 13,000 sq. ft. store
in the expansion in either October or November.
construction also brought about substantial mitigation in regard to
roadways. In May, work began on two project. General Growth rebuilt
Speen Street between Cochituate Road and Hartford Street, repaving the
surface and installing new sidewalks, in addition to an entirely new
Hartford St./Speen St. intersection. The Town of Natick also began work
to rebuilt Speen Street from Hartford St. to W. Central St. using mall
funds, repaving the surface and adding new sidewalks with granite
curbing. In August, a sidewalk was installed connecting the Natick
Collection with the back of the Cloverleaf Mall; essentially, this
served at the Cochituate Rail Trail's extension to the mall.
a July 11th Natick Planning Board meeting, General Growth's Jim Grant
acknowledged that not all of the stores in the expansion would be open
by September 7th, and that some may not be opened until after the
holiday season. Town planners questioned whether the mall would really
be ready for a September opening, with interior construction continuing
through the holidays as a result. Ultimately, on August 8, 2007, the
Natick Collection expansion was granted a Temporary Occupancy Permit,
allowing stores to bring employees in to get shelves stocked. Also in
early August, new directional signage was installed around the
property. While most of the 1994 signage was ripped out and replaced
with temporary signs during the construction process, this replacement
process pulled nearly all of the remaining signs, including the large
letters "A" and "C" on the parking garages.
In the days
leading up to the grand opening, a number of grand opening parties were
held. Nordstrom held a gala on September 5th, complete with fashion
shows, international designers, and bands. And on September 6th, the
Natick Collection held a party for itself, expanding on the themes of
hip, luxurious, inspired, and unique. Finally, on the morning of
September 7, 2007 at 10:00am, the doors to the new facility finally
opened to the public. About 70 percent of the stores in the expansion
were open, the largest being Nordstrom. Neiman Marcus was forced to
push back their opening by a week, but the store opened on September
15, a day after a gala of its own.
openings continued through the fall and the holiday season, with some
of the biggest names including Gucci and Ralph Lauren set for early
2008 openings. On January 22, Abercrombie & Fitch will open the
first location of it's fifth retail concept, Gilly Hicks, in the Natick
UPDATED: January 19, 2008
My Pictures: Taken August 21, 2007
attempt to better market the Nouvelle at Natick project, a large banner
facing Route 9 was placed at the top of the property. At this point,
sales have been slow, but the opening of the mall corridor is expected
to greatly improve numbers.
Marcus store at the Natick Collection will be the first suburban store
in Massachusetts and only the 39th store in the company. To the right
of the store is "Nouvelle Way", a new street that will connect Speen
Street with the rotary near J.C. Penney.
in front of the mall allows for a much more appealing streetscape, even
if it does limit visiblity of the mall itself.
Nordstrom store, as seen from Speen Street. Interestingly, the entire
"Ruby" parking deck is actually suspended: beneath it is 30 feet of -
well - nothing.
attached to the Nordstrom building reads: "Hi FasHion: Opens September
7th at 10 A.M."
oversized 'n' logos have been placed around the property, replacing the
older, New England-inspired Natick Mall entrance signs.
My Pictures: Taken December 14, 2006
there are 9 months until the grand opening, it appears almost as if the
Nordstrom could open any day now (unfortunately, the interior is
substantially less complete than the exterior). The signage on the
front indicates that the location will be Nordstrom #100 when it opens
My Pictures: Taken June 18, 2006
construction has come a long way since the last set of photos. Steel is
in place, and most of the retail portion of the site has its framework
in place. At the time this photo was taken, Nordstrom had yet to put up
anything on the future site of their store. Their pad is located not
far back from the green fence.
construction as seen from the Natick Mall parking lot. Off the camera
to the right is the pad of Neiman Marcus, for which construction has
begun. The residential component will rise high above what my camera
can see, but work on that portion can not be seen.
My Pictures: Taken June 11, 2005
the Macy's store from where the Wonder Bread factory's bays were
located. These bays were connected to railroad tracks (owned by CSX)
that are currently being turned into a rail-trail. Information on the
rail-trail, a highly-debated issue of the mall expansion, can be found here.
This is a
portion of the green signage hung outside the mall's lot. It reads, "A metamorphasis is coming. Neiman Marcus
and Nordstrom. One of New England's premier retail destinations."
begins to pile up, while no trace of the factory, other than the
pavement, can be seen.
portion of the factory was were employees working at the factory would
park. It is located off of Flutie Pass, close to both Macy's and the
corner of Parking Garage B.
My Pictures: Taken October 15, 2004
Pictures: Taken May 8, 2004
Media: A picture of
site, Renderings of the Natick
Collection 2007 Expansion, Natick
Reopening Press Conference and Expansion Tour
Related Links: From the Natick Mall (1966) to the
Natick Mall (1994), Natick (2006), Natick Mall (2007), and Natick
Collection (2007), Can General
Luxury Malls?, What Opened
When at the Natick Collection?, TechCommons,
Growth Properties, Natick
Collection at GGP.com, America's Premier
Shopping Places, Natick
Collection at Labelscar: The Retail History Blog.