Wicked Local Natick | By Jim Haddadin
August 24, 2016
FRAMINGHAM — The owner of Shoppers World received a key approval Tuesday from a town board, clearing a path for the company to erect a new seven-story building with apartments, shops and a bowling alley on Flutie Pass.
The Zoning Board of Appeals voted 3-0 to grant a pair of variances to Ohio-based BRE DDR Shoppers World LLC, which is seeking to construct a mixed-use building with 136 apartments on the property.
During a final public hearing Tuesday that lasted a little more than an hour, board members heard from more than a half-dozen residents. While opinions were mixed, many speakers said they believe the project marks a significant moment for the town, which has wrestled with how to create more housing and where it should be located.
The project also comes at a moment of change for Shoppers World, which sees mixed-use projects as crucial to its continued viability. With traditional brick-and-mortar businesses in decline, they argue, the shopping plaza is at an economic disadvantage if it cannot add housing to its property in the future.
Board member Susan Craighead agreed Tuesday, saying the town must adapt to the changing nature of retail sales. A mixed-use project would reshape the area, bringing in new customers and revitalizing a portion of the property that is now a parking lot, she said.
“It brings in livelihood to this,” she said, “and if we’ve got a chance to do it, I think we can do it. I think we’re within our rights to do it, and I think it’s a great project for the town and for the neighborhood.”