NATICK MALL
Worcester Road and Speen Street
Natick, Massachusetts

The second fully-enclosed mall in Greater Boston was developed by S.R. Weiner & Associates. NATICK MALL occupied  a 52-acre parcel at the intersection of Worcester Road (State Route 9) and Speen Street. The site was located 16 miles southwest of center city Boston, in suburban Natick.

Consisting of a single level of retail, the shopping center was built between two freestanding department stores. A 2-level (256,000 square foot) Sears had been dedicated March 17, 1965. A 2-level (140,000 square foot), Boston-based Filene's opened its doors August 6 of the same year.

NATICK MALL debuted, with twenty-five stores and services, on April 27, 1966. The complex encompassed approximately 606,000 leasable square feet and, when fully-leased, contained thirty-five tenants. Charter stores included Pray's Furniture, Fanny Farmer Candies, Brigham's Ice Cream, Parklane Hosiery and a (37,200 square foot) F.W. Woolworth 5 & 10. A (32,200 square foot) Star Market grocery store was a west parking area outparcel.

The SHOPPERS' WORLD mall (1951) was located less than a half mile west, just over the Framingham corporation line. Other nearby retail venues included MALL AT CHESTNUT HILL (1974) {10.4 miles northeast, in Newton}, ATRIUM MALL (1989) {10.2 miles northeast, also in Newton} and, eventually, SOLOMON POND MALL (1996) {12.1 miles northwest, in Marlborough}.

After the shuttering of the NATICK MALL Pray's Furniture, its space was taken by Boston Baby. This store opened for business on November 8, 1971. It morphed into Playmart in the mid-1970s and was shuttered in 1979.

Adjacent stores were gutted, with a 35,000 square foot space created. This was configured as a North Wing of twenty-two stores and services. These included The Lodge of Harvard Square and The Gap. A 4-bay Food Court, with a small, skylighted seating area, was also installed. The new wing was dedicated in September 1980.

In the early 1990s, the NATICK MALL Filene's was expanded into a 210,000 square foot store, with a new facade built on two sides. A grand re-opening was held November 1, 1991. Chicago-based Homart Development bought NATICK MALL and the adjacent SHOPPERS' WORLD in May 1992.

The two shopping hubs would be completely redeveloped, one after the other. Tenants at NATICK MALL moved into vacant space at SHOPPERS' WORLD. In June 1993, the NATICK property was then demolished, with only its Filene's left standing.

A new, 1.1 million square foot, bi-level structure was erected. In addition to Filene's, the mall-to-be was anchored by a new 2-level (190,000 square foot) Sears, 2-level (115,000 square foot) Lord & Taylor and 3-level (210,000 square foot) Jordan Marsh.

This was a new location for the Jordan's "dome store" at SHOPPERS' WORLD, which had opened in 1951. The new NATICK MALL store was the eighteenth unit in the chain and would turn out to be the last Jordan Marsh ever built.

The new and improved NATICK MALL was officially dedicated October 12, 1994. Encompassing 164 stores and services, the 150 million dollar center, now the dominant mall in Boston's MetroWest suburbs, included an 11-bay Food Court and three parking garages. Chicago's General Growth Properties acquired the assets of Homart Development in 1995, adding NATICK MALL to its property portfolio. The mall's Jordan Marsh was "Macy-ated" on March 31, 1996.

With the new shopping center occupying all available space on the land parcel, GGP decided to purchase the 16-acre Wonder Bread baking plant, on the north side of the property. The 283,000 square foot factory, built in 1964, was demolished in September 2004, in anticipation of a major expansion of NATICK MALL.

After a great deal of controversy and community opposition, work on Phase One of the expansion got underway in early 2005. The first phase of the bi-level addition encompassed 550,000 square feet. Two anchor stores were built; a 2-level (144,000 square foot) Nordstrom and 2-level (112,000 square foot) Neiman Marcus. There were eighty inline stores in all.

The north parking structure of the circa-1994 mall had been demolished. It was replaced by two underground parking decks; these built beneath the new North Wing. A sixth parking structure was built northwest of the complex.

The official grand opening of the Phase One addition was held September 6, 2007. Neiman Marcus and Nordstrom opened September 15. The mall now encompassed 1,705,000 leasable square feet with over 270 stores and services. It assumed the position of largest shopping center in New England.

During the construction process, two anchor store rebrandings had taken place. On September 9, 2006, Filene's was "Macy-ated, resulting in the vacancy of the old Jordan Marsh building. This store re-opened, as a J.C. Penney, March 4, 2007.

Another heated controversy erupted when GGP bestowed a new name on the shopping center. It became known as simply "NATICK" on November 17, 2006. The city of Natick, concerned about the confusion that would result with a similarly-named city and shopping mall, implored the proprietors to cease and desist. The center's official name reverted to NATICK MALL on January 18, 2007. An all-new designation, NATICK COLLECTION, was unveiled February 20, 2007.

A second phase NATICK COLLECTION expansion was completed in the spring of 2009 and entailed the addition of two 12-story, NOUVELLE AT NATICK condominiums. The two hundred and fifteen unit, "luxury living project" was to be the first mixed-use residential development directly connected into a retail mall. Unfortunately for developers, the $389,000 to 1 million dollar units became a casualty of The Great Recession. In late 2009, some were auctioned for as low as $160,000 apiece.

Construction on the PROMENADE AT NATICK COLLECTION, a third expansion phase, had got underway in 2007. Cheesecake Factory, the first component of the open-air Streetscape addition, welcomed its first diners in October 2007.

After a short delay, the remainder of the addition was built. It was dedicated in October 2009 and housed American Grill Boutique & Bistro, Moosejaw Mountaineer, California Pizza Kitchen and an expanded and reconfigured Crate & Barrel. The shopping hub now encompassed 1,860,000 leasable square feet.

A fourth -and final- phase of expansion would entail construction of a 12-story luxury hotel, which would be situated east of J.C. Penney. Although the beginning of construction was planned for early 2011, it never got underway.

Alas, the name bestowed on the complex in early 2007 was abandoned in July of 2011. The retail hub was to be known, henceforth, by its original moniker...NATICK MALL. The Streetscape would now be officially known as PROMENADE AT NATICK MALL.

J.C. Penney shuttered their NATICK MALL store on August 28, 2015. The space was substantially renovated. A 2-level (125,000 square foot), Rochester, New York-based Wegmans supermarket opened for business on April 29, 2018.

Brookfield Property Partners, based in Hamilton, Bermuda, acquired a share of General Growth Properties in 2016. In August 2018, Brookfield established 100 percent ownership of the corporation. Hence, NATICK MALL became part of the Brookfield retail center portfolio.

Lord & Taylor at NATICK MALL went dark on February 27, 2021. The twenty-six-year-old store was shuttered as part of the dissolution of the retail chain.

Sources:

The Boston Globe
C. Brickey, former "Mass" resident
"Original Natick Mall" video by "BlizzyTiger"
"Natick Collection" article on Wikipedia
"Framingham-Natick Retail / Justin Tardiff webmaster
www.labelscar.com
www.ggp.com