In the greater Boston area, over just the past decade, a whole new kind of neighborhood has been popping up. From Ink Block in the South End to the Seaport of Boston and Assembly Row in Somerville, it’s no secret that retail developers are evolving with the times by shifting their focus from traditional shopping malls to integrating retail into new and dynamic mixed-use developments offering housing, retail, entertainment, office space, parking and more.
But no two cities are alike. Successful developers are in the business of staying ahead of the trends in how and where people want to shop, which in turn maps them back to how people want to live, work and play.
A number of major players in the area, including Wilder, have deconstructed the key elements unique to Boston that converged into the making of these new greater Boston neighborhoods.
Across the country, there’s a great deal of retail space that’s become available as a result of brick and mortar store closings. Most of these old centers have desirable locations, so it really comes down to a matter of them needing to be repurposed.
There’s tremendous opportunity to recreate neighborhoods and bring in housing, office space and hotels that change the dynamic of the market.
Talent Attracts Business
Boston is firing on all cylinders and we’re all able to take advantage of the ecosystems for growth. We have an abundance of highly educated talent; meaning major companies in education, healthcare, science, and technology are flocking to the area. This drives a need for more office space, which subsequently leads to more employees needing a place to live.
That place has to offer the amenities and conveniences wanted by largely millennial workers and specifically, accessibility to their workplace as well as a wide variety of contemporary retail, dining and entertainment options.
Wilder and development partner, Boylston Properties, recently opened Arsenal Yards in East End Watertown, a redevelopment of the former Arsenal Mall.
The project includes retail, restaurants, fitness, office space, apartments and condos as well as a 150-room hotel. Seeing the success of tenants like Target and Home Depot, both top performers, we discovered that consumers were driving from nearby towns to shop here.
We’re also seeing this in markets like the South Shore. For example, in Hanover, plans to redevelop the Hanover Mall into a neighborhood with housing, entertainment, dining and shopping are being discussed with the town. A plan has also been approved to add 300 apartments and a hotel to the South Shore’s Kingston Collection.
One strategy that we are beginning to recognize as a trend among developers in the area, is curating local tenants to enhance the already culturally-rich communities in which they are revitalizing.
For example, at Arsenal Yards we selected Roche Bros. as an anchor tenant over larger national grocers because they’re established within the community. Likewise, Rhode Island’s Condesa Restaurante Mexicano has chosen to open their first Massachusetts location at Arsenal Yards.
Edens, the company behind Dorchester’s South Bay, an 11-acre expansion including a 475-unit apartment building, shopping and a movie theater, has also recognized the local community by engaging blacksmiths, mural artists, carpenters and metal workers to create custom works that preserve both community and city history.
Our prediction for the future is that we are going to start to see a lot more developers fine-tuning their offerings and working to cater to the wants of urban young professionals in ways that are unique to their city. Despite all the talk about the death of retail, that’s not happening. Developers are evolving in highly creative ways; the market is changing and we’re seeing some great neighborhoods and experiences emerge as a result.
With over 25 years’ experience leasing multiple property types throughout New England, Kerry Dowling is leading leasing strategies, merchandise mix recommendations, and executing lease deals on properties throughout the Wilder portfolio.