Submitted by Catherine Perry, Assistant Planner for the Town of Bedford
As most Bedford residents are well aware, construction is taking place in and around the town’s most centrally-located shopping center at 150-168 Great Road. Many people are curious to know what the end result will be, and to understand more about the thinking behind the changes.
The Bedford Marketplace Shopping Center dates from the late 1950s and although it is highly successful, with a set of popular tenant businesses both large and small, its buildings have aged and some aspects of the property’s design and layout have fallen behind modern expectations. In 2008 the then-owner proposed redevelopment/renewal with additional retail floor space.
The Planning Board conducted a review of the site plan and approved it with some negotiated improvements and conditions but, like many developments in the pipeline at that time, it did not proceed due to the severe recession that ensued. Under a new owner, Hamlin Development, the renewal plans were revived in 2014 with some changes including a reduction in the amount of additional floor space. The Planning Board reviewed the amendments to the site plan, and work began.
The Whole Foods supermarket façade and nearby parking areas have already been renewed as the first phase of the project. Improvements to the pedestrian walkway/patio in front of this and the adjacent Marshalls store (which comprise the bulk of Building A) are still planned, and will include bike racks and decorative planters. The Marshalls façade is currently being replaced.
The picture on the left shows a portion of the renewed parking area with new paving, curbs and landscape islands which make vehicle circulation clearer and safer, add greenery and shade, and reduce the amount of rainwater running off the surface after storms.
What is less visible is the fact that an extensive system of chambers that will retain and infiltrate stormwater back to the water table was installed beneath the surface, to better manage the effects that this kind of commercial use can have on flooding and pollution.
At the other end of Building A, next to Marshalls, the main addition to floors pace is being constructed. Proposed tenants are Lincoln Liquors (relocating and expanding from Building C on the Great Road frontage) and new restaurant Red Heat Tavern, with a potential third unit in between.
Currently there are two multi-tenant buildings near the front of the property, known as Buildings B and C. These will be torn down and replaced as part of the redevelopment. The picture above shows the new Building B being constructed next to the old one, on the site of the former postal sorting office. This construction sequence will minimize disruption to existing tenant businesses. Selection of new tenants for the various units, and lease negotiations, are a matter for the developer, Mr. Hamlin. So far, the line-up to occupy new Building B is believed to include Bank of America, B.Good, Subway, Hair Cuttery, Bruegger’s Bagels (relocating from Building C) and mattress store Sleepy’s.
Positioning the buildings closer to The Great Road will create a more interesting streetscape for pedestrians than having parking at the front, and also advertise the shopping center better to passing motorists. This is in line with guidance developed by the Planning Board and with aims expressed in the recent Comprehensive Plan. With Memorial Park directly across the road and the Narrow Gauge Rail Trail running through woodland on the west side, the center will be set in green surroundings, maintaining the pleasanter aspects of Bedford’s suburban character. It is hoped that the redeveloped area will provide a more fitting companion to Bedford’s historic town center than the former “strip mall” type of design.
This picture shows the front of old Building C and the poor condition of the current paving. The new Building C will be in a similar position but extending closer to The Great Road, so demolition will occur before new construction. Anticipated tenants here include Café Luigi (relocating from Building B), Brookline Bank and new toy store Learning Express.
The wider space between Buildings B and C under the new plan will allow creation of a landscaped island down the center, with seating, shade trees and a walkway. Other trees and shrubs will be planted in many spots around the site and on the road frontage.
As well as improved traffic circulation within the property, improvements are being made to intersections and entrances/exits on The Great Road with a financial contribution by the developer. The number of access points will be reduced from four to three. Routes for pedestrians into and across the site will be more clearly marked and connected. As a condition of site plan approval, the owner must keep clear the points where paths from Bedford Village residences and the rail trail enter the parking lot.
Signage for the shopping center and individual businesses is also being renewed, with approval being through the Zoning Board of Appeals.
Overall, the redevelopment represents major capital investment to revitalize a tired retail center, and it will add value to the property, generate revenue for the town, beautify an important part of our community, reduce environmental impacts and enhance the experience of the shopper.