On Thursday morning (1/4/07), Douglas Godine, the GGP Vice President and General Manager of Columbia, spoke at the State of Columbia Luncheon, sponsored by the Columbia Business Exchange. At this luncheon, he announced plans for expanding the Mall in Columbia. It is way too early to tell what this announcement really means, but it does show some initial similarities to a General Growth Properties project at Natick Mall
Although this announcement is not a complete surprise, it is disappointing. Over the last 18-months, GGP had appeared to be embracing mixed use, evidenced by the hiring of Tom D’Alesandro and a prominent presence at the Mixed Use Conference in November. This announcement of mall expansion is, in my opinion, a step backward.
I have since done some research on Natick Mall. Below are the numbers from General Growth Properties' website for Natick Mall and The Mall in Columbia:
Natick Mall: Boston
The Mall in Columbia: Baltimore/Washington
Type Of Center:
Natick Mall: Two-level, enclosed, super-regional
The Mall in Columbia: Two level, enclosed, regional mall
Natick Mall: Lord & Taylor, Macy's, Sears
The Mall in Columbia: Nordstrom, Lord&Taylor, Macy's, JCPenney, Sears, L.L. Bean, AMC Columbia 14
Number of Retail Stores:
Natick Mall: 170
The Mall in Columbia: 202
Total Gross Leasable Area (GLA):
Natick Mall: 1,156,000 square feet
The Mall in Columbia: 1,389,000 square feet
Number of Parking Spaces :
Natick Mall: 5,600
The Mall in Columbia: 7,200
Year Opened :
Natick Mall: 1966
The Mall in Columbia: 1971
Trade Area Profile (Demographics)
Natick Mall: 661,780
The Mall in Columbia: 783,799
5 Year Projected Population:
Natick Mall: 673,854
The Mall in Columbia: 844,023
Current Median Age:
Natick Mall: 38.9
The Mall in Columbia: 36.6
Current Average Household Income:
Natick Mall: $110,559
The Mall in Columbia: $89,439
In my opinion, these two malls have similar physical characteristics and the demographics of the surrounding area are similar. If Natick is the model, what can we expect? A recent Boston Globe article written by John C. Drake details the project, and the concessions made by General Growth:
General Growth Properties Inc., the owner of Natick Mall, is adding 100 luxury stores and restaurants, in a 550,000-square-foot expansion on the north side of the property at Route 9 and Speen Street, as well as 215 luxury condominiums. Developers aren't just adding size. They are adding swank and high style to the staid indoor mall of decades past.
The anchor Neiman Marcus storefront features a rolling gold sign that is inspired, designers say, by the folds of a women's skirt. The plaza where the old mall meets the new will feature a mezzanine "floating" above a water fountain. All around the expansion, birch leaves will hang from a glass skylight.
The mall's developers have been on the Planning Board's agenda for most of its meetings over the last 4 1/2 years. Jim Grant, vice president of development at General Growth Properties, has made the trip from Atlanta for each of those meetings.
The Planning Board's overriding concern has been making sure Natick is compensated for the impact the expansion will have on the town, officials said. "We believe that we've achieved the vast majority of mitigations that any municipality can expect to receive from a developer," said Julian J. Munnich, the board's chairman.
The developer estimates that for the retail and residential projects combined, it is contributing nearly $15 million toward road improvements, street signs, sewer improvements, and other town needs. In return for the right to build the 215 luxury condos, General Growth Properties will create $9 million worth of
affordable housing in Natick.
"I don't think, four years ago, we expected it to be that high," Grant said of the total mitigation costs. "In every case, we said, 'Gosh, this is tough, but we can live with this amount.' "
Natick would not have received the concessions "unless the town could show they had the wherewithal to be serious in its negotiations," Munnich said.
I believe there are some familiar themes that run through Natick’s experience and what would probably happen here Columbia. For a summary, the Boston Globe also published the following data in a separate article. Anybody have any thoughts?