Tuesday, March 2, 2010

LOCAL NEWS: Lowe’s to try again on Hub store

But New Balance also has plans for Brighton site. After stalling out last year, the home improvement giant Lowe’s is again trying to build its first store in Boston, on property along the Massachusetts Turnpike in Brighton, aiming to preempt a competing plan for a larger mixed-use development by shoemaker New Balance.

Site of the proposed Lowe's store
A Lowe’s executive said the company will file a new development plan with the city in the next few weeks for a 145,000-square-foot store between the turnpike and Guest Street, just below the major crossroad of Market Street. The home improvement company hopes to begin construction later this year.

“We’re ready and eager to start building,’’ said a Lowe’s spokeswoman, Maureen Rich.

The company signed a development agreement with the property owner in 2007 but was unable to win city approvals because of residents’ concerns about traffic and other issues.

Meanwhile, New Balance, whose headquarters is next to the proposed Lowe’s, is floating plans for a larger development on the property that would include an expansion of its offices, a park, housing, and additional commercial space. New Balance built a corporate headquarters on Guest Street in December 2000.

A New Balance spokeswoman declined to comment in detail, saying the company plans to offer its development plan during a Feb. 24 community meeting.

“We have a broad vision for the future of the Guest Street area that includes transit-oriented, phased, and sustainable development,’’ said the spokeswoman, Amy Dow. “We look forward to engaging in dialogue with the residents of Allston-Brighton.’’

The parcel is about 10 acres, and Lowe’s would use of about 8. The property owner, David Wanger, said he is trying to interest New Balance in using 2 acres.

“There could be a mixed-use project here where all three of us are involved, and we hope there will still be an opportunity to pursue that vision,’’ said Wanger, president of Marathon Realty Corp., of Newton.

Although it’s unclear how much land New Balance needs, it appears to be far more than the 2 acres Wanger is offering. The property owner said his agreement with Lowe’s remains intact, and he expects the retailer to move forward with building its store.

State Representative Michael Moran, a Democrat, said New Balance has outlined a 20-year plan to add another office building, a large park, housing, and commercial space.

Executives have also talked about building an outdoor skating rink and a movie theater in the area.

The plan depends in part on whether the state builds a commuter rail station that New Balance and others are seeking for the neighborhood. Moran said transportation officials are reviewing possible locations but have not said when they will decide.

As for the Lowe’s, Moran said he opposes construction of the store, citing continued concerns about traffic. “It wasn’t a good idea in 2008, and it’s not a good idea now,’’ he said.

Lowe’s said it will spend $1.7 million to upgrade traffic signals and intersections and will improve pedestrian access.

“We’re heard the residents loud and clear that traffic is the primary concern,’’ said Rich, the company’s spokeswoman. She added that details about its plan to improve transportation will be released in coming weeks.

Rich said Lowe’s, which opened its first Massachusetts store in 2000 and has 27 locations statewide, wants to start construction this year, creating about 200 construction jobs and 175 permanent positions when it opens.

Casey Ross Boston Globe February 16, 2010

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