Over the last 30 to 40 years, Natick and Framingham have been adjoining retail magnets for Massachusetts shoppers, but the Natick Collection hopes to become a tourist destination for those who travel just to shop.
Some people go swimming on their vacation, while others prefer shopping until they drop, and General Growth Properties Inc., the company behind the Natick Collection, wants to accommodate those die-hard shopper tourists with a luxury hotel.
Stay And ShopThe Natick Collection includes the revamped Natick Mall and an addition of more than 70 high-end retailers, including Neiman Marcus, Nordstrom and Juicy Couture. It is also home to several good restaurants like the Sel de la Terre and The Met Bar & Grill, with more to come.
It will also have 215 luxury condominiums in a high rise building near the Neiman Marcus store.
For the Natick Collection, the proposed luxury hotel would be at least two years away as plans must be presented to Natick town planners for their approval, and negotiations for the right hotel have to be concluded, according to Michael H. McNaughton, General Growth Properties' vice president of asset management.
"It would be the final piece to the venue," McNaughton said. It would sit to the rear of a streetscape area being created along Route 9. It would also sit amidst an eclectic group of restaurants that will open long before the hotel does, he said
"Each piece of the property will have its own identity," said McNaughton, who started the process of making over the Natick Mall more than seven years ago.
The area where the company hopes to add the hotel is McNaughton's favorite.
"It will be an oasis from all the vertically oriented activity. You'll be able to lie back from the hustle and bustle of arrivals and departures," he said.
It could also be a relaxing area for tourist shoppers taking a break between power shopping bouts.
Just as tourist shoppers take shopping trips to Minnesota's 4.2 million-square-foot Mall of America, McNaughton believes tourists will be attracted by a luxury hotel surrounded by great eats and fashionable clothing and accessories retailers.
Shopper On A Mission
Travelers have always shopped while touring, but traveling just to shop has risen steadily since the early 1990s, according to Carolyn J. Feimester, owner and president of CJF Marketing International, a marketing and consulting firm in N.J.
"In the early 1990s when I would contact hotels and go to conferences on travel and tourism, it was a real struggle to convince people to include your shopping center clients in packages. Now they come to us and ask if they can partner with us," Feimester said.
And Natick's shoppers would probably differ somewhat from those that go to the Mall of America because the Minnesota mall also has entertainment, such as a walk-through aquarium and a theme park devoted to the children's cable channel Nickelodeon. But even the Mall of America's proposed "phase 2" will include another 5.6 million square feet of mixed use that has retail, hotel, office, residential and entertainment components.
Mixed use projects like The Natick Collection are part of a growing national trend of projects that have different mixes of retail, office, residential and entertainment space depending on the property and the area.
At "The Yards" in Washington, D.C., a 42-acre former government site will house retail, office, homes and apartments; in Omaha, Neb., a project called Midtown Crossing will have 15-acres of retail, homes and apartments as well as an extended-stay hotel; and in Murietta, Calif., a project called The Golden Triangle will have 61-acres of office, retail, restaurant, entertainment, hotel and conference space.
The roof of the shopping center's new portion will also provide a roof garden with a putting green, plants and an entertaining area for the condominium residents.
The Natick Collection is now building a street scene area that parallels Route 9 and is perpendicular to the Lord & Taylor department store.
The first anchor in the new line of stores and restaurants is already up and open: a free-standing Cheesecake Factory restaurant.
"It will have a unique feel, one of a promenade," McNaughton said, pointing to the elaborate façade of the restaurant that will continue along that line of shops and eateries.
Helping to anchor the other end of the streetscape will be a two-story Crate & Barrel and other restaurants like Prime Blue Grill, a national chain started by a former Smith & Wollensky executive, which focuses on seafood and corn-fed beef that is free from antibiotics and hormones. The existing California Pizza Kitchen is being moved over so it will be closer to the promenade area.