As a large backhoe took the first swipe at demolishing a building, officials at MathWorks officials kicked off the company's $100 million Natick expansion Tuesday morning.
Plans call for MathWorks to increase the space at its Apple Hill Drive campus by about 180,000 square feet, on top of the 400,000 square feet the company already occupies there. The company expects to add about 600 jobs to the 1,500 employees it already has in Natick. Plans call for tearing down one building and constructing a new four-story office with an accompanying parking garage.
"This is really for the future of the company," said Jack Little, MathWorks president and CEO, after the event.
For years officials at MathWorks have known they wanted to expand the company, both in terms of office space and employee count. The only question was where that investment would happen.
Little said several options were considered as a site for expanding, including real estate inside the Route 128 belt and even out of state.
But in the end, "we really wanted to stay here (in Natick)," he said.
When the state agreed last year to pay for about $1.3 million worth of road improvements to Route 9 as part of a Massachusetts Opportunity Relocation and Expansion (MORE) grant, the company came to agreement with Natick planning officials and the project was approved.
"We really need to support these types of companies that are making major investments in the commonwealth," said Gregory Bialecki, secretary of Massachusetts Executive Office of Housing and Economic Development.
Specifically, the $1.3 million MORE grant will pay for the design and implementation of a U-turn near the MathWorks facility on Route 9. MathWorks is paying for some other improvements along Route 9.
Even with the state's support of the project, however, the company still needed approval from of Natick's planning board for the project to proceed. That approval came last year.
Natick Selectman Joshua Ostroff said abutting neighbors were worried about the increased traffic and noise.
However, he added that town and company officials worked to ease the impact of construction. The project adjustments include a commitment to improvements on Route 9 and partially submerging the parking garage underground.
"This is ultimately a good deal for the town," Ostroff said.
MathWorks enlisted Spagnolo Gisness & Associates of Boston to design the project and Cranshaw Construction of Newton to build it. Officials expect construction to be complete by 2012.
During Tuesday's event, which featured Little, Bialecki, state Sen. Karen Spilka, D-Ashland, and state Rep. David Linksy, D-Natick, MathWorks employees also showed off a ballista, which is a large crossbow-like device.
MathWorks employee Eric Ludlam created the device, which measures 21 feet wide, to launch pumpkins. He demonstrated the device by hurling chunks of ice at a portion of the building marked for demolition. The first two strikes hit a brick wall while the third chunk of ice went straight through a glass window.
Later, a large mechanical claw grabbed hold of the brick building and tore out a portion of the wall.
Watch video of ice be pummeled through the air by a catapult and a claw begin to tear down a building as part of an event at MathWorks in Natick on Tuesday.