For well over a decade, residents and visitors have shaken their heads while passing by the dilapidated and increasingly vacant strip mall. Why did such a property exist in one of the most affluent sections of Framingham, and for so long? The reasons are complex and have been discussed ad nauseum, with blame cast in various directions, ranging from the property owner to town, and then city, government.
And I'm willing to bet the project received much more oversight and scrutiny than the original Nobscot Shopping Center did before it was constructed in the 1950s. Back in the post-WWII suburban building boom, as open green space outside major cities was rapidly developed, drab, single-story, flat-roofed shopping centers fronted by large asphalt parking lots became ubiquitous in many towns, and there probably wasn't much resistance, since all of those new residents needed places to shop. Most of the other buildings constructed in the village in that era seem to reflect a similar lack of inspiration to build a coherent landscape with any unifying look, or the desire to value pedestrians as anywhere equal to the almighty automobile.
But we're in a very different era now. One where retail brick and mortar shopping areas have declined, and compete more and more with online shopping. Where there is a shortage of housing, and because of high prices, new developments are required to have a proportion of units designated as affordable, and increasingly, some also designated as "workforce" affordable -- a price point somewhere between affordable and market rate. Where the walkability of a community is considered as important as the ability to pack a lot of cars into parking spaces.
Will the reality of this redevelopment fulfill its expectations? Time will be the only true measure. Residents will probably begin to see progress within a matter of weeks, with all project approvals now in place and the spring construction season nearly here. Passerby have no doubt noticed that the Nobscot Office Building has been gutted and will be torn down soon to make way for a new CVS store on that side of the property, and the historic Nobscot Chapel has had some of its clapboards removed so the building sills could be inspected before it is moved to its new home at the vacant lot that was once the site of a Texaco gas station on Edgell Road. Also coming up will be the demolition of the supermarket segment of the shopping center building. It will probably be a year and a half to two years before the project is completed.
2020 will also see the beginning of the crucial and long-overdue reconstruction of the intersection of Edgell Road, Water Street, and Edmands Road, using funds from a state grant. And the very likely, though not yet approved, razing and rebuilding of the Gulf gas station and convenience store on the west side of Edgell Road, which will also be subject to the village district design guidelines.
Change is difficult for any community. But I'm willing to bet that once the proverbial and literal dust settles a few years from now, most people walking or driving through Nobscot village will be glad that the long-argued about changes finally came to fruition.