2006-12-18, 11:44

Mixed use and its detractors in older town centers

By: Jonathan Groner
Some mixed-use developments are called "town centers" because they attempt to replicate the traditional retail downtown and to avoid the features of the sprawling shopping mall. But in some areas, mixed use is facing opposition from store owners in ... actual, historic town centers.

An interesting Dec. 9, 2006 article in the Boston Globe discusses what it calls "lifestyle centers," which readers of this blog will identify as quite congruent with the mixed-use concept. The article discusses new centers in old towns like Dedham and Reading, Mass. It begins:

They've been celebrated for shifting somewhat the design of shopping destinations away from automobile-oriented malls to pedestrian-friendly streetscapes that encourage window shopping and strolling.

But in Greater Boston these re-imagined downtowns are competition for some real downtowns. The Derby Street Shoppes in Hingham and planned lifestyle centers in Dedham and Reading are just a few miles from the traditional downtowns of those communities.

"We're hoping people will still want to go to the original," said Peter H. Reynolds, the owner of the Blue Bunny children's book and toy store in Dedham Square, and head of the local merchants' association.

Scheduled to open in 2008, the Legacy Place lifestyle center in Dedham would be a short drive down Route 1 from downtown. In addition to about 70 national retailers and more than a half-dozen restaurants, the center will have a 16-screen movie theater, the flagship for media giant and Legacy Place developer National Amusements, which will have its corporate headquarters on the site.

The article goes on to ask whether the 16-screen multiplex will crowd out a traditional two-screen theater in Dedham. The full article is at http://www.boston.com/realestate/news/articles/2006/12/09/downtowns_vs_lifestyle_centers/

So it seems that in some cases, small business owners and supporters of small-town nostalgia can be active opponents of mixed-use development. Quite interesting.


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