Urbanizing the Suburbs: Retail's Integral Role in Reshaping the Landscape

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

Real Estate Indicators by HFF senior managing director James Koury and real estate analyst Tucker Burleigh in HFF's Boston office. 

Over the past decade, urbanization has emerged as one of the most impactful trends to hit the real estate industry. This trend, embodied by the live-work-play concept, has been embraced by all demographic cohorts, from millennials to baby boomers to even retirees. While the impact has been most visible in the urban core, Boston’s suburbs are also being transformed, and the inclusion of pedestrian-oriented retail into new and existing projects is playing the integral role. Modernized, high-traffic retail concepts now provide the coveted ability to work, shop, dine and entertain with the same convenience of downtown while being proximate to the region’s top bedroom communities.

The Polaroid Site, Waltham

Waltham is Boston’s top suburban office market; however, the biggest drawback had been a lack of real amenities. Sam Park & Company acquired Polaroid’s former headquarters and planned a 1.5 million-square-foot, mixed-use development, which includes Market Basket, Not Your Average Joe’s, Flank, Starbucks and Jake n Joes. The existing and improving amenity package immediately drew the attention of Clarks, which moved its American headquarters to a new 120,000-square-foot building on the site.

MarketStreet, Lynnfield

Once the Colonial Country Club, MarketStreet Lynnfield is now a mixed-use development that effortlessly incorporates 395,000 square feet of retail, 80,000 square feet of office space, a health club, hotel and 180 apartment homes. Anchored by Whole Foods, Legal C Bar and King’s, MarketStreet features a classic main street, town square and a village green to blend living conveniences, everyday necessities and workplace amenities.

The Point, Littleton

As one of the newest shopping centers in Greater Boston, the developer designed The Point from its inception to be the future of retail. The master-planned 540,000-square-foot development features a dynamic mix of uses, including dining and entertainment, retail, hospitality and Class A office, to drive cross-pollinating demand. Anchored by Market Basket, The Point is home to seven restaurants, four fitness concepts and a 12-screen movie theatre.

The District, Burlington

What once was a 1960s vintage, suburban office park has transformed into the hub of one of Boston’s best amenetized suburban locales. Following its acquisition in 2013, New England Executive Park was rebranded The District and expanded to include a mix of uses – namely six new restaurants, a hotel and a lifestyle space. The success of The District has spurred the injection of dynamic retail into the surrounding office parks as well as the demolition of existing structures in favor of a new wave of retail-centric mixed-use projects, including the Boston area’s first Wegmans grocery store.

Legacy Place, Dedham

Since the late 1950s, the 31-acre property had been owned by theater giant National Amusements, serving as the location of its original drive-in theater and its corporate headquarters. In 2009, the $200 million, 675,000-square-foot, mixed-use Legacy Place debuted. The project features more than 80 shops and entertainment venues the likes of which would normally be found on a city’s most fashionable boulevard. Anchored by Whole Foods, additional retailers include Apple, Soul Cycle, lululemon, Peloton, Pure Barre, sweetgreen, Shake Shack and Showcase Cinema de Lux. Perhaps the most telling accolade is that Amazon Books chose to open one of first locations in Legacy Place.

The Takeaway

The emergence of urban style retail in Boston’s suburbs is blurring the line between the definition of urban and suburban. Office tenants now have the same choices of where to shop or where to eat, be it downtown or Burlington. Apartment dwellers have the same type of pedestrian access to necessity-based retail destinations in Dedham as they do in Seaport. As the greater retail industry continues to evolve and millennials grow older, Boston’s suburbs will only be further urbanized with the new retail concepts leading the way.

Originally appeared in Northeast Real Estate Business magazine.

About James Koury

James Koury is a senior managing director in the Boston office of HFF with more than 30 years of experience in commercial real estate. His primary focus is retail investment sales throughout the eastern United States. During the course of his career, Mr. Koury has closed the sale of more than 235 shopping centers totaling more than $4 billion and 27 million square feet.

Mr. Koury joined HFF in September 2012. Prior to HFF, he was an executive vice president and partner at CB Richard Ellis. Before joining CBRE, he headed up the retail sales group in Jones Lang LaSalle’s Boston office for 15 years as national director of retail sales, closing such notable transactions as the $377 million portfolio of 18 northeastern grocery-anchored centers in 2007, the 1.4 million-square-foot portfolio sale of 18 Shaw’s grocery-anchored centers in 2001 and the 1.6 million-square-foot sale of the Stop & Shop portfolio in 1996. He is widely recognized as one of the first brokers in the country to focus solely on the sale of shopping centers in 1985.

About Tucker Burleigh

Tucker Burleigh is a real estate analyst in HFF's Boston office. He is primarily responsible for performing financial and market analysis, preparing offering documents and coordinating the due diligence process for both the investment sales and debt placement groups.

Mr. Burleigh joined the firm in October 2016. Prior to joining HFF, he interned in preconstruction management at CH Newton Builders while attending Williams College for his undergraduate degree.

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