One of the problems with being car-free is that parking minimums and automobile-oriented planning have resulted in important retailers, like grocery stores, being located in pedestrioan-unfriendly shopping centers distant from places where people live. While in Boston Star Market was always good about its locations, it’s still true for most grocery stores, though changes are being made — Trader Joe’s has a location in Back Bay that can only be reached by foot or transit, their store in Brookline is in Coolidge Corner right on the C line and 66, Roche Brothers has opened a store in Downtown Crossing and plans another in Brighton Center while Stop and Shop has created Bfresh in Allston Village and Brighton Center.
But The MetroWest Daily News, via MA Smart Growth on Twitter, reports that the Shoppers World shopping plaza in Framingham has received approval to add a seven story, 136-apartment building on part of their parking lot.
The project also comes at a moment of change for Shoppers World, which sees mixed-use projects as crucial to its continued viability. With traditional brick-and-mortar businesses in decline, they argue, the shopping plaza is at an economic disadvantage if it cannot add housing to its property in the future.
While far from making Route Nine a car-free city, the project could single a beginning in the Boston area for suburban areas to reinvent themselves with mixed-use, walkable districts.
Two floors of the Providence Arcade, the first indoor shopping mall in the country, dating to Victorian times, were converted into micro-apartments in 2013.
One final thing to note is that the new residential development will be worth twice as much in tax revenue to Framingham, with all those wide roads, than a new retail development approved at the same meeting.