Finding the dirt on Natick is getting really easy these days: Just look at the piles of it at any of the countless construction projects underway in town.
Many of the projects promise to boost housing opportunities, some even at affordable rates, alongside new retail space for restaurants and other businesses at a time when the town is reworking its rules to make setting up shop in Natick more attractive.
As Select Board member Paul Joseph said during a discussion on parking at this past week’s meeting, “A reminder to the community: Downtown Natick is going to look completely different in 5 years. It’s exciting…”
We were surprised to hear hammers banging and motors whirring at 7 Washington St., this morning, the site of what’s been marketed as The Flats, a retail and apartment complex in between the Morse Institute Library and Agostino’s restaurant. A hardhat-wearing construction worker sporting an SMS Property Services shirt confirmed what I could see—that a crew was working on the skeleton of a new building that’s been silent since near the start of the year.
Permits for 7 Washington St., have been issued in recent weeks by the town to SMS for dirty work like opening the street for sewer and water connections. An expired building permit for the project issued to a previous owner is now annotated with a note that “This property is tax delinquent.” (We reached out to the Natick Building Department and SMS for clarification on where permits and the project stand.)
Yay, more building permits, more revenue for the town, lower property taxes for us all. OK, let’s not get carried away on that last part.
We were told in April by a rep for The Flats that “The project hit several delays and was sold for $9.5M. Construction will restart in the coming weeks.” Weeks turned into months, but at least it appears to be finishing the year strong.
The project is on its way to becoming a new structure with retail on the ground floor and 4 levels of apartments above, with off-street parking. The Planning Board in March of 2020 gave its blessing to the project, including a site plan and special permit, at the Natick Mercantile Building. A 7-19 Washington Working Group had studied the project, where Bruno’s barber shop (now on Pond Street), Kentucky Spirits, and others once operated. The old building was demolished at the start of last year.
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1 South Main St. (The Block)
The rejuvenation of the Washington Street project is happening alongside the start of work on The Block project at 1 South Main St., across from Natick Common. That structure, too, if the Planning Board bites, will offer retail and residential space. Tune in on Nov. 29 for an update at the Planning Board meeting.
Stonegate double dips
Developer Stonegate, meanwhile, is busy both on a mixed-use project with underground parking at 21 Summer St, across from TCAN, and at the former St. Patrick’s school property on Rte. 135.
Stonegate and partner Nauset broke ground on the St. Patrick’s redevelopment over the summer, with plans for residential units and retail, plus some underground parking. Tentative completion: Winter 2025.
69 East Central St.
We could keep going, too. Head east on Rte. 135 to the intersection of Union Street, and you can see that the old Santandar bank building isn’t long for this world. Guys have been atop the building in recent days prepping for the end. The Natick Fire Department even has been doing training in the building until it is demolished.
Plans are in the works for 69 East Central to become a multifamily housing and retail mixed-use facility adjacent to Morse Tavern.
St. Benedict school
Keep going up Union Street and you’ll be greeted by the future home of St. Benedict Classical Academy at #89. The private school looks to begin its 2024-2025 year at its new home, the former site of Winona Farm.
Natick Community Organic Farm
Keep going! Keep going!
OK, our final stop will be at Natick Community Organic Farm, hanging a right at the bottom of Union Street onto Eliot Street. Reader Rick Devereux kindly shared these fresh pictures of the new barn, which replaces the one that burned down in 2021.
A recent update from the farm: “A good portion of the major work on the barn has been completed, including window installation, solar panels, internal carpentry, concrete floors and several coats of linseed oil for weatherproofing. The next big steps we will be taking include finishing up installing the electrical systems and lights, regrading the area around the barn, and receiving and installing our greenhouse, which will include heat to help us extend the growing season.”
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