Much to the dismay of tenants and neighbors, there is no light at the end of the tunnel for the Nobscot Shopping Center.
"That property is not being developed at this time." said Terri Desjardins, property management spokesperson for Centercorp Retail Properties, owners of the longtime, almost vacant plaza.
In fact, a visit to Centercorp's Web site featuring properties the company is actively marketing doesn't mention the once bustling plaza on Water Street, now home to a handful of retailers, a pharmacy and a bank.
The plaza, and merchants in the plaza, have endured almost four years of major road construction, as well as the dwindling number of storefronts.
Paul Ashton, owner of Annie's Book Store, is dismayed by the set of circumstances.
"The bank is leaving the plaza next year, and Centercorp is not very forthcoming about any future plans," he said. "Having all the roads around us dug up for the past 3-4 years, putting in new water and sewer mains and resurfacing, none of that helped us."
"We're surviving, but not very well." Ashton said. "We're just hoping against hope that we get our clients back, even as the nearby diner and Gerard Farms both close their doors."
Ashton had a brisk morning coffee business at the store, and when people make changes to their commuting habits, it's a challenge to get them back.
Scott Sullivan from Trinity Optical, another of the few remaining tenants, agreed with Ashton that the situation has been difficult.
"The developers haven't told us anything; and a number of really excellent prospective tenants have applied for spaces here, and have been turned away, which is puzzling," Sullivan said.
"We've been fortunate in being recognized as the number one or number two optical shop in Framingham for four years running, which has helped us attract new clients." Sullivan added. "So we're still able to pay the bills."
Both Ashton and Sullivan have questions about whether the Centercorp having to neutralize soil, contaminated many years ago prior to Centercorp's purchase of the plaza, might be having on the development of the center. They both understand that soil was contaminated by a self-service laundromat over a decade ago, and Centercorp has been cleaning up that situation. They both question what will be the direction for the developer, once the decontamination process is completed.
Desjardin confirmed that Centercorp continues the process of cleaning up the site, but wouldn't comment beyond that.
"We're not leasing at this time, and we're not developing the plaza at this time, and that's all I have to say." Desjardins said.
Town officials are willing to assist Centercorp, if possible.
"We've indicated interest in working with the developer," said Framingham Economic Development Director Alison Steinfeld. "However the town is not in a position to force them to do anything."
"The company hasn't shared anything with us in terms of what they have in mind, and there is limited financing available to them right now," she said. "There may not be sufficient retail demand in that part of town to attract another grocery store, or other major retailer."
Framingham is engaged in developing a new Master Plan, and that process may generate some suggestions.
Until then, or until Centercorp makes a decision to move forward to develop the center in some way, it appears the few remaining merchants at that Plaza will have no additional neighboring businesses to bring additional traffic to the center, she said. And, those buildings will simply remain empty.