The realty firm hired to revitalize the Nobscot Shopping Center informed more than 100 residents Thursday night it is looking at boutique grocery stores like McKinnon's Market, Butcher Boy Market and The Meat House to bring the almost empty plaza back to life, not a large chain like Market Basket.
Jeff Bruk, of Wilmington-based Boylston Realty Advisors, said his firm was hired last fall by SuperValu Inc., and his making progress, albeit "baby steps" in repositioning the shopping center.
SuperValu leases the shopping center from owners Andy Rose and Mark Klaman of Centercorp Retail Properties.
Many in the audience were unfamiliar with meat market/grocery store suggested Bruk made. (Check out the uploaded videos on two of the stores suggested.)
McKinnon's Market, which opened its first store in Everett in 1945, sells meats, seafood, produce, deli, baked goods and groceries and the family-owned chain now has four locations in Massachusetts and New Hampshire.
Family-owned for three generations, Butcher Boy is a full-service meat market, which also stocks groceries, located in North Andover.
The Meat House is a national chain, with six location in Massachusetts, including Arlington, Brookline, Franklin and Walpole.
Bruk said a grocery store could be a "junior anchor" in the plaza, but said Market Basket, suggested a number of times by audience members, would be rejected by his client, SuperValu Inc. (There is a Market Basket on Route 126 in neighboring Ashland, too.)
Bruk said his client does not want a large chain, like Market Basket, to compete with its Shaw's on Route 20 in Sudbury.
Stan Berman, a Nobscot resident, asked his fellow neighbors to boycott that Shaw's.
Bruk said one of the other "junior anchors" could be the existing CVS store, as his firm is "sensitive to the needs of the existing tenants."
While Bruk suggested types of businesses with examples, he made it clear he could not release the names of any specific business or retailer they are in talks with.
"We have received proposals. ... We have started negotiations," said Bruk, who explained that even when a business signs a letter of intent it can take 2-4 months to finalize a lease.
Selectman Laurie Lee, a Nobscot resident, said she has been just as frustrated as her fellow neighbors over the years, but said Boylston Realty Advisors and Bruk are moving forward and looking to the future.
"Tonight we have a new beginning," said Lee. "This is a really big step for Nobscot."
Several in the audience were confused by the term "fast, casual restaurant," which was another suggestion for the plaza by Bruk.
Town Meeting member and Nobscot resident Kathy Vassar said she would love to see a "higher-end produce or bakery."
Rick Gallagher said he would like to see a gas station, as the one in Nobscot has no competitor and charges 13-15 cents more than stations on Route 9 or in South Framingham.
Suggestions of banks or donut shops by Bruk were not well-received by the audience assembled at Heritage Assisted Living, located almost directly across the street from the plaza.
Brett Peruzzi, the organizer of Nobscot Neighbors, suggested everyone stay involved in the process. He said large numbers like Thursday night will also be needed as the project progresses through Town Hall, including the Planning Board.
Bruk told the audience the property is not up to all current building code and that renovations would be needed. He said they are not considering a two-story plaza with offices or residences. Bruk said an architect and civil engineers has been hired, and there are plans to repave the parking lot.
If talks stay on pace, Bruk said construction could begin as early as spring 2013.
Present at the meeting also was Selectman Charlie Sistsky, a Nobscot resident, Selectman Dennis Giombetti, interim Town Manager Valerie Mulvey, Framingham Economic Development Director Allison Steinfeld, whom Mulvey appointed to be the point person for this plaza, and several other Town Meeting members.