Leish lives about a mile from Shoppers World and walks in the area, but said it is difficult.
“You’re constantly walking vast distances between parking lots to get to things,” he said. “There are ways to do it without getting killed, but it’s not that pleasant. The current development pattern encourages you to drive everywhere.”
Leish acknowledged that his agency’s plans are long term. And, although developers were asked for input, he said, planners were unable to talk to some current landowners.
Officials at DDR Corp., the Beachwood, Ohio-based real estate company that owns Shoppers World, did not return a call seeking comment.
While many of the proposed changes are dramatic, there is a precedent for seismic shifts along Route 9.
Before Shoppers World was made into the U-shaped haven for big-box stores that it is today, it featured two levels of shops surrounding an open courtyard and connected by walkway bridges.
Michelle McElroy, who writes the blog This is Framingham (www.thisisframingham.com), called the old design “awesome” and said she misses it.
“Parking was on the outside,” she said. “On the inside, you didn’t have to worry about getting hit by a car because it was all pedestrian. The parking lot in the middle thing is just wrong in all sorts of ways. It’s dangerous, it’s inconvenient. It’s an ocean of parking.
“I think the traffic’s just going to continue to grow,” McElroy added. “If they can design it to accommodate that increase in traffic, I think that would be great.”
Patrick Reffett, Natick’s director of community development, lauded the smart-growth approach, but called the development of cross-highway buildings colossally expensive, and said some of the regional plans probably will not come to pass within his lifetime.
“Although they may seem like long shots, you’re looking at what the most beneficial design would be,” said Megan Jop, planning director in Wellesley.
“Even if you got fifty percent of that, that’s going to be a better design than what’s there.”
Calvin Hennick can be reached at email@example.com.