The Natick Mall was born as a middle-class outpost of Sears appliances and Keds, grew into a gilded McMall for the affluent, and is now returning to its original purpose. Despite renovations and the addition of upscale stores, “The Natick Collection,’’ the moniker chosen by General Growth Properties to rebrand it as a high-end retail and real-estate oasis in recent years, never really fit its Route 9 locale. So it’s appropriate, and even a little comforting, that the company is now discarding that name in favor of the tried-and-true Natick Mall.
It’s hard not to see General Growth’s attempt to spiff-ify the mall as a symbol for the excesses that led to the recent real-estate downturn. Things got off to a bad start when General Growth proposed to call the newly rebuilt shopping community “Natick,’’ as if the plan were to usurp the identity of the town in which it was situated. “The Natick Collection’’ was only a slight improvement. It wasn’t a shock to many who live along Route 9 when plans to sell high-end condos attached to the mall fizzled, with most of the properties going at auction in 2009 rather than for their asking prices of up to $1.7 million. Along the way General Growth filed for bankruptcy.
So it’s back to the Natick Mall now, with Louis Vuitton and Sears co-existing in easy harmony, and where patrons of both can compare purchases over greasy pizza slices from the food court. Nothing wrong with that.