Wegmans, restaurants break ground in Burlington

Evidence of a planned mixed-use redevelopment project in Northwest Park in Burlington will soon be visible as construction of a new Wegmans supermarket and a series of restaurant and retail buildings starts.

Nordblom Co., which controls the land in the 285-acre business park off the Middlesex Turnpike, is converting part of Third Avenue and surrounding streets in the park into an urban-style retail and restaurant center that will also include housing.

State and local officials recently joined Nordblom for a groundbreaking ceremony to mark the start of the first phase of the 3rdAve development, which includes the planned 140,000-square-foot Wegmans and 160,000 square feet of restaurant and other retail space.

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Rochester, N.Y.-based Wegmans will build its own store, scheduled to open in 2014, while Burlington-based Nordblom will carry out the other construction. Site work has started on both projects.

Gregory Bialecki, state Secretary of Housing and Economic Development, attended the Oct. 16 groundbreaking, which also celebrated completion of $4 million in infrastructure work carried out with a $2 million state MassWorks Infrastructure grant that was matched with $2 million from Nordblom.

In a second phase of 3rdAve, Nordblom plans to construct a 200-unit apartment building on Second Avenue, with demolition and site work to begin early next spring. The two development phases are estimated to cost more than $110 million.

Ralph Patuto, chairman of the Board of Selectmen, said Burlington welcomes the redevelopment.

“Everyone is upbeat about what is going on there,” he said, noting that the projects will generate additional property and meals tax revenues for the town. He said the town is also pleased that Wegmans chose Burlington.

“Wegmans is a well known and very respected corporation,” he said. “They do a nice job presenting their products and it’s a great anchor for the Third Avenue development.”

Patuto pointed out that Burlington has been able to attract new development at a time when growth remains slow in other communities.

“I believe it’s because of our location on 128, Route 3, the Middlesex Turnpike, and also the amenities that are already here,” he said.

Northwest Park encompasses a more than 50-year-old original section, as well as land on Network Drive that Nordblom acquired in 2007 from Sun Microsystems, which is now part of Oracle.

Nordblom worked with the town some years ago to craft a long-term vision for reenergizing the business park, which led to the rezoning of 130 acres of the original, southern section of the property; 3rdAve would be the first concrete realization of that plan.

Nordblom officials said the project is intended to make Third Avenue into a kind of “urban boulevard” akin to Boston’s Newbury Street and Somerville’s Davis Square.

“The whole effort is to make Northwest Park ground zero for where every high-tech company wants to grow and expand,” said Douglas Wynyard, Nordblom’s senior vice president, noting that such companies like to be in places that offer a full range of services and amenities for their employees.

Nordblom this past summer demolished five buildings and leveled the land at the Wegmans site, at the corner of Third and Second avenues.

Wegmans is about to begin its own site work, and will construct the store next year, according to company spokeswoman Jo Natale. The project also calls for an 800-car garage.

The family-owned supermarket chain has 81 stores in six states. A year ago, Wegmans opened its first Massachusetts store, in Northborough. In addition to the Burlington project, it is building a store in Newton, and is seeking final approval for a store in Westwood.

“Our Northborough store has exceeded our projections, so we are very happy to be doing business in the state of Massachusetts,” said Natale. “We think this will be a great location and a great project to be part of.”

She said the Burlington store will be among Wegmans’s largest. Among its features will be a Market Café with stations offering varied prepared foods, and indoor and outdoor seating for diners.

The store will have about 150 full-time and 450 part-time employees. Except for 50 full-time managers who will transfer to the store, all will be new hires.

Other parts of Nordblom’s project will house six full-service restaurants and other retail businesses located from Wegmans east to the Middlesex Turnpike. Nordblom is in talks with prospective tenants that include a high-end steak house, a high-end American grill, and a brew pub, Wynyard said.

Nordblom is also renovating an existing Second Avenue building to house a King’s restaurant and bowling alley.

The recent infrastructure work involved reconfiguring and widening Third Avenue, and installing sidewalks, traffic lights, street lights, and utilities.

The planned 200 apartments, 10 percent of which will be affordable, are scheduled for occupancy in summer 2014.

Even as 3rdAve gets underway, Nordblom this summer demolished a building on Fourth Avenue to make way for up to three new 150,000-square-foot office buildings. It also completed infrastructure work in that area with the help of a separate $1.5 million MassWorks Infrastructure grant.

Nordblom is marketing the planned office campus, with the intention of constructing the buildings to suit the needs of tenants, according to Todd Fremont-Smith, Nordblom’s senior vice president of development.

“It’s one of the very few places on 128 now where major corporate users can consider new campuses,” he said.

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