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Forever 128

Counting on corporate appetites

New restaurants aim for office crowd

The options off Route 128 include Aquitaine in Dedham’s Legacy Place. The options off Route 128 include Aquitaine in Dedham’s Legacy Place. (Joan Wilder for The Boston Globe/File)
By Scott Van Voorhis
March 31, 2011

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Where there are hungry software designers and biotech researchers, restaurants are apt to follow.

From Burlington to Dedham, restaurateurs are opening new eateries or teaming up with developers of office projects along the Route 128/Interstate 95 corridor.

“Many of the towns along 128 are underserved in terms of restaurant uses,’’ said Robert Buckley, senior partner at the law offices of Riemer & Braunstein in Burlington, who works with developers in the area.

One example is Waxy O’Connor’s, which opened in December not far from Exit 31B in Lexington and about 2 miles from Shire Pharmaceuticals’ fast-expanding campus.

The Irish-themed pub, which took the place of a fine-dining Italian restaurant, is intent on carving out a niche as a destination for business lunches and after-hours meetings among the corporate community.

The bar has 10 flat-screen TVs broadcasting every game, notes owner Ashok Patel. The busiest nights are Wednesday through Friday, when the workweek is humming, he said.

“We get a lot of the after-work crowd as well as a lot of people who are here on business from out of town,’’ Patel said.

To the north, Burlington’s sprawling office and retail sector is heating up again, though it never really cooled down all that much, according to Buckley.

Nordblom Co. is getting ready to roll out a major expansion, which comes as the amount of empty office space along Route 128 falls steadily. The expansion, in the developer’s Northwest Park property in Burlington, could total up to 2 million square feet of additional retail and office space, and will include new restaurants as well, Buckley said.

Another restaurant concept, in turn, is gearing up to take the place of Dandelion, a longtime Burlington eatery that recently closed, he added. But topping it all are plans for a 43,000-square-foot Dave & Buster’s where a closed car dealership now stands.

The proposed entertainment and dining pavilion would stand at the entrance to Burlington just off Route 128. Part of a national chain, Dave & Buster’s pitches itself as both a family entertainment venue and a location for corporate meetings.

Partly because of its size and hard-to-miss design, the Dave & Buster’s proposal has sparked a series of contentious public hearings in Burlington. The project remains under review by the Planning Board, with no decision expected before May, said Kristin Hoffman-Kassner, senior planner for the town.

There are big restaurant plans along other parts of 128 as well.

Developer Sam Park is pushing ahead with long-stalled plans to redevelop the Polaroid site in Waltham, with his proposed office complex slated to include restaurants as well.

And Newton Centre has seen three restaurants catering to the business crowd open up over the past few months, said Joe Halpern, with the Newton-Needham Chamber of Commerce.

The Deluxe Station Diner has moved into the historic Union Street train station, while the former Pie Bakery has taken out a liquor license and, after a renovation and expansion, reopened as the B Street Restaurant & Bar. Panera Bread also has a location up and running, Halpern noted.

In Dedham, Legacy Place features an array of restaurants, especially handy for the hundreds of office workers at the complex, including Aquitaine, P.F. Chang’s China Bistro, Wicked, and the Yard House.

Restaurateurs’ optimism about a growth in corporate customers is backed up by a recent report showing a decline in empty office space along some of the corridor.

The Route 128/Mass. Pike submarket, which includes Needham, Newton, Waltham, Weston, Wellesley, and Dedham, saw the office vacancy rate drop to 17.3 percent in the fourth quarter of last year, from a peak of 19.3 percent in the first quarter, Colliers International reports. The vacancy rate in the Route 128 Northwest market, which includes Lexington and Burlington, rose slightly, going from 19.3 percent to 19.4 percent, according to the report.

Detours for bridge work As construction ramps up again on the Winter Street bridge project in Waltham, late-night travelers on Route 128 can expect to hit some detours.

Nighttime highway detours — from 10:30 p.m. to 5 a.m. — began this week and are expected to extend into the end of next month, according to the 128 Business Council.

Motorists headed north get off at Exit 27A and onto Wyman Street before getting back on the highway at the Exit 27B ramp. Those traveling south should take Exit 27B onto Winter Street heading west before getting back on the highway at Exit 27A.

State transportation officials still expect the Winter Street bridge to be finished in late August, according the council.

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