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BURLINGTON

Retail plans in motion for Northwest Park

Nordblom looking beyond Wegman’s

A rendering of the planned 3rd Ave project.

Nordblom’s plan to transform part of Northwest Park in Burlington into an urban-style retail and restaurant center is picking up steam with construction of a Wegman’s supermarket set to start this fall and permitting for the rest of the development underway.

Known as “3rd Ave,’’ the plan calls for, in addition to the Wegman’s, construction of 165,000 square feet of retail, restaurant, and potential office space along part of the Third Avenue section of the business park off the Middlesex Turnpike.

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Nordblom’s goal is to make the recently widened avenue a kind of “urban boulevard . . . more along the lines of what you would see if you went to Davis Square, or Porter Square, or Newbury Street,’’ said Douglas Wynyard, Nordblom’s senior vice president.

“We are trying to activate the street with a high-energy theme,’’ he said, “with 18-foot-wide sidewalks, period lighting. We’re putting in a small park.’’

The Planning Board last year granted permits for the 140,000-square-foot Wegman’s, which is to be built at the corner of Third and Second avenues. Burlington-based Nordblom, which controls the land within the park, has begun preparing the site for the store, work that will include demolishing five existing buildings.

On March 1, the board is set to resume a hearing into Nordblom’s special permit request for the rest of the development, the area from Wegman’s east to the Middlesex Turnpike. That plan involves razing seven buildings, constructing 10 new buildings, and renovating one, according to Anthony Fields, the town’s planning director.

If all goes well, Nordblom hopes to break ground on that remaining portion of the development about when construction of the Wegman’s begins this fall.

The overall project, including Wegman’s, is targeted for completion by the fall of 2013.

The 285-acre Northwest Park encompasses a more than 50-year-old original section, and land on Network Drive that Norblom acquired from Sun Microsystems in 2007 and now calls Network Drive at Northwest Park.

Nordblom for some years worked with the town to develop a long-term vision for reenergizing the business park, which formed the basis of a rezoning of 130 acres of the original, or northern section of the campus.

The 3rd Ave development would be the first concrete realization of that plan, which may ultimately include housing, a hotel, and new office space, in addition to the retail and restaurant area.

Fields said the application now before the Planning Board is “consistent with the vision presented to Town Meeting and it seems to be progressing at a reasonable pace,’’ referring to the hearings and staff review of the plan.

He said the overall changes that Nordblom hopes to bring to the park over time are positive ones.

“The whole concept behind this redevelopment was to take a homogenous industrial park and create a mixed-use village, and the pieces as they are unfolding and the things I anticipate to be coming in the future are leading us in that direction,’’ he said.

“To be able to propose this in this economy I think is not just a positive for Burlington, it’s a positive for the Commonwealth as a whole,’’ Fields added.

The state helped advance the 3rd Ave project with a $2 million infrastructure grant to the town in 2010 for improvements to Third Avenue.

Nordblom covered the required local match for the project, which included the widening of the avenue, the addition of a roundabout at the corner of Second and Third avenues, and planned landscaping.

Last December, the state announced a separate $1.5 million infrastructure grant to fund improvements on Fourth Avenue, where Nordblom recently demolished a building to make way for its planned future construction of up to three new office buildings.

Wynyard said the 3rd Ave development is intended to provide the kind of shopping, dining, and entertainment opportunities that will help local companies in Northwest Park attract and retain employees.

“We have this vision of what we need to add to the park to make it absolute ground zero for companies to locate here,’’ he said.

In addition to Wegman’s, 3rd Ave will include a King’s restaurant and bowling alley, provided King’s is able to secure a special permit it is now seeking from the Planning Board.

Wynyard said Nordblom is in active talks with other prospective 3rd Ave businesses, including “half a dozen restaurants.’’ He said the combination of Wegman’s and the restaurants will provide a “culinary theme’’ for the street.

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