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Burlington Crossroads next in line for upgrade

Eight months after completing a nearly $15 million upgrade of Middlesex Commons, the owners are planning for another project in town that would help create an additional dining and shopping destination.

Edens is seeking approvals from the Planning Board to overhaul Burlington Crossroads, located at 34 Cambridge St. The estimated $7 million to $8 million renovations call for constructing a new parking lot; adding new landscaping, lighting, signs, and storefronts; and creating outdoor seating areas for Panera Bread and Outback Steakhouse  as well as new restaurants. There also will be interior improvements to accommodate the new restaurants and other retailers.

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Kristin Kassner, the town’s interim planning director, said that while the Planning Board will need to review the details, Edens is proposing the types of improvements “that will ensure their continued success as a viable, dynamic plaza that has good tenants . . . and offers a good place to shop for local residents and employees.”

The two Burlington shopping centers are among about 130 that South Carolina-based Edens owns along the East Coast, 18 of them in Massachusetts, according to Sam Judd, the company’s vice president of investment.

The company’s properties, which encompass about 17 million square feet of retail space, include shopping centers it has built and others it acquired. Middlesex Commons, at 43 Middlesex Turnpike, and Burlington Crossroads — which are about 3 miles apart — were developed in 1974 and acquired by Edens in 1998.  

Nearly all of the firm’s centers are anchored by grocery stores, with Market Basket filling that role at Middlesex Commons, and Roche Brothers  at Burlington Crossroads. Judd said the company also tries to “match up the retail at each shopping center to the community where that shopping center is based.”

When it purchases existing centers, many of which are aging, Edens looks for opportunities to upgrade their facilities, according to Judd. Currently, the firm is improving about 500,000  square feet of space in its Northeast region, with another 600,000 square feet, including Burlington Crossroads, in the planning stages.

Judd said that Edens had been planning a project at Middlesex Commons for some time, in part based on its location.

“We think Burlington is a . . . super regional market. You’ve got a large critical mass with the Burlington Mall and then significant other retail surrounding the mall. And its proximity to [Interstate] 95 and Route 3 makes it a great retail destination,” he said, also citing the area’s “big daytime population and a highly educated population.”

He said the departure of major tenants in recent years from the 242,510-square-foot Middlesex Commons also made this a good time to improve, pointing to the closure of Home Depot Expo Design Center in 2009 as part of the chain’s nationwide shutdown of its Expo stores, and Linens ‘n Things in 2008 after it went bankrupt.If approved by the Planning Board, the project is targeted to begin in April and be completed by the end of 2013.  

“We had a significant amount of space that we could reposition . . . that spurred us to do the redevelopment,” Judd said.

Three new restaurants have opened at the Commons: Five Guys Burgers and Fries, the Chateau, and Burtons Grill, all of which have outdoor seating.

“Especially with the daytime population, adding some restaurants was a very important part of this project,” Judd said.

The retrofits also provided for more than tripling the size of Market Basket, and the addition of new retailers, including The Paper Store, Nordstom Rack, and DSW.  

“We had a very positive experience with Middlesex Commons, both with the town and the . . . increased sales we saw when we finished,” he said. “Burlington Crossroads was the obvious next step for us in the same market. We felt making some of the same improvements would help us increase sales for our tenants . . . and bring in retailers more in line with what the Burlington community is seeking.”

Judd said the planned change in the tenant mix for Burlington Crossroads would include the addition of a high-end wine store to replace Ethan Allen  — which plans to relocate in the spring — and two family style restaurants. He said the firm also is in discussions with several more formal restaurants and other new retailers.

Because there are no available liquor licenses in town, he said some restaurants would not be able to locate at the Crossroads immediately, but the project would involve retrofits to accommodate them when licenses open up.

John Laidler can be reached at laidler@globe.com.
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