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West

Forever 128

Progress, at long last, lifts profile of Waltham’s 1265 Main

 A recent view of the former Polaroid site shows progress on 1265 Main’s first phase.

Kayana Szymczak for the Boston Globe

 A recent view of the former Polaroid site shows progress on 1265 Main’s first phase.

All that construction going on at the old Polaroid campus along Route 128 in Waltham is about to shed its long-held status as the biggest project you’ve never really heard of.

Glitzy new projects along the 128 corridor like the Street Chestnut Hill and Chestnut Hill Square in Newton and Northwest Park in Burlington have garnered their share of attention and then some.

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But after years of flying under the radar, amid financing delays, the demolition of old buildings, and the relocation of power lines, the redevelopment of the sprawling Polaroid site — dubbed 1265 Main, matching the property’s street address — is poised to gain wider attention as its first buildings start to rise alongside one of New England’s busiest highways.

A 120,000-square-foot office building with a sleek, European-inspired design is fast taking shape, as is as an upscale-looking Market Basket that is being touted by project officials as a new “flagship” for a chain maybe best known for its low prices and friendly, no-frills atmosphere.

There are plans for shops and restaurants along tree-lined streets and even a “town square” in the middle of it all, with the project being pitched to tenants as a “stunning urban oasis,” according to an overview being handed out by the developer.

‘We are looking now to get things open and have construction substantially completed by the fall.’

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“We are looking now to get things open and have construction substantially completed by the fall,” said Carmine Tomas, a lawyer for the development partnership, 1265 Main Street LLC.

Waltham has its share of big business parks — the millions of square feet packed along Route 128/Interstate 95 in the Watch City is the largest accumulation of office space in Massachusetts outside of Boston.

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But the redevelopment of the Polaroid site stands out in two key ways.

First is the scope of the endeavor. The 1265 Main group, which bought the project two years ago from Boston-based Sam Park & Co., is forging ahead with an ambitious plan that is likely to become one of the most prominent new developments built along 128 in decades, according to Tomas.

What’s going up now is the first phase of a multiyear plan with the potential of more than 1.2 million square feet of commercial and retail space spread out over 100 acres, he said.

And the project will have some of the longest highway frontage of any development along 128 — the old Polaroid campus stretched next to the interstate for a nearly a mile, Tomas noted.

Second, though, is the style of the project, which is a departure for Waltham, where most new developments are traditional office parks that are all but dead after 5 p.m., devoid of shops and restaurants that might encourage workers to linger or bring in visitors after business hours.

What’s taking shape bears more than a passing resemblance to some of the new outdoor “lifestyle center’’ retail complexes, like Dedham’s Legacy Place or the Street Chestnut Hill on Route 9 in Newton, Tomas said.

The layout features a main street lined with shops leading to a “town square” in front of the new Market Basket.

The town square, in turn, will take a page from that little green gem in the heart of Boston, Post Office Square Park, with a bocci court, pavilion, and fire pit for outside gatherings, Tomas said.

There’s also a big emphasis on greenery and outdoor activity, with the development pushing up against one of Waltham’s largest green spaces, Prospect Hill Park. The developer has also extended a regional bike path through the project and will provide clear entry points to the park and its trails , he said.

The new grocery store sports a sleek design that includes an outdoor patio that could be used by customers dining at its prepared-foods section, which is dubbed Market’s Kitchen, project renderings show.

The updated design is taking shape as Market Basket faces increased competition from the Wegmans chain. The New York-based company, which also touts low prices, high customer service, and large array of prepared foods, will be opening two stores along Route 128, in Newton this spring and in Burlington in the fall, after launching its first Massachusetts outpost three years ago in Northborough.

The lineup of stores and office tenants at 1265 Main is still being filled out.

There are plans for a Marshalls discount store and Starbucks coffee shop to lease space in the project, and deals are soon to be announced with various restaurants, according to 1265 Main officials.

No companies have been signed up to rent space in the long, sleek, glass-encased office building taking shape on the property, but there has been strong interest from a range of potential tenants, said Steve Cucinatti, who is helping oversee leasing efforts.

The project has hardly been an overnight sensation. Progress at the old Polaroid site follows more than three years of work that helped set the stage for what is happening now.

The previous developer, Sam Park, bought the site in 2010 after the original builder, New York-based Related Cos., lost control of the property to its lender amid the recession.

Park took an infrastructure-first approach, relocating power lines, blasting ledge, and demolishing the old, low-slung buildings on the Polaroid campus.

While necessary, it wasn’t the kind of work that grabs the imagination.

1265 Main took a similar approach after buying out Park in 2011. Roughly $3 million was spent putting in a new traffic light at the entrance to the property, and synchronizing other lights in the area, Tomas said.

The big question now is what will get built next, with 1265 Main having the potential to add another million square feet of office and retail buildings.

The timing of the second phase could be as slow and painstaking as the first.

Both 1265 Main officials and Waltham Mayor Jeannette McCarthy agree that before any construction on it can begin, plans will have to be put into place to revamp local roadways around the project and help create an easy and direct link to Route 128.

One longstanding issue McCarthy wants to see addressed during the project’s next phase is how to bring some order to the tangled local traffic that clogs up Main Street (Route 117) and Route 20, which provides the closest access to the highway, as drivers attempt to make their way on and off the interstate.

The congestion too often results in drivers cutting through nearby residential neighborhoods, the mayor said.

McCarthy said she is comfortable with the methodical approach, which she sees as necessary when dealing with the complex traffic issues involved.

“It’s a wonderful project. Not only do we have a beautiful site along 128,’’ she said, but the developers “have been very good to work with on the issue of traffic.”

Scott Van Voorhis can be reached at sbvanvoorhis@ hotmail.com.

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