What’s coming to the suburbs west of Boston

Concord will become the first school district in the country to use a full-size electric school bus.
Concord will become the first school district in the country to use a full-size electric school bus.(Michelle McCutcheon-Schour/Vermont Energy Investment Corp.)

Marlborough will debut an entertainment/hospitality complex like none other in the state. Wellesley will open its long-awaited senior center. Brookline will celebrate the centennial of JFK’s birth. And Concord will make history with a yellow school bus.

There’s no way to preview an entire year in one short story, but here is a sampling to give you a head’s up on what will be coming to the suburbs west of Boston in 2017.


A spot for pop-ups It could be a bakery for four months and then a gift shop. Entrepreneurs will be able to test out their commercial ideas at the Corner Spot, due to open in June at Pleasant and Main streets. “The hope is that this space acts as an incubator and that a business finds such success they want to move permanently to downtown, said Beth Reynolds, Ashland’s economic development director. Funded in part by MassDevelopment’s Commonwealth Places program, the project also includes an outdoor community space and playground.



Happy Birthday, Jack It’s hard to imagine John F. Kennedy at age 100, but that’s the birthday the 35th president would have been celebrating on May 29. The National Park Service is planning commemorative events at his birthplace — the modest house at 83 Beals St. that is now a National Historic site — and other Brookline venues. Details have yet to be released, but special programs will continue into the summer about JFK’s life and legacy. Visitors to the house will see a new 10-minute orientation video that focuses on JFK’s Brookline years. A new basement exhibit will cover highlights of his presidency. If only Marilyn Monroe were around to sing “Happy Birthday.”


Still making history It looks like an ordinary yellow school bus, but it doesn’t sound like one. In fact, the bus runs so silently that at low speeds it must play music to alert pedestrians. This month, Concord is expected to become the first school district in the United States to put in service a full-size (71 passenger) electric school bus, according to its manufacturer, Lion Bus of Quebec. The bus has a 72-mile range on a single charge. A state grant covered the $325,000 base cost as part of a pilot program to see if electric buses pay off in the long run. Besides saving on fuel and maintenance, the bus can serve as a giant battery in the summer to store solar power. Acton-Boxborough is among other districts that will pilot electric buses.



Flower power In October, Holliston will become the first town in New England to host the America in Bloom National Symposium, which is expected to draw 250 floral and landscaping professionals. America in Bloom has named Holliston tops in its population class (14,000-20,000) three times within the last four years for the beautification efforts of its local affiliate, Holliston in Bloom. The nonprofit’s volunteers sponsor cleanup drives and plant borders, beds, baskets and barrels throughout town.


Food, lodging and zombies, too Two hotels (Hyatt and Marriott), six restaurants and an enormous entertainment/recreation complex are set to open this fall at the Apex Center, an 11-building campus off Route 20. As to the zombies, they’re planned for an interactive virtual reality space where players literally become part of digital games. It’s part of an activity center that will also include a trampoline park, rock wall climbing, bowling, and indoor kart racing. And there’s more: retail stores; hair and nail salons; and office space. The developer behind the $160 million venture is Robert Walker of Westford-based RAVentures.



Hometown brew Until now, Battle Road has been a brewing company without a brewery. But that will soon change. The beermakers are teaming up with the Whole House Group (owner of 29 Sudbury) to open Battle Road Brew House in Clock Tower Place. On Jan. 28, the restaurant is set to start serving fare ranging from Southern barbecue to New England seafood specialties. Soon after — with the state’s OK — the brewery will go into operation. Battle Road beers are available in pubs and stores throughout New England.


Building ’17 By late fall, the former Building 19 will be reborn. Crosspoint Developers is gutting the former home of “Good Stuff… Cheap” to make way for stores, restaurants, a fitness center and possibly medical offices. The company says it will announce tenants within a month for the site, which adjoins Staples and Shop & Stop at routes 9 and 27.


SharkNinja invades In a building where General Dynamics once devised technology to defend the nation, a company that designs better ways to battle dust and blend veggies will make its home in late spring. SharkNinja will bring together 700 people who now work at offices in Needham and Newton. The name comes from the firm’s chief products: high-performance vacuum cleaners (Shark) and kitchen appliances (Ninja). The new headquarters is at 89 A Street in the N2 Innovation Corridor (pronounced “N-squared”), which is also home to TripAdvisor.



Zervas reborN If you attended the original Frank Zervas Elementary School, built in 1954, you might have grandchildren among the students who will be the first to attend its successor this fall. Besides 24 regular classrooms, the Waban school includes spaces for art, music and special ed; a full-size gym; and a cafeteria/auditorium. Zervas — named for a former principal — is the third of five grade schools that are being renovated or replaced in Newton.


A home of their own When Mary Esther “Billie” Tolles died in 2005, she left the town seed money to build a free-standing senior center. A dozen years and numerous contentious Town Meetings later, the two-story Tolles-Parsons Center is slated to open this fall (Evelyn Parsons was Tolles’s cousin) on Washington Street. It offers amenities to exercise body and mind. A café will nourish companionship, warmed by a fireplace. Other features include a commercial kitchen and game room with pool tables.

Steve Maas can be reached at