< back to Case Studies

By Stanley Hurwitz
January 2006

A Lifestyle Retail Center
in Reading, Massachusetts

A Dream Turned Into Reality through Vision, Creativity, Commitment and Teamwork

The former 33.5 acre municipal landfill in suburban Reading, Massachusetts, closed since 1985, is now the site of one of the largest landfill closure and redevelopment projects in New England history, and one of the most complex projects of its type in the country.

Over the years, several developers proposed various projects to local officials, with countless community meetings and extensive environmental studies. Those proposals were abandoned after the initial phase when it seemed that a viable project might be many years from reality. With such a large and visible parcel, the town strove to find a developer who could meet their DEP obligations and provide a source of tax revenue to the town for many years to come

In 2000, armed with a vision, Mark Dickinson, President of Dickinson Development Corp., of Quincy, Mass., formally proposed a mixed-use development with retail, office and hotel components. He brought The Home Depot as the first anchor tenant, which was soon joined by Jordan’s Furniture. These retailers were truly committed to the site and were willing to work with Dickinson through the complex design and permitting process. Dickinson assembled a sophisticated design and engineering team that came together to develop a workable plan. He created a unique public-private working partnership to make the project ‘transparent’ with ongoing communication among local and state officials and agencies, the development team, owners and tenants.

Although the plan went through several incarnations, the first shovels hit the ground in early spring 2003, and Phases I and II were completed by Labor Day, 2005. The result is a $90 million, 475,000 square-foot project, a beautiful destination lifestyle retail plaza – brought to fruition by Dickinson on time and on budget.

Because the land sits on a former landfill, the project offered several challenges to the development team, including significant geotechnical and environmental hurdles. Overseeing the construction project was Dickinson Vice President Ed Shaw who said the project tested even the most veteran engineers and architects. To maximize the use of the site and create an economically viable retail development, a vertical box design was needed for the anchor retail with Home Depot on the first level and Jordan’s Furniture with its IMAX theater on the upper levels.

Several of New England’s leading firms made up the development team assembled by Dickinson. Dickinson and project partner Pinnacle Partners’ project team included for both Phases I and II: engineering firms Haley & Aldrich, Dufresne-Henry and Vanesse Hangen Brustlin, Inc.; and architect Carter-Burgess. Morris & Morse Co, Inc., of Boston served as financial advisor. (For more on the engineering details, see the Engineering Summary below).

In Phase I, Suffolk Construction was general contractor and Pinncon LLC was construction consultant. In Phase II, general contractors were Pinncon LLC and D. W. White Construction. Leasing of Phase II was handled by The Wilder Companies of Boston who brought complementary retailers to the project including: Bank of America, Bear Rock Café, Chili’s Restaurant, Linens ‘N Things, The Paper Store, Romano’s Macaroni Grill, Staples, Starbucks and Verizon.

As Developer of The Crossing at Walkers Brook, Dickinson Development assembled a sophisticated design and engineering team to create an economically viable project. The engineering firm Haley & Aldrich joined the team at the RFP stage due to their expertise in underground construction and knowledge of the site. The architectural firm Carter & Burgess was our prime consultant for the building architectural and engineering. VHB, Inc provided civil and traffic engineering for the extensive off-site road improvements to the project.

In August 2001, the engineering team submitted a ‘Corrective Action Alternatives Analysis’ (CAAA) to the Mass. DEP. In September, with approval in hand, the team continued design of the landfill closure and redevelopment program which included unique design features to create the planned space while controlling costs.

Contributing to the project’s complexity and cost were the need for mechanically stabilized earth (MSE) retaining walls up to 35’ high with geotextile wrapping, foundation and gas protection systems for buildings constructed above solid waste; surcharging and recompaction of relocated waste; unique landfill cap design with an enclosed flare system to destroy collected landfill gas as part of the landfill closure; and 1,500 foundation piles to support the building. The design team’s Landfill Closure and Post-Closure Use Plan was approved by Mass. DEP in November 2002. The team began to monitor landfill closure and site construction in March 2003 and continued for the duration of the project.

1980 Town of Reading forms Industrial Development Commission to develop town-owned sites.
1985-86 Town stops using landfill and decides to dispose of the land on Walkers Brook Drive along Rte 128.
1989-90 Homart Development, the development arm of Sears, was chosen by the Town to develop an office park, but abandons the office park plan as recession hits.
1997-98 Several development proposals, including one from Dickinson, are rejected by the Town.
1999 Dickinson approaches Town with a plan – Home Depot and theatres are centerpiece; State Department of Environmental Protection enforces deadline for landfill capping.
April, 2000 Town agrees to sell 33.5 acre site to Dickinson for $3 million as designated developer of the site. Dickinson agrees to pay for landfill capping and contributes funds for neighborhood improvements. Plan includes a mixed-use development with initial proposed uses including retail, hotel, office building, and a cinema complex.
June, 2000 Dickinson completes purchase of landfill site from Town.
2003 Acting Governor Jane Swift presents Town with a $1.8 million Public Works Economic Development (PWED) grant to fund improvements to Walkers Brook Drive and I-95 off-ramp. Grant will improve highway access for gateway corridor to Town of Reading and allow construction of the project to begin.
March, 2003 Construction begins on Phase I – Home Depot, Jordan’s Furniture, and a Chili’s Restaurant.
August, 2004 Lt. Governor Kerry Healey attends grand opening of Home Depot. Chili’s Restaurant opens one month later.
November, 2004 Groundbreaking for Phase II.
November 2004/
December 2004
Grand Opening of Jordan’s Furniture – Phase I complete.
Summer, 2005 Phase II – Eight retail tenants leasing 70,000 s/f – 100% leased on opening Day. In an innovative transaction, Dickinson conveyed ownership to Home Depot and Jordan’s Furniture, vertical retail condominiums built on a recycled municipal landfill.


A non-productive liability that had been Reading’s town dump was transformed into The Crossing at Walkers Brook, a first-class destination lifestyle retail center. About 1,000 construction jobs were created during the 2-3 year construction period. The $90 million, 475,000 square foot center is home to two big box retailers and nine blue-ribbon retail and restaurant tenants. The businesses provide some 1,200 full and part-time jobs to area residents, and bring an annual property tax revenue stream of about $750,000 to the Town of Reading. In addition, the Commonwealth of Massachusetts annually receives million of dollars in sales and income tax revenue.

Of special note, the developer was able to bring back some of the rustic beauty that had been lost to the landfill. Walkers Brook, which runs on three sides of the site, was also cleaned up and improved. Dickinson also created a popular community park for neighborhood residents as part of its arrangement with the town.

The success of the project is due in large part to Dickinson’s team-building relationships and trust among the stakeholders, including Town officials, local residents, MassHighway, the DEP, and tenants.

^ back to top