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By Stanley Hurwitz
April 2007

The Ripple Effect: Reading Project Spawns Area's ‘Extreme Makeover’
Successful Development Is Catalyst for Nearby Retail, Office Projects

QUINCY, MASS. (April 2007) — Two years after one developer proved you can, in fact, “turn trash into treasure,” commercial property owners and developers are investing millions more in other adjacent under-utilized parcels at exit 39 just off Interstate 95 / 128 in Reading (Mass.).

Just about five years ago, some 100 acres consisted of a closed municipal landfill and a collection of older industrial, retail and office buildings.

Today, the Walkers Brook Drive area is undergoing the commercial real estate version of an extreme makeover. Besides hundreds of construction jobs, new businesses in this corner of Reading will ultimately attract over 1,500 full and part-time, produce a total of almost $1 million in new real estate tax revenues each year for the town, and send millions more to the state in the form of income and sales taxes.

Reminiscing about the catalyst that started it all — transformation of the town’s 33.5-acre landfill into the upscale Crossing at Walkers Brook, developer Mark Dickinson, President of Quincy-based Dickinson Development, says, “Despite the environmental and engineering complexities, we saw the potential and took a chance. I think the town, our neighbors and tenants are as pleased as we are at how well the complicated and expensive 475,000 s/f project turned out.

Other Reading projects now underway due in large measure to the success of The Crossing at Walkers Brook – what Dickinson calls ‘The Ripple Effect” include:

  • Former Boston Stove Co. industrial complex — A new 63,000 s/f Stop & Shop is being built on this five-acre parcel just across from Walkers Brook. Dickinson Development along with its partner Pinncon selected this site for its next project and demolished the old industrial and office complex to make way for the first full-scale commercial grocery market in the area.
  • Former TASC / Northrop office building — This 15-acre site formerly had two under-utilized office buildings. A one-story building was razed. The 3-story building is being recycled into first-class office and lab space by Hallmark Health Medical Center and other tenants. Two new restaurants will open here: Bertucci’s and Longhorn Steak House. • Route 128 Ford dealership — Owners are giving this tired building a major upgrade, turning it into a more upscale dealership.
  • Former General Tire factory — This 290,000 s/f mill on about 15 acres is being recycled into ‘128 Marketplace,’ with a 66,000 s/f furniture store. The remainder will be office space.

Reading Town Manager Peter Hechenbleikner worked closely with Dickinson’s team for over five years. He says, “When it was first presented in 1999, we saw the potential. But from the outset we insisted on being sensitive so development wouldn’t be at the expense of our downtown. I think we achieved that goal.” The town’s Community Planning & Development Commission has remained true to its mission: “… to strive for a balance between new development, existing conditions and the community’s desire to preserve that ‘small town feel.’ Development must fit in with surroundings and new construction should seamlessly interconnect.”

Exactly one year ago, Walkers Brook Crossing won for Dickinson’s engineers Haley & Aldrich the prestigious American Council of Engineering Companies of Mass. 2006 Grand Conceptor Award. In late 2006, Brownfields Conference participants from across the U.S. toured the site as a prime example of successful recycling a non-productive liability (a landfill) into a first-class destination retail center while cleaning up Walkers Brook which surrounds the site.

Mark Dickinson says he continues to seek similar development opportunities in southern New England. “Recycling older buildings and under-utilized land gives me a true sense of accomplishment.”

For more information, contact Ed Shaw or Mark Dickinson: 617-770-1955.

Stanley Hurwitz is a Public Relations and Marketing Consultant based in Stoughton, Massachusetts.
Contact: stanhurw@comcast.net

Founded in 1980, Dickinson Development is a full-service commercial real estate development and project management consulting firm based in Quincy, Mass.

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