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Brandeis University's Community Newspaper — Waltham, Mass.

Main St. Strip Mall Angers Waltham Residents

Published: January 31, 2013
Section: News, Top Stories

Roughly one mile from Brandeis, there is a major construction site on Main Street that is simultaneously angering Waltham residents for damaging nearby homes and promising the addition of several exciting shops and restaurants.

Last week, a group of angry Waltham residents met with project officials to complain about the recent rock blasting at the site, led by the Maine Drilling & Blasting company. Construction and development of the site, led by J&Co. Project Manager Rick Vallarelli, is currently in the demolition process, tearing down the former Polaroid building in order to break down rocks and widen Main Street to make room for the incoming strip mall.

Residents have complained that the blasting at the Polaroid site has damaged their homes, and on occasion has come close to hitting nearby people. Residents have also complained that Maine Drilling & Blasting company has not been following blasting regulations. Maine Drilling & Blasting, however, claims that company monitors have not cited the company for violating blasting rules, and that they are acting within the law. According to a Maine Drilling & Blasting representative, all blasting should be completed within six weeks.

“There are legitimate blasting complaints and there have been various meetings between the developer and the city,” Waltham Mayor Jeannette McCarthy said. “The Fire Department monitors blasting on site and the State Fire Marshall has also been involved.”

Despite blasting concerns, however, McCarthy said she was looking forward to the addition of the strip mall, and that its presence would benefit Waltham residents in the long run. McCarthy explained that the new site will preserve more than 20 acres of the former Berry Farm, an irrevocable trust that in two years automatically vests to the City of Waltham. The site developers will also build a rail trail on the property and will have more diverse retail at the site than there is currently.

Unlike angry Waltham residents, Brandeis students who live off campus near the Polaroid site, like Zoe Siegel ’13 have not been bothered by blasting noises or nearby construction. According to Siegel, she and her housemates have not yet heard the blasting and are looking forward to the addition of the strip mall.

“I am definitely looking forward to it! Traffic has not been an issue surprisingly and I think it will be very convenient to students. None of us have been frustrated at all.”

While Siegel thought the presence of the new strip mall would encourage future students to live off campus and increase the value of local homes, Siegel, unlike McCarthy, did express concern for many of the “local treasures” of Waltham, including Cafe on the Common and Taqueria Mexico, that will face client competition from the incoming restaurants in the strip mall.

According to Vallarelli, construction on the strip mall is scheduled to begin in May or June, and the largest tenant, Market Basket, is scheduled to partially open by the end of 2013. The new strip mall will include tenants such as Starbucks, Marshall’s, TD Bank, Bonefish Grill, Jake & Joes and a Verizon store. Vallarelli also plans to create a town green park in addition to outdoor seating for incoming restaurants.

The construction site spans a tremendous 119 acres and the strip mall itself will span 280,000 square feet with an additional 100,000 square feet of office space.