A marvel of the 21st century is that Labelscar has a great little tool called web analytics where I can see (amongst other things) the search terms that people use to access our site. While I generally keep my day job separate from my goings-on as a mall geek, I don’t mind mentioning that I work in the burgeoning search marketing industry, which is really just a long-winded way of saying that I find the *way* that people find us to be sort of fascinating. But beyond that, sometimes it gives me good leads on retail-related news.
It was based on such a query that caused someone to stumble upon this site–something about “new mall hudson”–that lead me to find that W/S Development, a well-known New England developer of lifestyle centers, recently introduced the proposed lifestyle center to end all others, a gigantic riverfront development to be built on the site of a current golf course in Hudson, New Hampshire.
At first glance, I can see some pluses and minuses of this project, although admittedly I haven’t seen many of the details about it. First, the good: despite that it’s a lifestyle center, it appears to replicate a genuine streetscape, with blocks and neighborhoods (including a fashion-oriented “Pavilion Buildings” neighborhood, and a more nightlife-centric “Theater District,” amongst others), a riverfront performing arts theater and resort hotel, a residential component, and a variety of other features. In essence, this is a brand new, destinational downtown for the deep suburbia of the Merrimack Valley, a place that will serve as a super-regional destination for all of the densely populated suburbs stretching north of Boston (and into New Hampshire) for 60 miles. That could be sort of neat.
The bad, of course, is notable. The immediate thing that jumps to mind is that the site–while currently somewhat off the way, retail-wise, is very close to the Daniel Webster Highway in Nashua, along with the Pheasant Lane Mall, which is currently one of the largest retail strips in all of New England. While I’ve learned from the guys at Freakonomics that these things tend to do better when clustered together (rather than spaced apart, as you might think), it still seems that the sheer magnitude of this project–which is being touted as the largest mall in New England, thus implying the square footage will exceed 2 million–will likely require that it steals a substantial amount of stores from the thriving Pheasant Lane Mall and its adjacent retail strip, setting the stage for another visit from Mr. Yuk. This is to say nothing of the impact to downtown Nashua and downtown Lowell, which like most older industrial cities have been staging a comeback, mainly in the form of new restaurants and entertainment.
And the other elephant in the room is the Tewksbury Mills project, whose status is unknown now that Mills is to be acquired by Simon. Will Simon want to move forward with the Tewksbury Mills project–which serves a more underutilized slice of the same portion of the metropolitan area–or will W/S Development’s much more ambitious and massive project be the ultimate retail winner, and what could it mean for the many surrounding retail developments?