There is little question that the retail landscape for Westborough, and all American towns the size of Westborough, is going through change. A sagging economy and altered consumer behavior have joined forces to spell trouble for traditional shops.
For Westborough, it means watching empty retail space increase as businesses either move from town or shut down.
Where once the attention was on Bay State Commons, just a few years later it is on Northborough Crossing. I drove through the new outdoor shopping complex this morning and saw a few familiar shops scattered in a large array of retail: BJ’s, AT&T, Dress Barn, The Paper Store and TJ Maxx. Familiar, as in each was once in Westborough, and now hoping to find a better audience in a new location.
The jury is out on whether Northborough Crossing, or any new retail center, will meet with quick success. And, to be honest, it is quick success that many of these retailers are literally banking on.
Bay State Commons still enjoys a traffic flow with draws like Roche Bros, Panera, Tavolino and Ted’s, but Westborough is also home to several retail districts, like West Meadow Plaza, that are starting to look like ghost towns.
What can be done to revitalize these large vacant retail spaces? “The old” Dress Barn, BJ’s and TJ Maxx are closing the door on Westborough. What are left standing in these spaces are “For Lease” signs.
Ideas have floated around in conversation. One reader told me that he would like to see Bay State Commons develop into a large area of restaurants, another suggested that reopening the downtown train station would bring an influx of customers to Bay State Commons, and another said that she would like to see the town develop a plan to create a downtown full of artists’ shops that would attract a tourist crowd.
What do you think? Do you have a suggestion on how to revitalize or change our retail real estate?