Shrewsbury – For years, Anthony “Spag” Borgatti oversaw his legendary retail establishment located on Route 9, not far from Lake Quinsigamond and the Worcester border. Known for his great deals as well as his dedication to Shrewsbury and its residents, Borgatti was beloved by all and to this day, casts a very long shadow.
But after in the years following his death, the once bustling commercial site saw a series of retailers come and go, each hoping for just a small slice of Spag’s success. Sadly, during recent years, the nearly 23 acre parcel sat dormant, waiting for its next chapter.
However, in 2014, faith was renewed when real estate developer Howard Grossman, of Grossman Development Group, LLC, entered the picture. Wading his way through a labyrinth of technical issues, the acquisition of adjoining parcels and various road blocks, Grossman’s company is well on its way to developing a new 375,000-square-foot mixed-use development
The new development, to be known as Lakeway Commons, will feature 100,000 square feet of retail, 250 apartments, 14 townhomes available for sale and will be anchored by a 50,000-square-foot Whole Foods.
The project’s design is known as a streetscape concept; that is, the stores’ backs face Route 9 and fronts are facing inward creating a village feel. The development really is designed as a “new urbanism,” said Grossman.
“It will have nicely ornamented buildings, with good architectural design and encapsulated parking,” he noted.
At press time nearly ninety percent of the retail space has been leased. In addition to the anchor tenant Whole Foods; the complex will house Burtons Grille, Tavern in the Square, Qdoba, Sweet Pizza, Starbucks, Jenny Boston, Massage Envy, Tileworks, Unibank, Orangetheory Fitness, and Visionworks.
In keeping with the urban concept, plans call for wide sidewalks and outside seating for the restaurants. The hope is, Grossman said, that the development will appeal to professionals who work at the University of Massachusetts Medical Center on the other side of Lake Quinsigamond in Worcester. He went on to note that the completion of the Kenneth Burns Bridge, which has both pedestrian and bicycle lanes, will provide unfettered access to the site. In fact, there will be a dedicated bus stop at Lakeway Commons as well as a new traffic light to enhance accessibility.
Experience pays off
Grossman himself has decades of experience himself in developing mixed-use projects.
For years he was a successful executive holding senior positions with a number of firms including CVS, Melville Group, Marshals, Katz and Associates, and Samuels & Associates. He also ran his own property management and development company for a time in between corporate stints.
After a long and successful career, he decided to retire in 2008. But after a few months of “meeting friends for coffee and working out,” he decided that the quieter, calmer lifestyle was not for him. So he decided in October 2009 to once again strike out on his own, opening Grossman Development Group, LLC in Southborough.
“Our motto has always been ‘we are a small company that does big things,’” he said.
It was about three years ago, Grossman recalled, that he was approached about the potential of developing a very big thing – the former Spag’s property.
“I didn’t know a lot about it at first,” he said.
As he learned more, he and his staff quickly came to realize it would not be an easy project to develop. The property itself was a quagmire of one way streets, easements and other complex zoning issues.
At one Town Meeting, Town Manage Daniel Morgado explained the benefits of having additional commercial property to add to the tax base. He emphasized the difficulty in generating a sufficient tax base due to the fact that Shrewsbury was already zoned 87 percent residential. The tax revenue from the Spag’s site was just $94,824 per year at the time and far below what the Grossman vision would provide through real estate tax, restaurant meals, and motor vehicle excise taxes, he told those gathered.
Although some TM members expressed reservations as to the type of proposed project and whether it would “fit in” with the rest of the Lakeway Business District, all articles relating to the rezoning were passed by a wide majority.
“We are so grateful to the [TM members] for passing these measures,” Grossman said.
Giving back to the community
The memory of Borgatti and Spags will be honored with a small statue and seating area as well at the new development.
“It’s only right that we honor [Borgatti and the Spags store],” Grossman said. “As I have learned, they meant so much to the town and were just so generous.”
Supporting the community is a trait he shares with Borgatti.
“When you find a place that welcomes you, it’s important to give back,” he said. “Everyone was terrific to work with – the Board of Selectmen, Zoning Board, Planning Board and many others. It’s definitely important to remember it’s a two way street and to find the right way to give back.”
To that end, for the past several years Grossman has been the primary sponsor for Shrewsbury Youth & Family Services annual gala, which is the organization’s main fundraiser. The firm has also sponsored State Rep. Hannah Kane’s annual charity golf classic and events for the Corridor Nine Area Chamber of Commerce.
At a ribbon cutting ceremony for Lakeway Commons held in June, town officials, as well as Lt. Gov. Karyn Polito, herself a resident of Shrewsbury, praised Grossman for his contributions to the town.
“It’s a real win for Shrewsbury – you are part of our community now and part of our history,” Polito said.
Kane also addressed the audience at that time, saying that “it cannot be understated how important this project is for Shrewsbury,” first during the construction phase which will bring jobs to the town and then when the businesses are open.
“Economically it will help Shrewsbury but also aesthetically in the area,” she added.
The development is due to open late this summer.
Photos/courtesy Grossman Development Group, LLC