By Brett Peruzzi, Contributing Writer
WESTBOROUGH – The six-story concrete building at 25 Research Dr. is a long-familiar sight to passing motorists. Headquarters to BJ’s Wholesale Club for the past ten years, the future of the iconic structure is now unknown, though, with BJ’s planning a move to Marlborough.
Electrical utility company was longest occupant
The building looms atop a hill overlooking the south side of Route 9, west of the Route 495 interchange.
For most people who have lived in the area for decades, it’s remembered as the long-time home of National Grid.
The British energy company purchased New England Electric System and its affiliated companies in 2000 and maintained its presence in Westborough until BJ’s arrived in 2011.
Now, a decade after they first arrived, a post about the BJ’s planned departure from the building recently generated a slew of comments from people in a Westborough Facebook group sharing memories of working at 25 Research Dr. over the years.
Memories came from everyone from long-term employees to someone who recalled their mother working in the electric company cafeteria in the 1970s and 80s.
One person reported working there for 35 years, from around the time the building opened in 1965 to the early 2000s.
Another recalled a stint there in high school as a “Girl Friday” – a term used up until about the 1970s to refer to a female office assistant.
Long-term employee fondly recalls time in building
In an interview with the Community Advocate, Diane Braga of Uxbridge had fond memories of 25 Research Dr. She worked in the building in the early 1990s, serving for roughly five years as a staff assistant in the customer service department of New England Power Service Company (NEPSCo).
“The building was huge, and I loved working there,” she said. “I worked with wonderful people.”
She remembered those days as part of an era when technology was nowhere near as compact and integrated as it is today.
“Our computers took up most of our desk back then,” Braga recalled. “I had three separate ones in my office. One housed the database for Massachusetts Electric customers. The other was a word processor. The third one was a personal computer running an early version of the [Microsoft] Excel spreadsheet program.”
Braga noted her only negative experience came when she was laid off around 1994.
“It was a blessing in disguise,” she noted, though. “I opened a daycare right after I left and discovered my passion in childhood nutrition.”
Braga now works as a food service director for a local school district.
Future uncertain for site
The old office building offers over 282,000 square feet of space on a 22-acre lot, including more than 1,000 parking spaces.
It is currently for sale or sub-lease through real estate services firm Jones Lang Lasalle. BJ’s is expected to vacate the premises by fall.
With a tax valuation by the town of over $23 million, it was last sold in 2019 to a property investment firm for $33 million.
25 Research Dr. is designed in the Brutalist style of architecture that emerged in the 1950s as a modernist movement. The style emphasizes raw building materials like concrete and structural elements in geometric shapes rather than decorative design. Brutalism began to fall out of favor as an architectural style beginning in the late 1970s.
The long-term plans for the building and its land are still up in the air.
The site is currently zoned “Industrial B” by the town, which allows for manufacturing, processing, or warehousing as acceptable uses.
“It’s too early to say [whether it will be torn down and the site redeveloped, or leased to new tenants],” Westborough Economic Development Coordinator Zach Boughner told the Community Advocate last month. “There’s no plans to put a shovel in the ground six months or a year from now.”