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Natick, Massachusetts: “Strong Town”

2011 July 8
by dan bertolet

< Natick Center >

Vacation travels recently brought me through Natick, MA, a town of 33,000 located 15 miles east of Boston. The Boston suburbs are littered with similar small New England towns, but to me, Natick’s downtown stands out as one of the area’s best. Natick is the kind of place that advocates for “Strong Towns” drool over. Today, Natick is a highly auto-dependent town, but the solid downtown bones will help it adapt more successfully than most suburbs to the challenges of the coming decades.


< The First Congregational Church of Natick provides a dramatic visual anchor for the downtown >

< Natick Town Common provides a useable central open space that is well programmed with events >

< All the right stuff for a great downtown streetscape: buildings that front the sidewalk, small independent retail, ample sidewalks, varied paving, street trees, diagonal parking >

< Clark's Block, like much of the center, was built in 1874 after the "great fire," creating a unified, highly imageable downtown with a strong sense of place >

< Classic 4-story mixed-use >

< Small independent businesses adapt the spaces in wide variety of buildings >

< Historic baseball factory converted to condos in 1989 >

< Just outside the core, new condos adjacent to the historic Casey's Diner >

< Commuter rail connects Natick to Boston, 15 miles to the east >

< Street parking costs just 25 cents per hour - Natick's downtown retail has to compete with the Natick Mall and other nearby big box stores with acres of "free" parking >