WORCESTER TEELGRAM – A huge development that combines hotels with restaurants and entertainment is taking shape on a 43-acre parcel on Route 20.
“We’re developing an exciting, complimentary, synergistic entertainment venue consisting of multiple hotels, up to six restaurants, convenience retail, and 210,000 square feet of indoor entertainment, which to the best of our knowledge doesn’t exist anywhere around the region,” said Developer Robert Walker with RAVentures.
To be called the APEX Center of New England, the development will consist of 11 new buildings, one of which will be a four-story entertainment complex. Other additional businesses will include a multistory office and medical building, a touch-free car wash, a veterinary clinic, a bank, and various retail stores.
Construction is underway at the site, at 180 Boston Post Road West (Route 20). Buildings will begin to rise within 30 days, Mr. Walker said, in time for the grand opening in fall 2017.
Marriott’s Fairfield Inn & Suites and Hyatt Place will provide approximately 275 new hotel rooms. Restaurants options will vary, from a Friendly’s and Chick fil A for fast food, to Italian restaurant Evviva Cucina and 110 Grill, which features modern American cuisine in current local sites in Berlin and Hopkinton.
What makes the APEX Center development stand out, though, will be its entertainment and recreation options housed within the custom-designed four-level fitness and entertainment facility. A state-of-the-art bowling center will feature both candlepin and 10-pin bowling, as well as a track for go-kart racing. On the upper levels there will be laser tag, an arcade, a sky ropes course, a simulated golf center, an altitude trampoline park, a BB Kidz Klub indoor playground, and a Planet Fitness health club. Boxing, an indoor children’s swim center called the Goldfish Swim School, and an Escape-the-Room challenge will be found in adjacent buildings.
Dusty Burke Jr., president of American Commercial Real Estate, has worked with Mr. Walker for 20 years on retail centers as a lease broker. This will be the largest project that they’ve worked on together, since constructing Cornerstone Square in Westford. As of now, he says he has leased all but three spaces in the entertainment facility.
“We’re going to start delivering spaces to tenants as early as May of next year. We’re planning an Oct. 1 opening for the center, and we will undoubtedly be 100 percent leased before we open to take advantage of the holiday season,” Mr. Burke said.
Initially, the APEX began as an effort to bring a 110 Grill restaurant to Marlboro, and later evolved once Mr. Walker found the site on Route 20 that had been vacant for decades.
“I looked at it over a weekend and thought, ‘What else can we do down there besides our hotel business and our restaurant business? What else can we bring to the neighborhood to take advantage of the strong demographics with the local hockey rink, the ForeKicks facility, and the new Little League facility up in Northboro, about 9 miles from our site?’ With all of the corporate presence that Marlboro has, the population, the access to I-495 and the Mass Pike, I just got to thinking about what do people want to do?” Mr. Walker said.
The APEX Center will have 1,500 ground-level parking spaces and a parking deck with 400 additional spaces.
“The accessibility for the regional and local population is outstanding and the need for this kind of hospitality, entertainment and retail center is substantial. For example, a family will come to the New England Sports Center to play hockey for the weekend, but where do you bring your kids for fun for the rest of the time you’re here? If you’re a parent bringing in a young hockey team, where are you going to go?” asked Mr. Burke.
The undertaking of such an enormous project raises a few concerns among Marlboro residents, especially those who live near the site and who have felt threatened by previously discussed projects doing more harm than good.
“They’ve talked about developing this land for 20 years or so, and there have been some very bad proposals for apartments that would’ve cost the city a lot of money in terms of negative value,” said Marlboro City Councilor Matt Elder.
Since the APEX will increase traffic in an already busy area, there are also concerns about hindered emergency response and more noise. Some residents are worried about buildings being built so close to their homes.
However, the city of Marlboro has been largely supportive of the APEX Center. Officials have said they think it will add to the region’s already varied entertainment and sports business mix, which includes the ice rinks at New England Sports Center of Marlboro, the sports offerings such as lacrosse and soccer at ForeKicks Indoor & Outdoor Sports Complex, and the New England Baseball Complex in Northboro.
“Sports centers have a million and a half visitors between the different venues. Between the hockey, baseball, lacrosse, and soccer aspects, there’s over a million and a half people that come in to Marlboro on an annual basis that need places to stay, eat, and occupy their time when they’re not working on their sports,” Mr. Walker said.
“It appears to be a good project that should bring in a lot of tax dollars for the city and hopefully a lot of new jobs,” Mr. Elder said.
This article by Erin Bassler originally appeared here.