The South End vs. Kendall Square: some thoughts

In General, Kendall Square, Retail Thoughts on January 13, 2010 at 11:07 pm

Lambert’s Marketplace in Boston’s South End is closed after less than one year in business.

I’m very familiar with Lambert’s, was a regular at the downtown location when I was working in the area and believe it has good, quality product.  I’m not sure why the South End location closed – businesses close for many reasons – but if it closed because of lack of business, I think it’s more about the South End than about Lambert’s….(read more)

I live in the South End with my wife.  We love it.  It’s diverse, has good restaurants and is a neighborhood with great energy.  Looking through the eyes of a retailer though, it scares me (I’ve shared this sentiment with many of my clients over the past couple of years).  First, only the northern and western sections of the neighborhood are close to the subway, Back Bay and Mass. Ave, respectively.  Bus is good, but it’s not the subway.

Second, there is little weekday, daytime activity.  Quite simply, not many people work in the South End.  The neighborhood really clears out 9 to 5.  This fact alone can be devastating for retailers and restaurants.  Can they make it? – yeah, many do.  Is it tough? – yeah, sure is. In particular, it’s the Tremont Street stretch between Mass. Ave and Dartmouth that has always scared me the most (Lambert’s exact location).  Shawmut is equally as challenging and so is the stretch on Washington going from E. Brookline inbound, where there is a lot of vacant retail.  Washington and Albany Street between E. Newton and Mass. Ave are OK though,  largely because of the presence of Boston Medical Center, Boston University Medical/Dental and many labs.  In my eyes, many restaurants and retailers need a major daytime consumer presence to be profitable long term – big office buildings, hospitals and universities do the trick.  Conversely, weekend and weeknights are very much about the residential component.  In this respect, the South End has it, no argument here.

What the South End doesn’t have in daytime population, Kendall has – many, many times over.  The presence of the life science and high tech industries is powerful and growing.  And of course, there’s a place called Massachusetts Institute of Technology as well.  Students, check; Employees, check.

And what about Kendall at night and weekends?  Enter Watermark Cambridge (321 units), Third Square (480 units) and Archstone Kendall (approx. 170 units).  800 apartments on Third Street between Binney and Broadway and 170 more around the corner on the next block.  Amazing.

Kendall’s potential for vibrant and exciting retail is relatively untapped.  The people are here and aren’t going anywhere – night and day.  The retail is just now starting to blossom.  It’s been challenging, fun and exciting to be a part of.

Back to Lambert’s… We would welcome it in Kendall.  Kendall needs an urban market and could support one.  Dave Downing, a colleague of mine at Twining Properties and CityRetail, spoke to the Lambert’s folks in 2008 in an effort to get them to come tour the Watermark retail.  The tour never happened but the demand is still here.

Lambert’s: the South End may not have been good to you but I can assure you Kendall will be.  Please come visit.  We’ve got a great spot for you!

  1. […] last leg of my run was through the South End, which has seen a good deal of change over the winter. Lambert’s Market, Sage, Banq and Pho Republic were some of the most notable closings. The most interesting openings […]

  2. […] of my favorite early posts is “The South End vs. Kendall Square: some thoughts.” In this post from Jan 13, 2010 I highlight the closing of Lambert’s Marketplace in the South […]

  3. […] last leg of my run was through the South End, which has seen a good deal of change over the winter. Lambert’s Market, Sage, Banq and Pho Republic were some of the most notable closings. The most interesting openings […]

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