Building multifamily residences above shops and businesses has been known to revitalize downtown areas, so Chicago-based developer General Growth Properties is trying a suburban version in Natick, Mass.

The Nouvelle at Natick will feature 215 luxury condominiums built atop the 30-year-old, redeveloping Natick Mall, which also will be home to Massachusetts' first-ever Nordstrom department store as well as a Neiman Marcus, luxury boutiques, specialty stores, and four sit-down restaurants.

Aaron Bartels, the senior director of residential development at General Growth Properties, says this full-scale mall renovation is among the first of its kind. “This is bringing urban development into the suburbs,” Bartels adds. “People are looking for the services and lifestyles that go with this type of thing. It's the convenience of retail out your back door without going outside.”

But if residents do want to venture outside the contemporary-styled housing, they have tennis courts and a 2,000-square-foot roof garden at their disposal.

Shauna Gillies-Smith, design principal at Martha Schwartz in Cambridge, Mass., says her company designed the landscape architecture for the mall itself before being asked to design the roof garden.

In these roof garden plans, designers considered the residents, who Bartels says are largely empty-nesters who want a city-like lifestyle without leaving the suburbs. “These are people who are moving primarily from a place where they have yards, so the question is, ‘How do you get the feeling of having your own backyard?'” Gillies-Smith says.

The answer for Nouvelle at Natick was a combination of elements, including drought-resistant plants such as sedum, alternative patterns of river rock, and incorporating the mall's existing skylights. Not only does that make the large garden feel more intimate, but also it saves money on landscaping a large area, she adds.

The renovated mall is set to open in September 2007. First closings on the condominiums, which will range in price from $400,000 to more than $1.4 million, are scheduled for spring 2008.

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