One of the largest retail developers in New England suffered a major setback Tuesday when voters in Agawam, Massachusetts rejected two ballot questions placed by National Realty & Development Corporation of Purchase, New York. At least 60% of the voters in Agawam turned down two measures that would have permitted the rezoning of land for the massive 563,265 s.f. “Agawam Pavilion” project, which included a pad site for two big box stores, one a 123,735 s.f. store, the second a 134,900 s.f. store. National Realty created a “citizens” group to push its project, spent a considerable sum of money on media ads and mailers, offered the city a million dollars, but could not garner the support of local residents or city officials. National Realty tried to write its own zoning code in Agawam, but voters were cool to the idea of a New York developer rewriting Agawam’s zoning. National Realty calls itself “one of the leading development and management firms in the Northeast.” It has a portfolio of more than 14 million square feet, including dozens of shopping centers in 14 states. But Agawam won’t be one of them. National Realty tenants include Wal-Mart, Target, Kohl’s, Lowe’s Home Depot, and other big box stores. The company did not reveal who the tenants would be in the “Pavilion,” but a group called Citizens Against Reckless Development (CARD), formed early to fight the project on Route 57 at Tennis Road. National Realty bankrolled a group called “Citizens in Favor of Retail”, which gathered signatures to put two binding questions on the ballot — both of which went down in defeat. One of the organizers of the anti-sprawl group, Karl Merriam, told the Union-News, “It shows that the dragon can be slayed. David can beat Goliath.” City officials in Agawam, to their credit, were critical of the developer’s efforts to circumvent the Planning Board and City Council — both of which rejected the project.
City officials called National Realty’s plans a “scary” attempt to get around the political process in the city. For local contacts in Agawam who helped scuttle the Target and Lowe’s project, contact [email protected]