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READING, MA-The ground has been broken on the 400,000-sf retail development being built on a 33-acre former landfill along Route 128 and construction is under way. The project, called the Crossing at Walkers Brook, was able to move forward once an agreement between the town and the developer over capping the landfill was reached.

The site was a town dump until the 1970s and the state ordered the landfill capped. Quincy-based Dickinson Development Corp. agreed to take over responsibility for closing up the landfill, which costs about $4 million. The agreement was reached as part of negotiations between the town and the developer and resulted in a public-private partnership between Reading, MA and Dickinson Development.

The $80-million project is being built in two phases with the first phase consisting of a 140,000-sf Home Depot, a 260,000-sf Jordan’s Furniture store, which includes a 450-seat IMAX Theater, and a 217-seat Chili’s Restaurant. The second phased consists of 70,000 sf, which will possibly accommodate several more retailers and restaurants. On its website, the second phase of additional development is describes as “probable once the economic climate improves.”

The developer says that the first phase is on track for a fall 2004 opening.

Dickinson Development president Mark Dickinson anticipates that the area’s demographics, the site’s easy highway access and its proximity to Boston promise to make the project an “exciting ‘lifestyle’ retail destination.”

As part of its agreement with the town, Dickinson paid $3 million for the site to Reading. Dickinson notes that his project team has been working closely with the state’s Department of Environmental Protection and officials from Reading for three years to gain the necessary approvals related to landfill capping and the preservation of Walkers Brook, which runs on three sides of the site.

Pinnacle Partners is partnering with Dickinson on the project. The developer says the project will bring an estimated $750,000 annually to Reading in new property taxes.

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