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Florida Developer Enters Massachusetts With Mall-Adjacent Apartment Proposal

ZOM Living has proposed a two-building, 495-unit complex on a parking lot next to the South Shore Plaza mall, marking the developer's entrance into the Boston market. 

The Florida-based multifamily developer reached an agreement to acquire the 9-acre site it plans to build on from Simon Property Group for $20M, the Boston Business Journal first reported. The property sits between the mall and Lakeside Drive in Braintree.

Jim Dunlop, managing director at ZOM Living, told Bisnow the firm had been looking to expand into the Boston area since before the pandemic.

A rendering of the 315-unit apartment building ZOM Living proposed for its Residences on Granite project.

"Boston is a pretty hot place. It's a gateway city," Dunlop said. "Boston has been high on the list of places to expand."

Dunlop said towns and cities in the Route 128 corridor attracted ZOM to the state because of the abundance of life sciences and mixed-use communities. The firm also looked at areas in Boston like Allston and on Dorchester Avenue before settling on a parking lot next door to South Shore Plaza.

"This is a little bit different," Dunlop said. "It's a big mall and a big space. This is unique, and we are excited about creating something there."

The development, branded as Residences on Granite, is planned to feature a 315-unit apartment building and a 180-unit "active adult" residential building. The five-story buildings would each have their own parking garage. 

Dunlop said ZOM submitted a Planned Unit Development District for the site — dictating what uses can be developed on large plots of land — to the town of Braintree for approval.

The next step for the developer will be to go in front of the town's planning board. Dunlop said ZOM hopes that the PUD will be approved at the end of the year and construction can start in 2024.

"We've been meeting with town councilors for the last eight months to listen and talk about what we are doing," Dunlop said. "We're looking forward to getting this done together."

A rendering of the 180-unit "active adult" residence, a part of ZOM Living's proposed Residences on Granite.

The site is different than other projects ZOM has worked on because it sits next to a mall and doesn't have any abutting residents who might object to the project, something that wouldn't have happened in denser areas closer to Boston, a spokesperson for ZOM said.

ZOM has also proposed that 10% of the units in both buildings be income-restricted. Unlike Boston and other towns in the Route 128 Corridor, Braintree doesn't have an affordable housing mandate in place.

"They're working on one. They may end up getting one passed, but we are stepping up to 10% affordability," Dunlop said.

The development next to the South Shore Plaza isn't the first time a mall owner has worked with developers to introduce mixed-use projects in or near its assets. In May, The Bulfinch Cos. proposed office and lab space in an old Neiman Marcus at the Natick Mall

Other struggling malls have been redeveloped into mixed-use, open-air shopping centers, such as Hanover Crossing and Arsenal Yards.

Dunlop said that this is an exciting introduction for ZOM into the Boston market and the firm hopes to continue expanding.

"There's a lot of great towns and neighborhoods, and we feel like we may be creating a calling card and will jump-start that track record."