Sunday, April 21, 2024

The long-empty space on Carl Barron Plaza in Central Square is being renovated for Amazon. (Photo: Marc Levy)

After sitting empty for more than a decade of its 17-year existence, a giant retail space in the heart of Central Square is getting a tenant: an Amazon “merchandise pickup store,” according to the firms designing and building the space and city Inspectional Services records.

The online retail giant has moved increasingly into the bricks-and-mortar realm in recent years with pickup lockers, bookstores, a cashier-less convenience store concept called Amazon Go and by acquiring the Whole Foods Market grocery chain.

It will spend about $480,000 remodeling the 3,580-square-foot retail space called One Central Square, where Massachusetts Avenue meets River Street, “to be separated into mercantile and storage/stockroom spaces,” Inspectional Services records show.

The property sits on Carl Barron Plaza, long a focus of municipal head-shaking over unfulfilled potential – at least in part because One Central Square has spent most of its existence empty at the base of the residential Holmes Building. Its sole use was a few years spent as an AT&T store, said Annette Born, the real estate agent who represented the space for Urban/Born Associates until her retirement a year ago.

With plans to renovate Barron Plaza in the 2020 fiscal year, the Central Square Business Association hosted a “New Vision” workshop Saturday to generate ideas for the redesign, but news of Amazon’s arrival wasn’t known widely at the time.

The current project, with paperwork signed July 10 by Hunneman Real Estate’s Stuart F. Pratt Jr., is actually Amazon’s second look at the space.

“I had that listing for so many years, and we just couldn’t fill it. It was probably the winter of 2016 … and they weren’t ready to do anything. I think they came back in 2017 and made their decision about what they were going to do,” Born said by phone from Florida. “I think they were just looking for space and not knowing exactly what they were going to do – the thought was, is there going to be a bookstore, or this or that?”

“Some of these companies take forever,” Born explained. “They do the deal and they don’t build out until they get to whatever number it is on the list. Or they just stockpile it for something. They certainly can afford to.”

The Central Square Business Association’s executive director, Michael Monestime, wasn’t able to comment on the Amazon project in time for this article. Amazon officials did not return messages.