In the early spring of 1973, if you were to drive west along Chelmsford‘s Route 110, just beyond the Lowell city line, you wouldn’t get far before you came across a large clearing outside your driver’s side window. Masses of steel would be shooting skyward, well back on a newly-cleared 12-acre parcel of land.
There might even be a sign, advertising the fate of the new development – not far from the junction of Rtes. 3 and 495. A “Neighborhood Mall” is planned, and with it, Child World and Bradlees Department Store are both coming to Chelmsford. A Stop & Shop Grocery Store also announced plans to move into the new mall.
A lot of excitement surrounded the mall’s opening. ”Who wants to go downtown? Who wants to drive all the way to Burlington?” quipped one man to the Lowell Sun in early 1973.
With construction beginning around December 1972, the mall was seen as a welcome alternative to the at-times sweltering, and at-times freezing, streets of downtown Lowell, or the larger and more distant Burlington Mall some miles down Route 3. The idea of a mall at the site actually surfaced as early as 1970, but several hurdles needed to be cleared before construction even started. First, no less than 14 separate parcels of land needed to be purchased. Later, the project was almost derailed (and ended up being delayed for two months) by the Conservation Commission, while the question of wetlands found on the site was discussed.
After all the hurdles had been cleared, and as construction progressed in March 1973, the development’s leasing agent joked, to a Lowell Sun reporter:
“Have you seen the new Hatch Act? Conservation is all right. But it needs some moderation! In this one, any marsh, meadow, wetland, the sea coast, any brook, all treated the same. They’re not the same. It’s all got to be reasonable. . . . Really, who cares about saving the mosquitoes?”
The seventies sure were different times. . . .
Construction continued through the spring and summer of 1973, and the mall was scheduled to open that October. That large parcel of land along Chelmsford’s Route 110 eventually came to accommodate 1,200 cars and a ‘huge’ mall, as it was then called. In addition to Child World, Bradlees, and a Stop and Shop, the mall also housed some 25 speciality stores, including Hit or Miss, Radio Shack, and Fayva.