The Gem of Norfolk County
Business View Magazine interviews local and private sector officials of Foxborough, Massachusetts for our focus on Economic Development in U.S. Cities
Life in Foxborough, Massachusetts revolves around this quintessential small-town feel community, accompanied by big city amenities. But this iconic Norfolk County Town doesn’t come with just any old amenities. Foxborough is home to the world-renowned New England Patriots and to the New England Revolution, a member of Major League Soccer (MLS). With that comes Gillette Stadium, Patriot Place, and all the exceptional benefits they provide.
Incorporated in 1778, Foxborough quickly became known as the Straw Hat Capital of the World, but today the Town is known best as the home of the star National Football League (NFL) team. According to Foxborough Town Manager, William Keegan, “The term ‘New England’ Patriots came about when the team moved south from Boston to Foxborough in 1970. At that time, the ‘new’ Schaefer Stadium had been built when the former Boston Patriots outgrew Fenway Park and needed a larger, more football friendly, venue. Subsequently, that stadium was torn down; though it remained in Foxborough for over 30 years.”
In 2001, Gillette Stadium was built by the Kraft Family after they had bought the former Schaefer Stadium in 1988 and then took ownership of the football team in 1994. The Kraft Family (now referred to as the Kraft Group) had a vision and mission of success for the Patriots that has also benefited the Town of Foxborough by becoming one of the most widely recognized community names in the country. Once the Kraft Group took over ownership of the team, “of course, the rest is history,” Keegan adds. “During the past 20 years, the Patriots have dominated the NFL by consistently being one of the best teams in their conference and by capturing an historic six Super Bowl Championships.”
In addition to attracting world-wide sports attention to the Town, the Kraft Group has made a lasting impact not just on Foxborough but to other stadium cities across the country. “I think the Kraft Group has done more to change the dynamic of the NFL corporate world by being creative in their non-sports related investments,” says Keegan. “They came up with this concept of capitalizing on the stadium as an attraction and as a focal point for economic development. Today that model has been followed almost everywhere in the country where new stadiums are being built.”
The Kraft Group’s development portfolio in Foxborough includes Patriot Place, a 1.3 million square foot complex that features retail shopping, two hotels, a theater, and 19 restaurants. It is also home to the Mass General/Brigham Healthcare complex. “We have over 300,000 square feet of world class healthcare within the Patriot Place campus; it’s the world-class healthcare delivery system that you would get in Boston that now also resides here in Foxborough; and it’s been hugely successful,” says Ted Fire, Vice President of Construction and Development for the Kraft Group.
The Kraft Group’s next frontier is Quarter Point at Patriot Place, a 1.5 million square foot development planned to house life science labs, commercial office space and some limited manufacturing. Keegan notes, “We think it’s going to be a gamechanger for both the Town and the Kraft Group in the sense that it’s actually going to start building upon the biotech vision that we both believe will take hold in this area.” Foxborough’s locale, coupled with the amenities offered at Patriot Place, make it an attractive destination for biotech and life science firms.
“It opens the doors for workforce recruitment for those types of employees and tenants that want to see set up shop here,” Fire explains. “We have great vehicular access and we have a commuter rail station on the site that has recently been activated. The expectation is that this, along with available land and existing infrastructure, will help drive these major life science-based and commercial office tenants out to Foxborough. We have everything they will need at their doorstep and the tagline we like to use is ‘the best of the city, close to home.’”
Situated equidistant from Boston and Providence, the Town of Foxborough is bordered by Interstate 95 and Route 495 on one side and is then bisected by State Routes 1 and 140 – making it an ideal location to live and do business. Keegan explains, “There are a lot of high-end residential homes in the community along with a great school system and the high quality of our municipal services has become a trademark of the community”.
Foxborough’s downtown – known to locals as the “uptown” area of Town – is currently experiencing a revival. Over the past two years the Town has approved 115 new apartments, while a group of community-minded residents have also banded together to salvage the Town’s old community theatre. A once-abandoned fire station will soon be redeveloped into a 19-unit Apartment Complex; complete with a new Brew Pub. “We really want to nurture our uptown,” says Paige Duncan, Foxborough’s Planning Director. “Right now, we see a lot of services that you would normally see in many village centers – hair salons, restaurants and other service amenities – and they are all doing great, but we also want to see the bakery, the cheese shop, the ice cream store, and the little sundries that draw people out of their homes and into their central business area to walk around, browse and take the time to enjoy our historic Town Common.”
In addition to the revitalization efforts of the uptown area there are also new plans to create a rail trail that will connect uptown to Patriot Place and the new Foxborough commuter rail station. This will help the Town become more walkable and accessible than ever before.
Having a cooperative working relationship with local businesses, can often lead to assistance in funding community improvements. For example, Schneider Electric recently provided a $150,000 grant to redo the electrification of the uptown Town Common, while also providing $100,000 to the local High School for aspiring students interested in pursuing electrical engineering and/or STEM based careers. And the Kraft Group runs an ongoing program offering up to $100,000 per year toward various community-based programs and charities. Fire admits, “We think of our relationship with Foxborough as a partnership. We have a representative on the Town’s Economic Development Committee and we participate in initiatives that work in our collective best interests. The Town has been great to work with.”
Despite being home to one of the top NFL teams, Foxborough is actually quite a small town. It’s population has hovered at 17,000 since 2000 – and that is by design. Only 25 percent of the Town has access to a sewer system, which limits the amount of residential growth potential. “When other communities were looking to add sewer systems throughout their communities, Foxborough took a much more strategic approach,” says Duncan. “We have certain areas in Town that have the sewer infrastructure and those are the areas that support our new growth. However, in other areas where access to sewer is limited, the community has made it abundantly clear that they are not looking to attract throngs of people to those areas of Town. This has helped to preserve Foxborough’s small town character.”
Looking to the future, Keegan says, “We need to start thinking about what the future is going to look like for Foxborough and we need to continue to work with our elected officials and community partners so that we can help develop solutions that will best meet the needs of our next generation.”
*Top image courtesy of Foxboro Cable Access