LITTLETON -- Five years into development of The Point, it's almost difficult to imagine the town without it.
The massive, sprawling shopping center stands over Interstate 495, visible to cars driving in both directions. It has had a major financial impact on Littleton, a small community that had long had an agrarian air, and today represents more than a quarter of the commercial real estate in town. And after all the work that has taken place, The Point is still not done.
Sam Park, the developer behind the shopping center, said several more projects are planned, including a rock-climbing gym. He estimated it could be two years before The Point can truly be considered complete.
"It's like children," Park said. "You have to invest a lot to get a good product, a lot of time and money."
Park purchased the 90-acre site on Great Road for $6 million in 2011, touting plans for the largest mixed-use development in the town's history. Since then, he has spent about $60 million on development -- that figure does not include the Market Basket and the Marriott Hotel, who paid for their own construction -- and has leased space to dozens of businesses.
Unlike a more traditional shopping mall, Park said, there was no focus on a specific industry such as fashion to anchor the center. The developers hand-picked tenants with the goal of finding complementary businesses that would attract customers to the shopping center more frequently, mixing local and national brands.
"If you go to something like a mall or other more fashion-anchored centers, people might go once a month," Park said. "We want people to go two or three times a week."
So far, the project has been a success. Park offered a rough estimate that the various businesses have created 600 to 700 full-time jobs, and while he did not have specific revenue figures, he said most tenants are "doing quite well" and Market Basket is "doing phenomenally well."
The Point has become an important source of revenue for the town, too.
In 2017, The Point represented about 26 percent of all commercial property value in town, which allowed the town to avoid putting more tax burden on its residents, according to Town Administrator Keith Bergman.
"The impact of The Point has been overwhelmingly favorable to Littleton," Bergman said. "Without it, the residential tax rate would have increased at a much greater level because the residential values are continuing to go up. But having all the development at The Point has given us additional commercial value to help offset as the residential value goes up."
Recent major additions to the facility include O'neil Cinemas, an eight-auditorium movie theater, and the Courtyard by Marriott hotel. Additional development is on the horizon. Park said the third phase of construction, focusing on the top level of the shopping center, will soon begin.
Workers are already preparing to build a branch of MetroRock, a rock-climbing gym, next to the movie theater. Park said the facility will be close to 10,000 square feet and will feature 40-foot-tall climbing terrain. MetroRock representatives were not available for immediate comment Thursday.
"The sport has taken off like gangbusters," Park said. "Not only does it appeal to the technology crowd around 495, but it's great fun for the entire family."
Park said he hopes to begin construction in the summer and complete the gym by the fall. There are also plans to develop four new stores near MetroRock. Once the gym is complete, workers will also begin construction on "Building K," a large two-story building with space available for offices and for retail businesses.
Other spaces may be developed in the future, but Park has yet to market those to potential tenants.
"It will feel completed by the next 18 months," Park said.
Follow Chris on Twitter @ChrisLisinski.