For Immediate Release: 7/28/2021 10:16 am
The City of Worcester and the Downtown Worcester Business Improvement District (BID) were awarded a $54,000 grant from the MassDOT Shared Streets and Spaces Program, providing critical funding to transform numerous key Downtown corridors. The City and the BID collaborated to submit an innovative proposal to re-purpose on-street parking spaces into outdoor dining areas and install new landscaping elements. These new placemaking efforts, coupled with the BID’s existing programs, will assist local restaurants to add outdoor dining to their operations, while maintaining a safe and inviting pedestrian environment.
In June 2020, the BID hired the consultant team of Civic Space Collaborative to engage the local community and create a placemaking action plan and implementation strategy for Downtown Worcester. This plan identifies specific placemaking and beautification projects within the Downtown during COVID-19 and long term. Outdoor dining was identified as a placemaking priority to assist local restauranteurs in adding (or increasing) the amount of outdoor dining to their existing establishments while giving patrons the option to enjoy the local fare in a safe manner.
“The BID has a great partner in the City Administration as we work together to identify and implement new and innovative approaches to bring people to Downtown Worcester,” said Evelyn Darling, Executive Director of the BID. “We are excited to realize the implementation of these placemaking efforts in our community. With these efforts, we are proud to make a tangible investment in our local businesses as they seek to get back to operating in the ‘new era’ of dining and entertainment in a post-pandemic environment.”
To implement the vision for increased outdoor dining Downtown, the BID identified some of the obstacles that local restauranteurs often encounter – permitting and capital. Once identified, the BID hired an architect to develop plans for an on-street “parklet” system, helped to shepherd several establishments through the licensing process, purchased outdoor furniture, and established a “rental” program for those businesses seeking to introduce outdoor dining that were unable to make the initial investment of furniture.
“Outdoor dining provides patrons with a unique, overall dining experience,” City Manager Edward M. Augustus, Jr. said “The City of Worcester worked hard to help restaurants continue to serve their patrons throughout the COVID-19 pandemic by working with community partners to provide grants that enabled restaurants to offer temporary outdoor dining, which proved to be a huge success. This effort takes that a step further. With a Shared Streets and Spaces Grant from the MassDOT, and with the Downtown Worcester Business Improvement District’s staunch commitment to creating more outdoor dining options in our downtown core, we will introduce two raised platform parklets in a pilot project that could ultimately expand to other restaurants in Downtown Worcester and to other parts of the city. Worcester is a destination for people from all over, and this is just one more reason for residents and visitors alike to see what this City has to offer.”
"The Downtown Worcester BID has been amazing to work with and have been so helpful in introducing outdoor dining at Chashu,” said Chashu Ramen + Izakaya co-owner Tam Le. The outdoor dining parklet will be a beautiful addition to the streetscape in Downtown Worcester and will also greatly improve our restaurant's visibility."
In addition to the outdoor dining “parklets,” the installation of additional sidewalk planters provides the BID with a greater opportunity to build upon its existing flower program while also implementing an aesthetically-pleasing traffic calming mechanism to enhance the pedestrian experience. Last year, the BID began implementing a flower program within the Downtown and this year installed 126 hanging flower baskets and 36 sidewalk planters throughout the District.
As the warmer summer months bring events and more people to Downtown Worcester, the BID and the City of Worcester are poised to implement these placemaking elements in the coming weeks. In the longer-term, the BID and the City expect that implementation of the outdoor dining program will assist to identify and create additional pedestrian spaces with these “parklets,” enhancing the physical aspects of the city and bringing new visitors to the area.