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Stearns Tavern Relocation Project at Coes Pond earns 2021 Audrey Nelson Community Development Award

For Immediate Release: 1/16/2021 5:04 pm

The City of Worcester is proud to announce it has been named a 2021 Audrey Nelson Community Development Award recipient by the National Community Development Association for the Stearns Tavern Relocation Project at Coes Pond.

The Audrey Nelson Community Development Achievement Award is a prestigious national community development award that is presented by the National Community Development Association. The award recognizes exemplary uses of the Community Development Block Grant program and the partnerships between local government and nonprofits to assist low- and moderate-income households. There were six awards given nationally this year and Worcester was the only Region I (New England) recipient. Other communities include San Antonio, Texas; Los Angeles County, Calif.; Alexandria, Va.; LaCrosse, Wis.; and Pasco County, Fla.

The relocation of the historic Stearns Tavern to the shores of Coes Park involved a collaboration between the City of Worcester, Preservation Worcester and the Seven Hills Foundation on this creative, local economic development and neighborhood revitalization project. Stearns Tavern is adjacent to a newly-constructed multi-generational, universally accessible playground and park.

“The Stearns Tavern Relocation Project epitomized what can be achieved with not only vision, but through collaboration and partnerships,” City Manager Edward M. Augustus, Jr. said. “This award recognizes that spirit of collaboration, which resulted in a project that will enhance the visitor experience at Coes Park and preserves a historic City landmark.”

Built in 1812, and one of two taverns remaining in the City, Stearns Tavern faced imminent demolition. Preservation Worcester worked with the building owner and took possession of the structure and transferred possession of the Tavern to the City. A Seven Hills Café is housed in the historic Tavern (opened in September 2019) as will restroom facilities and community meeting space. Seven Hills ASPiRE! participants provide services including hospitality, food service, community gardening/sustainable farming, landscaping and facilities maintenance to the building and park through its workforce readiness and job skills training program supporting individuals with various disabilities that help prepare participants for meaningful employment in their community.

The Stearns Tavern Relocation Project epitomized what can be achieved with not only vision, but through collaboration, partnerships and generosity. The City of Worcester, Preservation Worcester and Seven Hills Foundation served as the catalysts for what became the most unique public/private collaborative effort in the City's history. The City of Worcester, as part of this new partnership, provided the parcel to locate the building as well as all the necessary and related infrastructure. Through federal funding, the City provided $150,000 in CDBG funding to relocate the building, and ancillary costs. The City also provided $900,000 in Capital and Tax Levy support. In addition, the State of Massachusetts generously contributed $400,000 in MassWorks Funding. The Worcester community as a whole was incredibly responsive to the relocation and preservation of the building. At the conclusion of the project, the City was supported by 142 businesses, organizations, individuals, unions, etc., for an estimated value of $1,198,914.

“Preservation Worcester congratulates the city for receiving the Audrey Nelson Award,” said Deborah Packard, Executive Director of Preservation Worcester. “A shining example of the power of partnerships, the City’s leadership, combined with the generosity of the 140-plus project partners, made the effort unique and distinctly deserving of national recognition.”

“Seven Hills Foundation is proud of our collaboration with Preservation Worcester and the City of Worcester on a creative, local economic development and neighborhood revitalization project involving the historic Stearns Tavern, and it is exciting to receive this recognition from the National Community Development Association for our efforts,” David A. Jordan, President of Seven Hills Foundation, said. “In a harmonious setting, Stearns Tavern now has a new and exciting life complementing the unique playground and park that will provide recreational opportunities for persons of all abilities and ages and economic development opportunities for people with disabilities.”

The award will be presented to the City of Worcester on Friday, Jan. 29 as part of the National Winter Legislative Conference hosted by NCDA. The event is held each year in Washington, D.C., but due to the ongoing pandemic, the event will be virtual.

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