As I See It - Looking Back on 2018, Ahead to 2019 with 'Optimism'

Helen Keller once said "Optimism is the faith that leads to achievement. Nothing can be done without hope and confidence." Her words of optimism, hope and confidence are fitting to describe the contagious spirit that has spread throughout Worcester.

As two Worcester natives, we can't remember a time when people have been more excited and optimistic about our future.

City Manager Augustus and Larry Lucchino Signing Red Sox Agreement

The excitement culminated in August when we signed a Letter of Intent with the Pawtucket Red Sox to build a modern, multi-use ballpark as part of a multi-million dollar, transformative redevelopment in our flourishing Canal District. Without the strong partnership of the Baker-Polito administration, this project would not have been possible. Bringing professional baseball back to Worcester - a city rich with baseball history - was a monumental step forward. A complete redesign of Kelley Square is also underway and will be a game changer for Worcester.

While the ballpark initiative has received a lot of attention, it's important not to miss some of our other exciting projects. With the support of State Treasurer Deb Goldberg, we broke ground in August on the construction of a $210 million new South High Community School, and a new Doherty Memorial High School is being planned. Thanks to our partnership with Massport and Congressman Jim McGovern, more commercial airline service was added at Worcester Regional Airport with daily JetBlue flights to New York City as well as American Airlines service to Philadelphia. Delta flights to Detroit will follow next year.

Downtown, Roseland Residential Trust started leasing at the $92 million, 365-unit apartment complex known as 145 Front. A new $33 million full-service 168-room AC Hotel by Marriot opened for business as did the adjacent 110 Grill. Work has begun on the $11 million Main Street Reimagined project, a top to bottom reconstruction which will provide a 21st century Main Street that embraces modern urban design philosophies and encourages more pedestrian traffic.

AC Hotel by Marriott on Front Street
Front of Worcester Public Library at Webster Square

Also on tap for 2019 is an $8 million project to re-orient the front entrance of the Worcester Public Library to the Franklin Street side in addition to creating a new and expanded children's room. Not to be forgotten, our seniors will benefit from a $2.1 million upgrade to the Senior Center including a new amphitheater which will expand cultural programming and a multi-purpose fitness space to help foster active, healthy lifestyles. We'll also continue improving our city parks, an area where we've invested more than $50 million during the last five years.

Exciting changes are underway in Lincoln Square with Trinity Financial's $59 million investment to redevelop the former Worcester County Courthouse into 117 units of mixed-income housing. Work is also set to begin at the former Lincoln Square Boys Club building where WinnDevelopment will conduct a $20 million redevelopment project to house Summit Academy.

Trinity Financial Receiving Keys to Old Courthouse from City Manager Augustus

Public safety continues to be a priority for both our residents and our city government. Throughout the last several years we've experienced historically low crime rates with nearly all measures of crime, including violent and property crime, on the decline.

Aerial View of Boardwalk at Blackstone Gateway Park

Working together with our City Council, we remain committed to our neighborhoods. Quality of life is always one of our top priorities as we meet monthly with residents at more than 60 neighborhood crime watch meetings to keep our fingers on the pulse of what's happening. The opening of the Blackstone Heritage Corridor Visitor Center and Blackstone Gateway Park in Quinsigamond Village is a shining example of what can be achieved by working with our neighborhoods.

The momentum Worcester has enjoyed through its ongoing resurgence is something you can feel throughout our entire city. But even outside of Worcester, people are noticing and telling our story. National media outlets like the Wall Street Journal and National Public Radio have covered our growth and revitalization efforts.

While Worcester has celebrated many successes throughout the past year, it is during the difficult times that a community really shows it true colors. We should all take pride in the way our city and region responded to the tragic passing of Firefighter Christopher J. Roy. You rallied around not only the Roy family but the entire Worcester Fire Department. We are humbled by your generosity in support of the Ava Roy Fund and all your words of compassion. Despite all of the accomplishments we have achieved over the past year, this is perhaps the greatest - answering the call and stepping up during a time of great loss.

Looking ahead, there is more excitement on the horizon and more work to be done. The opioid crisis and homelessness continue to challenge us on a daily basis. We will use every resource available to us as we continue to employ strategies to combat the opioid epidemic. In the area of homelessness, our Task Force for Sustaining Housing First Solutions has published its formal recommendations on a long-term system of permanent supportive housing which we believe will be instrumental as we work to end adult chronic homelessness in Worcester. Now it's up to us to implement this program.

Worcester is a very diverse city, an attribute that should be celebrated and woven into the fabric of everything we do, especially diversifying our workforce. We remain committed to fostering a spirit of inclusivity to provide opportunities for every segment of our growing population.

The overall cleanliness of our city is without question a priority for all of us. In the year ahead we look to implement a comprehensive trash and beautification program to reduce litter and improve the physical appearance of our streets, sidewalks and public spaces.

We are confident that Worcester will keep moving forward as we all work together to make our city the best it can be and we sincerely thank all of you that help make our city such an amazing place to live, work and play. This appreciation must be extended to our residents, businesses, our state delegation, the City Council and all of our dedicated city employees. None of this would be possible without your continued support. Let's keep our heads held high and remember - we are the second largest city in New England - let's act like it.

- Edward M. Augustus, Jr. is the City Manager of Worcester
- Joseph M. Petty is the Mayor of Worcester

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Worcester, MA 01608

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