The CitySquare project area is located on the site of the former Worcester Galleria. Prior to the construction of the Galleria, this area of Downtown was composed of walkable city-blocks with active street level retail and small businesses. The vast majority of the businesses at the time were locally owned and operated and the buildings were “human scale” with lower heights and smaller widths with multiple buildings fronting each street block.
In June of 1969, the WRA and City of Worcester celebrated the groundbreaking of the Worcester Galleria. Upon completion, this $127 million project consisted of a twenty-story office tower, eight-story office building, an enclosed galleria and mall area with 1 million square feet of retail space, and more than 4,300 enclosed parking spaces, on a thirty-four acre site. This project effectively cut off the Central Business District and Downtown from Washington Square, Shrewsbury Street, and the Canal District, creating a major impediment to future development.
Since 2010, the City of Worcester has been diligently working with CitySquare II Development Co. LLC (Opus/Leggat) to once again transform the downtown landscape. In addition to completing the abatement and demolition of the mall and portions of the adjacent parking garage, a new roadway network was constructed re-creating the east-west connection through the downtown.
Representing the first new building at CitySquare, Unum (Paul Revere Life Insurance) opened a $70 million, 214,000 square foot office building and renovated 860-car parking garage. Unum currently employs 550. Other investment in the project area includes an expansion of the Saint Vincent Hospital campus, with a 66,000 square foot $30 million Cancer and Wellness Center. A two-level 550-car $35 million underground public parking garage, Worcester Common Garage, has been constructed and is now open to the public. A $90 million, 365-unit residential development with a dedicated 479 space parking structure, and approximately 13,000 square feet of ground floor retail by Roseland Properties broke ground in late 2015. The construction of a $33.1 million full-service 168 room AC Hotel by Marriott started steel erection in fall 2016. The CitySquare project will leverage additional private investment in a final future phase envisioned to consist of the new construction of a 200,000 square foot office building on a pad site above the Worcester Common Garage.
Due to the success of these investments, a private developer (Front Street Associates) purchased the remaining buildings in the CitySquare project area, now branded as Mercantile Center. Mercantile Center is a 640,000-square-foot office and retail complex composed of two best-in-class office towers at 100 and 120 Front Street, three commercial/retail redevelopment opportunities at 90/110 Front Street, and a 1,647 space structured parking garage. The new developer is investing approximately $75 million between the purchase of the property and renovation of the complex, and has a lease executed with UMass Memorial Health Care for approximately 90,000 square feet of office space. This arrangement will bring an additional 700 UMass workers to the downtown.
Since project start, a roughly $90 million public investment has generated $298 million in private development at the CitySquare project site. This private investment is expected to increase with the development of the parcel above the parking garage.