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Worcester Creates the City’s Fourth and Largest Local Historic District

For Immediate Release: 10/17/2023 4:41 pm

WORCESTER, Mass. – Following a unanimous vote by Worcester City Council on Sept. 26, the Elm Park Neighborhood Local Historic District was created, marking the fourth and largest local historic district (LHD) in the city.

Local historic districts are established to protect historic resources from demolition or inappropriate alterations. The Council’s action provides permanent protection to the historic neighborhood abutting Elm Park. The Elm Park Neighborhood LHD is the fourth, and largest, LHD in Worcester and includes 288 buildings on 64.5 acres. The establishment of this new LHD comes a decade after the City’s last effort to establish the Crown Hill LHD and furthers the actions of both the City’s 2016 Preservation Plan and 2019 Comprehensive Cultural Plan, which calls for expanded efforts to develop historic and cultural districts as key nodes through resident, institutional, business, and City collaboration.

“The creation of the Elm Park Neighborhood Local Historic District demonstrates the City’s ongoing commitment to historic preservation,” said City Manager Eric D. Batista. “This immense effort has ensured that future alterations to one of Worcester’s most architecturally diverse neighborhoods go through a design review process to maintain the form of this neighborhood for generations to come.”

The vote last month concludes a two and half years long process, which began in March 2021 when the Worcester Historical Commission voted to study the Elm Park Neighborhood for potential designation as a local historic district, precipitated by the announcement of the closure of Becker College.

The Historical Commission followed the process prescribed by MGL Chapter 40(C), which involved public outreach via surveys and public meetings, extensive historical research, and documentation of properties within the potential district area, culminating in a final study report for the LHD prepared by the City’s Division of Planning & Regulatory Services, which is available online here. The report details the high concentration of highly intact buildings in the neighborhood that exhibit a wide array of contemporaneously popular architectural styles.

“The grouping of various styles, coupled with the high level of architectural integrity is what makes the area a special place — worthy of protection,” Worcester Historical Commission Chair Diane Long said. “We heard from so many residents through this process who were excited to see their neighborhood acknowledged as the architectural gem it truly is.”
In the Elm Park Neighborhood LHD, most changes to exterior architectural features, including new construction and additions, changes in exterior materials, as well as other exterior alterations or demolitions, will be reviewed by the Worcester Historical Commission through existing state-defined processes.

Property owners with questions about how the new LHD may affect their property are encouraged contact the Planning Division at or 508-799-1400 x31440. The municipality also intends to install additional street signage in the neighborhood in the next year, as can be seen in the other three LHDs throughout the city. The Planning Division is in the process of developing Design Review Guidelines, funded through a Survey and Planning Grant from the Massachusetts Historical Commission, to help property owners navigate the design review process with clear expectations.

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