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Worcester Urban Revitalization Plan Receives State Approval

For Immediate Release: 9/15/2016 12:22 pm

Worcester, MA (September 15, 2016) - The City of Worcester's Urban Revitalization Plan has been approved by the state Department of Housing & Community Development, City Manager Edward M. Augustus, Jr. announced Thursday.

"This plan sets an ambitious roadmap for the future of downtown Worcester, ramping up an already growing sense of momentum and vitality in our City's core," said City Manager Augustus. "The state's approval validates our vision for a safe and vibrant downtown with strong economic and cultural assets."

The overall objective of the plan is to create an environment that has a strong identity and sense of place within Worcester. A strong downtown will significantly benefit the City and the region by offering business opportunities, jobs, and a healthy local economy.

"The Baker-Polito Administration is committed to working with municipalities to help them deliver on their own goals," said Undersecretary of Housing and Community Development Chrystal Kornegay. "Worcester's Urban Revitalization Plan is another part of the development equation to pursue our shared goals of strong communities, vibrant downtowns and long-term economic growth."

The plan was developed over the past year by the City of Worcester and the Worcester Redevelopment Authority, in conjunction with consultant BSC Group, with significant public input.

"I'm thrilled that the state approved our plan in such an expedited manner. It reinforces the great work that was done by the members of our Citizens Advisory Committee, the members of the authority, the administration and the public to provide a very strong application and make a very strong case for our urban revitalization plan," said WRA Chairman Vincent Pedone. "This is an important step in the continued redevelopment and rebirth of our City's downtown neighborhoods."

Downtown Worcester has undergone a major transformation over the last 10 years, and major economic development projects are proposed, ongoing, or completed. These include CitySquare, Mercantile Center, WRTA hub at Union Station, renovation of the DCU Center, the Hanover Theatre and its ongoing expansion at 551 Main Street, 20 Franklin Street - rehabilitation of the former T&G building, MCPHS, Becker and QCC investment, and more than $10 million in streetscape, infrastructure and open space improvements.

But pockets of downtown have lagged behind for years. The plan identifies 21 parcels, plus six condominiums, that have traditionally seen a lack of investment:

  • Brownfields that have been vacant for 20+ years.
  • Upper floors of downtown buildings that have remained vacant for 20+ years.
  • Property owners that have not updated infrastructure and their buildings are in need of a substantial upgrade - one they cannot afford.
  • Obsolete buildings that the private sector is not willing to invest in to redevelop.

A number of options are possible for each property:

  • Rehabilitate substandard structures.
  • Undertake site preparation and environmental remediation.
  • Assemble and dispose of land for private development.
  • Relocate displaced businesses.
  • Complete public infrastructure improvements.
  • Demolish substandard structures for new construction.
  • Acquire land, including through eminent domain by WRA.

The plan represents a potential investment of approximately $96 million, which includes the cost of all public infrastructure upgrades, in-kind services, potential acquisitions, demolitions and relocation of businesses.

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