Originated in the 1939 Federal Housing Act's authorities for slum clearance and construction of public housing in the nation's rapidly deteriorating inner cities, urban renewal was introduced to Worcester in the 1950s and 1960s. In Massachusetts, urban renewal is governed by M.G.L. Chapter 121B, as well as 760 Code of Massachusetts Regulations (CMR) 12.00, with oversight provided by the Commonwealth's Department of Housing and Community Development (DHCD). The urban renewal program invests the WRA, as a designated urban renewal agency, with certain powers to catalyze development within an urban renewal area. Using a combination of public and private funds, urban renewal plans establish local area goals and provide for public infrastructure investment and the public acquisition and disposition of certain properties in order to carry out the plan. Urban renewal powers include the power to determine what areas within its jurisdiction constitute decadent, substandard or blighted open areas, the power to acquire property through eminent domain and access to certain public funding sources.
Over the years, the WRA has been involved in six urban renewal projects in the City of Worcester, including:
The Downtown Urban Revitalization Plan (URP) was initiated by the Worcester Redevelopment Authority (WRA) in cooperation with the City of Worcester and the Worcester City Council. The overarching vision of the URP is to build on the current momentum of downtown revitalization through strategic public investments to cultivate a safe and vibrant downtown with a strong and sustainable economic vitality. A revitalized downtown will provide an 18-hour live, work and play environment which offers new opportunities to underperforming properties, connects people and places and capitalizes on Worcester's unique location and characteristics.
The plan focuses on revitalizing the downtown area by publicizing arts and tourism destinations, improving the visitor experience, attracting new or expanding existing commercial and industrial users, enhancing residential quality of life and remediating brownfields to increase developable land area. The Urban Revitalization Area (URA) as amended has an irregularly-shaped boundary comprised of approximately 137 parcels and 412 properties (including approximately 61 business and 214 residential condominium units) within a 137.1-acre area.
The Downtown Urban Revitalization Plan has many current and upcoming projects underway: