Worcester Approves $583M City Square

philip

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By Beverly Ford
http://www.globest.com/news/598_598/boston/146703-1.html

WORCESTER, MA-Boston-based Berkeley Investments Inc. has signed a development agreement with city officials to transform a vacant outlet mall into a $583-million pedestrian friendly mix of shops, offices and residential uses. The project, called City Square, will be completed over the next five to seven years.



The project has been in the negotiation stages for years but the final accord paves the way for construction on the 2.1-million sf mixed use project to begin, probably by the end of this year. Barbara Smith-Bacon, project manager for Berkley, tells GlobeSt.com that the firm will begin by demolishing the vacant Worcester Common Outlet and creating a street grid that will link the surrounding neighborhoods to the downtown area.

A 1,000-car underground parking garage will be topped by a major portion of the project, which will include 400,000 sf of street-level retail and entertainment offerings. Also part of the plan is about one million sf of new and existing office space and 650 housing units, Smith-Bacon says.

Built on more than 20 acres, City Square will be constructed in three phases with the majority of construction work completed during Phase I, which will be completed in four years. The second and third phases will take an additional one to two years to finish, Smith-Bacon adds.

?It?s perfectly positioned, not only because of its location in Worcester but because of what is going on in the rest of Worcester.? Smith-Bacon notes that the city is in the midst of several major redevelopment projects, including the renovation of a performing arts center and the construction of a state courthouse and an adjacent hotel. No tenants have yet signed on to the project but Smith-Bacon says Berkeley is in the process of talking with several nationally known retailers.
 

Patrick

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this is great, it is about time worcester began to take some initiative and step back into the ring with providence. I also heard somewhere that the worcester metro is projected to be the fastest growing area in new england in the coming years so this project is likely to be met with longterm success.
 

Smuttynose

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I have to say that when I originally heard about this I was skeptical that it would actually come to fruition. But this is great for Worcester, It's such a huge project! The outlet mall was definitely a big mistake, but this development looks like it will give the city the opportunity to kind of make up for some of the mistakes it's made in the past and really step up as Patrick said as a player with Providence, Hartford, New Haven, etc.
 

JoeGallows

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Of the 20 years I lived just outside Worcester, I could probably count only on both hands the number of times I have actually been in downtown Worcester (on one hand the number of times my feet have touched the pavement of those sidewalks). I'm not proud of it, but it just helps to prove that there is next to nothing in its immediate downtown area. Sure there are a few entertainment venues, a few restaurants/bars, but thats all that comes to mind.

Worcester sprawls far too much within its own city limits to make the downtown area a must visit for anyone who lives in the city limits, much less those in the immediately adjacent towns. Anyone further out than that hardly acknowledges the existence of the city. Usually its "That place we drive by on the highway on our way to Foxwoods." So much of Worcester, due to its sprawl and the regional sprawl in general, gives it a non-identity.

With this project, Worcester could gain an identity. I see Worcester going in a good (but possibly not great) direction. Sure the Ice Cats left the city, but the Tornadoes have (in my opinion) had more of an influence on the city than the Ice Cats ever had. Yeah, they don't play downtown, and the park is across the street from an elevated highway, but families are actually leaving the suburbs in large numbers (I believe many games last season sold out, sadly, unlike the Ice Cats) and rooting for something with the name 'Worcester' in it. Someday, I hope Worcester can manage to find itself and become something of a destination. I just hope they can draw the car-dependent people in the area downtown. The last thing Worcester needs is for City Square to fall flat on its back.
 

Benhamin

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^ Agreed pretty much, but remember, we lost the Icecats, but also gained the Sharks, San Jose's affiliate.
 

ralman83

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woo

Worcester's problems will not be solved ny this. i have an apartment there for school and the city is in bad shape considering its size and population.
it actually disgusts me to see such inefficiency and potential go to waist.

The problem lies within city hall and city council. I have written a 15 Page paper for my urban studies class on this topic and have found nothing but
negative stories as i did my research. I interviewed people in the know. residents who have seen The city deteriorate for the past 50 years.

A shake up of those in power is what is needed. If not things will not change.
No one is doing anything new or creative. People in power get complacent with their pay and don't want to do more than the next guy. its been like this for years. and the local paper should write about this.

On a positive side The city does thrive in health-care and teaching jobs jobs.
umass medical is one of more then ten colleges. WPI is building a new bioengineering facility near downtown.

Another problem here is that the city needs better representation in Boston in order to attract more dollars. Incentives for companies to move here would also be great.!! Boston should not be competing with providence RI for future jobs. Worcester should be. The commonwealth should put more initiative into this deteriorating city.
 

Benhamin

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http://www.telegram.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20061027/NEWS/610270656&SearchID=73261263295831

Friday, October 27, 2006

City signs Square deal

Downtown project is a go

By Nick Kotsopoulos TELEGRAM & GAZETTE STAFF
nkotsopoulos@telegram.com

WORCESTER? The $563 million CitySquare project, one of the biggest downtown revitalization projects in the state?s history, finally has been signed, sealed and delivered.

City Manager Michael V. O?Brien and Berkeley Investments Inc. President Young K. Park yesterday put ink on paper, signing the development agreement and related documents for the project.

Their signing of the 400-page agreement culminated a process that began in April 2004, when city and Berkeley officials began negotiating a memorandum of agreement for the project, shortly after the developer took possession of the Worcester Common Outlets mall complex.


All necessary agreements and governmental approvals are now in place for CitySquare to move forward.

?The execution of these documents is a significant milestone,? Mr. O?Brien said. ?It formalizes both our relationship and the bright future of CitySquare, as we take this from the drawing board to reality. As you can imagine, there is much work to do on a project of this magnitude. The city and Berkeley Investments are more than up to the task.?

Before work begins on razing the mall, Mr. O?Brien said an analysis needs to be done to determine what project expenses can be paid for through District Improvement Financing bonds issued by the city. Some of those costs include demolition work, construction of new streets, infrastructure work and the design of the underground parking garage.

He said money from the DIF bonds will be paid as expenses are incurred and not in a lump sum.

Though no formal date has been set for the start of the demolition work, the manager said it will likely begin next spring.

The development agreement was signed at an informal ceremony attended by members of both parties? negotiating teams.

?Both CitySquare and Worcester are poised for success,? Mr. Park said. ?While other areas around the state are losing population, Worcester and Worcester County?s population is growing, and people are eager to have an exciting place to shop, dine and be entertained. And with commuter rail just steps away at Union Station, offering service from Boston and MetroWest, CitySquare is a perfect example of smart growth development.?

CitySquare involves replacing the vacant Worcester Common Outlets and transforming 20.2 acres in the heart of the downtown area into a pedestrian-friendly ?urban village,? featuring condominiums, restaurants, retail shops, entertainment venues and state-of-the-art medical and professional office space.

The project also will reconnect downtown with Union Station, by extending Front Street to Washington Square. Such a road connection has been absent since the late 1960s when the downtown mall was built.

For its part, Boston-based Berkeley will put up $470 million in private capital for the creation of more than 2.2 million square feet of commercial, medical, retail and residential space. When completed, the project is projected to add 650 units of housing to the downtown area.

Mr. O?Brien said the public investment of $94 million will set the table for the project, through the creation of a new street and block pattern within the 20-acre project site and a 1,025-space underground parking garage.

City officials have said that CitySquare is expected to generate 2,300 construction jobs, while the overall development is expected to create and sustain up to 3,100 full-time jobs.

Outside of Boston and Cambridge, CitySquare is the largest downtown revitalization project in Massachusetts history.

Mayor Timothy Murray, who has been a driving force behind the redevelopment of the underused Worcester Common Outlets mall property, said signing the development agreement for CitySquare reflects the new ?can-do? attitude at City Hall and in the community.

?The magnitude of this project and the hundreds of steps necessary to get to this point would discourage most,? Mr. Murray said. ?Not Worcester ? this milestone is proof positive that no goal is out of reach when you set your sights high and you have the confidence and the right people around the table to see it through.?

It was Mr. Murray who actually got the ball rolling for the CitySquare project when he proposed demolishing parts of the Worcester Common Outlets mall and redeveloping it into a mixed use district, as well as extending Front Street to Washington Square. Mr. O?Brien picked the ball up from there and spent months negotiating with Berkeley officials a memo of agreement and then a development agreement.

Mr. O?Brien said what resulted is a true public-private partnership forged through good-faith negotiation, measured risk and shared vision.

?The support for this project is universal, from Washington to Beacon Hill, and most certainly here in Worcester,? Mr. O?Brien said.


It's about time...
 

Waldorf

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What's the latest on this? Have they started construction?
 

Benhamin

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No, as the article states, they are looking to start demo work in spring 2007. It's really taken too long to get the ball rolling, but at least now there is a 100% chance of City Square being built.
 

Corey

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I would greatly enjoy some pictures of any progress that may be happening.
 

JoeGallows

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When I was in Worcester for Christmas, nothing had yet been demolished nor did I see any construction equipment. I'm heading over there in mid-March, so I'll see what I can scope out.
 
I

irdesi

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I was in Worcester last night. No visible changes to the outlets. The place looked dead as ever.

I'm in Worcester on a fairly regular basis, so I'd be willing to check when I'm down towards the station, but we'd gotta hope that for a project of this magnitude there will be an article in the paper about the groundbreaking/any major progress.
 

Lrfox

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Unfortunately, no updates from me. However, I was in Worcester today for a conference at Holy Cross and was able to snap a nice photo from the hill looking towards Downtown. It's not an ugly city, and I hope they go through with the City Square proposal and the Union Station Projects.

Here's the picture:


*Edit*
I wish I had more time today, there are many buildings both on the Holy Cross campus and throughout the city that deserve to be photographed.
 
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stellarfun

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Unfortunately, no updates from me. However, I was in Worcester today for a conference at Holy Cross and was able to snap a nice photo from the hill looking towards Downtown. It's not an ugly city, and I hope they go through with the City Square proposal and the Union Station Projects.

Here's the picture:


*Edit*
I wish I had more time today, there are many buildings both on the Holy Cross campus and throughout the city that deserve to be photographed.
That was quite the telephoto zoom!
 
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Lrfox

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That was quite the telephoto zoom!
Actually, It's just a cheap Nikon Coolpix compact digital. It's only got 3x digital zoom. I did edit the picture by cropping some of the parking lot in front of the Hogan Student center which may make it appear to be zoomed in even more, but very little. the original shot is here:



As for schoolhouse lofts, it's nice to see something happening while City Square plans sit idle. Worcester (and a bunch of other medium and smaller Massachusetts cities) seems to have plenty of older buildings, like the school house lofts buildings, that could benefit greatly from that type of renovation.
 

PaulC

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looks like it might happen

Progress for major Worcester development
March 31, 2009 06:40 PMEmail| Comments (0)| Text size ? +
A massive mixed-use development in Worcester is expected to get a significant boost Wednesday when city officials announce a major tenant for the long-delayed CitySquare project, according to officials who have been briefed on the event.

Unum Group, an insurance company with headquarters in Tennessee, is expected to lease more than 175,000 square feet of office space in the first phase of CitySquare. That lease would trigger the release of $25 million in state funding to be used to demolish the Worcester Common Outlets, the vacant mall that now sits on the site.

A press conference to announce the lease is scheduled for today at the Worcester campus of Massachusetts College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences, across the street from the mall. A lease would be a milestone for the project, begun in 2006 and championed by Lt. Gov. Tim Murray, who has sought to redevelop the site since 2003, when he was mayor of Worcester.

Last spring, the Worcester City Council changed the development agreement and lowered the leased space requirement to release the state money to 135,000 square feet from 300,000 square feet. The Unum deal is expected to far exceed that threshold.

Officials from Unum could not be reached for comment. Young Park, president of developer Berkeley Investments Inc., did not respond to phone messages.

CitySquare is the latest in a string of about 40 years of failed attempts to redevelop downtown Worcester. In 1965, the Worcester Redevelopment Authority launched a plan to take 34 acres of the city, destroy the existing buildings and streets, and replace it with a mixed-used development called Worcester Center, which included a shopping mall called the Galleria. The mall was revamped and reopened in 1994 as the Worcester Common Fashion Outlets.

In recent years, the outlets have struggled. Murray championed the current plan when he was mayor of Worcester. If constructed, CitySquare would restore some of the streets wiped out by the initial redevelopment and bring activity back to street level, not hidden behind a glass curtain. The project is expected to cost $563 million. (By Jeffrey Krasner, Globe staff)
http://www.boston.com/business/ticker/2009/03/progress_for_ma.html
 

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