Worcester Infill and Developments

stick n move

Oct 14, 2009
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Worcester development thread.
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Two things:

Paragraphs, please!

And, airport links are not as important as you seem to think. You generally want to build transit to help people make trips that they are going to take every day. Most people don't fly every day, and even when they do fly, they often use a car service to help them carry their luggage.
Former Worcesterite:

Worcester's future is tied to Boston in the form of rail. If they can get the commute from Worcester to Boston down to around 40 - 45min by train at 6 - 9AM in the morning then there should be an influx of residents and development in the area between Salisbury Street and Madison Street; Basically Lincoln Square to the "Canal District". You could then run ground light rail down the way too wide Lincoln Street over to Foster Street and stop it somewhere near Union Station.

Of course, Worcester's city council is pretty much inept and the city lacks any kind of vision... so I expect continued mediocrity for awhile. They wasted a ton of space building the new Saint Vincents right in the middle of the city and the new CitySquare development is some of the least urban and pedestrian friendly shit I have ever seen. The city is also really, really spread out.

Also there is a lot of crime pretty much everywhere but the beautiful and historic west side.


This is unsubstantiated, but I was also told by someone whose opinions I resect highly on these matters that development in Worcester is expensive (for god knows what reason). Almost as expensive as Boston. There is not a lot of incentive for developers to build.
40-45 minutes by train implies 60 MPH average speed and would put it in a class well above typical American commuter rail, which typically averages 30-45 MPH. I think getting express runs down to about an hour would be the first step.
This is unsubstantiated, but I was also told by someone whose opinions I resect highly on these matters that development in Worcester is expensive (for god knows what reason). Almost as expensive as Boston. There is not a lot of incentive for developers to build.

Sadly, this sounds about right. The new Voke Lofts conversion is priced at ~$1200 for a single bedroom unit. A bit ridiculous when you can rent a 3br apt in a triple decker for $1500.
The biggest problem with the Worcester-Framingham Line is there are too many stops that are too close together. Grafton/Westborough, Southborough/Ashland, Framingham/West Natick, 3 Wellesley stops. The 3 Newton stops are pretty close together but atleast Newton has 85,000 people.
A bigger problem in my opinion is that the line operates under heat restrictions 1/2 of the time, reducing top speeds to 35 mph or so (at least according to one of the conversations I overheard between a Dallas mass transit operator and one of the conductors)
A bigger problem in my opinion is that the line operates under heat restrictions 1/2 of the time, reducing top speeds to 35 mph or so (at least according to one of the conversations I overheard between a Dallas mass transit operator and one of the conductors)

They're fixing that. That's all residue from the lower maintenance standard CSX held the line to when it owned. It's annoying because they have to ID the rail segments that are below-standard first, then replace. And it's all choppy end-to-end and not one contiguous job they can blitz by throwing a small army of track gangs on the graveyard shift or on a couple weekend closures. So timetable for completion is fuzzy. But they are actively out there doing it. It's not a vaporware project. Summer 2015 could be the first hot season without automatic speed restrictions when it's 82-85 or higher outside.

This is the last to settle up before they can file with the FRA for a track class uprate from Class 3 (60 MPH max) to Class 4 (80 MPH) from Framingham to Worcester where the more modern signal system supports it. That'll bleed a lot of time off on the outer half, especially the absurdly lengthy time it takes to get between Southborough-Westborough and Grafton-Worcester. Enough to knock it safely under 1:30 with much better OTP.

Boston-Framingham ain't going to get any better without a big rebuild. It had fewer heat restrictions to begin with because of the MBTA ownership, but the ancient signal system has to be replaced before >60 MPH speeds are doable, and it's severely lacking enough crossovers for express trains to pass locals. No passing capability whatsoever between Beacon Park and Wellesley Farms, which is why the Newton stops are such a chokepoint. There are trains on the schedule that run skip-stop through the Wellesleys and Naticks to make better time to Worcester, but until they install a lot more crossovers on the inner half there aren't enough passing opportunities to make Worcester expresses a distinct and regular service pattern. And fuggedabout DMU's to Riverside until that whole do-over gets funded for the stiff couple hundred mil it'll cost. You can't even access the Riverside turnout from the outbound track today.
They've been talking about doing that since I was in elementary school there in the 90's. Worcester's problem is that is lacks any kind of ability to effectively plan and execute on said plans.
Worcester is officially asking for money to study replicating the Blackstone Canal:


I didn't know anything about this before reading this article. It's an interesting idea, and seems like a pretty old one:


Yes, very old idea. The area in question is Green Island and Harding/Water Street is a street worth visiting; really the only fully intact commercial street (though Harding is only intact on one side at the end due to 290) unscathed by urban renewal. My favorite part of the city.

Worcester's city govt is the pits. They should save the 3M and spend on anything but this. Maybe on making Kelly Sq not the most insane intersection known to man.
Not really sure where to drop this:

Worcester-Providence 'JetBlue of rail commuting' envisioned


WORCESTER — Already practically sister cities, Worcester and Providence may soon have a new connection — this time over the rails.

Boston Surface Railroad Co. has been formed for the specific purpose of creating a commuter rail service between the two New England cities. Vincent Bono, the largest stockholder and general manager of the new company, said plans are in the first stages of developing what he hopes will eventually be three trains per day traveling between the two cities.

"We are here today to celebrate getting funded for an engineering study to see what improvements are needed on the line for a 70-minute trip time," Mr. Bono said, as he waited at Union Station with friends and business associates to take a symbolic trip to Providence on a Providence and Worcester Railroad train.

"Our goal is to be the JetBlue of (rail) commuting," he added.

Mr. Bono, who comes to the railroad business from the technology industry, said studies show the need for the commuter service and he wants his Arlington company to provide a comfortable trip between the two cities. The first step is to conduct a study, which is expected to take six months. If the project proves feasible, an agreement would have to be forged with Providence and Worcester Railroad Co. to use its tracks, and possibly to operate the trains. If all goes well, the service could begin within 18 months.

The trains would be owned by Boston Surface Railroad Co., which would offer commuter service between the two cities. It projects only one other stop, in Woonsocket, Rhode Island, 15 miles outside Providence.

The service, which would be on a level with Amtrak's regular business class, would address what is already a significant flow of commuters now using roadways to get between the cities on the route. There are an estimated 32,800 daily commuters between Worcester and Providence and 10,000 between Woonsocket and Providence.

Mr. Bono said the line would be a good match with Worcester's population, the second largest in the state, and the fast-growing business community in Providence.

What the company would offer commuters, would include onboard wireless internet access, onboard concessions, electronic ticketing, including commuter passes and assigned seating.

Mr. Bono said his company did a poll of New Jersey transit riders, and their biggest concerns were dirty bathrooms and people taking up two seats. He said the assigned seating would help with the latter problem and cleanliness and comfort will be a major focus for the company.

The service is projected to cost about $3 million to set up and operate, including engineering services, initial track improvements, rolling stock purchases, and leasing and other infrastructure and services.

Mr. Bono said the plan looks at long-term development, with ridership expected to rise rapidly over eight years.

The project still has major hurdles to overcome, a big one being an agreement with Providence and Worcester Railroad, but Mr. Bono said the railroad has well-maintained tracks and an excellent safety record.

"I can't imagine a better partner," he said.

"It's far from a done deal. It's very much in the early stages," said Charles D. Rennick, secretary and general counsel for Providence and Worcester Railroad Co. Mr. Rennick and Daniel T. Noreck of the Providence and Worcester Railroad joined Mr. Bono and other guests on the trip to Providence to celebrate the start of the project.

Others on the trip included Barbara and William Southworth and a friend of their family, Bill Kinnis of Ottawa, Canada. Mrs. Southworth said her husband founded a company in which Mr. Bono was vice president for engineering. Others included employees of the new company and others Mr. Bono has been affiliated with in the past.

Worcester Telegram & Gazette
Been a lurker on here for almost a year or so, and first post on here. If I'm doing something wrong quoting these articles, go easy.

Worcester Planning Board OKs CitySquare apartments


WORCESTER — A major piece of the CitySquare redevelopment project has fallen into place and received the green light to proceed.

It is a segment that city officials believe has the potential to transform the downtown and make it a vibrant destination point.

The Planning Board unanimously approved plans Wednesday night for the redevelopment of nearly four acres, bounded by Front, Foster, Franklin and Trumbull streets, into 370 units of market-rate housing.

The plans call for construction of two separate five-story buildings — one 263,497 square feet with 239 apartments and the other 142,130 square feet with 131 apartments.

Five percent of the housing units will be handicapped accessible.

In between the two apartment buildings will be a five-level, 479-space parking garage for residents of those buildings.

The garage, which will be connected to both residential buildings, will be 161,000 square feet, with three levels above ground and two levels below.

Also, the larger of the two residential buildings — the one bounded by Front and Foster streets — will include roughly 12,000 square feet of street-level retail space. The smaller residential building will not have a retail component.

Both residential buildings will also have courtyards between them and the parking garage.

Full article: http://www.telegram.com/article/20141211/NEWS/312119821/1101/
Also recent news is a move by the city to bring the property tax rates from commercial and residential towards a single tax rate. This has been a point of contention in the city for years, and one of the reasons, IMO, that the city spins its wheels sometimes when it comes to attracting business.

Worcester sets tax rates, narrows gap between businesses, homeowners


WORCESTER — The tax rates of residential and commercial-industrial property owners have inched closer, continuing the momentum that started four years ago in the quest for a more balanced tax structure in the city.

The City Council adopted the following tax rates Tuesday night for this fiscal year: $20.07 per $1,000 valuation for residential property and $31.73 for commercial, industrial and personal property.

With that set of rates, the average annual tax bill for single-family homeowners will increase by $107. A home assessed at $172,100 will have a total annual tax bill of $3,454.

Meanwhile, the average annual tax increase for condominiums will be $78; two-family, $110, and three-family, $120.

The average annual increase for commercial, industrial and personal property will be $300. A commercial property assessed at $274,700 will have a total annual tax bill of $8,716.

The tax rate for last fiscal year was $19.54 for residential and $30.83 for commercial, industrial and personal properties.

Full article link (with a historical graph of tax rates): http://www.telegram.com/article/20141211/NEWS/312119809/0/

Full disclosure - I know one of the business owners quoted in this article below, and I agree with the need for a single tax rate.

For some, Worcester tax rate, subject of annual debate, needs long-term solution


WORCESTER — With the annual tax classification hearing behind them, Mayor Joseph M. Petty and the City Council now want to look forward and chart a course for the city's future tax-rate policy.

At the urging of city councilors, Mr. Petty Tuesday night said he is willing to consider establishing a special committee that would be responsible developing a long-term strategy to bring a greater balance to the city's tax rates for residential and commercial-industrial properties.

...........The City Council Tuesday night took another step, albeit a small one, in further narrowing the gap between the tax rates for residential and commercial-industrial properties.

By an 8-3 vote, it set the fiscal 2015 residential rate at $20.07 per $1,000 valuation and the commercial-industrial rate at $31.73.

With that set of rates, the average annual tax bill for single-family homeowners will increase by $107. A home assessed at $172,100 will have a total annual tax bill of $3,454.

Meanwhile, the average annual increase for commercial, industrial and personal property will be $300. A commercial property assessed at $274,700 will have a total annual tax bill of $8,716. It was the fourth straight year in which the council has adopted rates that narrow the gap between the residential and business properties.

Based on the fiscal 2015 rates adopted by the council, property taxes will shift from residential to commercial and industrial properties by a factor of 1.3535. In comparison, the tax shift the previous fiscal year was by a factor of 1.3556.

During the tax classification hearing, business owners urged the City Council to get away from the divisiveness that often accompanies the annual setting of the tax rates, and instead come up with a plan that will close the gap and eventually bring Worcester back to a single rate.

"It's a zero sum game when you pit residents versus businesses," said John Creedon Jr., whose family owns Creedon & Co. Inc. and the Worcester Bravehearts. "No one really comes out winning from that."

Joseph Pagano, owner of Pagano Media, said he wants to expand his Worcester-based business, but is hesitant to do so, because it would likely double his tax bill.

"We love the city. We love living here," he said. "But we believe Worcester urgently needs a more favorable climate to retain and attract businesses. Having a single tax rate will make the local economy stronger, and make Worcester a more desirable place to live and work."

Robert Branca, president of the Branded Realty Group, said businesses need to plan, and they need to know what their cost structure is going to be from year to year.

He said it is difficult for businesses in Worcester to get a handle on such expenses because owners never know from year to year which way the City Council is going to go in setting the tax rates.

"You need to move forward toward a single tax rate, slowly," he said.

District 1 Councilor Tony Economou said he would like to see the city set out on a long-term path with a goal of getting to a single tax rate.

"We do not have a plan at this time, and we have this discussion (about tax classification) year in and year out," he said. "We need to plan to provide a stable environment. This discussion that we now have year in and year out is not healthy and not conducive for business."

Full article: http://www.telegram.com/article/20141210/NEWS/312109651/0

And for another view on it, Worcester Magazine has a decent article on this:


A number of residents and area business owners spoke in support of favorable commercial tax rates before the Council had its say, including John Creedon Jr., whose family operates Creedon & Co., a catering business, in Worcester. Creedon also owns the Worcester Bravehearts baseball team. Creedon suggested the city take a look at the penny sales tax implemented in Oklahoma City, which he said has had a nearly $5-billion impact on the economy and was responsible for creating a cultural district with the city's best restaurants, pubs and other destinations.

"There is beauty and simplicity in the penny sales tax," Creedon said. "By contrast, if the commercial tax rate goes up, I need to sit down and figure out where to compensate for that increase."

He said the family business is still "reeling" from a reassessed property value of more than $500,000 in one year.

"If you want to be bold," Creedon said, "equalize the tax rate and implement a penny tax rate for starters."

Local businessman Joe Pagano urged councilors to move toward a single tax rate, which some surrounding communities implement.

"We love the city," he said. "We love living here. We've enjoyed raising four children here. We love working close to home. We believe Worcester urgently needs a more favorable climate to attract and retain business. For too long, the commercial tax base has eroded, as many businesses have been lured away."

Pagano said he and his wife could expand their business, but have hesitated "in large measure because we don't want to double our tax bill."

Many of the speakers at the Council meeting "hit the nail on the head," according to Rushton.

"We are a city that has, over the past 10 years, really transformed ourselves and given ourselves the opportunity to really, seriously close the gap. I think [there needs to be an] understanding we are a city on the move, and when we work together we work best. Over the past four years, we have slowly started closing the gap and it's starting to send a message that we're a place to do business and live. Before, we were sending a message that we were only a place to live."
the Higgins armory building has been sold.


Higgins Armory building in Worcester sold to New Hampshire man

Written by Walter Bird Jr. · 12/27/2014 · 4:16 pm

A New Hampshire-based entrepreneur with several businesses across New England has bought the iconic Higgins Armory Museum for $850,000. The sale comes almost one year after the steel-framed building originally owned by John Woodman Higgins closed its doors as a museum to the public one last time.

Executive Director Suzanne Maas announced the news three days before Christmas in a Dec. 22 memo to the Higgins Armory Building Transition Advisory Task Force, saying the museum sold the property at 100 Barber Ave. to Brian Thibeault.

According to Maas, museum officials first met Thibeault at a liquidation auction on June 14. The museum closed Dec. 31, 2013.

"[Thibeault]," Maas said, "was interested in all things related to Mr. Higgins and spoke about his interest in the building."

She said Thibeault already owned the coastal New Hampshire summer home of Higgins and his wife, Clara, and was interested in "many objects in our building, including photos of Mr. Higgins."

read more at the site.
keep the wormtown updates coming.
New owner for the Higgins Armory isn't going let the building sit idle by the looks of it:

New Higgins Armory building owner talks future plans

By: Tom Quinn

Brian Thibeault, the new owner of Higgins Armory, does not know yet who will be moving into the building. He has some ideas, though.

“We have plans of getting some really nice tenants in there,” he said. “It could be a museum, banking, a hotel, or another organization. We're open to any ideas.”

Thibeault said he is in talks with a few potential tenants, including an auction house and a PR firm, although he declined to provide names. He also said the building could be shared by multiple tenants or taken over by a single business. Thibeault, who acquired the property in early December, has experience renovating and renting property.

“That's what I do, I buy buildings and I put tenants in them,” he said.

In fact, Thibeault has already dealt with historic, community-oriented buildings. He restored the Pawtucket Armory in Rhode Island in 2011, turning it into an arts and events space. While he mentioned that it would be possible to do something similar with Higgins Armory, he stressed that every idea was on the table and he was entertaining offers from any interested tenants. Thibeault also already owns another building linked to the Higgins family – John Woodman Higgins' coastal New Hampshire summer home.

He even threw this out there in the article.

Potential tenant ideas can be sent to johnwhigginsarmoryllc@yahoo.com

Full Article: http://worcestermag.com/2014/12/29/new-higgins-armory-building-owner-talks-future-plans/30106
The blackstone river got approved by the president to become a national park or something like that I cannot remember the exact details but this was a major part of the blackstone canal project coming to fruition.
The blackstone river got approved by the president to become a national park or something like that I cannot remember the exact details but this was a major part of the blackstone canal project coming to fruition.

That would be the Blackstone River Valley, which has been designated a National Historical Park.

NPS site: http://www.nps.gov/blac/index.htm

A couple of news articles about it:

From the Telegram & Gazette:

Blackstone Valley celebrates national park designation

WOONSOCKET, R.I. — Charlene Perkins Cutler, executive director of the nonprofit Blackstone River Valley National Heritage Corridor Inc., was watching her computer with bated breath Friday as the U.S. Senate voted on the National Defense Authorization Act.

It wasn't the funding for armed services that concerned her, it was the inclusion of the act to establish the Blackstone River Valley National Historical Park.

When the bill passed by a vote of 89-11 and was sent to President Obama to be signed, Ms. Perkins Cutler said she called Donna M. Williams of Grafton, chairwoman of the board of directors, and said, "We've got to have a party."

Tuesday evening, some 50 people, many of whom had been pushing for a national park in the Blackstone River Valley of Massachusetts and Rhode Island for 30 years, gathered at the National Heritage Corridor headquarters at the former Woonsocket train depot to pop the cork, pour some bubbly and revel in the moment.

"These are really encouraging times in the Valley," Ms. Perkins Cutler said, noting also that the legislation expands the boundaries of the John H. Chafee Blackstone River Valley National Heritage Corridor to include Auburn, Massachusetts, and more areas of Providence. The two-state National Heritage Corridor now encompasses 25 communities.

The Blackstone River Valley National Historical Park will be within the national heritage corridor.

Although the management details need to be worked out over coming months, and the funding for the park has yet to be determined, the legislation gives national park designation to the Blackstone River and Canal and its tributaries as well as five nationally significant sites: Rhode Island's Slater Mill Historic Site in Pawtucket, Slatersville (North Smithfield) and Ashton Village (Cumberland); and Whitinsville (Northbridge) and Hopedale historic districts in Massachusetts.

Management of the national park will be coordinated in partnership with the nonprofit Blackstone Heritage Corridor Inc.

Meghan Kish, superintendent of the New Bedford Whaling National Historical Park and the Roger Williams National Memorial in Providence, will serve as superintendent of the Blackstone River Valley National Historical Park. Ms. Kish said she expected Mr. Obama would sign the bill into law this week.

Although the original plan did not call for the Blackstone River National Park to own land, unlike most other national parks, the final legislation allows for Rhode Island to transfer its Blackstone River State Park in Lincoln to the National Park Service, according to Harry T. Whitin, a descendant of Northbridge industrialist Paul Whitin and a director of Blackstone Heritage Corridor.

U.S. Rep. David Cicilline, D-R.I., who with Sen. Jack Reed, D-R.I., and support of the Massachusetts delegation championed the legislation on Capitol Hill, told the crowd in Woonsocket that becoming a national park "allows us to continue to tell the important story of the birthplace of the American Industrial Revolution and what it meant."

He added: "Everyone understood that there was something special about the Blackstone Valley."

Worcester City Manager Edward M. Augustus Jr. sent a message thanking the collaborative efforts of citizens of both states to recognize the national historical significance of the region.

Mr. Cicilline said afterward that national park designation "brings substantial additional federal resources" compared to the temporary support of the National Heritage Corridor Commission over the years. It would ensure a permanent role for park rangers, technical assistance and other programmatic support.

And since many people look to national parks for travel, Mr. Cicilline said, "It brings a destination that really raises the profile of the valley."

He predicted there would likely be additional economic development that spins off from the national park.

Ms. Williams, who testified last year before the House Subcommittee on Natural Resources, thanked the wisdom of those who envisioned a national park in the region as far back as the late 1970s.


Great.....so it got included as a piece of pork on a law I'm not a fan of. I'll leave my opinion on that aside.

Masslive: http://www.masslive.com/news/worcester/index.ssf/2014/12/blackstone_valley_national_par_1.html

For the Rhode Island perspective, Providence Business News: http://www.pbn.com/Blackstone-River-Valley-designated-as-national-park,102441