September 18, 2017
Shop Talk

Grid District building out for explosive year

Photo | Grant Welker
Steven Carter, director of operations, The Grid District

Steven Carter

Title: Director of operations

Company: The Grid District

Age: 58

Hometown: Hudson, N.H.

Education: A bachelor's degree in food service management and an associate's degree in culinary arts from Johnson & Wales University in Providence

The Grid District development just across Franklin Street from the Worcester Common already has 400 residential units and a few popular eateries, including the cafe Brew on the Grid and the Mediterranean restaurant Techni. Much more is still to come, including a highly anticipated beer garden set to open next year. Steven Carter, the Grid District's director of operations, sees the development contributing to a growing downtown.

We saw demolition of the old Paris Cinema begin over the summer. How is the project progressing?

The demolition has been a bit like surgery, trying to take the theater out with all the buildings surrounding it. In some cases, it's been a brick at a time. We're shooting for Stix, an Asian noodle bar, to be open by the first week of October. For the Beer Garden, which will have 200 outdoor seats and 200 indoors, we're probably open for next St. Patrick's Day.

You also have space being built out on the ground floor of Bancroft on the Grid. What's set to go in there?

We'll have Pie & Pint, a pizzeria, and Craft Table & Bar, a casual farm-to-table eatery, along with WooHaHa, a 100-seat comedy club open Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights. We're hoping to have that open by December. For residents upstairs, we're planning what we're calling Grid Service, a room service for the apartments.

What else is on the horizon?

We have a 5,000-square-foot retail space in the back of Bancroft on the Grid that I'm hoping could be a microbrewery. I am looking for a brewery, I just haven't found a brewery yet.

You have a series of residential buildings, including space for Becker College students. How's leasing?

We recently renovated 90 units in our Plaza on the Grid building on Main Street, and that's now 50-percent occupied. In the whole Grid complex, we're at 90 percent, which is exciting. We're also renovating units in 50 Franklin St. while we're occupying it. We're taking out carpeting and putting new new flooring, appliances, bathroom amenities, really just freshening the apartments as tenants leave.

What amenities attract residents to live in the Grid District?

We want to have a community-like atmosphere. We're working with a startup called Doorbell that creates events for us, like the recent Beach Bash party on Portland Street.

We have a Grid app that allows the whole Grid District community to interact with one another.

Someone could look to borrow a bike for a ride, ask the community through the app, and someone may say, "Sure, meet me downstairs at 2 o'clock." Since we've worked with Doorbell, we're seeing that retention of tenants has gone sky-high with their assistance.

What is the tenant mix like?

We have a relationship with Becker College in our buildings at 72 and 86 Franklin, for 73 total apartments. It's a very satisfying, unique mix. It really runs the gamut.

And you also have units exclusively for Airbnb?

It's far exceeded our expectations. We have eight units — soon to be 10 — that are available through Airbnb for between three and 60 days. We get people for DCU events, visiting college campuses, or traveling nurses at the hospitals. This month, I'm running 85-percent occupied, and by the end, we'll probably be around 90 percent.

Grid has also been a part of two budding transportation features in Worcester?

We host WooRides out of our building, which has pedicabs that go all over. And we'll also have six bikes here for the new bike-share program.

Is there anything the neighborhood's missing that you hope can help draw more to the neighborhood?

I'd love to see the city's vision be complete with all the retail spaces that could come in. I know the city's been working hard on it.

This interview was conducted and edited for length and clarity by Grant Welker, WBJ news editor.

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