December 10, 2018

Worcester scales back WooSox district development plans

Photo | Courtesy
Worcester has high ambitions for the area around the proposed $101 million Polar Park.

Worcester is amending the size of an urban renewal plan modification to include only those properties essential to a $101-million ballpark development for the Pawtucket Red Sox after concern other properties originally listed could be acquired or demolished.

The original amendment, unveiled last month as part of a Massachusetts Environmental Policy Act filing, included 33 additional parcels and slated 18 additional buildings for demolition not part of the original urban renewal plan approved for the area in 2016.

In a Nov. 29 press release from the city, now only seven properties related to the stadium are slated for acquisition: 50 Washington St., 90 Washington St., 62 Washington St., 69 Washington St., 127 Washington St., 134 Madison St. and 2 Plymouth St.

The city said three more – 5, 7, and 6 Gold St. – would be listed for the possibility of future action.

The Gold Street parcels are vacant lots, while the others include the vacant Wyman-Gordon property, a city-owned parking lot and a handful of small businesses.

The city said the expedited process of expanding the urban renewal plan to meet project schedules included those required for the ballpark as well as other properties in the area to highlight their highest and best uses to prompt further investment, which it said is a strategy in line with the 2016 urban renewal plan.

"It's unfortunate that the MEPA filing did not allow adequate time for the the city to engage the public in this process and did not afford our residents and business owners an opportunity to review and respond to the amendment," City Manager Edward Augustus said in a statement.

The Worcester Redevelopment Authority approved the plan expansion on Dec. 4, with the caveat that only the seven aforementioned parcels will be subject to possible acquisition at this time.

"Our total focus now is assembling (properties for) the ballpark," Chief Development Officer Michael Traynor said at the meeting.

Businesses with land in those acquisition crosshairs will be made whole, Traynor pledged.

At a Nov. 27 City Council meeting, Augustus said the original proposed Urban Renewal Plan expansion included an additional 21 acres and 33 properties. A total of 21 buildings – 18 more than originally thought – were slated for possible demolition or renovation.

The original plan stopped along the vacant Wyman-Gordon site, which is the primary property on which the project is planned. The amendment stretches that boundary about a block to the east from Washington Street to Green Street and Kelley Square and nearly 10 parcels of the southern side of Lamartine Street.

Augstus' office announced the scaled back plan two days after that meeting, when councillors questioned the transparency of the process and possible displacement of residents.

The City Council is expected to hold a public hearing on the amendment at its Dec. 18 meeting.


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