April 18, 2019

Worcester $10M apartment project underway after years of delays

Photo | Zachary Comeau
Work is beginning after delays on a housing project that's taking the place of the former El Morocco restaurant site on Wall Street in Worcester.

A 72-unit, $10-million apartment project at the corner of Wall Street and Norfolk Street in Worcester is finally underway after years of delays.

Developer Robert Branca purchased the site, the former home of the El Morocco restaurant, in 2015 for $850,000 after a similar project from another developer was previously approved at the site.

The previous developer was "deterred by challenges the site work presented," Branca told WBJ on Thursday.

Those issues included a deteriorating retaining wall and a huge amount of ledge that had to be removed manually rather than blasting due to the proximity of residential buildings.

Branca then acquired abutting land on either side of the project in June 2016 for a combined $320,000. That land had to be rezoned for the project.

In the interim, Branded Realty Group relocated its Shrewsbury Street office to make way for Wormtown Brewery's expansion in the building owned by Branca.

"The hard stuff and super challenging part of the project is complete," Branca said.

Most of the 72 apartments will be two bedrooms with some one bedroom units available. Each will have laundry units inside and underground parking spaces can be rented. Rents will be at market rate.

The project will be called The El to honor the iconic restaurant, Branca said.

Branca said the project, along with other nearby developments including the Friendly House and other smaller residential renovations, could help reinvigorate the Franklin Plantation area.

"We thought it would help change that neighborhood," he said.

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