Editorial: On 168th birthday city shows it’s still growing

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The official seal of Worcester notes that it was incorporated as a city Feb. 29, 1848.

As such, the city’s 168th birthday fell on Monday, a Leap Day.

Worcester City Hall

Terageorge/Wikimedia Commons

Worcester City Hall

On a late winter day that saw a record high temperature (57 degrees), Worcester made the most of its birthday, celebrating as much its future as its past. To wit:

Last year, Burncoat High graduate Evan Corrigan noticed the leap year birthday and suggested the city celebrate it. This led to the city’s official birthday celebration at Worcester Common Monday afternoon.

Councilor at-large Michael T. Gaffney joined City Manager Edward M. Augustus Jr. and U.S. Rep. Jim McGovern, and Corrigan in cutting a birthday cake made by Crown Bakery, a city institution.

Noting the past as well as its future, Augustus said, according to MassLive, “Worcester is a city that has reinvented itself many times in its 168 years. … Worcester has always played a critical role, quite frankly, [it’s the conscience] of the entire country.”

Birthday cake

Worcester Sun

From left, City Manager Edward M. Augustus Jr., Evan Corrigan and U.S. Rep. Jim McGovern show off the city’s cake at Monday’s birthday celebration on Worcester Common.

A few hours after the celebration on the Common, city and business leaders gathered at Washington Square for a ceremonial groundbreaking of a Homewood Suites by Hilton hotel.

The 118-room hotel represents a $21 million investment in the city by the project’s developer, First Bristol Corp. of Fall River.

The hotel is one of three under construction in the city, releasing what Augustus said is “pent-up demand” for hotel room in the city. The Washington Square development will also help connect the Canal District, Shrewsbury Street, City Square and the recently renamed Mercantile Center.

District 1 Councilor Tony Economou, chairman of the Standing Committee on Economic Development, said, according to Worcester Magazine, “Over the last few months we’ve had a lot of successes coming … within a block of this location, there’s so much going on.”

Shifting gears from economic development to community building, the city’s Coalition Against Bias and Hate held a community meeting at Belmont A.M.E. Zion Church to update residents on the city’s push to make Worcester a more inclusive and equitable community.

The meeting follows last summer’s dialogues on race and highlights, among other things, the steps the Augustus administration has taken in pursuit of that goal. (His two updates to the City Council can be found here and here.)

The meeting included the public introduction of the city’s first chief diversity officer, Malika Carter.

Serendipitously, the city’s birthday also fell on the eve of the Massachusetts primary. With that came a pair of high-profile visits.

In the morning, New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker visited Cafe Reyes, a model recovery program on Shrewsbury Street. And the day was capped with a visit from former President Bill Clinton, who spoke to a packed house in the White Room of the Crompton Collective, a model for the new economy in a former Canal District mill.

Lest anyone think the city’s birthday was perfect, the Worcester Police Department reported gunfire on Fern Street.

Monday represented the city of Worcester as it truly is, an economy that’s building but not yet finished, a community that’s inclusive but not as much as it can be, a safe community that can be safer.

It is a city that is looking ahead. And that’s not a bad way to spend a birthday.

Read messages about Worcester’s 168th birthday here.

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