The city of Worcester and the Worcester Redevelopment Authority have released the Downtown Urban Revitalization Plan.
The plan, which could cost as much as $104 million if fully implemented, targets 24 properties for reinvestment or redevelopment. It covers 118 acres ranging from Pearl and Mechanic streets to Lafayette and Southbridge streets.
While the plan has a life of 20 years, “implementation of the URP is anticipated to be undertaken in phases.”
Phase 1, considered short-term, is envisioned as being able to take place in the first five years after adoption by the city and acceptance by the state. Phase 1 includes the following:
1.1 Upgrade Federal Plaza in front of the Hanover Theatre to better accommodate pedestrians and events at the theatre and 551 Main Street.
“The expansion of Federal Plaza, in front of the Hanover Theatre, will help minimize pedestrian gridlock during events and improve safety by creating a separation from automobile traffic,” the report states.
Expansion of Federal Plaza, also known as Francis R. Carroll Plaza, would entail ending Southbridge Street before it connects with Main Street.
A video prepared for last week’s Worcester Business Development Corporation includes a rendering of what such an expansion could entail.
1.2 Improve traffic patterns and signalization at Quinsigamond Avenue and Southbridge Street.
Quinsigamond Avenue is the primary connection between downtown and Route 146. Currently, the only traffic controls at the intersection of Quinsigamond Avenue and Southbridge Street are two stop signs on Quinsigamond Avenue, and traffic flow northbound on Southbridge can be obscured by cars parked along Southbridge Street.
1.3 Acquire and improve the façade and rehabilitate the interior of 12 Front Street.
One of two properties owned by Dean and Judith Marcus, 12 Front St. is home to five businesses: Main Beauty Supply, The Newsroom, Lili’s Smoke Shop, Talyta’s Cafe and The Great Charismatic Chapel.
Despite retail operations on the first floor, the plan notes that the upper four floors are “predominantly vacant.”
With its construction traced back to 1851, 12 Front St. is on the Mass. Cultural Resource Information System’s list of historic buildings.
1.4 Acquire and improve the façade and rehabilitate the interior of 22 Front Street.
Commonly referred to as the Midtown Mall, 22 Front St. is the second of two buildings owned by Dean and Judith Marcus.
The plan states, “Retail spaces on the first level of the Midtown Mall at 22 Front Street (Parcel 02-025-007+8) are being used for storage, and the upper and lower levels have few occupants.”
However, the report laters lists 22 businesses, including five places of worship, in the former Woolworth Building that would have to be relocated. They are: United States Postal Service, Illucion Party Store, AZ Central Market, Ahenfie Barbershop, Clarrissa Hair Salon, CJ & Carlson Printing, Laptop PC Repair Inc., Original Grandmum, Eagles Alterations, Sabanas Latin Food, Eyebrow Place, 4U Clothing, Kim’s Jewelry Repair and Sales, International City Guards Chaplain Association Inc., Max Talent, Boost Mobile, Church Yome Levantare, Army of Lord Ministry, Final Call World Outreach Ministry, Apostolic Way Church, Christ Center for Prayer, and The Weight Room.
The parcel at 22 Front St. is also on the Mass. Cultural Resource Information System’s list of historic buildings.
1.5 Improve the conditions and amenities (including lighting and safety features) in Allen Court and cultivate its use as a pedestrian connection.
Allen Court, which runs parallel to Main Street from Federal to Franklin streets, is listed as a candidate for public improvement.
1.6 Acquire a portion of Parcel 03-012-002-4 (Parcel D-1) and demolish the former theater at 66 Franklin Street. Redevelop for commercial uses, e.g., office space or first floor commercial with market rate residential above. 1.6.A Prepare the site for redevelopment by demolishing the existing structure. 1.6.B Sell the parcel to a qualified developer for a redevelopment.
Three buildings comprise the parcel commonly known as the Paris Theater. The plan envisions separating the theater from the other buildings, and demolishing it.
Closed since 2006 and condemned by the Worcester Fire Department, the Paris, also known by its historic name “Capitol Theatre”, is the only historic building in Phase 1 tabbed for demolition.
The plan envisions first-floor commercial or office space and residential property above.
1.7 Assemble a new lot (Parcel A-1) off Myrtle Street and behind the Hanover Theatre and construct a structured parking facility. 1.7.A Assemble three contiguous parcels behind the Hanover Theatre. Design and construct a new parking facility that is 4 to 6 levels above grade and can accommodate approximately 450 to 675 spaces. 1.7.B The proposed new garage will have vehicular access on Myrtle Street and pedestrian access to Burnside Court, a new pedestrian plaza to Federal Street and Myrtle/Portland Streets. 1.7.C The structure could operate as a shared facility for residents, office workers, and visitors/theater patrons through a combination of monthly and hourly payment methods. 1.7.D Minimize the visual impact of the structure through the strategic use of screening and signage.
This initiative replaces surface parking between Myrtle, Portland and Federal streets with a 450- to 675-vehicle parking garage. “Two parcels are owned by WBDC/New Garden Park Inc., which will act in partnership with the city.” The other is privately owned.
This clears the way for a project within Phase 2 to reconfigure the Francis J. McGrath Municipal Parking Lot, commonly known as the Worcester Public Library parking lot.
1.8 Acquire 538 Main Street (the Money Stop) for redevelopment, including the elimination of the billboard on top of the structure.
The plan notes the second floor of 526-538 Main St. is vacant and the Money Stop is the only business that would need to be relocated.
1.9 Improve roadway and sidewalk conditions, as well as pedestrian amenities along Main Street, Southbridge Street, Madison Street and Quinsigamond Avenue.
1.10 Coordinate with the Worcester Wayfinding program, to be implemented through the Department of Public Works.
According to the plan: “As part of a public-private partnership, the City of Worcester is implementing a $3 million Worcester Wayfinding initiative in Fiscal Years 2016 and 2017 to improve the overall visitor experience and leverage Worcester’s significant historic contributions to industry, arts, culture and innovation through improved signage, mapping, and public art in eight districts and ways, including downtown, the Canal District, and South Worcester.”