Local residents and leaders have long tried to put their finger on just what it is that Worcester “lacks.”
We feel now that — almost while we weren’t looking — the question has been fading.
Coalescing in the city is a key element you can’t build with a crane or put on a points-of-interest map: a dynamic, palpable sense of community and support from the people who live and work here.
From this comes serendipity, vibrancy and surprise — the sorts of things that have helped make other cities come alive. While there’s still much to do, await and hope for, our city is distinguishing itself as a unique and worthwhile place to be.
Worcester is on its way.
Downtown, for all its struggles, is at the center of the upswing. For years, big pieces have been coming in. Multimillion-dollar projects, along with impressive vision, risk and hard work, have strengthened the city core. In two decades we’ve brought beautiful Union Station back from the dead, brightened the library, swapped in new office buildings for an awkward mall, opened an elegant and busy theater, added housing, and put in lovely touches on the Common, among other improvements. And more is on the way.
But in an exciting and thriving city, things you can’t plan for must be part of the picture.
People who live or spend time here need to “get it” — that Worcester is theirs and worth supporting — and need to “bring it” — their own energies to make it a better place. That might mean picking up a piece of trash, behaving with civility and kindness, patronizing locally owned businesses or community-oriented events, talking up the city to others, offering creative talents, or putting down entrepreneurial stakes with confidence and aplomb.
We wouldn’t have predicted the mural-painting event that concludes today, Pow!Wow! Worcester, but we appreciate that artists from around the world had Worcester on their maps, and some of its walls under their paintbrushes, for several days. The public piano initiative was also something different, adding notes of impromptu fun. And folks are preparing for the annual, upbeat Pride events that culminate in a parade and a festival on Worcester Common Saturday, Sept. 10.
Meanwhile, an ambitious, upscale farm-to-table restaurant has opened to reinvigorate a downtown landmark. Thanks to the efforts of two young entrepreneurs, the old Bull Mansion at 55 Pearl St. is humming again amid its grand opening weekend. That will add yet another choice to a delightful culinary undercurrent in the city that is attracting notice and new customers.
And those are only this week’s cultural headlines.
On Wednesday, the Sun implored the city to address the safety in the Common area and the rest of downtown, an issue that has festered a long time. That shots rang out Aug. 20 during the Latin American Festival and frightened families on their way to see “Shrek the Musical” at Hanover Theatre for the Performing Arts is discouraging and upsetting, but unfortunately not shocking.
Cities will always have crime, but ours must do more to police and protect downtown. Violence, drug activity, and even minor turnoffs such as loitering, littering, panhandling and jaywalking serve to tear down what is being built.
When people go downtown, we want them to leave thinking they got something out of it — not just that they managed to get out of there unscathed. It cannot be overstated: Aiming for a safe, clean, well-lighted and secure-feeling city must be the top priority for all who want downtown and the rest of the city to achieve its potential.
Tending closely to the city’s infrastructure — residential, business, educational, cultural and other facets — is also essential. Luckily, our city is loaded with attributes old and new.
Lastly, we need that indefinable “something” to move in and take up permanent residence here.
Successful cities have it. It sort of sneaks in unseen. And it might just be what people have been looking for all along.
Call it community, identity, variety, positivity, self-respect, purpose, energy. Call it what you will, we call it the Worcester we want, and we’re glad to see it starting to come together.