December 30, 2017

Editorial: New Year for the Worcester renaissance

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A view of downtown Worcester.

It wouldn’t be a bad resolution this year to decide to eat your way up and down Shrewsbury Street.

Or, a time or two in 2018, attend a gallery talk or exhibit at Worcester Art Museum. Skate the Oval. Cheer a team. Sip coffee from a different cup. Shop the startups and mom-and-pops that would love to see your face and have your business.

There’s no reason not to put your feet on the street more often and check out the nooks and crannies that fill this city. That would be a great thing to be able to say you did, a year from now  — explored and enjoyed the place where you live.

Diverse, interesting, artsy, serious, surprising, striving, accessible and real — the city is all these descriptions and more. Worcester’s got it going on.

But you still have to go find it, for the most part.

The one big thing Worcester still lacks is a cohesive sense of place. It’s got all these pockets of great stuff, and new multimillion-dollar gems in place, or coming in. But there’s no denying that downtown looks deserted more than it should, and that much of the city doesn’t present itself particularly well either to visitors or long-timers.

It’s not for lack of trying. City leaders, civic-minded organizations and others have made nothing short of amazing progress bringing Worcester this far. And their vision, dedication, risk-taking and cooperation after a quarter-century of careful overhaul haven’t flagged but picked up steam.

There’s no question the big pieces are coming together in Worcester. The last year brought solid, continued progress on a number of multimillion-dollar projects moving from drawing boards, to construction work, to opening their doors to the public. Just one example  — and emblematic of the forward glide the city is experiencing — is the gleaming newcomer to the Canal District: the Fidelity Bank Worcester Ice Center. The two-rink facility, owned by Worcester Railers Hockey Club owner Cliff Rucker, and featuring restaurant and retail spaces, has glammed up what had long been a stagnant and potholed piece of property.

Worcester’s “renaissance” is rolling right along, and it’s impressive. Next year promises to build further on this development progress.

But that’s the big-picture snapshot of the city today.

Where are all the people? That’s where we — residents, workers and visitors — come in, and should be coming in more.

We urge readers to frequent restaurants, shows, concerts, parks and stores — and try to help make happen the things you hope for in your area. Meet your neighbors. Talk up the city to others. Participate in cleanups and crime watches. Speak to leaders about what you feel the city needs.

The city’s “renaissance” has loose ends to tie. Getting from one destination to another in Worcester usually involves eyesores such as empty storefronts and trash, and often a disheartening lack of energy and evident pride. The city manager and other leaders are doubling down on the smaller, less obvious pieces that need to catch up with the big ones. These include streetscape, safety, public events for the Common, and revitalizing prime downtown parcels. Residents, and people who work or visit here, also need to do all we can to help make Worcester a safe, attractive, welcoming whole.

The years of complaining have given way to a time of anticipating and enjoying. But Worcester is still evolving. For this plan to come together depends on the attention, affection and dedication of the people here. Step lively in the city — it’s a new year!

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