December 30, 2017

Inbox [Dec. 30-Jan. 6]: News and notes from Worcester Cultural Coalition, Mercantile Center, Operation Homefront, CMRPC

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Courtesy Worcester Cultural Coalition

With the help of a $1.1 million grant, city officials will work with the WBDC to turn part of 20 Franklin St. into an arts and performance venue.

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WCC receives $1.1M grant to develop ‘WOOteria’ multipurpose arts space

The Worcester Cultural Coalition (WCC) has received a $1.1 million grant from the Boston-based Barr Foundation to support the building and operation of the WOOteria, a collaborative art space and performance venue in downtown.

Located at 20 Franklin St., the previous home of the Worcester Telegram & Gazette, WOOteria will include a multipurpose exhibition gallery and space for creative collaboration, in addition to a 300-seat performance space for theater, concerts, lectures and convenings.

“Great cities support great art,” Erin Williams, Worcester’s cultural development officer, said in a statement from WCC. “The WCC supports the city’s efforts to activate the downtown and engage people of all backgrounds in bringing the city to life through creative expression of music, dance, theater and public art. It’s a space for everyone to get engaged in the arts in an active way.”

The WOOteria is in development by the WCC in partnership with Worcester Business Development Corporation (WBDC) /New Garden Park and The Hanover Theatre for the Performing Arts.

“The Cultural Coalition conducted town hall meetings and a survey of arts organizations and creative entrepreneurs to determine the needs for physical space and accessibility. More than 426 people completed the survey, in addition to a query of cultural organizations, who noted the need for more intimate performance spaces. WCC and New Garden Park are seeking additional funds for the build out of the two spaces,” said Joseph P. Cox, EcoTarium president and Worcester Cultural Coalition board of director’s chair.

“The city of Worcester believes that art plays a vital role in the reactivation of our public spaces,” said Worcester City Manager Ed Augustus. “The WOOteria location abuts Worcester Common, which we are activating throughout the year as a site for festivals, concerts, farmers markets and food trucks, and more. People are loving it and audiences are growing.”

With its arts grantmaking historically focused only on Boston, the Barr Foundation’s Arts & Creativity program now aims to “elevate the arts and enable creative expression to engage and inspire a dynamic, thriving Massachusetts.” This grant for WOOteria is among the Foundation’s first major grants outside of the Boston area, and its first in Worcester.

Coffeehouse Roastery-Cafe slated for Mercantile Center

Boston-based Fuel America will open a coffeehouse roastery-café next fall in downtown Worcester’s Mercantile Center. It will offer an unusual coffeehouse experience in which, similar to a microbrewery, coffee beans will be roasted daily in plain sight alongside the café space. There will also be coffee tastings and tours.

A multiyear lease agreement was signed recently between Fuel America and Franklin Realty Advisors and Washington Capital Management, owners and developers of the Mercantile Center office complex.

Construction of the coffeehouse will begin in the first quarter of 2018. It will occupy 5,264 square feet on street level at the corner of Front and Mercantile streets, and offer custom specialty coffees, espresso drinks, fresh-pressed juices, seltzer drinks, baked goods, and handmade breakfast and all-day sandwiches, salads and fruit smoothies. Creams and milks will be sourced locally. Local micro-brewed beers and wine options will be featured as well.

The space at Mercantile Center will be Fuel America’s fourth location and its first outside Boston.

“We have always envisioned Mercantile Center as a must-visit destination, offering compelling food options for office tenants and area residents, especially for lunchtime and after-hours possibilities. The arrival of Fuel America marks a major step forward in realizing that goal as the first of our restaurants to open its doors,” Charles Norton, president of Franklin Realty Advisors, said in a statement.

Operation Homefront names Spencer resident regional development manager

Operation Homefront, a national nonprofit serving America’s military families since 2002, has hired Spencer resident Jennifer Wysocki to be its first regional development manager for the Northeastern United States. Wysocki’s region stretches along the East Coast from Delaware through New England.

“Jennifer brings more than 12 years of nonprofit development and marketing experience to our team,” Operation Homefront Chief Development Officer Margi Kirst said. “Jennifer’s philanthropic mindset, passion for the community and creativity will help Operation Homefront engage even more donors in the Northeastern U.S. to join our impactful mission.”

Wysocki began volunteering for Operation Homefront 10 years ago. She continued to volunteer even as the U.S. Coast Guard moved her family from Atlantic City to Honolulu to Fort Pierce, Fla. A fine arts major from the University of Hawaii-Manoa, she is also a professional artist who recently moved to Central Massachusetts with her family.

Operation Homefront builds strong, stable, and secure military families by providing critical financial assistance, transitional and permanent housing, and family support services.

10 Central Mass Towns to Receive Assistance with Sustainable Development Projects

The Central Massachusetts Regional Planning Commission (CMRPC) is the recipient of five grants intended to help communities plan for and implement Massachusetts’ Sustainable Development Principles. The grants to CMRPC, which total $180,000, were provided by the Massachusetts Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs (EEA) Planning Assistance Grants program.

Launched in 2017, the EEA Planning Assistance Grants program seeks to encourage municipalities to implement land use regulations that are consistent with the Baker-Polito Administration’s land conservation and development objectives, including reduction of land, energy, and natural resource consumption; provision of sufficient and diverse housing; and mitigation of/preparation for climate change.

This award will enable CMRPC to provide 10 communities with technical expertise and undertake the public process associated with creating plans and adopting land use regulations.

The award will support the following projects: Village Center Bylaws (Auburn, Upton, Holden, West Boylston, West Brookfield and Hopedale), Worcester Comprehensive Parking Zoning Ordinance Revision, Rutland Residential Development Impact Analysis, Sutton Housing Needs Study, and Blackstone Town Center Mixed-Use Zoning Analysis.

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