NAIOP Massachusetts Update
Worcester's Redevelopment: More Than Just a Ballpark
NAIOP’s What's New In The Woo attracted a packed house earlier this week as the CRE community turned out in full force to hear about the resurgence of New England’s second largest city. The discussion not only focused on the upcoming ballpark but other new developments and factors driving Worcester’s growth.
Bob Cox, a native of Worcester and Managing Partner at Bowditch & Dewey, opened the program with some thoughts on the new vibe in Worcester. While the city has always been funky and artsy he sees the community continuing to maintain it’s gritty, authentic vibe as it grows. Bob, also a member of the executive board for The Worcester Chamber of Commerce, has extensive experience as an environmental lawyer and works on the Mayor’s Brownfields Task Force in Worcester. Ongoing clean-up of up the many Brownfields sites in the city is an important factor for growth and helps further generate tax revenues.
Next up was Tim Murray, former Lieutenant Governor and now CEO for the Worcester Chamber of Commerce, who spoke on the changing face of Worcester particularly in the media and shared some interesting stats on the city including that the cost of living in Worcester is currently 21% LOWER than Boston. A young and educated workforce within Worcester and the ease of doing business have made it a prime location for startups and new business. Worcester was also recently named one of the 10 Emerging Tech Startup Hubs and this factor coupled with strong educational institutions and medical facilities are helping to drive Worcester’s development.
Next, Larry Curtis, President and Managing Partner for Winn Development, spoke about his experience developing properties in Worcester for the past 30 years. Curtis’s team has worked on several deals within the city including the redevelopment of Canal Lofts and Voke Lofts. He mentioned the city is more user-friendly than any other he has worked with across the country. Winn continues to invest in the city with the upcoming redevelopment of the former Boys & Girls Club building in Lincoln Square.
Finally, Dan Rae, Executive VP of Real Estate Development & Business Affairs for the Pawtucket Red Sox. and Denis Dowdle, President of Madison Properties, discussed their upcoming $240M development in the Canal District. As Dan pointed out, the decision to come to Worcester was guided by the philosophy that they are building “more than a ballpark” and that a great ballpark needs a great neighborhood. The positive momentum already behind the Canal District was a key factor in the decision to move the team here from Rhode Island. Dan touched on several other minor league parks their team looked at for inspiration including the Fort Wayne Tincaps stadium that hosts 700 non-baseball events each year and Fifth Third Field, the home of the Toledo Mud Hens which has changed a parking lot and industrial area into a hip neighborhood with close to70 restaurants now dubbed Henville by locals. (Side Note: Why do all minor league teams have odd names? Can’t wait to see what the Worcester Red Sox come up with!)
Denis then discussed the unique partnership that has Madison Properties sitting with the Red Sox to ensure that the ballpark and their new buildings create a cohesive feel and integrate into the existing neighborhood. The Left Field Office building provides a perfect example of this integration as it will sit directly behind the ballpark and feature a Yawkey Way style public way with food trucks on the ground floor and a roof deck with views into the stadium above. The middle floors of the building will be office space, sure to attract tenants looking to take advantage of these one-of-a-kind amenities. Denis told the crowd he expects to break ground on the first phase of the development, which includes the office building, dual-branded hotel, and 250 market rate apartments within the next twelve months.
This is an exciting time for Worcester and with the city’s strong value proposition featuring a young and educated workforce, ease of doing business, strategic location, and diverse economy, everyone on the panel was in agreement that this development boom will continue.
Want to hear more about Worcester’s redevelopment? Be on the lookout for the next episode of The Big Dig, BLDUP, and NAIOP’s CRE Podcast, coming this week featuring this all-star lineup.