July 21, 2017

Proposal would demolish church for apartments, retail

A rendering of the proposed Residences at Salem Square that would replace the Notre Dame des Canadiens Church under a new proposal.
Grant Welker
The corner of Franklin and Trumbull streets where a development is proposed to replace the former Notre Dame des Canadiens church.

Worcester's Notre Dame des Canadiens Church could be demolished in favor of a residential-retail development if the city approves a plan from the same group behind the 145 Front at City Square project.

Roseland, an affiliate of Mack-Cali Acquisition Corp., is proposing a four-story building with 84 apartment units and 2,025 square feet of retail space called the Residences at Salem Square. The building, at 5 Salem Square, would be constructed mostly along Franklin Street with a door opening to Trumbull Street.

The 84 units would include 21 studios, 39 one-bedrooms, and 24 two-bedrooms. The project also includes interior amenities for residents including a "Club Room" lounge area.

Site improvements associated with the project would include driveways, parking spaces, pedestrian areas, landscaped areas, utility services, and a stormwater management system.

The church is owned by City Square II Development Co. LLC, which purchased the property in 2010 from the Worcester Diocese for $875,000, land records show. The property is currently under agreement to be sold, said Pamela Jonah, speaking Friday on behalf of City Square II, but legally, the buyer can't be disclosed, she said.

The city has the authority to demolish the church whenever it wants, and a group of residents has been working to preserve the church and save it from demolition. Specifically, Preservation Worcester has created a petition and proposed options for re-use of the church.

Jonah said Preservation Worcester introduced a few interested parties to City Square II, and those parties got tours of the property. However, no developer or investor willing to make a proposal was presented by Preservation Worcester, until one came forward after City Square II told Preservation Worcester that it had a binding letter of intent, preventing it from entertaining other offers.

"We also informed the party that made the proposal that we were unable to accept additional proposals at that time and, with the party's permission, shared their proposal with our prospective buyer," said Jonah. "We also informed Preservation Worcester that we were doing so."

The proposal, which didn't include a projected cost, is scheduled to go in front of the planning board Aug. 2.

If approved, the Residences at Salem Square would add to the 370 units Roseland is already building at 145 Front St, at the corner with Foster Street. That project also includes 12,000 square feet of retail space.

At the north end of downtown, a $53-million proposal for 125 apartment units and retail was chosen by the city for the former Worcester County Courthouse at Lincoln Square. That project still requires permitting approval, and is expected to open in the summer of 2020.

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