October 6, 2017

Historical Commission approves $53M courthouse project

Courtesy
A rendering of the Trinity Financial proposal for the former Worcester County Courthouse, a $53-million apartment development.

The developers of the vacant Worcester County Courthouse received Historical Commission approval for a $53-million project to convert the 250,000-square-foot building into an apartment complex.

Boston developer Trinity Financial's plans call for 114 units of rental apartments at the historic Main Street courthouse. The firm will bring new life to the 1843 building vacant since 2008.

Work will include replacing at 313 windows, restoring granite masonry and a handicap-accessible ramp.

The courthouse located on 4.28 acres at Main and Highland streets has gone through several renovations and additions since the massive structure was built. It was rebuilt in 1989 and an addition on the Harvard Street side of the property was built in 1954.

Worcester bought the courthouse from the state for $1 in 2014 in an attempt to rehab the property.

Trinity Financial was chosen by the city in June to develop the property.

The property is listed as a historic property on state and federal databases, and any significant changes to the building triggers a one-year delay on work. Trinity Financial applied for a waiver through the Historical Commission, and that was granted Thursday.

Michael Lozano, a project manager with Trinity Financial, said at the historic commission meeting the new windows will mimic the historic nature of the current windows, which he said are deteriorating and beyond repair and may contain hazardous material.

The developers intend to seek federal and state historic tax credits, thus the adherence to the building's historic qualities, Lozano said.

"Beyond that, it's our assessment that the existing windows -- because of years of neglect -- are beyond saving even if the hazardous material issue was not in play," he said.

Commission Chairman Andrew Shveda had concerns about maintaining the stone throughout the building, but an architect on the development team has an extensive historic renovation experience with stone structures.

Lozano said several outdoor features - such as gardens, stairways, retaining walls and other landscapings - will be saved and restored to the best of the team's ability.

A small amount of space inside may be used for non-residential use, such as a gallery, Lozano said.

Deborah Packard, executive director of Preservation Worcester, said the group supports the project.

"It's a great project for the city," she said, adding with oversight required by state and federal agencies, the project will be "something we'll all be happy to have."

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