March 19, 2018

Worcester chamber: Union Station underutilized

Washington Square in Worcester is anchored by Union Station.

As developers descend upon downtown Worcester and attempt to remake the city's center, the Worcester Regional Chamber of Commerce is hoping to tap into that optimism by utilizing Union Station's economic potential.

The facility, which serves as the public transportation hub for the heart of Massachusetts, is currently a relatively empty facility, except for the commuter rail and some scheduled events, the chamber said in a March report, dubbed Union Station 2.0.

Despite a 2000 renovation, there is about 15,000-square-feet empty retail and commercial space at the station, which sees 600,000 travelers pass through the hub each year.

"Over the last few years the downtown area has been rapidly improving due to the growing arts and cultural scene, new restaurants and retail venues," the chamber said in the report. "Union Station is a great location for commercial, retail and office space which can add to this renewed vibrancy in Worcester."

The chamber cited several downtown projects totaling more than $2 billion, including the $565-million CitySquare development, Edge at Union Station, three new hotels and more than 1,000 new housing units either completed or under construction.

That business activity is spurring more travelers to Worcester via Union Station, wrote the chamber.

Union Station has up to seven individual spaces available for retail and Luciano's Restaurant is largely open only on the weekends, creating an underutilized space during the week.

The restaurant is operated by Maxwell Silverman's Banquet & Conference Center, which manages events in the Grand Hall.

The space, the chamber said, has the potential to be used daily by kiosk-type food or retail space and bring it more annual revenue than it does only for special events and weekends.

"For that reason, we recommend that the lease be reviewed and amended so that the space can be more effectively utilized throughout the week," the chamber said.

A coffee shop is the only daily food operation during morning and early afternoon hours. Absent from that location are tables and chairs to allow travelers to sit and eat while waiting for a train or bus.

"Union Station would greatly benefit from greater seating options within the Grand Hall and throughout the station, so patrons can take advantage of the free Wi-Fi offered in the building," the chamber said.

With large numbers of college students utilizing the station, the chamber recommended eateries such as a Chipotle or a food market like Trader Joe's.

"The empty space must be utilized for Union Station to reach its full potential," the chamber said. "A fully leased and activated Union Station can play a key role in connecting and servicing the various neighborhoods and business districts it abuts."


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