August 27, 2018

City Hall seeks public, economic development committee's WooSox support this week

Photo | Courtesy
The proposed stadium site in Worcester's Canal District.

As the city manager's office is seeking quick approval of a proposed Canal District ballpark, the City Council's Standing Committee on Economic Development is holding a public hearing Tuesday at Crompton Collective to solicit public input for the city's plan to borrow $101 million to finance the project.

The committee, tasked with recommending action to the City Council, is being asked to consider several items: a broad action to endorse the project seeking to bring the Pawtucket Red Sox to Worcester and authorize City Manager Edward Augustus to take several actions to make the project happen.

Among Augustus' potential work includes accepting project-related grants, in-kind contributions and other gifts related to the project. The state is pitching in $35 million for infrastructure improvements including a parking garage, but that doesn't include a planned reconstruction of Kelley Square.

Augustus will be tasked with approving the precise location of said parking garage and accept the conveyance of the parking garage property from Boston developer Madison Downtown Holdings and to lease property to the developer and the future Worcester Red Sox.

Perhaps the most important item needing approval is the borrowing of nearly $101 million to finance the project. Of that sum, the team will pay back about $30 million over a 30 year lease and the city proposes to pay back the remaining amount via revenues from the surrounding development.

Also up for approval are two tax-increment-financing agreements between the city and Madison Downtown Holdings relative to two hotels planned for the parcel adjacent to the ballpark and a tax-increment-exemption agreement relative to the planned 225 market-rate apartments.

City Hall is seeking to waive the first $2 million in project administrative fees for the developer.

Finally, the project will require a project coordinator to work out of the city's executive office of economic development.

The City Council last week discussed the project at its Tuesday meeting, at which the body expressed its general support for the project but promised their due diligence despite a tight timeline.

According to a letter of intent signed between the team and city, construction must start by next July and the ballpark must be complete in time for opening day in April 2021.

The City Council and the economic development office will be busy over the next weeks, months and years, as will the Worcester Redevelopment Authority, which must amend the city's Downtown Urban Revitalization Plan to expand its boundary and identify parcels to be acquired for the project.

Last week, the WRA began what should be a long and busy process related to the project, which includes seeking an owner's project manager and design consultants for the project.

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