January 24, 2019

Construction on Worcester Courthouse apartment complex to start March 1

Photo/Grant Welker
Environmental remediation at the former Worcester County Courthouse has prepared the site for construction.

Another round of state historic tax credits for the revitalization of the vacant former Worcester County Courthouse into an 117-apartment, mixed-use development is putting the project closer to construction beginning in earnest.

Preliminary environmental remediation work has begun in recent weeks, including lining the Lincoln Square site with construction fencing and replacing some windows with temporary boarding. Construction is slated to go full-bore around March 1.

Financing for the $53-million project has been aided by two rounds of historic tax credits worth $800,000 each. The latest round came late December, with funding from Secretary of State William Galvin and the Massachusetts Historical Commission's historic rehabilitation tax credit program.

Developer Trinity Financial of Boston is awaiting a grant from the state Department of Housing and Community Development. Mike Lozano, Trinity's project manager for the Worcester site, said the DHCD funding, the amount of which he wouldn't disclose because it hasn't been finalized, is critical, along with the historic tax credits.

Trinity bought the courthouse for $1.3 million from the City of Worcester, gaining ownership of the 4.3-acre site a decade after the court closed. The city paid for environmental remediation as a condition of the sale to Trinity, and Trinity has used public financing help to make the project economically viable for the company, which more often leads projects in Boston or New York.

Photo/Grant Welker
The former Worcester County Courthouse, seen at center left next to the steeple of First Unitarian Church this week, is planned to become a 117-unit development in Lincoln Square.

Trinity has built projects in smaller Massachusetts cities, including Brockton and Lowell. This will be its first development in Worcester.

"This one, when the opportunity came up, we jumped at it," Lozano said of the courthouse. "It's an iconic building. It's a prominent location and it's in a downtown, where we like to be. We like what's been happening in Worcester."

The as-yet-unnamed project will include 117 residential units, some of which will be in converted courtrooms. Details of the project have changed a bit, and Trinity otherwise hasn't publicized all of what it has in mind.

"There is a non-residential component we'll likely be announcing soon," Lozano said.

The courthouse offers a challenging building for Trinity, Lozano said, with a layout conducive to a much different use than the building will have in the near future. An original wing opened in the 1840s and a newer one in the rear of the site added in the 1950s offer very different looks, and both will be retained as they are.

Image/Courtesy
Developer Trinity Financial says it will keep the architectural look of the former courthouse's 1840s and 1950s wings.

"They give the building a lot of character now, and we're happy to utilize that character in the new building," Lozano said.

The courthouse redevelopment is due for completion in June 2020, adding it in the middle of several new residential buildings hitting the market in and around downtown.

The 368-unit 145 Front at City Square apartment building on Front Street opened last year, and has appeared to be slow to rent many of its units. A January count on its website showed at least 158 units available.

The Central Building on Main Street will add another 55 units to the market, along with 48 units under construction in the Canal District at Harding Green. Another 225 units are envisioned as part of a new mixed-use development next to a ballpark for the Pawtucket Red Sox on Madison Street that is expected to open in 2021.

The courthouse project was one of several Worcester developments to take home money in the latest historic tax credits funding round.

Creative Hub Worcester received $100,000, bringing its total to more than $2 million for its plans for an arts and events space at the former Worcester Boys Club on Ionic Avenue. The Grid District received another $400,000 for renovations for two of its buildings, and $200,000 was given for renovation efforts at the 55-unit Central Building on Main Street, and $100,000 each for revitalization plans at 517 Main St. and plans for a specialized autism school in Lincoln Square.

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