March 20, 2019

Public hearing on Midtown Mall slated for April 4

Photo | Brad Kane
Midtown Mall in Worcester

Worcester's redevelopment agency is holding a public hearing on April 4 to solicit input from residents, developers and tenants on its plans to acquire Midtown Mall, possibly by eminent domain.

The 5:30 p.m. public hearing was set at the Worcester Redevelopment Authority meeting on Tuesday, at which the mall's owner Dean Marcus was present to discuss potential plans for the space.

The WRA has publicly discussed moving forward with an eminent domain taking in order to find a developer for the property, which sits almost adjacent to City Hall.

Marcus, who officials say has not invested in the Front Street property's three buildings, said he has received interest from developers. He said the low rent allows the space to function as an incubator for mostly minority-owned businesses.

However, that low rent has allegedly led to a host of issues with the building. According to Chief Development Officer Michael Traynor, there have been 21 code violations at the property since 2014. Four of those ended up in court.

Violations include infestations, overflowing trash, water leaks, mold, graffiti, faulty emergency lighting and fire safety hazards.

The drain on the police department has been even worse, with police responding to 602 calls at the address in the last 10 years, Traynor said.

Marcus defended himself and the building, saying the 40 tenants in the mall and at least eight residential tenants all need a start somewhere. New tenants keep signing on, he said.

"We give tenants a chance to start," he said, adding many of them can't afford more expensive rents.

Despite giving a history of the building and success stories of some tenants, WRA officials had harsh words for Marcus about the condition of the building.

"At this point, the board has to make a decision if we move forward with the acquisition of the property because there's no evidence that anything is actually happening," Chairman Vincent Pedone said.

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