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May 24, 2019

Boston architecture firm plans $94M digital arts renovation of Worcester Memorial Auditorium

Courtesy | Yves Marchand and Romain Meffre Worcester Memorial Auditorium

The Worcester Memorial Auditorium will be sold to a historic property architecture firm for $450,000 to make way for the firm’s planned $94-million redevelopment of the 87-year-old building vacant since 1999. 

City Manager Edward Augustus is slated to bring the news to the City Council next Tuesday, according to documents released by the city Thursday. The council will be asked to approve the sale to Boston-based Architectural Heritage Foundation.

The firm has been studying the building and its potential reuse options since February 2017. A final report was submitted to the city two years later, but not unveiled until now.

That report calls for a $94-million project to renovate the structure into an innovative digital technology, arts and education center for the 21st century digital media industry, Augustus said in a letter to councilors. 

Terms of the sale include restrictions to preserve the exterior building facades, lobby, Memorial Hall, Kimball Organ and artwork. 

The sale, however, will not close for another two years as benchmarks must be met to ensure the project happens. 

Worcester Chief Development Officer Michael Traynor said in a document the main auditorium will seat up to 2,000 people and the Little Theatre will be transformed into a 300-set IMAX-style theater, which could also be used for smaller-scale e-sports events and other interactive digital sessions. 

The lobby will become the facility’s entry space, including a ticketing function. 

A kitchen in the War Memorial Hall will serve both a high-quality dining area and smaller concessions in the complex. 

The incubator space will feature video, media and production rooms and offices for digital entrepreneurs. 

AHF and the city will work to achieve project benchmarks leading up to the closing date, including funding, historic tax credit commitments, and finding a development partner with the city’s approval. 

It appears early talk of Becker College becoming involved in the building’s redevelopment will come true, as AHF confirmed Becker College, along with other colleges and universities in Worcester, will have access to the facilities. 

The auditorium, referred to colloquially as simply the Aud was build in 1931 to honor the 9,000 Worcester residents who fought in World War I. 

The 99,000-square-foot building at the intersection of Grove Street and Highland Street is one of several large buildings anchoring Lincoln Square, which is a gateway to the city’s downtown area and to Highland Street, Worcester Polytechnic Institute and Main Street. 

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