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August 6, 2021

Canal District business pioneer John Giangregorio passes away

PHOTO/Matt VOLPINI John Giangregorio, former president of the Canal District Business Association
PHOTO/SAM BONACCI John Giangregorio stands before a mural of the Worcester end of the Blackstone Canal as it appeared in the 19th century in this 2014 photo.

John Giangregorio, former president of the business and community group Canal District Alliance and Canal District Business Association in Worcester, passed away on Wednesday, leaving a legacy of business advocacy and commitment to improving the community.

As a member of the alliance, Giangregorio was a champion of small businesses and one of the players who helped revitalize the neighborhood and attract locally owned shops and restaurants, which eventually brought the Worcester Red Sox to the district and led to the construction of the $160-million Polar Park baseball stadium.

"Our hearts are sad to hear about the passing of the Canal District’s long time friend, business owner and biggest advocate John G Giangregorio. Our thoughts are with his family and loved ones," The Canal District organization posted on its Facebook group page on Friday, following Giangregorio's brother posting about his death Wednesday on Facebook.

While a member at the Canal District Alliance, Giangregorio was one of the leaders who formed the Canal District Business Association. He owned businesses like the Three G's Sports Bar on Millbury Street.

In 2010, the association secured $7.6 million in federal stimulus funding, which improved the streetscapes on Millbury, Water, Green, and Harding Street in the Canal District. In 2014, Giangregorio advocated for the reopening of the Blackstone Canal through the district, seeing it as a way to attract visitors to the still up-and-coming neighborhood.

Throughout the early 2010s, Giangregorio pushed for more housing to come into the Canal District, which has steadily happened over the last three years, with the opening of places like the $21-million Kelley Square Lofts and Worcester Public Market, and the planned opening of places around Polar Park, including the 400-unit proposal from Boston Capital Development and the 13-story, 300-unit skyscraper at the former Cove Music Hall.

Former President of the Canal District Alliance, Allen Fletcher, remembered Giangregorio as an intelligent, insightful man with a "thorny" character. "He was the most effective president that the Canal District Alliance ever had, and he was very passionate about the canal project. His tenure is fondly remembered as the reign of terror. He really lived and breathed the canal," Fletcher said.

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August 7, 2021
I worked with John to secure funding for (Green Island) now the Canal District. He was definitely ahead of his time with his vision of what could be for that section of Worcester. Rest in peace, Johnny G...
August 6, 2021
I had the pleasure of working with John on improvements to the Canal District. He was ahead of his time with his vision for what the (Green Island) now Canal District could be. It definitely would not be what it has become today without his leadership... Rest in peace, my good friend/Johnny G
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