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March 1, 2021

Construction on Washington Square hotel in Worcester slated to start in next year

Photo/Zachary Comeau The developer who built the Homewood Suites on Washington Square is looking to develop vacant land across the street, in front of Union Station.

The coronavirus pandemic has crippled the hotel industry, including in Worcester. But work on a second hotel on Worcester's Washington Square next to Union Station is expected to move forward within the next year, according to the city.

First Bristol, a Fall River developer, hopes to start building a roughly 100-room, six-story Home2 Suites hotel late this year or early next year, according to a city economic update to be presented to the Worcester City Council on Tuesday night. Groundbreaking was last expected to start in the spring of 2020.

First Bristol built the Homewood Suites in 2017 across the street from the vacant lot where the new hotel would go. The firm didn't return a message seeking comment.

Plans for the Home2 Suites hotel, part of the Hilton brand, come as the pandemic has severely slowed business at the city's newest hotel, the AC Hotel on Front Street, as well as the Hilton Garden Inn on Major Taylor Boulevard and the Hampton Inn at Gateway Park.

[Related: Greater Worcester hotel growth outpaces national average as prices rise]

Chief Development Officer Peter Dunn's memo to the City Council disclosed major job cuts at all three hotels: 15 are working at the AC Hotel, down from an expected 90 at opening; 22 at the Hilton Garden Inn, down from 100, and five at the Hampton Inn, instead of a typical 30, because the hotel is being used temporarily as a dormitory by Worcester Polytechnic Institute. Hotel occupancy is extremely low because of the pandemic, Dunn said.

Details on each hotel was disclosed to the City Council as part of a quarterly economic development update. Each of the four has received a tax break from the city, necessitating regular updates on their staffing and investment levels. In the Home2 Suites' case, the investment, nearly $22 million at last disclosed, has been approved for a tax break valued at $2.4 million.

While the Home2 Suites project is expected to belatedly move forward, there was no updated timeframe from the city on a more highly anticipated project: a 125-room hotel across Madison Street from the Polar Park baseball stadium. That hotel was downsized from a previous plan for 262 hotel rooms split among two brands. The hotel has already been delayed, with the most recently disclosed plan calling for an opening by May 2024, about two years later than previously expected.

CORRECTION: A previous version of this story wrongly quoted Chief Development Officer Peter Dunn as describing occupancy as extremely low at the AC Hotel specifically. He was referring to the industry more generally.

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