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March 10, 2021

Downtown Worcester gets $120K for recovery planning

Photo | Edd Cote An employee for the Downtown Worcester Business Improvement District, known as an ambassador, cleans the sidewalk outside Craft Table & Bar on Franklin Street.

The Downtown Worcester Business Improvement District, an initiative that had the misfortune of getting off the ground during the coronavirus pandemic, has been given state funding to help the neighborhood recover from the health and economic crisis.

A $120,000 grant the district announced Wednesday from the state's Local Rapid Recovery Planning program will help district leaders study solutions to help revitalize the downtown, which was challenged by storefront vacancies before the pandemic and some restaurants that closed at least temporarily this winter, as well as events spaces including the Hanover Theatre, DCU Center and Mechanics Hall.

The business improvement district said it would work with city officials to develop plans for helping downtown recover, including slightly longer-term strategies. The process is expected to take about five months and involve the Boston office of the urban design firm Stantec.

“This pandemic has taught us the importance of communities working together to assist each other through difficult times,” Evelyn Darling, the executive director of the district, said in a statement.

Darling said last fall in an interview the pandemic has forced the district to move from event planning and other initiatives that would involve getting crowds to visit the neighborhood and instead focus on advocacy efforts to help businesses survive. Cleaning crews have expanded their duties beyond litter and graffiti removal to include disinfecting commonly touched surfaces across the neighborhood, including crosswalk buttons and door handles.

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