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August 7, 2017

MassDevelopment buys Main St. building for $800K

Courtesy/MassDevelopment 526 Main St., a former pawn shop, will receive a facade renovation and be redeveloped.

The state agency MassDevelopment has bought a former pawn shop building at 526 Main St. and plans to make facade improvements before seeking redevelopment.

The property, at the corner of Chatham Street between City Hall and the Hanover Theatre, sits in a stretch of downtown the city is looking to transform under a downtown revitalization plan. MassDevelopment, which announced the purchase Friday, said it will work with the city to help in that vision.

MassDevelopment bought the two-story building for $800,000. The site was owned by a trustee, Lois A. Rizzo, and assessed at $1.1 million, according to city records. The 18,000-square-foot building, which is topped by a billboard, was built in 1925.

The state agency bought the site was part of its Transformative Development Initiative, or TDI, equity investment program. Worcester was one of 10 Massachusetts cities selected as TDI districts in 2014, along with Brockton, New Bedford, Springfield and others. Each city receives help with redevelopment plans as part of the program, which is meant to spur broader private investment.

MassDevelopment said it plans to make moderate facade improvements before seeking proposals by developers later this month.

That area of downtown could be dramatically reshaped in the coming years.

Several other buildings in that area of downtown have been singled out for redevelopment by the city, including the surface parking lot across Chatham Street, which the city says in its redevelopment plan could become a mixed-use building with first-floor retail and upper-floor commercial or office space. Next to that lot, the Denholm Building, which is largely vacant, is slated for commercial, retail and restaurant use.

Across Main Street, the Great Wall restaurant building at 521 Main St. and the adjoining MetroPCS building at 517 Main St. could both be bought by the city. The Worcester Development Authority voted in June to seek appraisals for the site as a first step toward what could be eminent domain use to take the properties for redevelopment.

The Midtown Mall on Front Street could also be taken for new mixed-use development.

The former pawn shop bought by MassDevelopment had been eyed for acquisition and subsequent redevelopment as part of the downtown revitalization plan, which was first put in place last summer.

In addition to the properties singled out for redevelopment by the city, the stretch of downtown will also be overhauled later this year as part of an $11-million project improving Main Street itself. The project will include repaving, new sidewalks, dedicated bike lanes, street lights, trees, public art and seating areas.

The improvements will stretch nearly a mile, from just short of Lincoln Square north of downtown to Madison Street a few blocks down of the Hanover Theatre.

Other MassDevelopment funding has also benefited the POW! WOW! Worcester public murals project, which will hold its second annual festival later this month, the American Antiquarian Society and the Hanover Theatre.

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