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June 10, 2022

Report: Polar Park housing project at risk of losing tax break over hiring practices

Photo | Courtesy of Rockland Trust A rendering of Madison Properties' 228-unit residential building in Worcester's Polar Park ballpark district

The 228-unit residential building under construction near to the $160-million Polar Park baseball stadium, and key to the plan to pay off the public stadium, is at risk of losing its 15-year tax break, according to a report by the Worcester version of the website Patch.

The construction firm building the project, Milford general contractor Plumb House Inc., has failed to meet the city's requirements for hiring of women, Worcester residents, and people of color, according to what Peter Dunn, the City's chief development officer, told the City Council's economic development committee on Wednesday. Plumb House has refused to provide the names and addresses of people working on the project, which is a first for a publicly supported project in Worcester, said Dunn. The City had previously sent a compliance letter to Plumb House about the contractor’s hiring practices.

The project called SOMA (South of Madison Apartments) is being developed by Boston-based Madison Properties, who gave the City the land for Polar Park in exchange for various tax breaks on the five buildings he plans to build around the Worcester Red Sox stadium. The tax revenue expected to be generated from his projects is the key component of the City's plan to pay off the 30-year bonds it took out to pay off the cost for the public stadium, although two other planned housing projects from separate developers within the ballpark tax district have since bolstered those expected revenues.

Denis Dowdle, the president of Madison Properties, didn't immediately return requests for comment from WBJ on Friday morning. When reached Friday afternoon by WBJ, a City spokesman said goverment officials are working to address the issue with Madison.

“We are still in the early stages of this project, and the City evaluates the success of projects as they near completion," City spokesman Robert Burgess said in an email to WBJ. "The City has been in continuous contact with Madison Properties to discuss their corrective action plan with the contractor. The City will continue to post updates on its open data portal that report to the public progress being made toward the contract’s goals. The issue will continue to be reviewed at subcommittee before a report is sent to City Council.”

During the economic development committee meeting on Wednesday, Councilor Khrystian King said the city council could change or eliminate the SOMA tax break, according to Patch. Dunn told the committee any changes to the tax break would come after a recommendation from the city manager's office, and that Dunn's office was working with Plumb House to improve its hiring practices.

Plumb House has hired 10% Worcester residents, instead of the goal of 50%; 2% women vs. the 10% goal; and 18% people of color vs. 38%, according to Patch's reporting.

The SOMA development received $57 million in financing earlier this year from the Rockland Trust bank, and the complex is expected to be the first of Madison's projects to be finished when it opens next year. The city's tax break for the property reduced the tax bill by 15% for its first five years, 20% in its second five years, and 25% for the final five years.

Other aspects of Madison's five-building development have been shrunk and delayed since they were initially announced in August 2018, during the same press conference where the WooSox announced they were moving from Pawtucket, R.I. to a new stadium in the Canal District. A hotel originally proposed as two hotels with 262 total rooms is now one 125-room hotel and not expected to open until 2025. An office building slated to be complete in 2023 is now delayed to 2024. The other aspects of the project are a second 125-unit residential building and an $11-million office or laboratory building immediately behind the stadium's left field. A public parking garage had been built and finished in conjunction with Madison, as part of the larger ballpark district.

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June 14, 2022

Hiring qualified tradesmen is a nightmare today.

Stephen Quist
June 10, 2022

There are many "keys" to the financing plan of Polar Park that Bradley seems to be outright purposely ignoring to inflate cause and concern where it's not warranted.
Typical of WBJ to raise false red flags in order to tear down this entire project as they have since day one.

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