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October 19, 2018

Union Station in transition, authority chair says

Photo/Grant Welker A panel at the Game Changers event hosted by the Worcester Regional Chamber of Commerce Friday: From left, Samantha McDonald, attorney, Bowditch & Dewey; Stephanie Ramey, executive director, Discover Central Massachusetts; Ben Forman, research director, MassINC; and Vincent Pedone, chairman of the Worcester Redevelopment Authority.

Union Station in Worcester is in a transitional period as it works to lure new state offices and works through a turnover in retail tenants, the chairman of the Worcester Redevelopment Authority said Friday.

Speaking at the annual Worcester Regional Chamber of Commerce's Game Changers event focusing heavily on development in Worcester and surrounding towns, Vincent Pedone said he’s confident that the state’s Cannabis Control Commission will choose the station for its headquarters to oversee the burgeoning Massachusetts legal marijuana market.

“There are some significant announcements, I believe, that will happen over the next weeks and months,” Pedone said.

As the Cannabis Control Commission considers Union Station and a host of other office sites in Worcester, Union Station is undergoing a period of great change in its retail space.

Earlier this month, the Worcester Redevelopment Authority heard proposals from four potential tenants, identifying three: A country music bar by The Country Music Ranch & Saloon on James Street; Hadley-based vintage arcade, food and beverage establishment The Quarters; and Worcester's Greater Good Imperial Brewing Co. which is seeking a 2,100-square-foot space for a nanobrewery for its Soul Purpose brewing line.

One tenant that’s staying, Luciano’s Restaurant, is looking to move farther into the station than its current space, which also includes outdoor plaza space, Pedone said.

“The station will have a significant amount of open area,” Pedone said.

Stephanie Ramey, the executive director of the tourism office Discover Central Massachusetts, called finding the right mix of tenants important for making the station more successful.

“It’s really an iconic building for our city, so it’s important we’re thoughtful in how this building develops,” she said.

The Cannabis Control Commission is looking to occupy for its 50 workers around 13,000 square feet, much of which could replace space recently vacated by the engineering firm VHB, which has moved to larger space at 120 Front St.

Union Station sees roughly 1,500 commuter rail riders on an average weekday boarding one of 20 trains running daily between Boston and Worcester. Six out of 10 riders leaving Worcester get off at Boston’s South Station, with most of the remainder getting off just beforehand at the Back Bay stop, according to Ben Forman, the research director at the public policy think-tank MassINC.

Earlier this month, an MBTA board approved a design contract for a second train platform at the station, a first step toward an expansion of the station's capacity.

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Greater Good's interest in Union Station nanobrewery began two years ago

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