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January 21, 2013 Briefing

Worcester Theater District


Five years after the opening of the Hanover Theatre as the anchor to Worcester's plan for a downtown theater district, the city wants to move forward with the second act: developing the rest of the 30 acres surrounding the 2,300-seat performing arts venue.

That second phase of development, detailed in a 92-page master plan, will be the subject of a public forum Wednesday from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. at the theater. At the center of the plan is the redevelopment of underutilized or blighted buildings in the area into a multiple-use district to include stores and apartments.

How would this district mesh with other plans in the downtown area?

The theater district would abut the 12-acre multi-use CitySquare development, which will begin to take shape this year with the pending move of Unum Group into its new building at Foster and Mercantile streets, and the upcoming opening of the St. Vincent Cancer Center. And the increased presence of MCPHS University (formerly the Massachusetts College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences) and Worcester Polytechnic Institute in the area can boost foot traffic to make a theater district more viable.

What does the master plan entail?

The plan outlines eight "action steps," which include: increasing the stock of market-rate and student housing in the district; attracting private and institutional investment from educational and cultural institutions; improving a pedestrian networking of alleys and shared streets; creating more public parking; and increasing nighttime recreational activity.

What other recommendations are on the table?

The plan would make the area more pedestrian friendly by, for example, turning Federal Street, which connects Main and Portland streets, into a "pedestrian spine" and public plaza with ground-floor retail and entertainment uses. Also, new connections are proposed for the former Telegram & Gazette building parking lot: a plaza connecting a new parking garage with Federal Street and a pedestrian path connecting the exit door on the north side of the Hanover Theatre with Federal Street.

How many properties would be impacted?

The master plan spells out recommendations for 27 properties in the area, many of which would undergo some degree of renovation, and a few buildings would be converted into multiple-use structures that would combine apartments with stores or office space.

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