Business Leaders Focus on Downtown Worcester

One day after celebrating plans for new commercial airline service at Worcester’s airport, the city’s business and political community gathered today to rally for further economic expansion efforts.

“There is a robust agenda here today,” Lt. Gov. Timothy P. Murray, a Worcester resident and former Worcester mayor, said at the annual meeting of the Worcester Business Development Corp. at the Hanover Theatre. “We’ve just got to continue to push.”

The WBDC, a group that redevelops troubled and vacant properties, is aiming to focus that agenda on downtown Worcester. The organization has closed out its involvement in properties such as the Gateway Park office and research center off Prescott Street to concentrate on the city’s core.

WBDC President and Chief Executive Craig L. Blais said the organization will work to create a district around the Hanover Theatre, a past WBDC project. That includes renovation of the former Telegram & Gazette headquarters as a satellite site for Worcester’s growing Quinsigamond Community College, plus a possible new use for the McGrath parking lot abutting the main branch of the Worcester Public Library.

“We will complete the renovation of the QCC space downtown, gain approval of our master plan and launch an urban revitalization plan for the district,” Mr. Blais said during a brief speech at the breakfast meeting. “We hope to play a major role in buildings like Goral and Printers and figure out the development of the McGrath parking lot, as controversial as it may be, and a parking structure.”

U.S. Rep. James P. McGovern, D-Worcester, also urged Worcester business people to remain involved in development efforts, mentioning the announcement that JetBlue Airways Corp. would begin commercial air service to Florida from the underused Worcester Regional Airport in November.

“Worcester is moving forward really because people have come together,” Mr. McGovern said.

In other action at the meeting, the WBDC presented its annual Bowditch Award to Unum US, the part of Chattanooga, Tenn.-based Unum Group that relocated its Worcester offices to a new downtown building on the site of a now-demolished shopping mall. The Bowditch Award honors those contributing to the economic vitality of Worcester and the region.

Ross Express Inc. of Boscawen, N.H., received the SBA Award for creating jobs, expanding the base of taxable property and enriching communities. Ross Express is a shipping and distribution business that built a terminal in Sutton.