EPA Grant to Help Clean T&G Site

WORCESTER — The federal Environmental Protection Agency has awarded $200,000 to a Worcester organization to help fund the cleanup of contaminants such as asbestos at a downtown building that has long housed the Telegram & Gazette.

The Worcester Business Development Corp. plans to begin work at 20 Franklin St. this summer as part of an effort to revive a 35-acre neighborhood around The Hanover Theatre for the Performing Arts, according to WBDC President Craig L. Blais.
First, he said at a news conference yesterday outside the building, “We have to deal with the condition of this property.”

The WBDC purchased the four-story building and a nearby parking lot last year for $300,000 from the New York Times Co., parent company of the Telegram & Gazette. The newspaper still occupies the building, but plans to move to leased space across the Common at 100 Front St. by August, according to Telegram & Gazette publisher Bruce Gaultney.

An environmental report prepared last year for the WBDC described a range of conditions at the property stemming from historic operation of printing equipment and storage of inks, solvents and other chemicals. Asbestos is also present in sound-proofing material, floor tiles and wrapping around pipes, according to a grant application filed last year by the city with federal authorities.

Mr. Blais said it will cost about $1 million to clean the building and about $12 million to $15 million to renovate it for tenants.

The grant to the WBDC was part of $6.75 million in brownfields funding awarded in May by the EPA to Massachusetts projects. Nationally, the EPA handed out $69.3 million in May for brownfields projects. Brownfields are contaminated properties that require cleaning for new development.

The city last year sought but did not receive a $2 million grant from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s Brownfields Economic Development Initiative for cleanup efforts at 20 Franklin St.

In addition to the new $200,000 EPA grant, the WBDC has received $200,000 for its project from a city revolving loan fund, Mr. Blais said.

Among those attending the event yesterday were Lt. Gov. Timothy P. Murray, U.S. Rep. James P. McGovern, D-Worcester, state Department of Environmental Protection Secretary Richard Sullivan Jr. and City Manager Michael V. O’Brien.

The EPA grant does not absolve the building’s past owners of financial responsibility for any cleanup, according to Mr. McGovern. Mr. Blais said the WBDC remains in financial negotiations with the New York Times Co. for funding for the cleanup.

Mr. Gaultney said in an email that the announcement of the grant was a positive step in the WBDC’s efforts to revitalize the area around the Hanover Theatre.

“We are talking with the WBDC about possible funding to help with the necessary clean up that is very typical for a site such as this,” Mr. Gaultney wrote.

Also at the event, EPA Region 1 Director Curt Spalding announced a $300,000 grant to the city of Worcester for its loan fund that promotes cleanup and reuse of brownfields.