The Telegram & Gazette has called downtown Worcester its home since the turn of the 20th century. As one of the prominent buildings within the downtown, the Telegram & Gazette building is now faced with the opportunity to utilize its strong history of industry and invention to make great strides toward new crusades in the innovative industries of the future — biotechnology, life sciences, health care, and higher education.
Worcester’s downtown is at a critical crossroads. To ensure its success, our community must work together.
In November 2010, the T&G issued a request for proposals for the sale of 18-20 Franklin St. and 17 Federal St., as well as a lease of 35,000 square feet of office space in either 18-20 Franklin St. or an alternate Worcester location.
There were limited responses to the RFP that was issued to various parties within the city of Worcester. The RFP response from New Garden Park Inc., the 501(c)3 nonprofit entity of the Worcester Business Development Corp., demonstrated extensive capability in handling difficult redevelopment projects and an understanding of the challenges that a building such as the T&G may present to redevelopment.
Also, as part of our greater vision for the downtown, NGP, Inc. proposed that the T&G operations remain within the Central Business District upon NGP Inc.’s purchase of the property.
Upon completion of the RFP process, the T&G entered into negotiations to execute a letter of intent for NGP Inc. to purchase the T&G building and its associated properties. Recognizing the age and historic use of the building, the T&G agreed to discount the property while NGP Inc. further agreed to purchase the building in as-is condition, with all faults, including potential hazardous materials.
As part of their due diligence, NGP Inc. was provided with the previous environmental reports conducted on the building and were provided access to the property to fully understand the challenges — both structural and environmental.
Given the city’s deep industrial roots, many downtown properties have been burdened with the historic uses of the Industrial Revolution. As defined by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, a “brownfield” site is “real property … which may be complicated by the presence or potential presence of a hazardous substance, pollutant, or contaminant.”
Given the age of the building, as well as the types of processes once conducted to produce the newspaper, the T&G acknowledged that the building had the potential to provide a certain complexity in terms of redevelopment.
With this acknowledgment from the T&G, NGP Inc. applied for and received a $200,000 grant from the city of Worcester’s Brownfields Cleanup Revolving Loan Fund in January, and also received an additional $200,000 grant from the EPA in May. These grant funds will be utilized by NGP Inc. to assist in the estimated $1.15 million environmental remediation of the T&G building.
The T&G, recognizing the need for some environmental remediation as it relates to its past uses, agreed to a discounted purchase price of $300,000, as well as agreed to participate in an environmental cost-sharing arrangement. This cost-sharing arrangement was based upon environmental testing conducted by NGP Inc. and agreed to by the T&G. NGP Inc. conducted its remediation testing after purchasing the property and provided the T&G with a written estimate for the proposed remediation costs.
Based upon the T&G’s review of this cost estimate, NGP Inc. and the T&G came to an agreement which would provide $137,500 to complete the work outlined in the remediation estimate notice. These funds will allow NGP Inc. to move forward with the renovation of the T&G property — further helping their efforts to revitalize Worcester’s downtown.
The story to be told is one of partnerships, coming together as a community to support each other in attaining our successes. These types of partnerships, whether it is working with the city administration, the EPA, or other state and federal entities, have kept our city moving in the right direction. From the larger developments of Gateway Park and CitySquare to the smaller projects of the former Worcester Vocational High School and the former JJ Nissen Bakery, this creative approach to development must continue to be nurtured.
As a longtime member of the Worcester community, WBDC is pleased to work with the T&G on the redevelopment of this property and is excited about the future potential of such a critical building within our city’s core. There is great momentum surging throughout Worcester’s downtown. As a community, we must build upon this gaining momentum. This cannot be done alone. There must be support throughout, from the local business owners to the mayor and the City Council and beyond.
This is our downtown Worcester, and we must work together to realize its true potential.