T&G, New Garden Park Disclose Details of Sale

WORCESTER — The Telegram & Gazette Inc. factored in the “significant” cleanup costs when it negotiated a sales price for its Franklin Street complex. The company agreed to provide an additional $137,500 for future remediation efforts when the downtown newspaper plant was sold last year to New Garden Park Inc., the nonprofit subsidiary of the Worcester Business Development Corp.

Details of the financial settlement to cleanse the properties were revealed Thursday by officials from the T&G and NGP.

“While the T&G is under no obligation to release the amount we agreed to in the settlement, we feel that it is in the best interest of the process for us to do so,” said Bruce Gaultney, the newspaper’s publisher.

The parties had consented to a confidentiality agreement after they had recently inked the settlement deal.

Craig L. Blais, the WBDC’s president, said the settlement money will provide the necessary resources to renovate and redevelop the properties. Mr. Blais said the purchase and settlement agreements were fair, and he noted that the WBDC bought the newspaper plant at “a discount.”

City records show that the property, pending state certification, is assessed at $4.7 million. The WBDC bought the property for $300,000.

The sales process began in November 2010 when the newspaper sought proposals for the sale of the complex, located at 18 to 20 Franklin St. and at 17 Federal St.

Mr. Gaultney said the newspaper was interested in exploring “multiple scenarios,” including the idea of selling the property and leasing back about 35,000 square feet for office space.

He said the company received three or four bids and decided to sell to the NGP.
“We wanted to work with the WBDC because we wanted to be certain that we were doing the right thing by the community,” Mr. Gaultney said. “I am confident that the WBDC has the experience and the expertise to turn these buildings into something the community can look to with pride.”

Mr. Gaultney said the company did not set a sales price when it put out the request for proposals.

The renovation of the Franklin Street properties is part of a long-term project by the NGP to expand the Federal Square Theater District and to connect it with the major components downtown.

The makeover of the T&G plant, including site remediation, is expected to cost at least $15 million.

Mr. Blais said renovation work is expected to begin shortly after the newspaper moves this month across Worcester Common to the Mechanics Tower at 100 Front St.

“We were also happy to be able to keep our employees downtown at the 100 Front St. tower,” Mr. Gaultney said. “Other options available to us, such as moving outside of the city or other uses for this property at the city’s core, did not fit into our desire to do something that would benefit the downtown.”

The Franklin Street project has also drawn $400,000 in grants from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

Some have criticized use of public money for the makeover, saying the T&G or its parent company, The New York Times, should pay for all the cleanup costs.

WBDC officials said Fuss and O’Neill, the consultant brought in to study the environmental contamination, estimated that it will cost $1.1 million to clean the facilities of inks, solvents, asbestos and other toxins.

Most of the contaminants are in the Federal Street building, which once housed the newspaper’s massive presses.