WBDC bets on “Theatre District”

WORCESTER — Hoping to build on the success of the Hanover Theatre for the Performing Arts and support the development of the CitySquare project, the Worcester Business Development Corp. announced this morning that it is finalizing a memorandum of understanding with the city to revitalize a downtown area it is calling the Theatre District.

WBDC has hired the Boston firm of Chan Krieger NBBJ to prepare a master plan and market study within the area, which is bounded by Franklin Street, Francis McGrath Boulevard, Myrtle Street and High Street.

The study will encompass a 30-acre parcel and will explore ways to link downtown institutions, including the Hanover Theatre, YWCA and Worcester Public Library, while creating connections among Federal Square, the Common and CitySquare.

“We’re making an important and significant bet,” WBDC President David P. Forsberg told the organization’s annual meeting at the DCU Center. “We’re working with the city manager to take on the challenges of downtown and capitalize on opportunities.

“It’s about an effort to create a district, an area where people want to work, live and play. This is a tough area and it will take commitment.”

Lt. Gov. Timothy P. Murray, a former three-term Worcester mayor, on hand to receive the WBDC’s Robert Bowditch Award, lauded the organization for being a catalyst for economic development, and said its partnerships with the city have resulted in significant projects during an economic downturn.

“It’s going to require effort, collaboration and communication,” he said of the Theatre District proposal. “There are things coming together here that other communities can only dream of.”

Founded in 1965 to form partnerships with municipal government to spur economic development, WBDC created the Massachusetts Biotechnology Research Park, the Hanover Theatre for the Performing Arts, Gateway Park, now owned by Worcester Polytechnic Institute, and developed industrial parks in Holden, Grafton and Shrewsbury.