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oliver

Worcester City Square

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Finally something exciting is going on in Worcester Downtown:

"Through a private-public partnership, CitySquare will replace the Worcester Common Outlets Mall, an underutilized facility that occupies a strategic 20.2-acre site in the heart of Worcester, MA, with a lively urban district that integrates office, residential, retail and entertainment uses within a newly created open-air environment.

Undertaking the estimated $500 million mixed-use development is Berkeley Investments, Inc., of Boston, MA, which purchased the site for $30.35 million in June, 2004 with its investment partner, Starwood Capital Global Group LLC of Greenwich, CT. The project, which encompasses approximately 2.1 million square feet of office, residential and retail space will be completed in several phases over the next eight years. Berkeley has tapped Arrowstreet of Somerville, MA, a multi-disciplined design firm that specializes in Urban Design, as project architect."

http://www.newcitysquare.com/

I will try to shoot some photos of the still existing Outlet Mall downtown before they start the demolition. Than I will try to get updated photos of the site on a regular basis. It's probably the last chance Worcester gets to revitalize its downtown, so it needs some attention.

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And nothing could be like Harvard Square without a subway.

Jesus, of course this won't be like Harvard Square. We are still talking about Worcester. But around the park Worcester has pretty nice buildings and a nice Main Street, City Square would reconnect this part of town to the Union Station and Shrewsburry Street (The Italian / Restaurant section of the town). Plus it will include upscale condos, which will bring people downtown. I took some pictures of the current mall, which is now empty, but still open. It was kind of weird to walk in a completely empty mall. Now could somebody explain to me how I upload picture on this page???

I've heard they will start demolition in November.

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Now could somebody explain to me how I upload picture on this page???

First you need to find a place to host the image online. I use Photobucket, but there are several other free services out there. Once you have the image hosted, follow the directions below:

PostingAnImage003.jpg

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That's a view from Front Street (from the park). The office towers to the left and right will stay, but the street will open up:

S1010047.jpg

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And that's the reverse view (from inside the mall out on the park). The place where I was taking the picture from will be the extension of Front Street:

S1010049.jpg

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That's inside the mall, it is still open, but empty, all the stores are closed - a ghost mall. It is a pretty weird feeling to walk around in it:

S1010045.jpg

S1010046.jpg

Yeah, let's hope so...

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Here a shot from the Center Boulevard, this is where Front Street will come out. Currently the mall blocks the complete downtown:

S1010051.jpg

And here a shot from Foster Street, can't wait till this ugly mall is gone. When I was walking around in it, I was tempted to get some tools and start demolition myself:

S1010050.jpg

OK. Enough of this. I will post more photos as soon as the demolition begins and will give updates on the developments. By the way, if somebody is living in the Worcester area, a friend of mine was just buying a penthouse condo downtown and very close to the planned development for under $200K (including 2 rooftops). They build loft space all around downtown right now and I guess that's a great investment...if this project is successful prices will skyrock (no, i don't work in real estate!).

Here an article about loft developments in Worcester, the article was recently published in the Worcester Telegram: http://www.theabramsgroup.com/news.php?Nav=Article26

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I always found it ironic and interesting that Hartford and Worcester are revitalizing their downtown's by tearing down malls, while Providence built one right in its downtown as part of its revitalization. I guess what's good for one isn't good for all...

What's the history of the Worcester Commons? And what's it like from an urban planning perspective, is it surrounded by surface parking or is it more urban?

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What's the history of the Worcester Commons?

Worcester Commons is weird, it did pretty well for a while, I remember living in Boston in the 90s and knowing lots of poeple that would go out there a lot to shop. For some reason, it just stopped attracting people, more or better options closer to the city I guess (Wrentham Outlets may have hurt it, especially when they started running buses from Boston).

As you can see from Oliver's photos, the mall lays right across important downtown streets, killing off the street life (I think Hartford's mall has similar street life killing characteristics). As we know in Providence, our mall has a detrimental effect on east-west pedestrian traffic, but that's not really an important movement direction in that area. Couple that with the storefronts on Francis, and Providence Place actually adds to the street life instead of killing it. Now imagine if Providence Place were turned 90 degrees and blocked Francis Street and had no streetfront restaurant/retail...

Norfolk (or VA.Beach or one of those Hampton Roads cities) has a mall very similar to Providence Place which sits in the street grid and has streetfront retail, it is proving to have a similar effect on that city as Providence Place had on Providence.

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I think you are absolutely right there Cotuit. The Providence Mall is a nice addition to Providence Downtown, with storefronts and restaurants on streetlevel. Even when the Worcester Outlet mall was successful it never improved Worcester downtown. People were driving to it, parked in it and got out as soon as they were done shopping. It worked like a suburban mall, no use to have something like this downtown.

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I think you are absolutely right there Cotuit. The Providence Mall is a nice addition to Providence Downtown, with storefronts and restaurants on streetlevel. Even when the Worcester Outlet mall was successful it never improved Worcester downtown. People were driving to it, parked in it and got out as soon as they were done shopping. It worked like a suburban mall, no use to have something like this downtown.

Actually, my rough guess is that for about 95% of Providence Place Mall shoppers, "suburban style" is exactly how they treat the mall itself. But those street level shops and restaurants really do make the surrounding area feel vibrant and link it to the downtown.

Providence Place's success is also, I think, due in large part to being a "friendly face" for the city for those from the burbs and also and serving as the city's defacto parking garage. The mall sits not right in the downtown, but right at the "gateway" to it. With the Waterplace park, train station, and Capitol flanking the mall, and with the gaping wide entrance to downtown with the skyline looming over it right in front of the mall's major entrances with its streetfront shops, the layout just begs people to go wander and explore.

It's only going to get better with the prominent street level retail and restaurants that are going to be built in new structures across the street from and down the street from the existing mall within the next year.

Who would have guessed a mall would anchor one of New England's newest pedestrian neighborhoods?

- Garris

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I asked the Norfolk people to find some pics of their mall. You can find them here.

I like how parts of that mall don't look anything like a mall. the best mall to me is one that really isn't one. I like Providence Place a lot, I only wish it had street retail on the north side too.

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Back in the 60's, Worcester hired a big name architect to design a new urban complex for the city to try and bring life into what was a dying downtown. I forget his name (he did a big plan for South Station in Boston, too). They then ditched the guy and hired a construction company to build what was a replica version of what he designed. Anyway, the mall (originally called the Galleria) did OK for a while, but was really hurt by the parking situation - people had to drive to get to the place, and it was just as easy and cheaper to go to Auburn Mall or Searstown. So the place kinda died out. Then in the eighties a company thought of turning it into an Outlet mall, which in the end didn't work beacuse no one really was interested in the type of shops they had, and no one would pay for parking, even if it was only a couple of dollars.

One of the reasons why people didn't spill out from the mall into downtown was beacuse they had no desire. Downtown Worcester is not the cleanest area, people didn't exactly feel safe, nor was there anything of interest there. It's mostly small offices, few restaurants (no restaurants?) or shops or anything. I am not sure that this is going to be as great as they are hyping it up to be - from my understanding a lot of the residential bits are intended for the college of Pharmacy, it's going to be mostly office space, and there is no real focal point.

From what I heard from people there, don't expect any external demolition until the spring. If it stays up that long - the roof is leaking all over the place, and the garage feels like it is falling down on it's own.

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A lot of Bostonians are moving out to Boston now. It doesn't have the urbanity of a Providence or Hartford, but it's got great proximity to Boston. I think Worcester will do alright, it'll never become a big destination city, but it should grow into a a place that the residents will at least enjoy.

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One of the reasons why people didn't spill out from the mall into downtown was beacuse they had no desire. Downtown Worcester is not the cleanest area, people didn't exactly feel safe, nor was there anything of interest there. It's mostly small offices, few restaurants (no restaurants?) or shops or anything. I am not sure that this is going to be as great as they are hyping it up to be - from my understanding a lot of the residential bits are intended for the college of Pharmacy, it's going to be mostly office space, and there is no real focal point.

Yes... When the mall repoened in the early 90's as an outlet mall, it opened with a big promotional campaign with actress Judith Light (from ABC's "Who's the Boss?") palying a part. My wife and I went up there several times to check it out. We liked all the stores; it had a lot of 5th Avenue stores at outlet prices. The reason we stopped going was that the city did a good job of trying to attract people to that mall, but it failed trying to entice people to leave the mall and explore downtown Worcester. We left the mall twice to explore downtown and our exploration lasted all of 5 minutes - there was little vibrancy downtown, and we did not feel entirely safe, and there was esstentially nothing to do downtown. We just found similar stores closer to home so we just stopped going there. If Worcester can copy Providence and Hartford's examples of revitilizing downtown, they can succeed in this project.

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Were there any street fronting stores? If you're gonna have an urban mall, you have to have some stores/restaurants on the street, or people won't even think of leaving.

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Were there any street fronting stores? If you're gonna have an urban mall, you have to have some stores/restaurants on the street, or people won't even think of leaving.

No...none at all!! Everything was enclosed! Also Downtown Worcester is connected to the Main South area. I know some people like the idea of not siphoning off downtowns and connecting the neighborhoods, but Worcester is a prime reason not to do that. I like the fact that downtown Providence is separated with Rt. 95 and the Woonasquatucket and Moshassuck Rivers. It creates a sense of place that you've arrived.

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Back when it was the original Galleria, there was a little bit of an opening for Filenes, but it was an area that few people went to. Then again, the part that is fronting the road is actually two office towers - the mall is kind of tucked behind them, so there is not much to front. Whenit became the Outlets, they blocked that in.

It's kind of a wierd situation - Downtwon Worcester is not a real attractive place, yet in the mindset of the city, it actually works. There is very little available space - a few here and there and now two empty porn theaters. It's more of a working city - in order to do anything you are ultimately going to have to kick people out or make their working lives harder. I think the real revitalization of Worcester is going to come from Shrewsbury Street and Green St/Canal District. And it will come - it's just a slow process.

Unless somebody does something.

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