The Canal District isn’t the only part of town that is abuzz with new development. Lincoln Square at the top of Main Street is just starting to recognize its own potential as a gateway to the city’s downtown areas.
Former Worcester City Manager and current WinnCompanies Executive Vice President Michael O’Brien delivered a press conference to local policymakers and media on April 9, highlighting his company’s plans to repurpose the former Worcester Boys Club. The Boston-based developer bought the property from the city in 2019 and intends to develop it into a housing complex focused on senior living.
The Boys Club, which will now be called One Lincoln Square, sits at the top of Main Street. It is one of three major Lincoln Square properties — the Worcester Memorial Auditorium, the old Worcester County courthouse, and the Boys Club — which have been under-utilized but possess high potential for development.
Worcester City Manager Edward Augustus, Jr. said the development would be the first senior housing in downtown in a newly beautified Lincoln Square area that will serve as the “gateway to the Salisbury Street cultural district.”
The Boys Club development will complement the Courthouse Lofts, a 118-unit mixed-income housing development across the street which represents a $60 million investment by Trinity Financial.
Meanwhile, the adjacent Worcester Memorial Auditorium was purchased by the Architectural Heritage Foundation in 2019. The plan is to renovate the space into a state-of-the-art commercial entertainment venue and an educational center.
The Boys Club development will create about 30 units of housing in the historic building, with a new five-story development being appended next door. This new construction will take place on top of the Johnson Tunnel, which connects to Main Street. This new building will create 65 to 70 units, totaling roughly 95 one- and two-bedroom units across the development. Eighty percent of the units are expected to be income-accessible for seniors ages 62 and older.
The Boys Club property is also home to the “Whispering Wall,” a World War I memorial for Worcester veterans. The City plans to use the $300,000 from the sale of the building to WinnCompanies to redo and improve the memorial site. WinnCompanies agreed to be responsible for maintaining the landscape around the building, including upkeep on the memorial site and its green space.
Like the Courthouse Lofts have introduced the Major Taylor Museum to honor the former Worcester resident and the first Black person to win a world championship in bicycling, WinnCompanies is planning to line the halls of 1 Lincoln Square with panels and artwork which tell a “living history” of Lincoln Square.
Mr. O’Brien said that the site’s construction firm would be Cutler Design, based at nearby Harvard Street. In addition, 50% of subcontractors will be hired from within Worcester County. Construction may begin as early as 2023, pending processes with the city government.
The project fills an important need for housing that targets consumers at life stages such as seniors, young professionals, families, couples without children, and more. This need was identified by the Worcester Regional Chamber of Commerce’s 2019 housing study, which emphasized that housing stock is most useful when it is constructed to fit the needs of consumers according to their lifestyle.
Neighboring municipalities are also looking to fill needs for senior housing. Auburn recently announced plans to build out two underutilized school buildings. The Julia Bancroft School will become a four-story, 55-unit senior housing development, and construction is continuing on the Mary D. Stone school building. Construction on Mary D. Stone began last year and is slated to bring 45 affordable and 10 market-rate senior housing units to Auburn, totaling 110 new senior housing units in Worcester’s neighboring city.
This project represents yet another addition to WinnCompanies’ strong Worcester portfolio. The company recently built the $30 million Voke Lofts immediately adjacent to the Boys Club and already manages the Canal Lofts, Wellington Community, and Coes Pond Village in Worcester.
Of their presence in Worcester, Mr. O’Brien said, “We wouldn’t want to be anywhere else.”
David Sullivan is the Economic Development Fellow at the Worcester Chamber. He can be reached by email here.
This story was originally published in the May 2021 edition of Chamber Exchange: The Newspaper, a quarterly publication of the Chamber. All newspaper editions are archived here.