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Councilors Voice Concern Over City Square Jobs and Zoning

Monday, June 18, 2012

 

City Councilors are concerned that Worcester's City Square project may not deliver everything it promised. Local jobs and a planned mix of residential and commercial properties are two concerns thus far.

The project’s initial planning documents state that City Square will provide “$103 to $104 million in construction wages, which translates to 2,270 to 2,300 construction jobs during the eight-year build-out period,” but some are worried that those jobs may go to employees that neither live or pay taxes in the city of Worcester.

Construction Jobs

In light of the city’s recent discussion of a revised responsible employer ordinance (REO) and worries that construction jobs will already be shut out, City Square’s example is certainly timely.

City Councilor George J. Russell has spoken out about how much he hates seeing out-of-state license plates when there are so many local jobs on the line.

“I had asked for a report from the City Manager back in January to see how many people live in Worcester are working for the city of Worcester on this project,” Russell said. “Including people that were employed at City Square either directly or indirectly.”

Russell said he still has yet to see the report from the manager and is concerned that many of these jobs will be lost to contractors that aren’t from the area.

“I want many of them to go to people in Worcester. There’s nothing more frustrating than seeing out of state vehicles at a construction site,” he said.

When asked whether that has been an issue at the current site, Russell said, “In the few times I’ve gone over there, I’ve seen more than I would have liked to see. I’ll put it that way.”

Ronald Cogliano, head of Merit Construction Alliance, who has been advocating for the end of Worcester’s proposed REO that is currently being deliberated, says there’s more than one side to that issue.

“Residency requirements are unconstitutional,” he said. Cogliano believes that while hiring locally is the best option, being forced to do so would hurt a business. “Obviously any construction company will not be opposed to hiring local employees, but there’s a practical matter in it.”

A Mixed Use Site

Another concern that has been raised is the site’s lack of residential space that was originally part of the plans.  

In the project’s original proposal, the site was planned to be an, “open and vibrant mixed-use urban district which integrates office, residential, retail and entertainment uses within a newly created street grid.” The District Improvement Financing Application also states, “a new building is being targeted as either a corporate headquarters or multi-family residential building at the corner of Front Street and Worcester Center Boulevard,” and also mentions a new residential condominiums (140 to 170 units) that will be built facing the intersection of Front Street and a newly constructed street.

Councilor-at-Large Konstantina B. Lukes says these original proposals are being ignored.

City Square was supposed to be a mixed project with residential, commercial, and retail. There should be no detour from that plan,” she said. “Residential use is key. We will see empty streets if this is not carried out, and that is not appealing to anyone.”

Lukes is concerned that the project will leave out this crucial step in creating a neighborhood concept.

“It was intended to have more of a neighborhood concept,” she said.

The city’s Resolutions and Ordinance Amendments for the Advancement of City Square, sent to council in 2010 says, “The Patrick/Murray Administration established the Growth District Initiative in February 2008 to target certain areas for significant new growth, whether commercial, residential, or mixed-use…”

City Manager Michael O’Brien and Chief Development Officer, Tim McGourthy could not be reached for comment.

 

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