Worcester, MA & COVID-19: A Look Back

09 March, 2021

Last March, I joined a panel of local professionals including Todd Finard, CEO at Finard Properties; Rob Robledo, Sr. VP at CBRE; Mike Eardley, Director, Energy & Sustainability at EBI Consulting; and Joshua Lee Smith, Partner at Bowditch to discuss development in Boston’s suburbs, what’s next for Worcester, and the possible effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on the industry. At the time, the group agreed that the City of Worcester is uniquely resilient.

Did our predictions hold up? Our Massachusetts-based team examines where the City stands a year later.

A Growing Biotech Market

What We Said a Year Ago:

Based on proximity to cutting-edge research at Cambridge and UMass, significant players in the biotech industry want to establish a presence in the area. With local researchers working on a COVID-19 vaccine, the Boston biotech market is strong and continues to grow. Sites such as The Reactory, a redevelopment of the Worcester State Hospital that Bohler is helping to design, have established considerable infrastructure for future biomed facilities.

Did Our Prediction Hold Up?

Yes. As predicted, the biotech market continued to flourish over the last year, despite the challenges of the pandemic on land development. Two clinical research and biomanufacturing facilities went under construction at Worcester Business Development Corporation’s (WBDC) The Reactory site that Bohler has worked on for years, with tenants WuXi Biologics and Galaxy Life Sciences both building 100,00-SF facilities.

Expanding Home-Grown Businesses

What We Said a Year Ago:

Chock-full of unique and talented entrepreneurs, Worcester is home to some of the area’s best restaurants, bakeries, sandwich shops, tailors, and more. Savvy retail developers understand that for this town, it’s not about landing big national chains, who may undergo a more complex decision-making process during challenging times—it’s about finding the local business gems who are still doing well, and providing them an opportunity to open a second location.

Did Our Prediction Hold Up?

Too soon to tell. Home-grown businesses inspire Worcester’s culture and give it that small-town feel. Like many local shops and restaurants, they’ve been impacted by COVID-19. We maintain, however, that as vaccinations increase across the state and the City continues to come back to life, this prediction is expected to hold true.

Welcoming Development

What We Said a Year Ago:

Experienced in private development, many City officials work well with developers, and understand how to keep projects moving forward. At Bohler, we’ve seen that projects of varying size and complexity have obtained approvals quickly—within one or two meetings.

Did Our Prediction Hold Up?

Yes. Worcester City officials continue to collaborate with developers to move projects from concept to reality. The Canal District transformation is well underway with the revitalization of Kelley Square, Green Island Boulevard, and the WooSox ballpark, which is expected to open this spring. Bohler’s team has also had a hand in the redevelopment of the Worcester Courthouse into luxury apartments, and the adaptive reuse of the 1914 Worcester Boys Club building on Ionic Avenue.

Filling the Pipeline

With no sign of slowing, numerous mixed-use and redevelopment projects are expected to break ground in 2021, including the Table Talk Pie site and the former Sir Morgan’s Cove parcel. Even non-profit organizations are finding opportunities to expand. Bohler is currently helping Creative Hub Worcester to develop a 38,000-SF facility for art studios, classrooms, gallery space, event space, and a childcare facility.

As the industry has been adapting to the pandemic for nearly a year, we continue to believe in Worcester. Redevelopment and revitalization projects continue to move forward across the City.

Contact our team to learn more about opportunities to accomplish your development goals in Worcester.

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