South Worcester Industrial Park, a brief history

Inspired by this episode of 508, and with (unfortunately) much less music in the background, here’s a timeline of events in the fifteen-plus-year development of the South Worcester Industrial Park.  (I’ve read more about brownfields than I ever wanted to.  At some points it seemed like there was a bus tour of brownfields every week.)

August 7, 1994 – initial proposal for South Worcester Industrial Park (SWIP).

September 9, 1994 – city gets $15,000 for a site study for SWIP

February 3, 1995 – a T&G editorial mentions Clark University’s involvement in SWIP

May 5, 1995 – Governor Cellucci signs a bill “creating the Central Massachusetts Economic Development Authority to clean up polluted industrial properties … at the site of the former Standard Foundry on Southgate Street, Worcester.” As reported a few days later, this bill provided $1million to “improve roads and sidewalks in the neighborhood of the proposed South Worcester Industrial Park area.”

March 12, 1997 – the Council requested that the city acquire the SWIP land.

July 8, 1997 –  The Commerce and Development Committee “approved a plan to study acquisition of five of the 18 acres proposed for the South Worcester Industrial Park. The study would cost $100,000, the source of which is yet to be identified.”

October 17, 1997 – Stacey DeBoise complained about the stagnation around SWIP.

October 28, 1997 – Maritza Cruz, then-candidate for District 4 Councilor: “Then there’s the South Worcester Industrial Park that has been studied to death and still isn’t close to the drawing board.”

December 2, 1997 – In a larger discussion about brownfields, there’s mention of “the proposed South Worcester Industrial Park, located in a neighborhood where poverty and unemployment are twice that of the city as a whole. The manufacturing complex where the industrial park would be located in an 18-acre industrial area along Gardner and Southgate streets that is largely unused and vacant.”

March 16, 1998 – The newly formed Central Massachusetts Economic Development Authority (CMEDA) “is … considering other projects for cleanup and redevelopment, including the South Worcester Industrial Park and sites proposed by a handful of other suburban communities.”  A day later, they received $200,000 “for projects to clean and redevelop Fisherville Mill in South Grafton and the South Worcester Industrial Park in Worcester.”

March 29, 1998 –  “Among sites that could take advantage of brownfields legislation is the South Worcester Industrial Park, a complex of unused parcels and vacant buildings owned by different parties that covers about 17 acres off Canterbury Street. As first steps toward the park’s redevelopment, the city has received a federal grant for site assessment, and the state has committed $1 million to provide more efficient access from Southbridge Street.”

October 7, 1999 – “Stephen F. O’Neil, director of the city manager’s Office of Planning and Community Development, said an estimated 1,760 new jobs with a payroll of $45 million could be created at the blighted South Worcester Industrial Park, a 25-acre complex of old buildings. The city estimates it would need $27 million to clean the area.”

November 20, 1999 – Setback as CMEDA loses funding.

January 9, 2000 – A mention of SWIP, but the article is notable for its title (“Hopes, dreams don’t materialize with city projects”), which is appropriate for any year in Worcester’s history, and the following quote from then-at-large Councilor Tim Murray: “But we need to act carefully, otherwise, our downtown vision of Worcester will be one of boarded-up McDonald’s (restaurants), Pee- Wee’s arcades and for-lease signs.”

March 11, 2000 – Worcester lobbies the federal government for $6 million (of the $27.7 million total pricetag) for SWIP.  (A year later, the total pricetag is $12 million.  Not sure what the reason for that is.)

June 8, 2001 – CMEDA regains funding.

June 26, 2001 – infrastructure improvements: “The city has a $1 million Public Works Economic Development grant from the state to do [lower Southgate Street where it passes under a concrete-arch railroad bridge]. That money will pay for improvements to Southgate Street, starting at Southbridge Street, and including work under the bridge.  The city has also applied for a $1.4 million Economic Development Administration grant so that the street improvement work can continue westerly along Southgate Street.”  A $1.3 million grant was announced a few months later.

May 1, 2002 – “The City Council last night created a special economic development zone within the proposed South Worcester Industrial Park that will enable the city to negotiate with potential developers.”  A few days later, the city received $1 million to set up a revolving loan fund to clean up contamination on the site (though this money was not restricted to SWIP).

Of interest from a May 5, 2002 article:

The city had previously issued a request for proposals for the parcel. While several parties did express interest in it, Mr. Niddrie said, the city received no formal responses.

He said one of the roadblocks was that some of the interested parties wanted to negotiate certain issues with the city, such as the remediation of brownfields. But Mr. Niddrie said the city was prohibited under state law from negotiating with them under the request-for-proposals process.

To get around that problem, the City Council last week, on the recommendation of the city administration, created a special economic development zone that pertains only to the 67,000-square- foot city-owned property within the park site. Mr. Niddrie said the special designation will enable the city to negotiate with any interested parties on various issues related to the site.

September 18, 2002 – Road construction begins on Southgate Street.

(In 2002 and 2003, there was some discussion of relocating the DPW garage to the SWIP; obviously, that didn’t happen.)

October 4, 2003 – reconstruction of Southgate Street Southbridge Street and Southgate Place was completed.

November 13, 2003 – CBL & Associates proposes a shopping development at SWIP. This will not go anywhere.

During some discussions about an airport access road in 2004, there was mention that mitigation money might be used towards SWIP.

Februrary 21, 2004: “further reconstruction of Southgate Street from Southbridge Place to Gardner Street, as well as the reconstruction of Gardner Street from Southgate Street to Canterbury Street. This phase is planned [to begin in June 2004 and] to be completed by summer 2007.”

March 3, 2004 – $2.45 million loan “allows the Main South Community Development Corp, the lead organization in the project, to prepare the Creative Packaging plant and other highly contaminated buildings within the massive South Worcester Industrial Park for demolition.”

March 11, 2004 – discussion of applying for state Urban Renewal Grant for the site.

July 21, 2005 – another grant, from the EPA, for $300,000, at least part of which is for cleaning up SWIP.

September 27, 2005 – discussion of whether or not it’s appropriate to take some parcels on Southgate Street by eminent domain.

May 17, 2007 – “The city was awarded $200,000 [from the EPA] to assess the cleanup of the former industrial property at 65 Armory St., part of the planned South Worcester Industrial Park.”

January 3, 2008 – Pharmasphere comes on the scene.  “PharmaSphere LLC plans to invest about $5.5 million to build and equip a 50,000-square-foot facility at 49 Canterbury St. … PharmaSphere formed about eight months ago but uses technology and practices that were developed by TerraSphere Systems LLC of Canada for the cultivation of produce such as strawberries, according to Mr. Hamlin. Under its deal with the city, PharmaSphere will pay the city $1 for the parcel. PharmaSphere will also pay for site work to prepare the parcel’s soil for construction. If that work costs less than $250,000, PharmaSphere will pay the city $25,000.”

February 25, 2008 – “In December, the council designated 49 Canterbury St., within the South Worcester Industrial Park, as a Priority Development Site under Section 43D of the state’s general laws.  That designation was adopted by the state’s Interagency Permitting Board last month. That qualified the city for a one-time technical assistance grant of $147,500 for the purposes of developing and implementing an expedited permitting process.”

March 19, 2008 – “This week, the project received another financial boost, a $500,000 brownfields grant from the Massachusetts Development Finance Agency.  The grant will help rehabilitate contaminated sites that are owned by the city at 17 Southgate Place, 25 Southgate St., and 65 Armory St.”

June 16, 2009 – Pharmasphere, a year and a half later, still committed to making things work.  Still not plunking down $1 for the site.

July 30, 2009 – The City Council gives Pharmasphere an 8-year, $2.5 million Section 108 Loan.  Pharmasphere president and chief executive David A. Darlington “said the project will be financed through $6.5 million of equity from Quarry Hill Partners, $4.9 million from the sale of federal tax credits under the New Markets Tax Credits Program, a $3 million, eight-year, Massachusetts Development Financing Agency bond and the Section 108 loan.”

October 10, 2009 – various buildings demolished at SWIP.

October 16, 2009 – $3.8 million in ARRA funds for SWIP development.

October 21, 2009 – groundbreaking on Janice Nadeau Way, between Southgate Street and Armory Street.

December 20, 2009 – Planning Board gives Pharmasphere the go-ahead to be the SWIP’s first tenant.

5 thoughts on “South Worcester Industrial Park, a brief history

  1. Jeff Barnard says:

    One piece of the history of SWIP is the Price Rite on Southbridge Street (along with the two other new buildings on that parcel). Here’s a map I made (the X is the City Builders site) showing the boundary of the South Worcester Industrial Park. That little block on the east side of Southbridge Street is where the Price Rite was built, the only part of SWIP that has actually had anything happen (as far as I know).

  2. Bill says:


    You are right about the Price Rite’s location, but this has nothing to do with SWIP. It was a private sale between the owner of the scrap yard. SWIP was never involved this development.


  3. […] We revisit the long and frustrating history of the South Worcester Industrial Park. Thanks to Nicole for helping produce this segment. Published in: 508, General, Items, Worcester | […]

  4. […] that the snowy sidewalks around the city-owned South Worcester Industrial Park are unshoveled. For 3 years now, Worcester’s been trying to give part of this site to PharmaSphere, who thus far hasn’t […]

  5. […] people interested in buying parcels, rather than going through a public bidding process. Nicole has all the background on SWIP you could want. Here is a video of the area in […]

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