Massachusetts Construction News: How a Minor League Team's Move Could Birth a Central Massachusetts Development Boom

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Last week, the Pawtucket Red Sox, a Triple-A Minor League Baseball team, announced that they will move to Worcester, Massachusetts by 2021. The move includes a new, 10,000-seat stadium in the city’s Canal District and a new name – the Worcester Red Sox (WooSox).

Worcester’s real estate community have been optimistic that the Minor League move could contribute to a rise in developments throughout central Massachusetts.

In addition to the $90 million Polar Park stadium being constructed in Worcester’s Canal District, developer Madison Downtown Holdings expected to construct 250 market-rate apartments, two hotels and 65,000 square-feet of retail and restaurant space in time for the team’s first game in 2021.

Worcester, the second-largest city in New England, has been gaining residents for the first time in decades and is expected to surpass the 200,000 population mark for the first time since 1950.

Worcester city manager Edward Augustus Jr., who received a standing ovation from the gathering crowd when the deal was announced to the public, acknowledges that a development was already in planning stages, but that the addition of the ballpark and state funding for infrastructure improvements to the area changed the plans drastically.

“From the outset, the developer told the city that he preferred to develop the north parcels first and that the development would be smaller and slower,” Augustus claimed. “The presence of the ballpark, coupled with the public investment, significantly enhanced the scope and timing of the development and made it a much more robust project.”

The state is offering a $2.5 million tax incentive for Madison Downtown Holdings through the Housing Development Incentive Program for the residential portion of the project.

Worcester developers are anticipating that the surrounding district will spark a development boom and provide traffic to the area’s growing dining and retail scene.

The city has seen a wealth of new developments and plans in recent months, including Citysquare – a $565 million mixed-phase development on the site of the Worcester Common Outlets mall.

“I think the increased cost of living in Boston and the improvement of Worcester’s reputation since 2008 has helped,” developer Ed Murphy said. “A lot of people have come back home when, in the past, they may not have wanted to.”

“One of the biggest hurdles that Worcester has had is retaining young people and students that go to all the schools there,” NAI Hunneman Director of Research Liz Berthelette claims. “These developments will hopefully keep people in that area.”

While Boston is expected to remain New England’s employment hub, we may see the formation of a niche for central Massachusetts.

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