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Worcester Plans Rezoning for Polar Park Project

Polar Park

Worcester, MA officials are proposing to rezone land that includes the Polar Park site, a move that would allow for construction of the ballpark and surrounding development. 

Planning is underway for the new Worcester ballpark, which is slated to open in 2021 for the relocating Pawtucket Red Sox (Class AAA; International League). Polar Park is expected to serve as the anchor of a larger redevelopment initiative in the city’s Kelley Square/Canal District area, with surrounding amenities to include an office building, residential units, a hotel, and retail.

In order to facilitate construction on the project, Worcester city manager Edward M. Augustus Jr. is recommending a change that would extend the Business General-6.0 (BG-6) zoning district to include ballpark’s site and land for surrounding development. Most of the land targeted for Polar Park and surrounding development is currently zoned as Manufacturing-General 2.0 (MG-2), a designation consistent with the area’s past history of industrial uses but that does not allow for many of the amenities planned as part of the project.

A report on the recommended zoning change is set to go before the Worcester City Council on Tuesday, and the council is being asked to refer the proposal to Worcester’s Planning Board. More from the Telegram & Gazette:

That would include land generally located southeast of the CSX/P&W railroad corridor, east of the Wyman-Gordon facility at 80 Hermon St., north of Lamartine Street, and east of Washington and Summit streets.

[The city’s chief development officer Michael E.] Traynor said it would also include the entirety of the city-owned Gen. Pickett Municipal Parking Lot on Green Street, opposite Temple Street.

He said the extension of the adjacent BG-6 zoning district, in conjunction with the Commercial Corridor Overlay District already established for those properties, is the best way to facilitate their redevelopment to reflect the ballpark project and the supportive private development.

“Together, they will allow for the development of a complementary mix of uses of a scale and character necessary to create the type of vibrant, walkable neighborhood envisioned,” Mr. Traynor wrote in a report that goes before the City Council Tuesday night.

The zoning change would have to officially be approved as part of a process that involves the Planning Board, which would hold a public hearing on the proposed change before issuing a recommendation to the city council. The city council would then make the final decision.

Polar Park is expected to cost $86-$90 million, and is envisioned as the anchor of a larger redevelopment initiative. The funding formula for the ballpark calls for the City of Worcester to borrow $100.8 million ($70.6 million in general obligations bonds, $30.2 in bonds backed by team rent payments) to cover construction costs and PawSox owners paying $6 million toward construction. Rent payments are pegged at a little over a million dollars annually, for a total of $30.2 million over 30 years. Naming rights for the ballpark will come from Worcester’s Polar Beverages.

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