CategoriesGeneral News

Worcester housing market squeezing out the poor

On Aug 28, the nonprofit RCAP Solutions, which generates about $32 million in annual revenue, opened its new headquarters at 191 May St. in Worcester, consolidating operations from its Gardner and Worcester offices. With the new office, Executive Vice President Bill Minkle said RCAP can work better and more efficiently.

 

How many clients do you see annually?

We see about 6,000 clients per year, all from the Worcester area. We can have as many as 100 per day come to this office.

About 2,800 are here for the rental assistance. For the rest, we provide services like housing counseling, housing search, workforce development, secure jobs and for those suffering from domestic violence. We want to help families become self sufficient.

We are multipurpose, with two divisions: the housing division and the community resources division, which we are renaming it the rural division. The rural program covers nine states, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands.

 

And your clients numbers are growing?

Our numbers will fluctuate based on the economy. Our numbers are growing now because the rental market is really squeezing a lot of people out.

The rents are going crazy. They have gone up 10-20%. Every landlord is demanding increases. They can get it because the demand is very high.

 

How does RCAP help?

Our clients’ incomes are not going up to match the rents. That is what happens in a capitalistic society; there are winners and losers. It is unfortunate, but that is the way it works.

The displacement causes major trauma and problems in a person’s life. Many of our clients get evicted. That makes it difficult in rehousing them, too. That is why our RAFT (Residential Assistance for Families in Transition) program is so important, because we can provide emergency assistance to prevent the eviction.

You are seeing it all over. Around Boston and inside Route 128, affordable housing is almost nonexistent. Even out here, there are not enough units.

Affordable housing is defined many, many ways; but if you look at minimum wage, where the original idea was that you could afford housing, there is no way you could pay for the rent on minimum wage. It is way out of alignment with today’s realities.

So, some things are a little upside down. People are really struggling.

 

Where do displaced people go?

You will be squeezed into a different neighborhood, and there is even a lack of housing in those neighbors. We look for clean, safe, affordable housing, and those units are evaporating.

 

Do they end up in outlying communities?

They really need to be in the city. One of the advantages to living in the city is being near public transportation. A lot of our folks can’t afford cars. They need public transportation, so they need affordable housing in the city.

A city really needs affordable housing for its labor supply, whether or not they want to admit it. I know people will say they don’t want affordable housing in their neighborhood, but the fact of the matter is there needs to be a mix of housing: low-, middle- and high-income housing. When the prices go up, the people at the bottom get pushed out.

 

Why did RCAP decide to move?

We decided to move about two and a half years ago. We started to outgrow the space in the Worcester office. It was no longer adequate for what we needed.

It is nice to have everything together under one roof. Once we opened this office, we realized it made more sense than we realized because of the accessibility for clients, with the parking lot and access to public transportation.

This is a fabulous new beginning for us. We are going to be able to serve more clients and in a better way.

 

How did you decide on 191 May St.?

We were fortunate to get this. Our clients have a hard time finding a home, and we had a hard time finding the right place. I probably looked at 60 properties.

When I first looked at this place, I thought it would be perfect, but I didn’t know if the timing would be right, because of how long it would take to move. But then our landlord – Chacharone Properties of Worcester – really worked with us. It has been more of a partnership, and they have been terrific to work with.

This interview was conducted and edited by WBJ Editor Brad Kane.

Worcester Business Journal

CategoriesGeneral News

Sold out: Every available parcel in this once-vacant Massachusetts industrial park has been purchased

WORCESTER — A project 22 years, six months and some days in the making, the city of Worcester has finally sold all of the parcels available in what was once a South Worcester industrial wasteland.

“SWIP is done,” City Manager Edward Augustus Jr. said.

Chacharone Properties, Advanced Machinery and Table Talk Pies have finalized deals to develop six parcels of land equivalent to about 95,000 square feet of new construction. The entire South Worcester Industrial Park is more than 200,000 square feet of land.

James Chacharone, president of Chacharone Properties, announced at a groundbreaking for Table Talk Pies that he wants to construct a manufacturing building about 7,500 square feet on spec which he hopes to fill with an industrial tenant. Chacharone’s purchase was the last remaining parcel in the industrial park area.

Chacharone’s company is also building Table Talk Pies’ new, 50,000 square foot manufacturing plant, which will open in approximately six months.

“There’s a great need for manufacturing in Worcester,” Chacharone said. “I saw there was a lack of industrial manufacturing in the city.”

Worcester is in the midst of a renaissance of development, dining and culture in the city, but industry and manufacturing are areas that have continued to be slow to catch up.

Local businessman Steve Rothschild will be building a high-tech manufacturing plant across from the Table Talk Pies factory, according to Peter Dunn, business programs manager with the city’s Executive Office of Economic Development.

The building will house high-tech business incubators that will also have access to loading docks to manufacture and ship equipment. With the ability to design and manufacturer in the same space locally, Dunn hopes those smaller, high-tech businesses will stay in Worcester.

Next door to that, Absolute Machinery, which refurbishes expensive machines, will be expanding it’s building on a nearby parcel.

Augustus hopes the six empty parcels that once made up South Worcester’s industrial wasteland will be developed into a vibrant industrial park.

“(The industrial park tenants) could be small electronics or medical device manufacturers. We’re willing to look at any tenant that wants to come in. We want it to be diverse,” Augustus said.

Augustus still remembers when the industrial park was just abandoned, city-owned property dotted with old, useless mill buildings and overgrown grass. Now, it could be job producing, taxable property.

“I remember that it was an abandoned lot that did nothing for the city,” Augustus said. “But we’ve still got a lot of work to do.”

 

MassLive.com

CategoriesGeneral News

One on One with Jim Chacharone

Jim Chacharone started a construction business in 1982, building single-family homes in the Worcester area, which eventually expanded to acquire commercial buildings. Chacharone Properties has 12 full-time employees and is located at Chadwick Court. A graduate of Brooklyn Polytech Institute, Mr. Chacharone worked in the aerospace industry for 20 years for companies, including IBM and United Aircraft. Chacharone Properties owns approximately 2 million square feet of property.

For people unfamiliar with your company, could you describe what you do?

“Chacharone Properties develops and manages commercial and industrial property. We either purchase and renovate existing office/commercial property or develop it ourselves. We also lease out and manage our own properties. Our in-house construction company, C&S Construction, offers custom turnkey build-outs to our tenants. C&S provides timely, day-to-day maintenance. This gives us a distinct advantage over our competitors.”

What are some examples of your projects?

“Our business portfolio includes Chadwick Court and Lakeview Court in Worcester. Many of our tenants are professional medical offices. Chadwick Court, on the corner of West Boylston Street and Grove Street, includes Starbucks and United Bank as tenants. It was the first class A office building to be built in Worcester in 20 years. Lakeview Court is across from the Greendale YMCA and it overlooks Indian Lake. Our two newest industrial spaces are located on 10 Pullman St. and 243 Stafford St. in Worcester. We acquired them earlier this year and are currently undergoing renovations. These warehouse facilities include Blue Hive Inc., Top Prospect Baseball/Softball Academy and Eternity Ironworks.”

Is it usual to have an in-house maintenance team available?

“It is not usual. However, we think our team sets us apart from other developers. When our tenants call with an issue, they’re speaking with our office manager or principal of the company. We take their needs seriously and do everything to respond as soon as possible. Having our own service team – including carpenters, plumbers and electricians – as well as construction supervisors allows us to quickly address tenants’ needs 24/7. We’re able to offer on-the-spot decisions to address all tenant requests. There is no middle man.”

Why is Worcester a good location for development?

“Worcester is ideal because it is centrally located. At the time we started construction on Chadwick Court, we recognized the need for class A office space outside the business district. I’d previously developed 40 Millbrook St. and the Ice House on Grove Street, which housed the Boston Billiards Club, and became familiar with the area and took advantage of the property, formerly Nick’s Grill, to construct Chadwick Court. From there, we continued to develop in Worcester with Brittan Court at 299 Lincoln St. and Lakeview Court at 102 Shore Drive.”

Do you have geographical boundaries?

“We’re concentrated in Central Mass. from Marlboro to Sturbridge. With the opportunities available in Central Mass., we remain focused on the Worcester area, where we can best service our properties from our home office. If we find an opportunity to expand beyond Central Mass., we’ll certainly consider it.”

Describe your development of a facility for Table Talk Pies.

“We’re partnering in the construction of a new 50,000-square-foot facility building with Table Talk Pies for the expansion of their business in Worcester. Table Talk Pies has been in Worcester since 1924, and Chacharone Properties not only wants to keep this reputable company in the city, but we also recognize the potential of the South Worcester Industrial Park (SWIP), which has been vacant for 20 years. This Table Talk Pies expansion will create new jobs for the city, which we’re always excited to see. If all goes well, the new facility will be up and running in time for the 2017 holiday season.”

What do you consider to be the most challenging project you’ve ever worked on?

“Exciting might be a better word. All of our projects are challenging in different ways. For some, the site was the challenge. In other projects, the structure itself presented challenges and in others, the completion schedule became a challenge. At 220 Brooks St. in Worcester, we had to complete a total renovation of 60,000 square feet for Porter and Chester Institute within 10 weeks. This included office space, academic and technical facilities, and a full automotive repair training garage.”

 

Worcester Telegram

CategoriesGeneral News

Worcester is Top 20 Metro Area

Construction cranes dot the Worcester’s skyline, a happy sign of economic resurgence for Central Massachusetts.  More than $2 billion in real estate investments have recently been completed or are underway in Worcester.  New buildings are rising to accommodate growth in healthcare, insurance, higher education, biotechnology and medical research, all major industries in the city.

Brookings Institution recently named Worcester one of the top 20 strongest-performing metropolitan areas, and Forbes magazine identified it as one of the top 10 cities for families. Worcester also made the top ten list of Parenting Magazine’s best places in the country to raise a family in 2014. No wonder Central Massachusetts is seeing more population growth than any other region in the state.

 

Worcester Regional Chamber of Commerce

CategoriesGeneral News

New $11.5M Hampton Inn & Suites Hotel Project Under Way in Worcester

Worcester, MA – A new Hampton Inn & Suites hotel is currently under way in downtown Worcester at Gateway Park. The 100-room hotel, located at 65 Prescott Street, is being developed by XSS Hotels.

The impressive five-story building will be clearly visible when driving through Worcester on I-290. The building’s first floor will house the hotel’s lobby and common rooms and offer covered parking for eight vehicles.

Construction of the new hotel began in February 2015, and PROCON has scheduled a February 2016 completion date.

 

High-Profile.com

CategoriesGeneral News

Worcester Opens Downtown Innovation Center in Former Telegram & Gazette Building

WORCESTER — With words of welcome and the swing of a cut ribbon, Worcester opened its doors to entrepreneurs on Monday with the official ribbon cutting of the Innovation Center of Worcester.

The center is located at 20 Franklin St., in the home of the former Telegram & Gazette. It was a building two years ago many said required a wrecking ball, according to Craig Blais, president and CEO of the center’s founding organization, the Worcester Business Development Corporation.

Overall, the building renovation cost $40 million, including two floors of which is now part of a satellite campus for Quinsigamond Community College. The Innovation Center build-out cost roughly $2 million, including a $1 million federal Department of Commerce Economic Development Administration grant, donations from various foundations.

 

MassLive

CategoriesGeneral News

Winn Development set to buy Worcester’s former Unum building

WORCESTER — Winn Development Inc. has entered into an agreement to buy the former Unum Group office building at 18 Chestnut St.
The company is eying the nearly 300,000-square-foot, six-story historic office building as potential college classroom/academic space and student housing, among other uses, according to Gilbert Winn, chief executive officer of Winn Cos.
He said commercial space will also likely be looked at as part of the overall development, along with market-rate housing.

 

Worcester Telegram

CategoriesGeneral News

Long a College Town, Worcester Now Looks the Part

WORCESTER, Mass. — Although College of the Holy Cross was founded here in 1843, and eight other prominent institutions of higher learning followed, it has taken most of the last two centuries for this sizable New England city to consider itself a college town.

It does now. From one end of the city’s 245-acre central core to the other, Worcester is attending to the 35,000 college students who study and live here, and its primary boulevards are steadily filling up with the civic amenities that attract new residents.

NY Times

CategoriesGeneral News

The Comeback of Worcester’s Downtown

CITIES STRUGGLE when they’re built like doughnuts, with plenty of residents and office workers clustered on the periphery, and hollow space filling the center. This is the problem that CitySquare, Worcester’s half-billion dollar downtown makeover, tries to correct. As it does, Worcester has been remaking its downtown in other, equally significant ways.

CitySquare’s sheer size and ambition tend to overshadow everything else that happens in downtown Worcester. That project does deserve all the attention it gets. When CitySquare broke ground three years ago, it was the largest post-urban-renewal downtown revitalization project in the state’s history. CitySquare will replace a twice-failed mall from the 1970s with 20 acres of new offices, apartments, retail shops, streets, and sidewalks. The development site sits in the center of Worcester’s downtown, and the city’s broader downtown turnaround can’t succeed without new life emerging at the site of the old mall.

 

Boston Globe

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