Beginning the next phase of growth at Worcester Polytechnic Institute's (WPI) Gateway Park, community leaders gathered today to break ground for a $32 million, four-story facility that will house new laboratory, educational, and office spaces for a range of academic and corporate uses.
To be built and owned by the O'Connell Development Group (ODG) of Holyoke, Mass., the 92,000-square-foot building will support some 120 construction jobs and 140 permanent jobs when fully occupied. The first two floors of the new building have been leased by WPI and several companies, leaving approximately 40,000 square feet of new space on two floors available for additional commercial uses.
"We are delighted to further advance the goals of Gateway Park through the development of this new office and laboratory building," said Dennis A. Fitzpatrick, president of The O'Connell Companies. "We congratulate WPI and its public sector partners who, by vision, commitment, and financial investment have brought Gateway Park to this point. We look forward to being part of the park and the City of Worcester."
In keeping with the sustainability objectives of ODG and WPI, the new building has been designed to achieve Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certification from the U.S. Green Building Council. Construction is expected to last approximately 18 months.
"Today we are pleased to celebrate the next milestone in the master plan for Gateway Park and its transformative impact on this section of our city," said Dennis Berkey, president and CEO of WPI. "We now stand at the intersection of research and commerce, of private investment and public purpose, and of engineering, the life sciences, and business. This new building, and the work within, will continue the growth of Worcester and Central Massachusetts as a center of innovation and economic vitality."
More than 100 people attended the groundbreaking ceremony, including city, state and national leaders who have been involved in the planning and development of Gateway Park.
"If people want to understand the potential impact of brownfields redevelopment, and the importance of public-private partnerships, then they need look no further than Gateway Park," said Massachusetts Lt. Governor Tim Murray, who as mayor of Worcester was instrumental in helping assemble the land for the development of Gateway Park. "This is a clear example of how limited strategic public investment can leverage significant private investment, job creation, and long-term economic growth. I congratulate all the parties involved in bringing this project to its current state of success."
U.S. Congressman Jim McGovern, who has led the effort on the federal level to secure resources to advance the park, noted that "Gateway Park is a cornerstone of our efforts to enhance economic development in Worcester. I believe that Central Massachusetts must continue to aggressively pursue opportunities for high-tech growth. I want to commend the city, WPI, and O'Connell Development for all of their outstanding work."
Approximately half of the new building is already leased, with WPI taking space for three university programs: the new Biomanufacturing Education and Training Center (BETC); an expanded Fire Protection Engineering Department and research laboratory; and the graduate division of WPI's School of Business. Massachusetts Biomedical Initiatives (MBI) will lease space in the new building to create an incubator for emerging life sciences companies. Blue Sky Biotech, a contract research company now located at the WPI Life Sciences and Bioengineering Center (LSBC) at Gateway Park, will also move into the new building to accommodate its continued growth. The fit-out of the BETC and MBI laboratory elements of the new building will be funded in large part by a $5.15 million grant from the Massachusetts Life Sciences Center awarded last year.
"Rapid growth in the life sciences is taking place in Worcester and the Center has contributed significantly to that growth with over $100 million of investments in the region," said Susan Windham-Bannister, president and CEO of the Massachusetts Life Sciences Center. "Our investment in this next phase of construction at Gateway Park will help to accelerate that growth even further, while supporting a terrific project that will create jobs, provide training for a next generation of life sciences workers, foster the growth of new companies, and advance scientific research. Congratulations to WPI, MBI, and the other organizations involved on the commencement of construction for this important facility."
By design, Gateway Park has been developed as a property-tax paying entity, to help provide new resources for the City of Worcester to support important public services. Under the terms of a Tax Increment Financing agreement between ODG and the city, the new building at Gateway Park will pay an estimated $5.2 million in property taxes to Worcester over the next 16 years.
"This is a great day for Worcester," said Mayor Joseph O’Brien. "With WPI's leadership, and the support of our state and federal partners, Gateway Park is emblematic of Worcester's continued growth as a center of higher education, biotechnology, and economic development."
To date, WPI has invested $65 million in Gateway Park, a comprehensive urban redevelopment project that has transformed a blighted and underutilized area in the core of the city into a clean, thriving, mixed-use park that is home to a growing range of academic, research, and commercial enterprises. The first building at Gateway Park, the 125,000-square-foot LSBC, opened in 2007 and is fully occupied. Gateway's $12.5 million, 660-space parking garage also opened in 2007 and is sized to accommodate further development of the park.
The Gateway Park project has been recognized as a national model of environmental stewardship and urban redevelopment. In 2007, the park won the prestigious Phoenix Award for its successful redevelopment of an old industrial site. Also in 2007, the U.S. Department of Commerce gave Gateway Park the Excellence in Economic Development Award for Urban or Suburban Economic Development. In 2008, the Commonwealth of Massachusetts designated Gateway Park as the anchor for the state's first Growth District, a new initiative to accelerate job creation in locations that are primed and ready for development.
"The Patrick-Murray Administration’s commitment to Gateway Park and the City of Worcester has been clear since day one. The combination of federal, state and local support along with a partnership between research universities and industry is helping Worcester Polytechnic Institute capitalize on the Commonwealth's strengths – innovation and collaboration," said Massachusetts Secretary of Housing and Economic Development Greg Bialecki. "These strengths will create jobs in Central Massachusetts and across the Commonwealth, expanding our leadership in today's global knowledge-based economy."
The architect for the new building is Perkins+Will. TD Banknorth is providing the financing. ODG has secured a long-term ground lease from WPI for the building site, and will own and operate the new facility.