WORCESTER, Mass. - Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) and the Worcester Business Development Corp. (WBDC) received the Silver Hammer Award Tuesday, Dec. 12, from the Worcester Regional Chamber of Commerce. The honor recognized the two institutions for their efforts to preserve a historic building as part of the construction of the Life Sciences and Bioengineering Center at Gateway Park in Worcester.
The award was presented at the chamber's 131st Annual Business Meeting at Mechanics Hall in Worcester. Massachusetts Governor-Elect Deval Patrick delivered the keynote address at the luncheon. He was introduced by Worcester Mayor and Lt. Governor-Elect Tim Murray.
Read the story about the award in the Dec. 12 Worcester Telegram & Gazette.
Prior to the meeting, Patrick and Murray took a tour of and held a press conference at the new building at Gateway Park.
"During our tour at Gateway Park, we saw an example of people who created a big vision, one that was out of the immediate reach of most," Patrick told the chamber meeting’s attendees. "Then, WPI and the WBDC created a partnership across many interests. We have to do that all over Massachusetts."
Since it was first presented in 1977 for the renovation of Mechanics Hall, the Silver Hammer has become a symbol of prestige for businesses and organizations that have succeeded in bringing new life to some of the region’s most historical assets. To date, the honor has been bestowed upon more than 70 buildings from throughout central Massachusetts, a region that sits at the western end of a corridor known for its heritage of innovation, manufacturing leadership, and high concentration of life sciences-based companies and academic research centers.
The four-story, 124,600-square-foot Life Sciences and Bioengineering Center will house WPI’s graduate research programs in biology and biotechnology, biomedical engineering, chemistry and biochemistry, and chemical engineering, and the WPI Bioengineering Institute. WPI will occupy about 75 percent of the center. The remainder will be leased to other tenants, including biotechnology and medical device companies and other life sciences-based entities. An incubator facility being built by Massachusetts Biomedical Initiatives will be among the tenants.
The laboratories will be located in a new structure at 60 Prescott Street. A former industrial building at 68 Prescott Street is being renovated to provide space for offices and meeting rooms and retail space. The two buildings will be connected by a four-story bridge structure containing core facilities, including elevators, along with retail, office, and meeting space.
"Gateway Park is a remarkable project," said U.S. Congressman James McGovern, who also participated in the tour and the chamber’s meeting. "The partnership between WPI and the WBDC is a good one. It’s the kind of thinking we need throughout the state."
The building at 68 Prescott Street was originally constructed by Stephen Salisbury II, a Worcester merchant and WPI founder. Salisbury, who gave the land for the WPI campus and served as the first chair of its Board of Trustees, pioneered a new concept in Worcester of constructing buildings and renting them to entrepreneurs. Among the original tenants of 68 Prescott was the Ohio Buckeye Machine Co., which made agricultural equipment.
The building was underused and in disrepair when it was purchased in 2000 by Gateway Park LLC, a public-private partnership between WPI and the WBDC. Instead of demolishing it, the partnership chose to restore it and incorporate it into its plans for a new life sciences research center. While the building’s interior had to be gutted, the original brick and the building’s historic character were preserved.
"The fact that Gateway Park will be used to incubate businesses much the same as it did more than 100 years ago when the industrialists founded WPI brings the site full circle," said Richard B. Kennedy, president and CEO of the Worcester Regional Chamber of Commerce. "The chamber is pleased to recognize the restoration efforts, and we pay tribute to the public and private partnership between WPI and WBDC that makes this project a reality. We are fortunate these two organizations have stepped up to create what will be a vibrant, mixed-use district and a win for the business community and the city of Worcester."
About Gateway Park
The Life Sciences and Bioengineering Center is the first new structure to be built at Gateway Park, an 11-acre, master-planned redevelopment of a former Worcester brownfield by Gateway Park LLC, a public-private partnership between WPI and the Worcester Business Development Corporation. The Gateway Park master plan calls for three additional pad-ready sites that will support buildings of 80,000, 100,000, and 140,000 square feet. Additional parcels are available for market rate housing development. At build out, the park will feature between 500,000 and one million square feet of mixed-use space.