Worcester Expected To Take Ownership Of Polar Park Site

WORCESTER, MA — After more than year-long delay, the Worcester Redevelopment Authority is expected to accept the deed for the land under the Polar Park site at its Friday meeting.

The land transfer will give Worcester more control over the region's largest economic development project. The ballpark has been under construction for more than a year, but the site has been owned by the developer Madison Properties during that time.

The developer bought the property from Wyman-Gordon for $6.1 million, and was supposed to transfer it to the WRA in April 2019, according to the Worcester Business Journal.

In exchange for transferring ownership of the land, Worcester is agreeing to waive about $2 million in permit fees, and has also granted tax-increment financing deals for projects outside the ballpark south of Madison Street, including a hotel, two apartment buildings, a lab building and the five-story office development known as the Left Field Building.

Those accessory developments have undergone major changes recently. In a letter to City Council on Sept. 18, City Manager Edward Augustus Jr. said that the hotel will shrink from two brands with 262 rooms to one brand with 125 rooms and will open in 2024 instead of 2022; the two residential buildings will each open one year later in 2022 and 2023. The lab building would open in 2024 instead of 2023, but "[i]dentification of tenants for the lab building will trigger construction earlier," Augustus wrote to Council.

The Left Field Building opening will also move back by two years to 2023, but the city may receive advertising rights for the building due to the delay. As part of the WRA's acceptance of the deed for the ballpark land, the WRA will transfer ownership of the Left Field Building back to Madison.

The city is also building a parking garage near the park, which it will eventually lease to Madison Properties. The size has shrunk from 525 spaces to 340, and the opening date is being pushed back until fall 2021.

The Worcester Red Sox opening day is still on track for April 2021, Augustus said this week. Construction crews began working on the field surface week, including home plate. The project was shut down last spring for two months due to the coronavirus pandemic.

The WRA will vote to accept the land on Friday morning. The City Council will sign off on the conveyance after that.

This article originally appeared on the Worcester Patch