WORCESTER – The planning council on Wednesday evening approved a site plan for the redevelopment of the old Boys Club building in Lincoln Square.
The unanimous vote clears the way for WinnDevelopment Co. to begin work on the restoration of the downtown historic landmark and the construction of an innovative addition that will be placed on a “podium” above the Johnson Tunnel.
Michael V. O’Brien, former city manager and executive vice president of Winn, said the goal is to start construction by the end of 2022 or early 2023.
John J. Spillane, an attorney representing Winn at the site plan review hearing on Wednesday, said the proposed adaptive reuse of the building would result in 80 residential apartments for the city’s over-55s; 16 apartments will be built in the old Boys Club structure, while 64 apartments – a combination of studios and one and two bedroom units – will be built in the new structure, which will be built next to the old building. on an abandoned section of Rue Prescott. A two-story glass structure will connect the two buildings. The new addition is what makes the project financially viable, he said.
What Winn presented to the planning council on Wednesday was slightly smaller than those responsible for the concept of around 95 units announced earlier this year. But Spillane said the project will retain an affordability component; he said it will be 85% affordable for residents with incomes ranging from 30% of the region’s median income to 60% of the region’s median income. The remaining 15% of the units will be offered at market rates.
O’Brien said he was proud of the project’s partnership with Preservation Worcester, and said the grand old building will be renovated with a sensitivity to historic preservation. He said the public spaces in the old building would be available for community use, and he said Winn would improve and maintain the World War I memorial in front of the building.
Richard Whitehouse of VHB, an engineer on the project, said the podium construction for the new addition will be based primarily on concrete columns that will straddle the walls of the Johnson Tunnel. The original feature of the city center will remain a city street, but will be narrowed slightly due to protective barriers that will be needed to protect the columns, Whitehouse said.
Stephen S. Rolle, deputy city development director, said the city was delighted that the project was starting to move forward – he said it was an important building in an important location that connects several different areas. He said the addition makes smart use of space that would otherwise be wasted, and he said the new building “doesn’t try to pretend to be the old building – it stands out.”
There were some minor concerns about traffic and the location of sidewalks, but Planning Council members said they were happy to finally see affordable senior housing arrive downtown and see the old building come back to life.
Earlier this year, the company agreed to pay the city $ 100,000 for “air rights” on Prescott Street and the tunnel.
Winn purchased the over 90-year-old, 48,000-square-foot property from the city in 2019 for $ 300,000, and initially planned to lease the building to a school for highly functional autistic students.