Sunday, September 30, 2007

Progress in Worcester? Imagine that.

The days of The Continental are numbered. By the end of May the title of coolest apartment on Beaver Street will be handed down to some undeserving Clark student and I will hopefully be settled into some new digs.

I talked earlier in the year of moving to Portland Maine and also talked about moving to Brighton. Portland would of course involve me having to quit my job and shortly after my Portland visit I learned that they started a new bonus program here that makes it kind of ridiculous to leave this job. At that point I set my sights on Brighton. I realized however that within a year or two I am going to be ready to buy something and I am sure as hell not doing that within the 128 loop. Being that I refuse to not live in the suburbs and I also refuse to quit my job and I also refuse to move out of Worcester, only to move back to Worcester a couple years later, well... that leaves Worcester.

For the most part I am okay with this as things are really starting to shape up here. People are still complaining but I have never seen so many things happening in the city as what is happening right now. And it's stuff that is actually happening not just being talked about. Worcester finally seems to be moving forward and the fact you can actually see it happening is kind of exciting.

I have stipulations though, and the biggest of which is that I need to be in a walkable neighborhood. Being there are only 2.5 walkable neighborhoods in the city (because let's face it, Highland Street is only kind of walkable, there's only about 4 or 5 worthwhile things to walk to) I need to put my focus on The Canal District/Green Island and Shrewsbury St or something very close to one of those neighborhoods.
I am pretty intrested in The Bancroft. It's affordable and it's being completely redone. There is going to be a fitness center, a lounge and a game room. When the building fills up I can only imagine that the empty storefronts in the immediate area will also.

I went down there on Monday morning to kind of skulk around and check out what was going on down there. I was standing out front putting the rental offices number into my cell when a pretty clean cut dude walks up to the front doors. I ask him if he lives in the Bancroft and he says no but he is with one of the companies contracted out to do renovations. I tell him I'm intrested in the place and he asks if I want to go up and take a look at some of the units he's working on. They look pretty nice, nothing spectacular, but nice all the same. This piques my intrest even more.
Last night I went down and parked my car on Franklin St around 7pm to see just how walkable the area was as far as the kind of stuff I would be into doing. I got out of the car and walked down Portland St and cut through a parking lot over to Madison St. Here I had options. I had brought a book with me with the thought that I was going to get a something to eat. Ping's was closed for renovations. I noticed however that somebody thought it was a good idea to open a conveniance store/deli in that plaza. OOF!

I then briefly thought about getting some Coney and then I thought well shit, let's see how far it is to just walk to Kelley Square. Where was I going to get dinner? Tony's? Yeah, I will just get a sandwich at Tony's. As I approached the Square though I saw Takara and made my descision. I walked in there for the first time and looked around and it just didn't feel right. It looked like a pretty good time and I wanted my first time eating there to be social. I will wait on that one. I decided to walk towards the Broadway, making a mental note to hit the Vernon at some point during my travels tonight and check out the open mic. I crossed the square and started walking down Harding Street and remembered that new Deli/Fruit stand place and made another command decision that if they were open that's were I would eat. They were closed and I was just about to take a right on Harrison and head to the Broadway when I remember that a couple weeks ago I was at Canal Fest and had one of the best burgers I have ever had at the Blackstone Grill booth. So I take a left instead of a right and walk up to Green St. I take a right on Green St and walk past the White Eagle and the new Banner Sports Bar which looks far from finished.

As I come up on the Blackstone Grill I see two tables out front and since it is such a nice night I decide then and there that I am eating outside. I go in and order the veal parm dinner which they are out of so I settle on the chicken parm. I notice they have beer, nothing too exciting but your basic Bud/Michelob/Coors selection. I buy a Bud bottle and get this: I proceed to go outside sit down at the table and drink it. That's right I was out of doors in Worcester Massachusetts, not fenced in like an animal and drinking an alcoholic beverage. In a very short time they brought my meal out, 2 giant slices of garlic bread and a huge portion of chicken parm. I ended up getting two meals out of it and I still feel as though I made a bit of a pig of myself. And this was no shitty pizza place sauce either. The sauce had some pretty awesome chunks of pepper in it.

So I am sitting out there, alternately looking at the Worcester skyline, the sky (I could actually see some stars!) above the asian jewelry store and reading my book. Some dude I don't recognize drives up to the Lucky Dog and gets out of his car and I realize it's Phil MacNamera. I wave to him and he comes over and sits down and we shoot the shit for a while. Erick Godin pulls up and I give him a wave and he heads into the Dog. I pay my bill, have the very friendly folks at the Blackstone Grill wrap my leftovers up, bid Phil a farewell and start walking back up Green Street, across McGrath and up Franklin to my car. I put my leftovers in the vehicle and kept walking.

I walked up to Main and took a right and walked past city hall and took a right on Front St. By this time it's about 9:30pm. I walk down Front and take a left on Commercial. Downtown is a ghost town. There is hardly any activity at all. The thing that strikes me the most though is all the businesses that are closed for the day that don't have any hours posted. Viva Bene I am looking at you!

I take a left on Exchange and look into the courtyard of what used to be the Firehouse or whatever other tons of names it has been since. One of the gates in is not locked and I contemplate going into the courtyard and nosing around but I decide against this and move on up Exchange St to Main.

I take a left on Main Street and notice right away that there are a few new businesses opening soon. A new bar where the old Octane was and a new cafe wer A'brizzio's used to be. If they make as good of a roast beef and turkey as A'brizzio's did I will be happy.

It's really wierd how downtown just shuts down on weeknights. Hopefully with more people living down here this will change. There is one thing I noticed over just about everything else. In all the walking I did in downtown and Kelley Square I never once felt nervous, scared, creeped out or intimidated. As I said, downtown was pretty much a ghost town. The only people I really saw were some folks hanging out in the open bars and folks walking in and out of the White Hen and Honey Farms. Green Island (or "The Canal District" as I guess they are calling it now, what the hell was wrong with Green Island?) had a bit more activity as there were more places open. Even with the activity and the couple of thuggish looking kids walking around I still felt very safe and secure. That's an important thing to note. Worcester, specifically, has a reputation as being a scary place. It's really not. It might be the most beautiful place, and it mide not be filled by the most attractive people in the world but most of them are harmless. I don't see you encountering any kind of random violent crime here as long as you are aware of your surroundings and don't walk into any dark alleys.

I then got in my car went down to the Vernon, got a beer and watched some of the open mic and then went to work for the night. A thing to note about this little adventure is the hard time I had making a decision on where to eat while I was on foot. I think that is pretty incredible. Living in Worcester and having whole weekends where I might not even have to move my car seems almost too good to be true.


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kid-rolla said...

Abrizzio's closed!? CRAP!

Anonymous said...

Found your perfect pad! Eat at Del Ovo's every day!