Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Mudslinging? For an At Large seat on the Worchester City Council? Really?

As reported by Wormtown Taxi yesterday, there has been a video floating around the internet accusing At Large incumbent Rick Rushton of lying about not accepting the council wide pay raise instituted at the beginning of 2008. Rushton fired back today sending out a flurry of emails with documentation proving he in fact did not accept the pay raise.

I am baffled by out and out lying just to obtain a city council seat. Crazy business.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Interview with Bill McCarthy Candidate For At Large City Councilor

What will be your primary job as an at large councilor?

Worcester needs new leadership so that we can turnaround our city’s sluggish economy and reform spending so taxpayers are not continuously overburdened by their property tax bill. For years the Council has let us down by failing to attract new businesses to our community and to keep control of spending. I can make a difference. I believe that it is the job of a Councilor to be a fiscal watchdog for his constituents. It is time that Worcester had a bold new plan to promote economic development that creates jobs. I can make a difference by utilizing my doctoral degree in human resource education and workforce development, employing my experience in criminal justice and instituting a bold new strategic plan to promote economic development that creates jobs. I will aggressively promote our city, one-on-one, to CEOs and entrepreneurs so they will locate here. I will build an Economic Development Action Team to create incentives to keep and grow Worcester’s diverse industries.

What in your opinion are the biggest issues facing Worcester in the coming years and what plans do you have to deal with these issues?

Recently the City Council voted for a tax hike for hotel/motel rooms and the meals tax. I believe that is like putting a band-aid on a broken bone. Even with these increased taxes Worcester is still facing a $2 million deficit. It is frustrating to see our friends and families making budget cuts to live within their means while our leaders are taxing us more and more. As a City Councilor, my first order of business would be to rollback the $13,000 pay raises that the council voted themselves. Then I would focus on:

Protecting the Taxpayers: I will put my doctoral degree to work for residents by developing innovative solutions and by finding ways to stretch tax dollars.

Protecting Families: With my experience in criminal justice as a state trooper and professor and as a father of three children, I understand what it is going to take to make our streets safe and I am willing to do the hard work. I believe in stronger tracking of sexual predators and reducing gang activity.

Protecting our City’s Economic Future: It is time that Worcester had a bold new plan to promote economic development that creates jobs. Worcester needs economic triage, the city is bleeding and we need to stop it. To do that, we need more jobs. Our city leaders can talk all they want about these (development) planned projects, but how many jobs have they created? I will work to bring jobs to Worcester by partnering with the businesses that are currently here and finding out what we can do to help them stay here. And then I will work to bring new job opportunities to the city.

How do you feel about the job City Manager O'Brien has done thus far? What do you like about what he has done? Where do you think he needs improvement?

He answers to the City Council and I don't think the City Council has assigned him all the needed performance indicators to really measure his accomplishments and performance in these tough economic times. When elected I would work to revamp those performance indicators and then really assess his performance from these needed measures and baseline.

The perceived lack of public safety in Worcester is a definite image problem for the city. Since in many instances perception is reality, what are your ideas on how to improve this perception and make not only our citizens but people from outside the city feel secure when they are out in our neighborhoods?

With my experience in criminal justice as a state trooper and professor and as a father of three children, I understand what it is going to take to make our streets safe and I am willing to do the hard work. I believe in stronger tracking of sexual predators and reducing gang activity.

On the issue of neighborhood's, many other cities have had success defining their neighborhoods and marketing them separately as different cultural options. How do you think Worcester might benefit as a city by doing something similar?

I like that idea and will work to bring that about. However, Worcester needs economic triage, the city is bleeding and we need to stop it. To do that, we need more jobs. Our city leaders can talk all they want about these (development) planned projects, but how many jobs have they created? I will build an Economic Development Action Team to create incentives to keep and grow Worcester’s diverse industries. Take a moment to look around our city. Why would a business open in Worcester? The amount of empty store fronts in downtown Worcester really says it all. We need to find a way to rent out over 4.75 million square feet of office space. I propose we offer some meaningful tax incentives for businesses to locate here. Many towns in the southern US are offering anywhere from 1 to 10 years of municipal tax-free status. Many towns are offering assistance in obtaining the necessary licenses, permits, and approvals by shortening the process to just a few months. This is another type of model I would implement to encourage job growth too.

How do you envision the urban core of Worcester at the end of 2011? How will you lead us to that vision?

I look at it this way. The previous presidential elections contain some lessons that should be applied to the upcoming Worcester election. “It’s the economy stupid”. Worcester’s economy has been failing and continues to fail. “Are you better off now than you were”? The staggering number of people who have left Worcester would answer no. The large number of residents who do not feel safe in their own city would answer no. “It’s time for a change.” “If we do not learn from history, we are destined to relive it”. It’s time for sweeping reform and change in the government of the city of Worcester. I will work to bring jobs to Worcester by partnering with the businesses that are currently here and finding out what we can do to help them stay here. And then I will work to bring new job opportunities to the city.

Monday, September 28, 2009

In Response to Common Culture Clash

There was an article by Diane Williamson today in the Telegram about the percieved lack of safety in the common. This was my response. Not sure if it is going to show up on the website or not.

"Common Guy, I applaud your comments. I live at 50 Franklin and luckily have Mondays off so I have the opportunity to enjoy the tables if I want. If I were to live in the neighborhood and work a M-F 9-5 shift I would NEVER have th opportunity to enjoy the tables. And before you think there might be special circumstances think again. These tables were locked during the Latino Festival, hands down the most attended annual City Hall event in the city. If they aren't unlocked during that then ask yourself when will they be unlocked. Also, if your a Worcester citizen who doesn't use the common often so you think this doesn't affect you, think again. These tables cost $39,000. That is a teacher who could be making a difference in your child's life. I applaud the purchase of the tables but like most good things with this city, it is not the idea, it's the execution. The citizens of Worcester, namely the citizens of Federal Sq are not getting $39,000 of use out of these tables. This may appear to be a small issue, and in the grand scheme of things it is, but if you step back and really look at it, these tables are symbolic of almost everything that is wrong with our city and everything that hinders our city from even coming close to it's potential.

Ask yourself why the tables aren't unlocked and locked back up on Saturday and Sunday and most likely holidays. Ask yourself why the answer to that question wasn't foreseen by someone in City Hall. Ask yourself why in God's name we payed almost 40 grand for tables that are getting 40 hours of use a week.

In a nut shell, City Hall, from Council, to Admin, to individual departments has no clue what city living means. None whatsoever. They know city visiting, not city living.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

2009 Mayor/City Council Elections Episode 2: District 2 Council Seat

This guy right here is running unopposed in District 2. He's my district councilor. He is the councilor of Federal Sq, Downtown, North Main, Shrewsbury St and The Canal District. He chose not to respond to my interview. I'd print his name, but you know, screw him. Shutting the hell up is probably the smartest thing dude has done all term. I mean the guy who thinks that young people and their ideas are bad for Worcester should probably shut the hell up right? Hooray Phil, Worcester's apathy gets you another term! Congrats. Thanks for not growing a pair and answering my interview!

Friday, September 18, 2009

2009 Mayor/City Council Elections Episode 1: District 3 Council Seat

So one of the things I wanted to do with this was not hound or try and convince the candidates to do these interviews. The way I see it, as I said in the email, this is an opportunity. As much as I want to, I am not going to spin these interviews in any fashion. The candidates words are going to appear as they write them, without commentary from me. To date I have not recieved any response from D-3 candidate Frank Beshai. Incumbent candidate Paul Clancy however, responded right away. We can talk all we want about how it's the apathy of voters that keeps the same faces in council chambers year after year after year, but maybe it's simply that these people know how to run a campaign. ANYWAYS, here are Mr. Clancy's responses.

Next week: District 2!

1. What do you feel will be the impact of Walmart, whether negative or positive, on the neighborhood of Quinsigamond Village?

The Walmart store, part of a larger retail proposal called “Worcester Crossing”, was a project that was vetted with village residents and retailers. The development should have a positive impact on the neighborhood. It replaces the blighted complex which was efficiently demolished by recycling most of the materials in keeping with the effort for a green environment. The project is being constructed with 100% union labor giving many jobs to area residents. It will employ over 300 full-time and part-time positions offering employment again to area residents. It will also offer shopping opportunities that do not currently exist in the immediate area.

The developer of Worcester Crossing has made himself available at local and municipal meetings. He was able to complete the engineering that was needed to allow for ornamental lighting on Blackstone River Road. He is working with city officials to deliver the right-of-way at the rear of his property to the City for future development – one of the few areas where the Blackstone River is visible. He was also instrumental in working with Walmart to get design changes that would better suit a village concept and in working with local labor leaders to insure that construction would include union labor.

All of these factors contribute to a better project for the Quinsigamond Village area.

2. What in your opinion are the biggest issues facing District 3 in the coming years and what plans do you have to deal with these issues?

The biggest issue facing District 3 in the next few years is the financial impact of decreasing revenues facing the City budget. This will have significant impacts on essential city services such as public safety and education. I have worked closely with the City Administration to maintain services by encouraging the use of PILOT (Payment In Lieu Of Taxes)programs with non-profits, by seeking reforms in health insurance costs through legislative channels and collective bargaining negotiations, and by seeking legislative relief through home rule petitions and acceptance of provisions of the Municipal Relief Act. These actions have redirected substantial dollars from fixed costs to maintaining many local services in the areas of education, fire, police, public works, library, etc.

Other key issues facing the district are the continuation of key capital projects such as street and sidewalk repairs, private street conversions, sewer and storm water improvements, park renovations, traffic improvements and school renovations. Through my efforts, the district has received a generous share of street and sidewalk repair monies, the majority of private street conversion monies, significant dollars ($2M) toward the Granite Street and Route 20 sewer projects, $1M to access matching state monies for a $3.5M renovation of Vernon Hill Park. Also, monies ($2M) from the Greenwood Street landfill capping programs have been redirected to Quinsigamond Village projects which to date include street scape improvement programs. It is the first time that monies from a city operation have been dedicated to a specific neighborhood use.

A few years ago, as Chairperson of the City Council’s Public Works subcommittee, I advocated for an increase in the capital budget for funding street and sidewalk repairs. This year, due to budget constraints, the capital budget was cut 17%. However, I again successfully advocated to maintain the previous level of funding for street and sidewalk repairs – which means that 60% of the capital budget is now dedicated to this item.

3. How do you feel about the job City Manager O'Brien has done thus far? What do you like about what he has done? Where do you think he needs improvement?

City Manager Michael O’Brien’s strength rests with his ability to deal with financial issues. He has done a yeoman’s job to trim fixed costs and redirect those moneys to fund essential services. He has advocated for health insurance reforms through the adoption of Section 18 and through negotiations with collective bargaining agreements. By reducing fixed health insurance costs over the past five years, he has redirected approximately $60 million to municipal services saving the City hundreds of jobs that otherwise would have been cut, crippling essential services in the areas of police, firefighters, teachers, public works employees, etc. At the end of the fiscal year 2010, the estimated savings from health insurance reforms will be approximately $100M.

The area where the City Manager needs improvement is in expanding his accessibility to the public and to employees. He needs to make a more concerted effort to attend neighborhood meetings and to make regular reviews of departmental operations.

4. The perceived lack of public safety in Worcester is a definite image problem for the city. Since in many instances perception is reality, what are your ideas on how to improve this perception and make not only our citizens but people from outside the city feel secure when they are out in our neighborhoods?

Each week the Police Chief and his command staff review all emergency and non-emergency call statistics to determine where the priorities of the community rest. These statistics are then compiled monthly, by neighborhood, and presented at the crime watch meetings held throughout the City. On many occasions, people are generally relieved that the actual crime statistics are lower than they had in fact anticipated. I would suggest that a greater effort be made to report these monthly findings to the larger Worcester community. Ironically, the City did not receive any federal funding in the latest round of COPS grants because Worcester is considered a much safer community than most given our crime statistics. This is a story that needs more attention and publicity.

5. On the issue of neighborhood's, many other cities have had success defining their neighborhoods and marketing them separately as different cultural options. How do you think Worcester might benefit as a city by doing something similar?

Worcester has many great neighborhoods which are vibrant for several reasons. Some neighborhoods, such as Green Island and Shrewsbury Street are mixed development areas with residential and heavy commercial components. Green Island has become a destination for entertainment while Shrewsbury Street is a draw for its many restaurants. In District 3, Quinsigamond Village has undergone a visual transformation with the completion of Route 146, the development of Worcester Crossing and the improvements through the village proper. There is currently a committee in place that will market the area for its cultural and historical roots. A central part of this effort is the renovation of the Moen building into a visitor’s center that will anchor the Northern Corridor of the Blackstone River Corridor Commission. To date, $11M of city, state and federal dollars have been set aside for this effort with the Worcester Historical Museum committed to be a major tenant at the site. As chairperson of the committee which has nurtured this project from its infancy, I am very excited about the potential that this endeavor holds for the neighborhood, city and region.

Other areas in the district are heavily residential such as Vernon Hill and Grafton Hill. Each has business and neighborhood organizations as well as a Community Development Corporation (CDC) that work to make improvements and to hold activities for their respective neighborhoods. When the city was designating Neighborhood Stabilization Areas (NSA), I lobbied heavily for the inclusion of lower Grafton Street for such designation. As a result, over a half million dollars of block grant resources are now available for storefront improvements. Two such projects are in the pipeline with more to follow. I also successfully introduced two parking overlay zones for lower Grafton Street and Quinsigamond Village. This allows small storefront businesses to waive restrictive parking regulations that would otherwise prevent them from opening. These initiatives help to create a more vibrant neighborhood business environment that further defines a specific area.

6. How do you envision the urban core of Worcester at the end of 2011? How will you lead us to that vision?

The urban core of Worcester has undergone significant changes during the past decade. The addition of numerous projects such as St. Vincent’s Hospital, the renovation of Union Station, the DCU Convention Center, the new courthouse and the garage on MLK Boulevard have all replaced a most blighted and underutilized area of the urban core. New businesses have sprouted along North Main Street and in the area of the Worcester Common as a result. However, more work needs to occur. With the final details of the City Square development completed and with the agreement of Unum as a major tenant, the demolition of the old Worcester Center Galleria will soon begin. Then the reconstruction of a street grid system in the city core will once again unite neighborhoods such as Shrewsbury Street and Green Island to the urban core while providing for expanded redevelopment. I am most proud of my leadership in all of the projects discussed above. There is not one project that did not have my direct contact. As chair of the previous Commerce and Development subcommittee of the City Council and as the present chair of the Public Works subcommittee, I worked very closely with development teams, the city administration, and my colleagues to ensure that these projects moved forward. I am most optimistic that Worcester’s urban core will once again become an area of activity for all of Worcester’s residents and employees to enjoy. To that end, I will continue my strong efforts to meet that goal.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Council/Mayoral Candidate Interviews

Back in August I had the idea that it might be interesting to attempt to interview each and every one of the candidates running for Mayor and City Council. This is the email I sent to all candidates along with their 6 questions:

Hi everyone,

Some of you know me, and some of you don't but my name is Gabe Rollins and I am the author of a well read blog about Worcester's urban core entitled My Five Senses. I had the idea that a good way to introduce all of you to my readers would be to do a short interview with all of the candidates for Mayor and Councilor At Large as well as the candidates for the mostly urban Districts of 2, 3, and 4.

All of you will get the same 5 questions plus one more that is specific to the office you are running for. Starting on September 14Th I will publish two of these a week starting with the district races first, moving on to at large, and ending with all three mayoral candidates the Monday before the election. Along with this I will publish a picture and any website and contact info you wish for me to publish.

I hope you will take this opportunity to make yourself known to a demographic that may not follow the more traditional forms of media and publicity in our city as well as take the opportunity to set yourself apart from your opponents in the upcoming election. I wish all of you the best of luck in your campaigns.


Gabe Rollins
My Five Senses

The time is here. Let's get this shebang going!

Sunday, June 28, 2009

When You Think You Are Helping But Actually Making the Problem Worse

If you've been around the common over the past couple weeks you may have noticed that the ice skating rink that was finished earlier this year has changed shape a bit. As a matter of fact if you didn't know that was it's main purpose you may not recognize it as a rink at all. The city took down the boards and left the four wrought iron corner fences. They also scattered about 10-12 cafe tables complete with umbrellas around the oval.

While walking through there the other day I noticed that the tables were all locked up but I thought nothing of it as it was past 9pm and I am sure that the park was technically closed.

About an hour ago I took a stroll up to the White Hen and out of curiosity I walked across the street to see if my worst assumptions would be proven true. Sure enough, on a Sunday afternoon at 3pm all of the tables and chairs were still locked up in a manner that would make it impossible for anyone to sit in them.

You have to really wonder whether the City of Worcester is ever going to get it. When you live in an urban apartment or condo with no yard you depend on neighborhood parks for your outdoor recreation. For anyone who lives in Federal Square or Downtown that park is the common. Now granted I am one of probably only a handful of working money making folk living down here who actually want to use the park but that doesn't mean other folks that live here can't discover the park. A year from now the population down here, at least in Bancroft Commons development, will be doubled.

Making a park have the appearance of a vibrant useful park and then denying neighborhood residents use of a part of it during normal daylight hours is an absolute slap in the face to anyone who has chosen to live down here. I mean why even put the tables out there? What was the point. Can anyone tell me what the point was?

Friday, June 19, 2009

Crystal Ball

If Worcester ever truly gentrifies, future urban settlers will fall in love with Worcester not for what it has become, but for whatever white trash roots remain. Mark my words.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

55 Pearl

(Image ganked from Bill Randell over at his blog. He probably ganked it from someone else anyways)

This may very well be the best outdoor dining spot in the whole city. Not a very wordy review here except to say that I had a ridiculously good burger topped with cheese (don't remember the kind of cheese) applewood smoked bacon, and tempura leeks and a Sierra Nevada for $12 and sat outside underneath a big tree and watched downtown go by. I will go back to 55 Pearl many times over.

Sunday, March 22, 2009


Can anyone give me the name of an economically successful and vibrant city that does not have a dense population of middle to upper class folks living in it's urban core?

(before anyone jumps all over me for being a racist or bigot or class warfare artist or all the other outstanding names I have been called over the last few days note that I didn't say exclusively middle to upper class)

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Dear Councilors

Sent this out today. I urge anyone reading this to do the same.

Mayor, Councilors, and City Manager,

I was alarmed to see the story printed in the Telegram today about the low income housing development planned for Water St in the Canal District. If you care about the city and care about the progress that has been made in one of the truly up and coming neighborhoods in Worcester you must understand that this is a terrible idea and one that could erase everything that has gone on in that neighborhood over the past 5 years. While great strides have been made in the Canal District there is still much to do to get things where they should be and part of that is getting the neighborhood densely populated by a demographic that will frequent the great new restaurants, bars, shops, and galleries that are opening on what seems like a monthly basis there.

Low income housing may very well add more crime, and overall will hinder attempts to make the neighborhood clean and aesthetically pleasing as it must be to be attractive to the young urban minded folks it needs to attract to move forward.

I hope that you take this seriously and understand that along with City Square, the future urban quality of life in Worcester also hinges on the success or failure of neighborhoods like The Canal District, Federal Sq, North Main and Shrewsbury St. We should be working diligently to make these neighborhoods our urban crown jewels.

I understand the development is already approved but I would hope you take the opportunity to oversee the process and make sure that it fits with the character of the Canal District as has already been defined and not let the building become an eventual cultural eyesore that may in fact hinder the rejuvenation of what could potentially not only become one of our greatest urban neighborhoods, but a destination for many in Central Massachusetts and beyond.

Thank you for reading and I hope you understand the possible implications of this development.

In case you haven't read it this is what I am all fired up about:


Thursday, March 12, 2009

Dripping With Disdain

So this is almost a month old but I was surfing around the Womag website and came upon this interview with Rajesh Patel, manager of the Newsroom on Front St. Dude seems to really dislike his business.

What strikes me though is two questions at the bottom of the page. One is a follow up of a question where Womag asks if he has had any ideas to turn the store into something else.

Part of his reply is this: "Some people are telling me to turn it into a grocery store, but I can’t do that because people downtown who come by bus won’t bring their groceries from here to home on the bus."

What the hell Rajesh? There are about 600 people living right across the common from you. Do you even know that?

Then the interviewer asks what he likes about doing business on Front St Patel responds: "The foot traffic and the bus stop keeps us going. If there was no bus stop, we would have been closed a long time ago."

The densely populated urban areas of Worcester are coming, maybe not right away but the writing is on the wall and they will be here. Federal Sq, in and of itself will be a very densely populated place most likely by the 2010 census with 11 buildings of dense housing all within a seven block radius that will be mostly filled by then.

The businesses that are going to come out ahead of the curve in that neighborhood and the adjacent neighborhoods are going to be the ones that figure out how to take advantage of the needs of the folks who live in these buildings. It's obvious by this article that even if you know there are people living in these buildings you are already at an advantage over some of your competition because some of them don't even know that. I wonder how many people on Front and Franklin are even factoring in the skating rink into their winter 09/10 plans of attack.

Also, I remember hearing rumors about a year ago that the Newsroom was looking to change formats into a liquor store which was denied by the city. At the time I was glad because my thinking was all they were trying to do was capitalize on the void left by Bancroft Liquors on the 40oz and nip market. Sorry to see I was correct in that assumption.

Place always left a bad taste in my mouth and even though it is right across the common from me as a citizen of the neighborhood I don't find much reason to go in there. I would like to hope that in the future this might change, but after reading this interview it's hard to keep the faith.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

I'm No Economist....

And really I'm not and don't claim to be. Someone could probably find several holes with what I am about to say here but I wanted to say it.

The economy has been bad for a long time, not just recently and I think it started to fall in the 80's and has been in a steady decline since then.

Remember this, the majority of families have only had both parents working for about 30 years or less. Also remember that families used to be much much larger.

So your average family of three or four with both parents working can barely afford to buy a house and feed and clothe the kids in 2009 when in 1963 your average family of 6 could afford a house in the suburbs on one income? Does anyone else not see this?

I don't want to hear jack about a good economy until we are back to one income being able to finance the American dream in this country. Anything else and we are being lied to, and we were lied to, for a very long time.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009


So if Worcester had a strong mayor, and I was that guy, the first thing I would do would be to meet with the people in charge of this website. What we would talk about is the direction of this part of the website and try to figure out how we could make it more comprehensive. My first order of business would be to get rid of the 7 links under the "More Information" heading (and the heading all together) and then add 30 links which would be:

Airport Hill
Canal District
Chandler (Or Peidmont Village)
College Hill
East Side
Federal Square
Gateway Park
Grafton Hill
Green Island
Hadwen Park
Lower Lincoln
North Main
North Worcester
Quinsigamond Village
Shrewsbury Street (or Bell Hill)
South Worcester
University Park
Upper Grafton
Upper Lincoln
Vernon Hill
Webster Square
West Side

Each neighborhoods page would have a map of the neighborhood, pictures of the neighborhood, and information divided into four sections.

1. About The Neighborhood- A clear and concise yet brief history of the neighborhood and explanation as to the shaping of the neighborhood and how it got to be the way it is today including demographics, cultures, ethinicities, and crime stats. This section should sell the neighborhood but should do so in an honest and straightforward fashion and should not be sugar coated unless merited. In Shrewsbury Streets section for example it would be perfectly acceptable to talk about the abundance of restaurants. Negatives should not be talked about but for example if the neighborhood has a crime problem it shouldn't be called a good place to raise a family.

2. Living In The Neighborhood- What does the average house cost and what is the housing stock in this neighborhood? What about the average rent for one, two and three bedrooms? What schools will kids attend if they live in the neighborhood? What does the neighborhood offer for places of worship? What is the parking situation? What highways are close? What bus lines run through? How walkable is the neighborhood? What is here for grocery stores and markets?

3. Playing In The Neighborhood- What does the neighborhood offer for restaurants, cafes, bars, galleries, shopping, museums, theaters, parks, sports, classes, and other indoor and outdoor leisure and cultural activities.

4. Working In The Neighborhood- Does the neighborhood have any large employer or dominant industry?

Worcester is not just one community. In this city of almost 180,000 people there are many communities and many different priorities, but before we start to really tackle any of them we need to organize as best we can these communities so that we can come up with good master plans for all of them and try the best we can so as to not just create desirable spaces to live, work, and play but also do so in a way that not only raises our tax base so that we can keep doing it but also do it wisely so that the neighborhood becomes self sustaining.

I feel that once this happens, once our neighborhoods are defined and master plans are drawn up then we can go through them one at a time, much like you would do with the rooms in a house and do them up and do them up right. Of the 30 neighborhoods listed above 14 of them have something major going on in them either right now or drawn up and being looked at. We are spreading ourselves too thin. I say put enough in to all the neighborhoods to keep them as they are right now without letting get any worse and starting with the ones that are closest to being turned around put everything we can into executing that neighborhoods master plan to the fullest extent we can and then move onto the next one.

We do all this, and when the next real estate boom hits, here we will be, waiting with open arms, organized, saying Welcome to Worcester, here is what we have to offer, take off your coat and stay a while.

Monday, February 16, 2009

How Worcester Could Be More Like NYC and Less Like Pyongyang

I was talking Worcester with a friend of mine the other night as I am known to do sometimes. He asks me if I have heard what New York City is doing with fines for public dumping.

Check this out!

It turns out that in New York what they are willing to do is if you give them any information that leads to anyone being caught and fined for illegal dumping you get half of that fine, which sometimes can be upwards of $25,000. I am sure many of those people surviving on food stamps out there on the streets of the Woo would love a nice check for $12500. I am sure money like that would cause a large number of people to become professional part time watch dogs.

You know, why not price gauge on fines? We are a poor city right? A poor city that is also a city filled with broken down buildings that should be condemned, property owners who allow trash to flow freely all over their property (and other peoples property), and overall properties that have been allowed to fall into such disrepair that they have become a public nuisance. Why not kill three birds with one stone and clean the city up, create revenue for the city, and create revenue for it's citizens all at the same time?

Give the slumlords and absentee landlords three choices, clean your property up, sell your property to someone else who wants it and is going to take care of it, or pay through the nose. That is an ordinance I could get behind.

No matter what Worcester wins.

Worcester and Pyongyang: Maybe Not So Different?

Okay get your attention?

What the hell is this nut job squawking about now you ask?

Bear with me here.

So 4 or 5 years ago I was watching this documentary on IFC. The name of it slips my mind but it was about an American journalist going into North Korea to film a documentary. This of course had to be cleared with the North Korean government and the whole time he was in country he had his own personal government appointed chaperon to take him around from place to place and of course this guy whizzed him around North Korea at break neck speeds so he couldn't possibly film anything except what they let him film.

One particular night they stayed at a hotel in Pyongyang and they were able to film a little bit out of the window in the morning before the chaperon got there. What they filmed has always stuck with me as one of the creepier things I've ever seen. They filmed out their window at the intersection below. In the intersection there stood an officer directing traffic which is not very strange at all until I tell you there was NO TRAFFIC. This guy was standing in the middle of an intersection going through all the motions of directing traffic except there was no traffic. What this always seemed like to me is that someone in the North Korean government had seen some sort of American movie or TV show where a cop was directing traffic and didn't even understand what the cop was actually doing but thought to himself that a modern metropolis should have a guy standing in an intersection waving his hands and blowing a whistle like they have in America not even fully understanding what the actual practical purpose is of having the officer there doing it.

So today I am coming into Worcester via 146 and I come to the 4 way intersection of Cambridge, Quinsigamond, "Olde" Millbury St, and 146. Next time you are there check this out. If turning right onto Millbury from 146 if you look to your left there is a tiny park on the corner with three park benches sitting on a nicely laid brand new brick foundation. Those benches must be there for all the foot traffic down at the end of a major divided highway right?

Give me a break City Hall!!!!!!

Those benches are there because some boob who makes way to much money (money that we pay by the way) saw some benches somewhere and said, "hey well, cities have park benches right? well let's put some here."

What should have been there and what would have been a much much much better use of that money is some nice landscaping and a beautifully crafted sign that said something like "Welcome To The Green Island Neighborhood, Worcester Massachusetts" or "Welcome To The Canal District, Worcester Massachusetts" and if you really want urban park benches put them were there is some damn foot traffic like in Kelley Sq, or on Green St or Water St, or on Park Ave, or on Highland.

Okay Worcester, you are taking the first step and trying to make things look good and I commend you for that, but Jesus, you are supposed to be professionals. Things need to look good but they are also supposed to have a purpose. We need park benches in our city, and we also need signage telling people where they are.

Please try to put the stuff in the right place and don't just put stuff in places all willy nilly because you saw it on your last trip to the big city. Just putting things wherever without any sort of master plan is how we got into the predicament that we are in in this city to begin with.

Act like grown ups would you?

So yeah, long story short Worcester and Pyongyang, both doing things they saw in the big city without fully understanding what it is they are actually doing. Who woulda thunk it?

Friday, February 13, 2009


From Wikipedia:

"In the United States there are two categories of urban area. The term urbanized area denotes an urban area of 50,000 or more people. Urban areas under 50,000 people are called urban clusters. Urbanized areas were first delineated in the United States in the 1950 census, while urban clusters were added in the 2000 census. There are 1371 United States Urban Areas & Urban Clusters with more than 10,000 people.
The US Census Bureau defines an urban area as: "Core census block groups or blocks that have a population density of at least 1,000 people per square mile (386 per square kilometer) and surrounding census blocks that have an overall density of at least 500 people per square mile (193 per square kilometer)."
The concept of Urbanized Areas as defined by the US Census Bureau are often used as a more accurate gauge of the size of a city, since in different cities and states the lines between city borders and the urbanized area of that city are often not the same. For example, the city of Greenville, South Carolina has a city population under 60,000 but an urbanized area over 300,000, while Greensboro, North Carolina has a city population over 200,000 but an urbanized area population of around 270,000--meaning that Greenville is actually "larger" for some intents and purposes, but not for others, such as taxation, local elections, etc."

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Why Density? Well This Is Why.

I had a good albeit trying evening out in Worcester on Wednesday night. After bringing the car to Lou's Custom Exhaust on Harding St Tuesday morning my car no longer sounds like a heavy duty front end loader so I don't mind driving it around town. If you haven't heard of these guys what they do is pretty cool. They are able to do everything for a cheaper price then the competition because they manufacture all their exhaust systems on site. I sat and watched as they custom cut all the pipes for my car right in their shop. Pretty neat.

For entertaining/movie watching purposes I am in the hunt for a new TV. Being as I like to give the local folks my dollar first I went over to Percy's on Gold Star to see what they could offer.


Percy's is only open until 6pm on weekdays so obviously they do a brisk housewife business. Good for them. Odds are I won't be back. What ridiculous hours for a retail store to keep. I mean open a little later and close a little later, you know?

From there I hit up Best Buy in the Greendale Mall and then swung over to the Shoppes at Blackstone in Millbury to price out TV's at the soon to be an eye sore Circuit City and Target. 8 minutes from the Greendale Mall to The Shoppes. Not bad.

After that it was back into the city for something to eat. I drove back into Worcester via 146 and took a right onto "Olde" Millbury St and into the Canal District. I briefly though about Baja Grill but decided to keep going to see what captured my interest. I drove across Kelley Sq and down Water St seeing the fairly new Cavo Doro which used to be the old Club Car. I figured I would stop in and see what the food there was all about.


Per the bartender the kitchen is closed for a little while because it wasn't doing so well. Really? You've only been open for how long and you are already drastically altering your business model. Most people I know probably don't even know you exist. Wow.

I parked on Harding St so instead of getting back in my car I decided to try another place I have yet to go to, Roma Pizzeria. Roma is a restaurant that has opened over the past year that is brought to you by the same folks who ran Primo's on Shrewbury St and The Restaurant at Union Station. Dude makes good food and Roma is no exception. Brick oven style pizza with fresh toppings and a sauce that was a little chunky which was nice. Will I be back? Well here is where we get to the title of the post. I know, it took a while.

As I am sitting at my table looking out onto Harding St I am struck by a couple things. The first is that Roma has four, maybe five, parking spots of their own. Second I think about how many people are actually living right here. There's the newly redone apartments directly upstairs from the restaurant, which actually probably give them a little bit of business and there are a few people living over on Water St across from Blu. Other than that, everyone who comes to Roma has to go out of their way to go there. Wait through a bunch of traffic signals, deal with city traffic, find a parking spot. So again I ask, will I be back?

I live right Downtown so yes, I will be back. It's right around the corner, and especially when the weather turns it will be no big deal to walk down there. If I lived over on the Westside though would this pizza be good enough to sit through 15 red lights on my way here? Probably not. That is nothing against Roma though. Fact is the pizza here is probably better than 90% of the pizza you'll get in Worcester. But here is where the problem of neighborhood density comes in and the dirty little secret of why so many folks probably consider opening a storefront in the urban core of Worcester to be such a losing proposition.

If you are going to open a new retail, food, or bar business in Urban Worcester you better be good. You better be really good. Destination good. You can't afford to be anything less. Most of your potential clientele doesn't live right around the corner. Most of them are going to have to get in their car, circle the neighborhood a few times to find a parking spot, walk a couple blocks, maybe obtain a designated driver or a cab. Long story short they are going to have to go out of their way.

Odds are your business isn't going to be this way though. It's not going to be a destination. Odds are if you know what you are doing it's just going to be pretty good, AND THERE ISN'T ANYTHING WRONG WITH THAT AND IN A CITY THE SIZE OF WORCESTER THIS SHOULD BE ENOUGH TO KEEP YOU IN BUSINESS.

There are probably close to 100 stores, restaurants, bars and specialty shops in the city that are pretty good with varying levels of success. It's the lack of success of the good "neighborhoody" type places though that gets me down. Take a bar like The Greyhound in Kelley Sq which is a great neighborhood bar. Aside from the Scotch selection (which in my opinion has no equal inside the city limits) there is nothing to really draw you to the Greyhound. Fill the Canal District with 40 or younger urban minded professionals though and I would lay money on the Greyhound maybe not being packed, but doing a very good, very steady business. Same with Roma, same with Baja Grill.

The sad part about Urban Worcester though is that we aren't just losing our best and brightest college graduates, we are also losing our best and brightest entrepreneurs, whether due to losing their shirts simply for not being able to open a 5 star establishment, or due to them seeing the writing on the wall and choosing to go elsewhere with their ideas.


I ended my night with a couple of ciders at a couple of bars. First off I headed over to Nick's on "Olde" Millbury St and bought a Strongbow from Mr. Chip O'Connor and grabbed a seat in the back of the room to listen to Hat On Drinking Wine for a bit. They advertised this as being a full band show however they sounded a bit thin without a bass player. I did enjoy their laid back brand of Americana while I was there though. A few times they straid a little to close to Counting Crows territory for my tastes but they never fully went there so that was cool. They play over at Nick's every Wednesday night from 8-11 and are worth checking out.

I then went up to see my man Paul Curley at the Greyhound for a pint of draft Magner's and some impassioned Canal District themed conversation with some familiar faces. I love The Greyhound.

So a very thought provoking Wednesday night in the Woo.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Cinema 320 at Clark

Because I do a whole lot of ranting, here is a rave. Cinema 320. We do have a true arthouse Cinema in Worcester and while you can't get your fru-fru coffee drinks and they don't have an art gallery you sure can see cutting edge film from all over the world. Here is the spring schedule:

ARE YOU TIRED of waiting for Congress to pass that pesky stimulus program? Cinema 320 couldn't agree more. So Cinema 320 hereby passes its own stimulus program - our latest program of stimulating world cinema, that is! CINEMA 320 AT CLARK - SPRING '09
950 Main, Worcester, MA. Tix: $5.50, $3.50/current Clark ID & over 60. 508-793-7477

For more information on each movie: www.Cinema320.com

A CHRISTMAS TALE (France 2008; NR)Tues Feb 24, Thurs Feb 26, Sat Feb 28 - 7:30PM; Sun Mar 1 - 1, 3:50PM.A bone marrow transplant for the matriarch (Catherine Deneuve) of a big, tempestuous French family brings skeletons galore sprawling out of their closets in this emotionally rich, absorbing comedic drama of sibling conflicts and parental favoritism. "Almost indecently satisfying" - NY Times. "A film that pulses with human life in all its terrible and beautiful irrationality"- Seattle Post Intelligencer.150 min. Subtitles.

OBSCENE: A PORTRAIT OF BARNEY ROSSET AND GROVE PRESS (2008; NR) Tues Mar 3, Thurs Mar 5, Sat Mar 7 - 7:30PM;Sun Mar 8 - 1, 2:50PM.A very engaging biography of the legendary free-thinking publisher who spent a fortune fighting obscenity charges against "Lady Chatterley's Lover and "Tropic of Cancer," made the FBI's watch list, overcame a bombed office (and four bombed marriages), and also managed to bring no fewer than five Nobel Prize winners for Literature to American readers. "A warm, entertaining compendium of counterculture voices and literary landmarks" - NY Times. 97 min.

I SERVED THE KING OF ENGLAND (Czech Rep 2008; R)Tues Mar 10, Thurs Mar 12, Sat Mar 14 - 7:30PM;Sun Mar 15 - 1, 3:20PM.The picaresque progress of an ambitious young man from busboy to headwaiter to millionaire hotelier to elderly impoverished ex-political prisoner is enjoyable chronicled in this funny and flippantly cynical comedy of Czechoslovakia's turbulent 20th century. "A mischievously hedonistic, Chaplinesque farce.... bouyantly but seriously traverses the horrors of World War II with a subtlety and sophistication that most American comedies cannot grasp" - Village Voice. 120 min. Subtitles.

TROUBLE THE WATER (2008; NR)Tues Mar 17, Thurs Mar 19, Sat Mar 21 - 7:30PM;Sun Mar 22 - 1, 2:50PM.As Hurricane Katrina bears down on New Orleans, an aspiring young rap artist tries out her new video camera on her friends and neighbors in the Ninth Ward. No one can guess the scenes of horror and heroism, desolation and resilience that will pass before her lens in the weeks to come. "A spellbinder you do not want to miss"- Rolling Stone.Grand Jury Prize Documentary, Sundance 2008. Academy Award nominee, Best Feature Documentary 2008. 90 min. English and subtitles.

WENDY AND LUCY (2008; R)Tues Mar 24, Thurs Mar 26, Sat Mar 28 - 7:30PM;Sun Mar 29 - 1, 2:40PM.Wendy (Michelle Williams) is a young woman driving to Alaska in search of work. Lucy is her dog. When their old car breaks down on the outskirts of Portland, Oregon the consequences make for a movie that will stay with you for a long time. "Modest, minimalist. But it nonetheless reverberates like a sonic boom" - Philadelphia Inquirer.Year's Ten Best - American Film Institute, National Board of Review, NY Times. 80 min.

No shows March 31-April 5 - Latino Film Festival. Call (508) 793-1900. ***************************************************************************

GOMORRAH (Italy 2008; R)Tues Apr 7, Thurs Apr 9, Sat Apr 11 - 7:30PM;Sun Apr 12 - 1, 3:35PM.A cross-section of Mafiosi characters big and small give life to this exceptionally dynamic dramatization of journalist Roberto Saviano's sensational bestseller about organized crime taking over Naples - a book so painful to the Mafia's self-esteem that Saviano remains under armed guard today. "A vividly panoramic film about a pitiless world of criminality" - LA Times. Cannes Grand Prize winner 2008. 137 min. Subtitles.

WALTZ WITH BASHIR (Israel 2008; R)Tues Apr 14, Thurs Apr 16, Sat Apr 18 - 7:30PM;Sun Apr 19 - 9PM only.A veteran of the 1982 Lebanon campaign goes inquiring among his buddies for their memories when he strangely finds that he cannot recall his own. "Surreal touches, deployed with tactical restraint, make the picture extraordinary and convey the febrile atmosphere of warfare, whereby fear, horror - and later guilt - distort and distend perception and memory" - Variety. Academy Award nominee, Best Foreign Language Film, 2008. NOTE: No Sunday matinees this week. Sunday show 9PM only. 90 min. Subtitles.

LET THE RIGHT ONE IN (Sweden 2008; R)Tues Apr 21, Thurs Apr 23, Sat Apr 25 - 7:30PM;Sun Apr 26 - 1, 3:15PM.Ingmar Bergman meets Nosferatu. Lonely 12-year-old Oskar gets a desperately needed friend when a bewitching and reclusive adolescent girl named Lina moves into his apartment block. But Lina's arrival also coincides with an outbreak of appalling murders in which the victims are drained of blood.... "The best fairy tales always have so much darkness in them. That's why they resonate so deeply. This is a magnificent film" - Film Threat. "Funny, fear-inducing.... right up there with the blood-sucking classics" - Philadelphia Inquirer. 114 min. Subtitles.

THE CLASS (France 2008; PG-13)Tues Apr 28, Thurs Apr 30, Sat May 2 - 7:30PM;Sun May 3 - 1, 3:25PM.In a working class Parisian school, students from every place in the world where France ever set foot live out a challenging school year with their teacher. "I would be surprised if this brilliant and touching film didn't become required viewing for teachers.... Everyone else should see it as well - it's a wonderful movie" - New Yorker. Cannes Best Director. Oscar nominee, Best Foreign Language Film, 2008.128 min. Subtitles.

IMAGINARY WITNESS: HOLLYWOOD AND THE HOLOCAUST (2004; NR)Tues May 5, Thurs May 7, Sat May 9 - 7:30PM;Sun May 10 - 1, 2:50PM.Sometimes craven, sometimes heroic, Hollywood's checkered yet fascinating confrontation with Nazism and the Holocaust across sixty years of movie history becomes grist for an astute and compulsively watchable documentary narrated by Gene Hackman. "Offers both a generalist survey of Hollywood's fun-house mirror reflection of history and a subtle diagnosis of America's not entirely healthy appetite for entertainment posing as fact" - NY Observer.92 min.

May 11 - Outta here for the summer! See you this fall.

Directions to Clark from all points: Take Route 290 to the Route 9/Framingham-Ware exit in downtown Worcester. Turn left off exit ramp if coming from the south, turn right off ramp if coming from the north. Follow the signs for Route 9 West (Highland Street) through Lincoln Square. Stay on Highland about a mile. Turn left onto Park Avenue at Elm Park. Proceed about 1.2 miles up Park Avenue to Downing Street (Peppercorn's restaurant). Turn left onto Downing. Go through one stop sign. Cinema 320 parking permitted in Clark Downing Street lot on left. Cinema 320 is in the building directly across Downing Street. Use main campus entrance in middle of building and follow theater signs. Cinema 320 is located on the third floor of the Jefferson Academic Center, at the corner of Main and Downing streets. The auditorium is elevator-accessible via the Geography Library entrance on Main Street, until 5 minutes before showtime.

Our web site: www.cinema320.com

For email schedule delivery, or to unsubscribe: Steph76711@aol.com
For USPS delivery: Cinema 320 at Clark, 950 Main St, Box B-6, Worcester, MA 01610

Thanks as always for your support..................Steve Sandberg

Wednesday, February 4, 2009


I was out to dinner with a friend tonight at the outstanding Armsby Abbey on North Main St and she was saying after being away from Worcester for a bit there is something drawing her back here at the moment.

A little history here. She grew up in the 'burbs of Boston but ended up going to school here. One of the infamous "college kids" the city always talks about retaining. After college she stuck around for a bit and just like many other young adults with degrees she got disgusted with the city and it's abundance of typical city problems without all the good things a city can offer and she left with her finger in the air and bought a house up in the sticks of North County.

Why does she want to move back?

"It just feels like home."

I have never written about this here but I have been saying for a long time that as a city we should try to figure out a way to get the college kids to "fall in love" with the city. While this was a pretty solid idea in my own head I think (and rightly so) no one knew what the hell I was talking about.

This is what I am talking about. Home.

An actual emotional connection with the city. An abundance of good times. An abundance of adversity. Memories. Friendships. STUFF TO DO.

Make the city friendlier to the young, educated, cultured, adult.

How do we do this? I am not sure. I have some ideas of my own of course that are not fully fleshed out, but I just wanted to write about this while I was thinking about it. Hopefully it makes you think too.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Please Please Please No Strip Malls

A post over at Wormtown Taxi brought my attention to an article in the Telegram yesterday about the infamous Wyman Gordon property that straddles Madison Street just west of Kelley Square. If you aren't familiar with it do yourself a favor and go take a drive (or a walk) down there and take it all in. The property is large. The figure quoted in the article is 15 acres. That is a lot of space.

In the article what is talked about is that there is some interest in possible retail development of the parcel. Are we talking strip malls here?

The city needs to be very very very careful as to how this proceeds.

People always get all up in arms about these conversations. Who is a city to go and tell people what they can and can't do with their property, blah, blah, blah. This is nothing new, and believe it or not it's not even anything new in Central Mass. Sturbridge for instance has a signage regulation which I believe limits the height and size of your businesses free standing signage.

See Sturbridge has a plan and an idea of what Sturbridge is. It's clearly defined to them. Some things are Sturbridge and some things are not. You are welcome to do business in Sturbridge, but you are going to do it in a way that is aesthetically pleasing to Sturbridge. In that way Sturbridge defines it's identity and holds on to it.

Now of course we are talking apples and oranges. Sturbridge is a small town, Worcester a much bigger city. This however is where strong neighborhood organizations and very specific neighborhood definititions come in.

If retail where to go in what kind of retail would compliment and add to the Canal District? What type of buildings? What type of parking? How does a development need to look and feel to exist harmoniously with the rest of the neighborhood?

In my opinion it is better to leave the whole thing barren then to rush into something just to have something there. As is stated in the comment section of the article, this parcel, and how it is developed could be a make or break for urban Worcester. We really do not need a strip mall with a dollar store, a nail salon, a storefront church, and a pizza place. I hope the property owners, business owners, and residents of the Canal District get this and are prepared to tell the city what they would like to see there.

What would I like to see? Well, you know me... always the dreamer.

Sunday, January 4, 2009


Lots of activity going on with the two vacants on Portland Street over the weekend. If they give these two buildings the same treatment as they gave the Bancroft itself these will be pretty nice buildings.

I'll tell you what though. If they fill these up and still can't fill the rest of the commercial on Franklin, Portland, and Salem Federal Sq can fall on a knife as far as I am concerned. If by the end of 2009 we have 12 densely populated residential buildings in a small 7 block area and the streets aren't teaming with activity (of the legal and productive variety) Worcester is really going to have to step back and look at ourselves as a city and reevaluate.