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.