Pocket of Pleasant Street in Worcester targeted for economic development

February 17, 2022 : Telegram & Gazette, by Henry Schwan

WORCESTER — A section of the city’s Pleasant Street area could be in line to get a cash infusion for business development.  

The Massachusetts Development Finance Agency, also known as MassDevelopment, designated the area a Transformative Development Initiative (TDI) district.  

The initiative targets neighborhoods in midsize “Gateway Cities” with populations between 35,000 and 250,000 for economic growth.

A designation can mean potential funds and/or technical assistance from MassDevelopment to help a neighborhood achieve its economic development goals.

The TDI program concentrates on five-minute walkable areas, said Peter Dunn, the city chief development officer. In the case of the Pleasant Street TDI, the target is the midpoint between Main Street and Park Avenue. 

"It’s not specifically a grant award. It could result in future grants,” said Dunn. “It’s really a community development initiative. It’s all about a public-private partnership.”

History of economic challenges

This area of Pleasant Street had its share of economic challenges through the years, ranging from vacant storefronts to buildings with unoccupied upper floors. 

Now that the area is a TDI, there are potential opportunities for affordable housing and small businesses to move into those spaces, said Dunn. 

The next step is for community groups in the Pleasant Street area to map out specific economic development ideas and share them with MassDevelopment. From there, MassDevelopment could provide funds and staff assistance to carry out the plans.

A plus for Pleasant Street

The Pleasant Street area has community groups working together, and that is a plus when MassDevelopment is looking to name a TDI district.

Dunn mentioned several in the Pleasant Street area, including Worcester Common Ground, Inc., a community development corporation that Dunn said is leading a "community team." 

Another Pleasant Street organization on the team that Dunn mentioned is the Pleasant Street Neighborhood Network Center, and state lawmakers who represent the area.  

Several Pleasant Street businesses are part of the team, said Dunn, including C.C. Lowell Art Supply Co. and Custom Framing, Eddie Super Plaza, The Raven, Pickle Barrel Deli, Ed Hyder’s Mediterranean Marketplace, and Serrato Signs. 

There is room for more businesses and Pleasant Street residents to be involved in shaping the TDI district's future course. 

Other TDI's in Worcester 

Other parts of Worcester were previously designated TDI districts by MassDevelopment, including the downtown Theatre District and Main South.  

The Main South designation occurred in 2018, and the neighborhood recently received $30,000 for a branding effort. It paid for colorful street banners on light poles erected in November. 

Main South also received a $950,000 grant from MassDevelopment to help pay for construction of a one story-building with seven commercial storefronts at 807-815 Main Street.

“Over the last several years, we have seen the tangible benefits of the TDI program in the Theatre District downtown and more recently in the Main South area,” City Manager Edward M. Augustus Jr. said in a prepared statement. “We appreciate MassDevelopment’s continued support and look forward to working with the coalition of partners in the Pleasant Street area over the next few years to achieve their community development goals.”