5 ways Fitchburg is hoping to stimulate growth
By Anna Burgess, firstname.lastname@example.org
Updated: 05/04/2016 10:49:14 AM EDT
FITCHBURG -- Last Thursday, Mayor Stephen DiNatale and Mary Jo Bohart, Fitchburg's director of economic development, led representatives from MassDevelopment on a tour of development sites in the city.
MassDevelopment, a quasi-public agency that works to stimulate economic growth in the state, "takes great interest in cities like Fitchburg," Bohart said. "It's always good when they come to call, so we can refresh their visuals (of what's going on here)."
MassDevelopment CEO Marty Jones and Communications Director Mark Sternman took what Sternman called "a whirlwind tour" of more than a dozen Fitchburg properties that are being or will be developed.
"We were really impressed by all that's going on," Sternman said.
"Lots of positive change. It's great to see all the potential that's there for restaurants, housing, and businesses."
Here are five projects, in various stages of development, you might not know about that are happening in Fitchburg.
1. 35-37 Main St., the corner of Willow Street, will become a retail establishment or restaurant.
Local developer Bill Krikorian recently had a site plan approved for a large project to renovate the old Harper Furniture building, and Bohart said it was "quite intentional" that he also purchased the building across the street.
Krikorian will work with builder Matt Fournier of Elite Construction to turn 35-37 Main St. into commercial space, either retail or a restaurant.
The project, which Bohart said will include "partial demolition" of the building, will serve the dual purpose of improving the property aesthetics and providing "things consumers living across the street might want."
How far along is it? Krikorian is in the process of purchasing the building.
2. 409 Main St., the corner of Prichard Street, will be turned into apartments and a small retail or restaurant space.
Though he has other Main Street projects in the works with Krikorian, Fournier will develop this one on his own.
He's planning a complete renovation for the former Cahill's Pub site, and will turn the second and third floors of the building into apartments, while the 2,000 square foot space on the first floor will have a commercial use.
"It would be wonderful if it was a food-related business of some sort," Bohart said.
How far along is it? It's still in the design stage, but Fournier will soon come before the Planning Board for site-plan approval. He may wait to begin construction until he secures a commercial tenant for the ground floor.
3. The "Theatre Block" could become an FSU business incubator.
The city, along with Fitchburg State University, ReImagine North of Main and NewVue Communities, last winter applied for a state Urban Agenda Grant to develop the "Theatre Block" into businesses and "some sort of entrepreneurial business incubator" for Fitchburg State.
Though they did not receive the grant, Bohart said they still like the concept and will likely reapply for grant funding or look for other funding sources.
That area is of particular importance to the city and university because it is centrally located, near the B.F. Brown redevelopment site, and could again be a theater site somewhere down the line.
How far along is it? Not very. It's "still in the idea stage," Bohart said. "Since we weren't grant-funded, we have to regroup and rethink, so it's not an active project right now."
She added that they wanted Jones and the other MassDevelopment representatives to see the site anyway, in part because they might have alternative funding ideas.
4. 93 Nockege St., former Sanitoy Mill, is going to be office space.
This former mill building has an expansive 130,000 square feet available, and 90,000 of them will be renovated into office space for at least two new tenants.
Building owner Francesco Colangelo will work with APEX Development to bring several new tenants into the space, which currently houses packaging manufacturer FoamTech.
One of the new tenants is the state Department of Public Health, which will open four offices: for its Department of Transitional Assistance, its Mass Rehab Commission, its Department of Mental Health, and its Department of Developmental Services.
"It's a new concept for 'one-stop shopping' that they're trying out here in Fitchburg," Bohart said.
The Montachusett Opportunity Council is the other confirmed tenant, she said, and "some square-footage is not yet tenanted, but will be."
How far along is it? Now that tenants are secured and there is a design to work with, Colangelo will soon start the zoning approval process with the city.
5. 487 Authority Drive will soon be a gas station/convenience store/coffee shop.
Bohart was particularly excited about this new construction in West Fitchburg, near the planned Wachusett Commuter Rail station.
South Coast Development, who have done similar projects in Lunenburg, will construct a gas station with a convenience store and coffee shop at the intersection of Route 31 and Authority Drive.
Fitchburg has its fair share of such businesses, but "we don't have anything like that (in that area)," Bohart said.
How far along is it? Construction began at the end of April.
"If you haven't been out (to that area) lately, you will not believe it," Bohart said.
Follow Anna Burgess on Twitter and Tout @AnnaBurgess18.