Congressman McGovern, federal, state and local partners announce new developments for Worcester’s $14 million Blackstone Gateway Visitor Center and Blackstone Gateway Park
Congressman Jim McGovern, along with officials from the Massachusetts Department of Conservation and Recreation(DCR), the Massachusetts Department of Transportation(DOT), the Federal Highway Administration, the City of Worcester, the College of the Holy Cross, and Blackstone River Valley National Heritage Corridor today announced several major elements of a coordinated effort to develop Worcester’s Blackstone Gateway Park and Visitor Center.
“The Blackstone Gateway Visitor Center, including the Park, bikeways, new sidewalks, and the Quinsigamond Bike Spur, are a signature project for the City of Worcester and Central Massachusetts,” said Congressman Jim McGovern. “The tireless dedication of the Quinsigamond Village residents has made this project a reality, and I know that it will serve as a catalyst for future economic development in this vital gateway to the city.”
Massachuchetts DCR and Massachusetts DOT have signed a Memorandum of Understanding which will lead to the construction of the Blackstone Gateway Visitor Center, a full service, multi-use facility, featuring a welcoming area, historic and cultural exhibits, a theater, restroom facilities, an adjacent passive recreation lawn, and office, classroom and meeting space. The Visitor Center will also serve as the new home for the Massachusetts DCR Central Regional Office. It is estimated the Visitor Center and related projects will bring in nearly $14 million in initial investment from federal, state, local, and non-profits partners, including an immediate $5.5 million in federal funding.
The Visitor Center will be adjacent to an enhanced Blackstone Gateway Park and Middle River Park. The surrounding park will provide recreational and educational opportunities by way of trails, boardwalks, observational platforms, interpretive signage and kiosks, and paths with connectivity to the Blackstone River Bikeway. Other stakeholders in the project include the Worcester Historical Museum, Massachusetts Audubon Society, and Quinsigamond Village residents.
The Visitor Center will be staffed by a newly hired Project Coordinator, Devon Kurtz, hired in partnership with the College of the Holy Cross and the Blackstone Heritage Corridor. A Worcester resident, Mr. Kurtz's background includes 6 years as the Director of Education at the Higgins Armory Museum, and nearly 10 years as the Education Coordinator at Old Sturbridge Village. He will work hand in hand with Holy Cross, as well as the National Park Service, City and State officials and local residents and businesses to shepherd design and development of the Visitor Center, the adjacent Park, river access at the headwaters of the Blackstone River, Blackstone River Bike path developments and related activity in the area.
Also announced on Thursday by the Massachusetts Department of Transportation was a new $1.5 million federally funded Quinsigamond Village Bikeway, which will connect the project to the Blackstone River Bikeway. The Quinsigamond Village Bikeway is expected to begin construction later in 2014.
The City of Worcester will also begin construction of new sidewalks on McKeon Road with $1.17 million in federal funding, ensuring easier pedestrian access between College Hill, Quinsigamond Village, and Worcester’s Blackstone Gateway Park.
“The Blackstone Visitor Center, Park, and Bikeway projects reflect years of hard work and dedication. The City is thrilled to be a partner in this exciting and important effort," said City Manager Edward Augustus. “These projects will enhance the on-going economic revitalization efforts in the Quinsigamond Village neighborhood while also serving as a destination point for Worcester residents and visitors from all over the region,” said City Manager Ed Augustus.
“The Blackstone Gateway Visitor Center is a true testament to the partnerships and collaboration that has been in the making for many years. The infrastructure upgrades in the vicinity of the center and adjacent park will become a destination for those seeking leisure and recreational activities in our community. I am excited that so many people have been able to come together for the purpose of providing additional opportunities to the residents and visitors of our city,” said Mayor Joe Petty.
“The Worcester Blackstone Valley Gateway Visitor Center and Blackstone Valley Gateway Park will serve to highlight all that Worcester and the Blackstone River Valley have to offer to our visitors,” stated Senator Michael O. Moore (D-Millbury). “More importantly, the Center and Gateway Park will continue to show the world what we continue to know, that Worcester and the Blackstone River Valley is a great place to visit, live and work.”
“This Visitor Center truly showcases how successful partnerships in our city across all levels of government, the community, and our local colleges can be. Today is a great day for the City and a great day for Quinsig Village,” said State Representative Dan Donahue.
“This project demonstrations ways in which forming partnerships can produce benefits for the local economy, for cultural enrichment, and to promote walking and cycling as healthy transportation choices,” said Frank DePaola, MassDOT’s Highway Administrator. “Through Congressman McGovern’s strong leadership, this project represents the best of the combination of those efforts.”
“I thank Governor Patrick, and the MassDot and DCR teams for their long-term commitment to Worcester and the Central Massachusetts region,” said Tim Murray, President/CEO of the Worcester Chamber of Commerce. “As Lieutenant Governor, I worked closely with these teams and Congressman McGovern to make this vital public-private partnership a reality. As President and CEO of Chamber, I know that this will improve a dynamic gateway into the city.”
“We are truly grateful for the dedication of so many to forge a remarkable partnership that will design and build this long planned-for center. It promises to be not only a gateway to the Blackstone Valley and to Worcester, but also the centerpiece for the revitalization of Quinsigamond Village. The synergy of the visitor center, the Blackstone Bikeway, and the Blackstone Gateway and Middle River Parks will create a tremendous beehive of activity and learning for residents, students, and visitors alike,” said Donna Williams, chair of the Blackstone River Valley National Heritage Corridor.
“We look forward to the development and growth of this exciting initiative—and are delighted to play an active and engaged role,” said John Anderson, interim director of government and community relations at Holy Cross. “Our own students, faculty, and staff will benefit from new programming and resources. Further, all colleges in the area, as well as visitors from throughout the region and nation will learn more about an important part of Worcester’s proud heritage.”