Clark, city announce Main South field complex, park revitalization

City, state and federal officials joined President David Angel last week to celebrate two initiatives that will perpetuate what one legislator described as “the Main South Miracle.”

On March 23, local leaders gathered in a vacant lot on Kilby Street, just beyond the Clark campus, to announce that the Main South Community Development Corporation had received $3.69 million in federal low-income housing tax credits to build another 22 affordable housing units as part of the ongoing Kilby-Gardner-Hammond Neighborhood Revitalization Project. The construction of the units represent the fourth and final phase of housing development connected with the project.  

President Angel also announced that Clark has completed its purchase of 7.5 acres next to the Boys & Girls Club on Tainter Street for development of an athletic field and track to be used by the school and the community.

Congressman James McGovern lauded the participation of Clark in the Main South revitalization, tracing the University’s efforts from the late President Richard Traina, “who was chiefly responsible for launching this partnership many years ago,” through the commitment of President Angel, who continues to strengthen Clark’s ties to the neighborhood.

“The brand-new, state-of-the-art athletic field that Clark will build on this site adjacent to the Boys & Girls Club will be yet another enduring example of Clark’s commitment to this neighborhood and will help crown this achievement,” McGovern said.

Senator Harriette Chandler, M.A. ’63, Ph.D. ’73 termed the Kilby-Gardner-Hammond work as the continuation of “the Main South Miracle,” citing the vision, hard work and cooperation that’s been needed to establish attractive, affordable housing in place of dilapidated structures. “This is a renaissance,” she said.

President Angel noted that the collaboration between Worcester and Clark is a point of pride for University alumni across the globe — “from Colorado to Albuquerque to Asia.” Since taking over as president, Angel said, he’s learned how difficult it is to be enmeshed in a project the magnitude of Kilby-Gardner-Hammond given the legal, environmental and financial work involved. Angel lauded the “resilience and determination” of all those involved in seeing the project through in difficult economic times, adding that the next goal is to foster sustainable livelihoods for neighborhood residents.

The second major news item of the week came on March 24 at Tilton Hall where it was announced that Clark and the City of Worcester are partnering on the $1.5 million rehabilitation of University Park.

The 13-acre park across the street from the University — purchased by the city in 1887, the same year as Clark was founded — has fallen into disrepair in recent years and “needs some reinvestment, needs some love,” according to City Manager Michael O’Brien. “Our friends at Clark University recognized that.” The park includes tennis courts, basketball courts and a pond among its acreage. A long unused public swimming pool will replaced by a spray park to cool off neighborhood children.

Mayor Joseph O’Brien said Clark is “embedded in the community” and appreciates the University’s acknowledgement that there is “an intersection of interests” between Clark and the neighborhood.

President Angel said he is proud of Clark’s agreement with Worcester, which “will restore this lively and beautiful resource for the community and the city.” He said he envisions a place where music is played, theater is performed, and people are walking at all hours of the day “to get healthy, but also to meet their neighbors.”

Angel praised the visionary leadership of Richard Traina who saw that “the future success of Clark is linked to the success of the neighborhood.”

“This is an opportunity for all of us to come together in one shared vision, and strengthen the place where we live, work and raise families,” he said.

The city’s Parks, Recreation and Cemetery Division will hold three community meetings to gather input about University Park improvements. They will be held on Wednesday, April 13, Thursday, May 12, and Thursday, June 16. All meetings will take place from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. in the Lurie Conference Room at the Higgins Student Center at Clark.

Clark’s investment in University Park is one piece of a payment-in-lieu-of-taxes (PILOT) agreement the University reached with the city last year. Under this accord, Clark makes voluntary annual payments to the City of approximately $262,000, increasing by 2.5 percent annually over the next 20 years.

The agreement also forges a partnership to improve public safety and the continuity of the Clark campus, with the discontinuation a short section of Downing Street from Florence to Woodland streets in order to create a pedestrian plaza for students and the neighborhood. This effort coincides with the design and construction of the federally funded streetscape improvements for Maywood, Main, Downing and Beaver streets to create a Main South “gateway.”

-         Jim Keogh, Director of News and Editorial Services