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Main Street South neighborhood with cars and buildings

Clark and the Main South Neighborhood

Clark University is a proud member of the Main South neighborhood, a former manufacturing hub that’s now home to family-run restaurants and businesses, schools, parks, and community organizations. Students, faculty, and staff live, shop, eat, play, work, and volunteer here as they embrace the Main South spirit.

Over the years, the University Park Partnership and the Main South Community Development Corporation, in tandem with other city and community partners, have worked to help this storied Worcester neighborhood emerge from its industrial past to shape a vital present and to plan for an exciting future.

History of Main South

Main South’s beginnings can be traced to the late 1840s when real estate developer Eli Thayer bought the pastures along south Main Street in anticipation of rapid growth in Worcester. Thayer was an anti-slavery activist, and he sold off his land without developing it to pay for plans to establish Yankee strongholds in states bordering the South.

From the 1840s, Main South grew slowly, reaching the area around Clark University in the 1880s and 1890s, when Jonas Clark purchased the first piece of land for the campus that bears his name. This gradual expansion left Main South with an eclectic blend of architectural styles representing different historical periods. By 1890, Main South developed into a neighborhood of major industry, commercial establishments, and hundreds of new multi-unit housing structures.

The neighborhood thrived until the 1950s, when it began experiencing economic decline similar to that occurring in other New England towns with industrial bases whose residents moved to the suburbs.

Much of the neighborhood’s physical structure was determined prior to the end of the 19th century. Today, splendid Victorian structures, many of them renovated, coexist with traditional three-deckers to house a diverse mix of people.

In recent years, Main South has shown significant momentum through public and private investment, and through its sturdy partnership with Clark University.


How Clark and Main South Intertwine

Campus Square

Clark’s Campus Square, known by students, faculty, and staff as “Red Square,” is home to many of the activities offered during Clark’s free summer recreation program for children in the neighborhood.

Thanks to generous community grants and successful management by Clark and the Main South Community Development Center, the eight-week recreation program has been offered free of charge to the children of Worcester’s Main South neighborhood since 1996.

Clark faculty and students work alongside neighborhood colleagues as counselors. Children enjoy outdoor and indoor recreational activities, including sports, arts and crafts, the computer lab, and swimming and water safety lessons in the University’s pool.

Granger Fields and Dolan Field House

The Granger Fields on Beaver Street, just west of Clark’s campus, include Dolan Field House; soccer/lacrosse, field hockey, and baseball fields; and the Corash Tennis Courts.

When not in use by Clark’s Division III teams or intramural sports programs, the fields are available to the neighborhood schools for their athletic programs.

Kilby-Gardner-Hammond Revitalization Project

North of the Clark campus at Kilby, Gardner, and Hammond streets is the site of the University Park Partnership’s Kilby-Gardner-Hammond Revitalization Project.

Construction was completed in 2013. Clark funded the athletic field construction, and the Boys and Girls Club funded construction of its new facility. The project is a partnership of UPP’s community service arm, the Main South Community Development Corporation, Clark University, and the Boys and Girls Club of Worcester. It includes:

  • A Boys and Girls Club building that accommodates 400 children and serves up to 5,000 youths
  • An athletic field used by Clark’s teams as well as the children at the Boys and Girls Club
  • A gymnasium
  • A learning center
  • An Olympic-size swimming pool
  • Renovated and affordable housing managed and/or offered by the Main South Community Development Corporation

The club provides opportunities to bring Clark students and athletes together with the neighborhood children. Clark athletes tutor and run activities at the club, and the children use Clark’s athletics field when not in use by the intercollegiate and intramural athletic programs.

St. Peter’s Basketball League

Located across the street from Clark’s campus on Main Street, St. Peter’s Catholic Church is an active member of the University Park Partnership.

Among the church’s community activities is a summer basketball league. Neighborhood children who join the league play basketball in Clark’s Kneller Athletic Center and are coached by Clark athletes.

Main Street and Park Avenue are Clark University’s commercial areas. Clark students, faculty, staff, and their Main South neighbors enjoy restaurants and shops within walking distance of campus.

Thanks to the University Park Partnership’s commitment to enhancing commerce in the area, the Main South Community Development Corporation has helped administer loans to many neighborhood businesses. The CDC also funded the updating of several blocks of Main Street storefronts.

Harrington House: Home of Clark’s President

Home to the Clark president, the Francis A. Harrington House is located on Woodland Street, a historic area lined with beautiful Victorian houses.

The University Park Partnership aims to improve the quality of life in Worcester’s Main South neighborhood by encouraging more homeownership and a sense of community. The Clark president lives side by side with Main South neighbors.

Faculty and Staff Housing

In addition to Clark’s president, many Clark faculty and staff live in the Main South neighborhood. As part of the University Park Partnership’s neighborhood revitalization plan, Clark employees may purchase homes in the neighborhood and receive financial assistance for the first five years of ownership.

Affordable Housing: the Beacon-Oread Revitalization Project

One of the UPP’s success stories is the Beacon-Oread Street Revitalization Project, located a few miles from campus.

The Main South Community Development Corporation (CDC) administers and manages the project, targeting a one-block area east of Clark’s campus on Beacon and Oread streets. The CDC renovated several multiple-family houses to provide affordable rental properties for neighborhood residents.

University Park Campus School

Just west of Clark’s campus on Freeland Street is the University Park Campus School (UPCS), a neighborhood school for 7th to 12th graders created through the University Park Partnership in 1997.

The flagship school was founded with the mission to provide neighborhood children with a high-quality education.

Clark offers four years of free tuition to UPCS students and other neighborhood public-school students who excel at their studies and meet the University’s admissions requirements.

Together, UPCS, Clark’s Adam Institute for Urban Teaching and School Practice, and the Worcester Education Partnership collaborate to:

  • Develop curriculum for UPCS.
  • Provide enrichment programs and homework support for UPCS students.
  • Provide UPCS teachers with ongoing teacher training and enrichment at Clark.
  • Provide teaching opportunities for Clark faculty and graduate students in Clark’s urban education program. Many go on to work at UPCS as full-time teachers.
  • Provide opportunities for UPCS students to take college-level courses at Clark.