Approaching the Worcester Memorial Auditorium from the east this week, you'll be greeted by an unfamiliar sight - a dark blue signpost welcoming you to the "Salisbury District" in capital letters. This wayfinding sign is among the first to be installed throughout the city as part of what MassLive News describes as a months-long process "to add public art and a sense of identity to some of Worcester's neighborhoods and popular locations." Artwork will eventually be incorporated to the base of the signs. In addition to the marker in Lincoln Square, the City so far has installed three others on Shrewsbury Street, Washington Square, and MLK Jr. Boulevard. The total number of wayfinders has yet to be disclosed.
The wayfinder in Lincoln Square will help to establish the future renovated Aud as the gateway between Worcester's downtown and the cultural and educational attractions immediately to the north. The marker publicly identifies a blighted corner of the city as the southeastern edge of the Salisbury Cultural District. The area includes many institutions that already invigorate both the neighborhood and the city as a whole, and which the Aud project is intended to complement. The next time you visit Worcester, make sure to stop by any of the Salisbury Cultural District's sites:
Following months of negotiations, the Architectural Heritage Foundation and the City of Worcester have executed a Land Disposition Agreement (LDA) for the Worcester Memorial Auditorium. Entering into this cooperative site control arrangement marks the completion of the first stage of last June's purchase agreement between AHF and the City. The LDA will allow AHF to advance the project to the predevelopment phase, which will entail designing modest and historically appropriate interventions to make the building handicapped accessible by contemporary standards. Our immediate next steps are to enter into consultation with Worcester's historical community, the Massachusetts Historical Commission, and the National Park Service. We are grateful to the City of Worcester for its support and look forward to continuing to work together to preserve and revitalize the Aud for communities in the city and beyond.
Jason Baker is a fan of the Worcester Memorial Auditorium - so much so that he has made two trips to document the building. On December 4, the local photographer and his colleague, Zach Menard, spent an hour exploring the Aud for the second time, capturing striking images of its chambers and corridors. He specializes in historic buildings, particularly those that are vacant or deteriorating. His goal is to create a visual record of structures at risk of demolition and to inspire viewers to learn more about the sites. "I feel like I'm keeping memories alive," Baker said in a recent Boston Globe article.
In addition to the Aud, Baker has photographed another AHF adaptive reuse project, the Charles River Speedway in Boston. AHF is grateful for his efforts to draw attention to these and other historic buildings across New England.
That esports is upending the entertainment world and appearing in college curricula is established. But high school?
The Washington Post reports that high schools in nine states, including Massachusetts, Connecticut, and Rhode Island, have officially added esports to their athletics programs. Students train together and compete against teams across the country as they would in conventional athletics - but because esports is web-based, no travel is necessary. Participation opens the possibility of earning a college esports scholarship, but also teaches strategic thinking, teamwork, and sportsmanship, and enables students from across the social spectrum to get to know each other.
As the world of high-tech entertainment grows, one thing seems certain: esports will play an increasingly important role in the coming years. And the Aud can be a resource for those who want in.
Read the full article here: https://www.washingtonpost.com/local/coming-to-a-high-school-near-you-the-brave-new-world-of-esports/2019/07/22/331919d2-aca3-11e9-bc5c-e73b603e7f38_story.html?noredirect=on&utm_term=.1046ad1cf8d3
"Nothing but a Win for the City:" Worcester City Council Economic Development Committee Endorses Aud Proposal
The Worcester City Council Economic Development Committee has endorsed the Architectural Heritage Foundation's redevelopment plans for the Worcester Memorial Auditorium. The Committee's support facilitates the execution of a Land Disposition Agreement between AHF and the City later this month, paving the way for the building's eventual sale to AHF or its subsidiary two years from now.
Following a presentation yesterday evening by AHF's development team, Councilor and committee chair Candy Mero-Carlson expressed enthusiasm for reactivating the Aud as an educational, cultural, and entrepreneurial center for digital technology. "This is a pretty exciting night for the city of Worcester," she remarked. "This building has been looked at, re-looked and re-looked at again. We wanted to do everything we could to save it. Working with the colleges on this, this is nothing but a win for the city. I'm very happy to move this forward."
Councilor-at-Large Gary Rosen posed several questions about district parking needs and potential, unanticipated hurdles to the project before commenting, "This building, its contents, its history are all in wonderful hands. This is exciting and it's a great project. I support it one hundred percent."
Alan Ritacco, Dean of Becker College's School of Design and Technology, attended the meeting and offered insight into the redeveloped Aud's future impact on the city: "There isn't another building like this in New England. This will be a first and put Worcester on the map."
For more information on AHF's plans for the Aud, visit the Vision page.
Read the Worcester Telegram and Gazette's article on the presentation here:
The Worcester Business Journal recently highlighted AHF's pending purchase agreement for the Worcester Memorial Auditorium in an article on recent investment in Lincoln Square. The Aud is one of three historic buildings in the square that are slated for redevelopment by Boston-based companies and organizations. The other two include the former Worcester County Courthouse - currently under construction to become a $58-million apartment project - and the old Lincoln Square Boys Club, potential educational, office, medical, or biotech space. The Journal describes the Aud as "arguably the most historic out of the three," and AHF's project as "the most ambitious."
Read the full article here: https://www.wbjournal.com/article/at-least-170-million-worth-of-redevelopment-projects-could-transform-lincoln-square?utm_source=Newsletter&utm_medium=email&utm_content=Three+Lincoln+Square+projects+%7C+Worcester+s+biotech+cluster&utm_campaign=Daily+061119
Following the announcement in the Worcester Telegram of the pending purchase agreement between the City of Worcester and the Architectural Heritage Foundation for the Aud, Worcester media outlets picked up the story. Read the articles below from the Worcester Business Journal and MassLive, and listen to an interview with Worcester City Manager Ed Augustus on Talk of the Commonwealth:
Worcester Business Journal: https://www.wbjournal.com/article/boston-architecture-firm-plans-94m-digital-arts-renovation-of-worcester-memorial-auditorium
Talk of the Commonwealth: https://soundcloud.com/talkofthecommonwealth/city-manager-ed-augustus-tells-us-about-selling-the-aud
This week, Worcester City Manager Ed Augustus offered his stamp of approval for the future sale of the Worcester Memorial Auditorium to the Architectural Heritage Foundation. His decision came four months after AHF submitted a final report to the City outlining a plan to redevelop the building as a cutting-edge educational and cultural center for for digital innovation, entertainment, entrepreneurship, and the arts. A City Council vote on the future sale authorization is slated for Tuesday, May 28.
The agreement gives AHF two years to complete schematic designs of the project, secure Tier II and Tier III funding, and identify a development partner and building operator before closing. Under a future sales contract, AHF would purchase the Aud for $450,000, or $6 per square foot, facilitating what is expected to be a $94 million redevelopment. The project would preserve the exterior facades, Memorial hall, lobby, Shrine of the Immortal murals, and Kimball pipe organ, while outfitting other interior spaces for digital innovation, competitive gaming, performance, and IMAX-like uses.
AHF is excited to continue to work with the City of Worcester on rehabilitating the Aud. We are delighted by the City’s engagement with the project and commitment to the ongoing revitalization of Lincoln Square. Worcester is widely recognized as a leader in technological innovation and education, and the Aud presents an excellent opportunity to connect an historically meaningful building to 21st-century economic opportunities. We look forward to continuing our relationship with the City and the Worcester community to bring this magnificent building back into public use.
Read the Worcester Telegram's coverage here: https://www.telegram.com/news/20190523/worcester-agrees-to-sell-worcester-memorial-auditorium-to-architectural-heritage-foundation
Worcester Memorial Auditorium and Architectural Heritage Foundation Featured in the Telegram and Gazette
On May 14, the Worcester Telegram and Gazette published an article on the Architectural Heritage Foundation's discussions with the City of Worcester regarding the Aud. The Telegram states that City Manager Ed Augustus plans to submit a recommendation for the building's future to the City Council on May 28.
Read the full story here: https://www.telegram.com/news/20190514/augustus-set-to-unveil-worcester-memorial-auditorium-recommendation
The Worcester Memorial Auditorium is often seen as a white elephant, but across the Atlantic, another adaptive reuse project is demonstrating the rewards of rehabilitating a monumental historic treasure. Château de Gudanes is an eighteenth-century palatial mansion nestled in the Pyrenees, and it has seen better days. Built around 1745 on the site of a 13th-century castle, it was the luxurious residence of several generations of French nobles and members of the bourgeoisie. Confiscated during the French Revolution, pillaged four decades later by "Demoiselles" (local residents protesting aristocratic forestry laws), and used as a children's summer camp after WWII, the Château bears witness to 260 years of French history. In the 1990s, plans to redevelop the building as a luxury hotel fell through when the government designated the site as a Class 1 Historic Monument subject to strict restoration regulations. Exposed to the elements and without a caretaker, Château de Gudanes deteriorated.
Fortunately, what appeared to be a preservation failure story may be on its way to a fairy-tale ending. The Château spent four years on the real estate market before a young Australian discovered it online in 2011. His parents. Karina and Craig Waters, were intrigued and traveled to France to view the property. Access to the building's interior was forbidden: part of the roof had collapsed, and the consequent water damage and mold had destroyed most of the 93 rooms. Nevertheless, the Waterses immediately fell in love with the crumbling neoclassical palace and its overgrown grounds, framed against steep limestone cliffs. They purchased the property and began renovations in 2013.
Since then, the Château has made a slow, but steady recovery. The Waterses have overcome red tape, hired caretakers, and enlisted an army of professionals, locals, and the just plain curious to rehabilitate the building. They intend to accomplish the work as efficiently and sustainably as possible by recycling original features and using locally sourced materials, such as downed wood from the Château parc. Already they have restored floors and walls that had caved in, repainted frescoes, installed hand-made furnishings in stabilized rooms, and seeded the grounds with wildflowers. Nine bedrooms and two kitchens have been rehabilitated and some underfloor heating installed. Locals have shared their knowledge and skills with the restoration team, including a lady who spent a day in the kitchen preparing dishes her grandmother used to make as Château chef. In fact, the Waterses have opened the property during summer to visitors, who are welcome to stay for up to a week as long as they register for a workshop (topics include patisserie baking and fresco restoration) help with the rehabilitation or cooking, and are willing to navigate the building at night by candlelight (all proceeds facilitate the preservation efforts). The couple summed up their vision for the Château on their website:
Our aim is to tread lightly and gently - to preserve the atmosphere and authenticity of the Chateau and region as much as possible. She will be renovated but her rawness, wear and history will not be erased, but instead integrated...The Chateau won’t be a pretentious museum piece, but rather, a place to visit, reconnect with the earth and people, and restore the senses, just like she herself has been restored. It won’t be about overcrowding the walls with paintings or overflowing the floors with furnishings, but will be relatively minimalistic - a place to simply rest, breathe and enjoy the calm.
Château de Gudanes has a long way to go before it is fully restored, but in the meantime, it remains an inspiration to preservationists like AHF who are pursuing seemingly impossible projects. Though the Aud is worlds away from this palace in the Pyrenees, it shares certain characteristics: a rich history, astounding architecture, and a passionate local community. If the Château de Gudanes - a behemoth tucked away in a remote, mountainous enclave - can be rehabilitated, then surely the Aud - prominently located in a busy district of Worcester - can, too!
Visit the Château de Gudanes website: https://www.chateaugudanes.com/
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