Worcester Telegram & Gazette – September 30, 2020
Brand new shovels tossed the first scoops of dirt at the site of a $50 million building, part of The Reactory off Hospital Drive on Belmont Hill, Wednesday morning.
Worcester Business Development Corp. President and CEO Craig Blais, undeterred by the gray skies, called the groundbreaking, “a very exciting event for The Reactory, for Worcester, for Massachusetts and for the United States.”
The new building, the second on which construction is underway at the biomanufacturing park at the site of the former Worcester State Hospital campus, could be finished in as little as 18 months, Blais said.
There are three more sites at the park. Galaxy Life Sciences LLC has been named the master developer for the site in partnership with the WBDC and will build out the remaining parcels.
“In total, right now, that will be a total of 470,000 square feet,” Blais said, adding the building for which ground was broken on Wednesday will be 95,000 square feet and can house multiple tenants.
Lt. Gov. Karyn Polito, who Blais said was instrumental in getting the project off the ground, said the collaboration between Galaxy, the state, the WBDC and the city was what got the project done.
“One of the things that was really important on this project was to show and exhibit how a community, when it comes together and collaborates and works on the same page, can really make something impactful happen,” she said.
The endeavor was the first “Open for Business” project that takes public assets and transforms them into productive sites, Polito said.
Galaxy Life Sciences, founded by Michael O’Brien, principal owner of Galaxy Development, and Matthew Zicaro, owner of Zicaro Associates Inc., said they are excited about the site and for the future in Worcester.
Zicaro said Worcester is a “live, work, play city,” and developing The Reactory will draw people to the area as biopharma expands in Massachusetts.
Once built, the building will house strictly biomanufacturing.
“Essentially, the making of drugs,” Blais said. “The actual manufacturing of the drugs.”
Blais said drug manufacturing is the piece that has been missing from the city’s biosciences’ job creation.
“One tenant that they’re talking to … essentially will put the vaccine in the tube,” Blais said. “That could happen right here if they get that tenant.”
Mayor Joseph Petty praised the work of state Rep. James O’Day, D-Worcester, and Sen. Harriette Chandler, D-Worcester, for their work and said that without them, the project might never have gotten done.
He said development in old and developed cities like Worcester is, “really about redevelopment. It’s expensive and complex.”
He thanked Polito and Carol Gladstone, the commissioner of the Division of Capital Asset Management and Maintenance along with Timothy P. Murray, a former city mayor who is president and CEO of the Worcester Regional Chamber of Commerce.
City Manager Edward M. Augustus Jr. also lauded the work on The Reactory at the former state hospital campus.
“Behind this were literally hundreds, if not thousands of hours of meetings, documents passing back and forth, problems that needed to be solved, gaps that needed to be closed in order to get to this moment,” Augustus said, adding that Polito kept the group on task by assigning them homework after each meeting and imposing deadlines to keep the project on track.
Augustus and Petty said the project will create jobs and the land it sits on will now be on the tax rolls, creating more revenue to help improve the city.
The project has already brought changes to the campus. The clock tower from the former state hospital and the new recovery center will be all that remain of the old campus once all the work there is complete. Developers tried to save the former administration building but the $10 million price tag to simply bring it to code, coupled with the lack of handicapped access and the smaller square footage didn’t make the project worthwhile.
WuXi Biologics is building a $60 million, two-story, 107,000-square-foot building on approximately 7 acres in the biomanufacturing park. The company expects to employ 150 people at the site when it opens in 2022. The property was the Chinese company’s first location in the United States.