Fact Book: Doing Business in Central Massachusetts

Worcester Public Market in famous Kelley Square

Three years ago, when I first encountered the property at the corner of Harding and Green streets in Worcester's Canal District, it was nothing more than a dirt lot largely used for parking at nearby Crompton Place. In fact, it had been snowing that January day, so it was more of a mud-puddle lot than a dirt one. Everyone who was attending the formal business event along with me dragged some degree of messiness into the proceedings.

That property had been a empty lot since 2011 when its building was demolished and remained vacant after businessman Allen Fletcher purchased the property in 2014. Fletcher had grand plans for a mixed-use development, but in the years that followed, the property's main use was as the Crompton parking lot and a site for the weekly Canal District Farmers Market.

In 2017, though, as the turnaround in Worcester's economy was picking up steam, Fletcher broke ground on his vision: a $21-million, 70,000-square-foot development called Harding Green with apartments and a public market, similar to what is in Boston's Faneuil Hall.

In the year since that groundbreaking, the property still has seen its fair share of mud and dirt, but it comes as the construction crews are turning Fletcher's dream into reality. Today, you'll see the steel structure outline of the project set to debut next summer.

To prepare for that opening, Fletcher and his team have been recruiting local businesses to pedal their wares in the public market. In November, they launched a site outlining the market's vision and how businesses and people can be part of the effort now entitled, "Worcester Public Market in famous Kelley Square."
While others might call Kelley Square infamous (or even a nightmare) for its intricate web of six connecting streets with no traffic signal, Fletcher's love for the Canal District and its historical importance to the region's economy shines through the new Worcester Public Market website. Since the emerging neighborhood will soon be home to the $240-million development anchored by a stadium for the Worcester Red Sox move from Pawtucket in 2021 – along with a remade Kelley Square – Fletcher's development soon will capitalize on real economic momentum.

I can think of no better example of how the Central Massachusetts business community has changed in just a short few years than the transformation of the Harding Green property. What was once the mud you scraped off your shoe once you got to your actual destination is turning into a standout destination next to the region's most ambitious development.

— Brad Kane, Editor

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