May 22, 2019

Planned autism school backs out of $20M Lincoln Square project

Photo | TMS Aerial Solutions
The former Lincoln Square Boys Club is back on the rental market.

The new owner of the former Lincoln Square Boys Club in Worcester is now looking for a new tenant after a school for children with autism has backed out of the project.

WinnCompanies, developer of the Voke Lofts, Canal Lofts and other residential buildings in Worcester, told WBJ the Summit Academy has indicated it needs more time before it moves from its current location on Jamesbury Street.

Now, with the aging building in dire need of repair, the firm is marketing the space to other tenants before the 104-year-old building becomes too costly to repair and renovate.

Michael O'Brien, executive vice president of WinnCos. and former Worcester city manager, said Summit Academy was slated to occupy the entire 48,000-square-foot building, but decided last week to hold off on a move for at least another year before signing a lease.

"They need some additional time to prepare for this big step," O'Brien said, adding the door is still open for the academy if a new tenant doesn't step in.

Summit Academy could not be reached for comment.

In a statement, City Manager Edward Augustus said the building, vacant since 2007, remains a prime candidate for redevelopment in a key gateway to Worcester.

"It's encouraging that the property has been sold and is now on the tax rolls," Augustus said. "We look forward to working with Winn on the next viable project for the building."

WinnCos. had been working with the school since last fall to redevelop the property. That included a $300,000 sale of the building from the city to the company that closed May 3.

The firm has already reached out to other potential tenants previously expressing interest, including commercial offices, biotech firms, local colleges, retailers and restaurateurs.

In previous years, those type of projects never moved forward and the building has sat vacant for years as nearly all of those tenants had a few unanswered questions: How much would the project cost, and how long will it take?

Thanks to the preliminary work and permitting done for the Summit Academy project, most of those questions have been answered, O'Brien said.

The redevelopment for the school was slated to cost $20 million, including $13 million for core and shell construction, building systems and bringing the building up to code. Another $7 million would outfit the building specially for the school.

Any project would take at least a year, O'Brien said.

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