$400K EPA grant will jump-start plan.


Byline: Bronislaus B. Kush

WORCESTER - The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has awarded a $400,000 brownfields cleanup grant that will jump-start a plan to redevelop the former Worcester Vocational High School campus at Wheaton Square into a 75-unit housing complex.

The conversion of the school into housing is part of the ongoing Gateway Park project, an effort by the Worcester Business Development Corp., Worcester Polytechnic Institute, and the city to transform 11 acres of highly contaminated land into space for life science and high-technology companies.

To date, $90 million has been invested in the park, which lies on the northern fringe of downtown and along Grove Street.

"The significance of this site cannot be overstated. ... This property is the primary focal point for those entering our downtown commercial business district, so what we build here matters very much," said U.S. Rep. James P. McGovern, D-Worcester, who is credited by project officials for securing the money.

The announcement of the grant was made by federal and local officials in the school's old welding shop, which is still filled with lockers, tools and machinery.

Ira W. Leighton, acting EPA regional administrator, said the money will be used to cleanse 450 yards of soil on the site that are contaminated by arsenic and petroleum.

Mr. McGovern said the money is also expected to leverage another $17.5 million for the housing project, including historic tax credits, housing subsidies, and private funds.

"By any standard, that is a very good rate of return and one that we should all seek to capitalize on as this project moves forward," he said.

Total cost estimates for the...

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