About

Worcester Now | Next

Worcester Now | Next is an eighteen-month-long citywide planning process that will engage the community in exploring issues such as such as land use, housing, economic opportunity, natural and cultural resources, open space and recreation, services and facilities, and transportation and mobility, among others.

The project will generate a long-range plan that knits together past, present, and future initiatives covering the entire city, from downtown to its dozens of neighborhoods. The plan will provide a coordinated roadmap for the future development and evolution of the city, and will establish a framework for more detailed studies down the road, but is not meant to be a granular study of every issue.

Join us in developing a citywide plan that focuses on inclusion, integrity, innovation as core values guiding growth and change in the city. 

Learn more below about the process and how to get involved.

Why Plan Now?

With the current development momentum in the City of Worcester, there is an important opportunity to assess the City’s overarching goals and vision, and provide a guide for long-term growth and municipal policy. Since Worcester’s last comprehensive planning effort in 1987, the City and its partners have undertaken numerous topic-specific planning efforts, such as the City of Worcester Strategic Plan (2020), Green Worcester Plan (2021), A Regional Housing & Economic Study (2019), the Becoming Worcester Cultural Plan (2019), the Worcester Public Schools Strategic Plan (2018), and the Greater Worcester Community Health Improvement Plan (2016), among others.  Now is the moment to integrate all of the planning work done to date into a unified framework. 

Worcester Now | Next will build on past successes, connect current existing planning initiatives, and integrate a present-day vision from the community into a comprehensive framework to guide growth and change in the City for the next 30 years. 

Timeline and Process

Phase 1: Listen, Learn, Test

The first phase of the planning process will focus on learning about neighborhood and citywide opportunities and needs, exploring previous studies, validating data, and testing initial future scenarios. To reach as many community members as possible, outreach and engagement activities will include a mix of online tools, citywide public workshops, and a series of virtual and in-person meetings tailored to specific neighborhood needs.

  • Spring Citywide Survey: March – May 2022
    Community members are encouraged to participate in the Spring Citywide Survey on the homepage of this website to help the planning team understand what issues and opportunities exist in the city.
  • Public Visioning Workshop: June 2022
    Community members are encouraged to attend the first public workshop in June 2022. The planning team will share what they have learned about the City’s needs and opportunities from the first survey and initial analysis, and lead an interactive activity where community members will come together to help articulate a vision for the future of Worcester. Details on time and location will be announced.
  • Summer Listening Tour: June–August 2022
    The planning team will take public engagement on tour this summer, with Listening Tour stops in neighborhoods around the city. The Listening Tour will enable community members to engage in the planning process in their neighborhoods and communities. Activities are expected to include virtual meetings, focus groups, among other events tailored to specific neighborhood needs.

Phase 2: Analyze, Revise, Document

The second phase includes working with the community to evaluate future visions and prioritize actions and recommendations. The planning team will integrate and continue to gather comments, ideas, and reactions from as many members of the community as possible to refine the final plan and develop an achievable and implementable action plan. 

  • Fall Citywide Survey: October – December 2022 A second survey in late 2022 will help the planning team better understand community priorities, building on what we learn throughout the Phase 1 process, and serves as another touch point for understanding issues in the city.
  • Public Draft Plan Workshop: February 2023
    Community members are encouraged to attend the final public workshop in January 2023 to review and engage with draft work to date, before final report production begins. More details on the process, time and location will be announced.
  • Winter Listening Tour: January–March 2023
    A second Listening Tour will take place in early 2023 to engage community members in the planning process in their neighborhoods, and provide an opportunity to review and engage with draft work to date before final report production begins. Activities include virtual meetings, focus groups, among other events tailored to specific neighborhood needs.

Topics

The Worcester Now | Next Citywide Plan will explore topics such as land use, housing, economic opportunity, natural and cultural resources, open space and recreation, services and facilities, and transportation and mobility.

Over the last decade, the City of Worcester has conducted many topic-specific plans such as the Green Worcester Plan (2021), the Becoming Worcester Cultural Plan (2019), the Worcester Public Schools Strategic Plan (2018), and the Greater Worcester Community Health Improvement Plan (2016), among others. 

The Now | Next plan will expand upon and align with these previous planning efforts, weaving them together with new analysis and community input to create an integrated framework plan that sets the city up to conduct further studies that go into more detail on specific topics or focus on smaller areas. 

Topic-Specific Working Groups

These topic-specific working groups will each meet two times throughout the planning process to advise on aspects of the plan that relate to their area of expertise. The work of each working group will naturally inform other topics as well (for example, discussions from the Transportation & Mobility group may additional relate to land use, economic development, public health or other topics). All working groups will approach their respective topics with a lens of equity and resilience. 

Working group members will be be topic area experts able to advise and support the consultant team on more technical aspects of the plan analysis and recommendation development. More specifically the planning team will count on working group members to:

  • Advise on key issues that the plan should address
  • Assist with coordination and alignment with existing policies as well as ongoing or future projects and initiatives
  • Provide constructive feedback on draft recommendations

Working Group meetings will be held as videoconferences on Zoom and will be open to the public to attend and comment during the designated public comment period. In the spirit of transparency, the meetings will be recorded and posted along with presentation slides on the Now | Next website after each Working Group meeting here.

Housing Working Group

This group will explore issues related to Worcester’s local housing conditions and future needs, and provide feedback on housing policies and programs draft recommendations. 

Discussion topics will include current housing conditions and future needs, housing affordability and accessibility, local and regional trends, land use and zoning policy and more.

Transportation & Mobility Working Group

This group will explore issues related to ​​local transportation needs in coordination with regional and state transportation plans, and provide feedback on transportation and mobility draft recommendations.

Discussion topics will include local transportation needs, current transportation networks such as sidewalks, bikeways, and public transit, street design, accessibility and equity, land use and zoning policy and more. 

Economic Opportunity Working Group

This group will explore issues related to Worcester’s economic opportunities, challenges and goals, and provide feedback on economic development draft recommendations.

Discussion topics will include job creation, small business, role in the regional economy, economic development strategies for equity and resilience, land use and zoning policy and more.

Advisory Committee

The Advisory Committee will serve as a sounding board for the planning team to test and gain feedback on the comprehensive plan content, and expand public outreach throughout the Worcester Now | Next planning process. This selected group of advisors will be a key resource for the planning team, but will not have a role in voting on outcomes.

Advisory Committee meetings will not be open to the public and will not be recorded for public viewing. In the spirit of transparency, the presentation slides and summary notes will be uploaded to the Now | Next website after each Advisory Committee meeting here

Members
  • Mark Borenstein, Bowditch & Dewey, LLP, Land Use Attorney, Worcester Resident
  • Roberta Brien, Worcester Business Development Corp (WBDC), Vice President of Projects
  • Lynn Cheney, Business owner, Maker to Main
  • Germán Chiriboga, UMass Chan Medical School, Program Director, Worcester Resident
  • Alyssa Corazzini, Worcester Resident
  • Amanda Gregoire, Mass Development, Vice President of Real Estate Services, Worcester Resident
  • Sujatha Krishnan, Central Massachusetts Regional Planning Commission (CMRPC), Deputy Director
  • Albert LaValley, Planning Board Chair, Worcester Resident
  • Joyce Mandell, Resident, Urban Planning Partnership
  • Amie Shei, The Health Foundation of Central Massachusetts, President and CEO
  • Casey Starr, Main South CDC, Director of Community Initiatives, Worcester Resident
  • Suzanne Wood, UMass Chan Medical School, Sustainability Manager
  • Ulysses Youngblood, Business owner, Major Bloom, Worcester Resident

Planning Team

The City has selected Utile, an urban planning and design firm based in Boston, to lead development of Worcester Now | Next. Utile’s team additionally includes HR&A & Advisors for economic development, Nelson\Nygaard for transportation planning, Brown, Richardson + Rowe for open space and recreation strategy, Rivera Consulting for equity and engagement, and Guillermo Creamer as the local Community Organizer. You can get in touch with Guillermo via email at nownext@utiledesign.com.

Worcester Now | Next will be led by the City’s Planning & Regulatory Services Division, and the Worcester Planning Board will review progress and provide guidance at major milestones.

Collectively, the City, consultant team, and community members will provide a wealth of experience, technical expertise, and local knowledge to guide development of the Worcester Now | Next plan.

More questions? See the FAQ.


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