WORCESTER – After nearly five years, there have been many challenges, including millions of dollars in site work, and, most recently, months of delays due to the pandemic coronavirus, 100 Wall St., a 72-unit housing development on the site of what are the city’s most popular restaurants and nightpot, coming soon.
El Morocco, a landmark Worcester owned by the Aboody family, originated in 1943 with a three-decker at 73 Wall St., serving Middle Eastern cuisine and a popular live jazz venue and hang-night hangout. celebrity. In 1977, “The El” moved down the street to a larger and more peaceful facility on 100 Wall St., where the new apartment building was located, and the city was not noticed for nearly two decades.
“What we liked about the site was that it was an iconic Worcester site,”; Robert Branca, president of the Branded Realty Group, said in an interview on the rooftop of 100 Wall St., which, like most apartment buildings , offers a panoramic view of the city
Of the 72 market-rate apartments, 16 have one bedroom and the remaining two bedrooms.
New owners arrived in El Morocco in the mid-1990s. A nightclub opened the building in January 2000, but closed a few months later.
For more than 15 years, the former restaurant site has been sitting vacant, covered with graffiti and littering. The life of 100 apartments on Wall St brings back the location.
“That area has been vacant for years and it was a real ruin at the end of the neighborhood,” District 2 City Councilor Candy Mero-Carlson said. “When that project came up it was a great thing because it cleaned up the neighborhood, and it really put it together. Another, biggest piece of it was how much we needed housing in the city, so it was great to see it happening for us. . “
In 2015, Branca, whose previous Worcester redevelopment projects included Harrington Corner, purchased a 1.8-acre site at 100 Wall St. in the amount of $ 850,000. He bought abutting land on both sides in 2016.
A tax increment exemption (TIE) plan with the city provided Branded Realty with a 70% real estate tax exemption over a 15-year period. A TIE is used for residency projects under the state Housing Incentive Program.
“It’s to create market-rate units in enterprise zone areas like this one,” Branca said, “because they want to get more mixed income in this area. We figured if we would put it here, that will be a giant catalyst.The city agrees with us so why are they working with us in tax.Part of our investment intention in this area is to change this neighborhood, which I think we’ve done it. “
Next door to 100 Wall St., Branded Realty starved and arranged a four-decker, featuring enclosed porches and a patio.
Another developer is planning a smaller apartment project for the site at 100 Wall St. before Branca stepped in five years ago. Among the issues he faced were a deteriorating wall maintenance and a parking lot full of granite ledge.
“We can’t explode because of power lines and housing,” Branca said. “We had to hammer it with hydraulic hammers on a lot of diggers. It took us two years to get the work done on site.”
Inside the four-story building, finishing work continued on the generous size of the apartments.
The pandemic returned to the project by nearly four months and delayed delivery of the floor and cabinets, said Branca business partner and construction director Matt Doyle.
The units of one bedroom are between 800 and 840 square square, and the units of two bedrooms are between 1,100 and 1,300 square square.
As a commitment to site history, the unit layouts are named “El,” the “Bette” (as in Midler), and the “Sinatra” (as in Frank).
Rents range from $ 1,400-1,950 per month. Each unit has a washer and dryer, cable TV and internet. Pocket doors that open in a spacious pantry outside the kitchen are a nice touch. A good heating system and no key access throughout the building are other features. Underground garage parking is available at an additional cost. Outdoor parking is free.
“Every inch is done, we touch every inch,” Doyle said, “which we think is the right way to do things because everything will take longer when it’s done right.”
The apartments are scheduled to be open for rent on November 1. The website, 100WallStreet.com, accepts applications.
“We had a lot of challenges,” Branca said. “Nice to see the finish line.”
Branca hopes the quality of the building finish and durable materials will “lend to the people who stay,” he said. “We’re trying to get (the residents) to stay for a few years. That also helps the neighborhood, we think.”
A short walk down Wall St. the Friendly House and Mare E Monti Trattoria, Grafton Hill neighborhood mainstays, and plans to renovate nearby Shale St. Playground.
“I think (100 Wall St.) will actually raise that neighborhood by a tremendous amount,” Mero-Carlson said. “To have more families in the neighborhood, more kids in the neighborhood, obviously it will bring more dollars into the neighborhood. All of that is a really good thing for any neighborhood.
“It was a long time before the project was completed,” Mero-Carlson said, “but it was a huge project on the site; no one really understood the size of it. The neighborhood, they were excited to see (100 Wall St.) coming online because of the place. that has been in terrible shape for a long time, so it’s great to see that happen. “
From the roof of 100 Wall St., Branca saw another of his projects in Worcester, 72 Shrewsbury St., formerly owned by Edward Buick’s dealer where Volturno and Wormtown Brewery, among others. businesses, are now operating.
The area where the original El Morocco stood is also located across the street. The building collapsed in 2003 and trees now cover the area.
Before he died in 2016, Paul “Butchie” Aboody Jr., one of the founders of El Morocco Paul and Helen Aboody had nine children, gave Doyle a folder containing photos of the formation of the new El .
“It was a really cool thing that happened right here,” Doyle said.
Branca also has pictures from the Aboody family of Al Pacino, Count Basie, Leonard Nimoy and others who are having fun with old El. He plans to use some of these on the100WallStreet.com to pay homage to the site’s emerging history.
“We think it will be positive for Worcester,” Branca said. “We definitely think this will be positive for Grafton Hill. Worcester is on a rising track, definitely pre-COVID. Post-COVID, there will be challenges like everyone else, but I think Worcester is well positioned, so it will not have as bad an effect on it as it did in some other Gateway cities. “