written by Amanda Roberge and originally published in the Worcester Telegram & Gazette on 8/23/13
Westborough -- The Arcade Building, a fixture in Westborough, has been a town landmark for more than 100 years. Having been built in the late 1800's to replace the town's meetinghouse, it has housed a number of retail businesses, served as a rooming house and has seen countless town residents walk through its doors.
But the building is getting a face-lift, with a handful of small apartments being developed in the structure's upper floors and the first-floor retail businesses gaining wheelchair access in the process.
With Stonegate Group, LLC, a Natick-based real estate development company at the helm, the improvements should be a welcome site for those who spend time in the area.
According to George Barrette, vice chairman of the Board of Selectmen, the building had fallen into disrepair over the past couple of decades and was becoming something of an eyesore for the people in town.
"(Stonegate) has really made a commitment to upgrade the building," he said, adding that the town has so far been very pleased with the work they are doing. "It's still going to be an old building but it will be a beautiful old building."
So far, the upgrades, particularly to the upstairs apartments, have been impressive, he said, with granite counter tops, high ceilings and hardwood floors.
"They are absolutely beautiful," said Bonnie Carreira, senior property manager for Stonegate, who added that two of the five units are currently occupied. The management team is actively looking for tenants for the other three spaces, and Ms. Carreira is confident that potential renters will be drawn to what is fast becoming a desirable spot for commuters.
"The apartments have a metropolitan fee, but they are right in Westborough," she said. "You have everything at your fingertips, right in the center of town, right near Route 495, but it's still a safe, small community."
The construction team has also power-washed the building, replaced and upgraded the windows and is in the process of adding fire escapes outside of the building.
But something was negotiated in the deal that will come as a distinct bonus to people in town is the addition of a sidewalk outside of the storefronts.
Mr. Barrette explained that the town was able to do this, essentially, by trading some town-owned land for some land now owned by Stonegate - giving them the leeway to build the mandated handicapped-access ramp and giving the town the ability to create a much-needed sidewalk.
"One of the things we are trying to do is make Westborough more walk-able," he explained.
Though the longstanding Piccadilly Pub is no longer there, many retail businesses keep shop. Notably, a cobbler on the first floor lends a bit of old-fashioned charm to the building.
Mr. Barrette said that one of the reasons the development of the building is so important to the downtown area is that it helps Westborough look toward its goal of keeping business in town and helping people enjoy a more pedestrian existence.
Residents of the apartments could potentially work and shop in the downtown area and be able to share a car- something that makes life a little greener for everyone.
Town Planner Jim Robbins said there was no opposition from town residents at the many meetings leading up to the present improvements.
"We are all pretty excited about it," added Mr. Barrette.