Biotech Park Planned for Historic Boston Site

The creation of a biomanufacturing facility is likely to solidify Worcester’s status as a burgeoning biotech hub.

By Barbra Murray, Contributing Editor

Massachusetts Lt. Gov. Karyn Polito announcing plans for the new development
Massachusetts Lt. Gov. Karyn Polito announcing plans for the new development

Boston—Plans for the redevelopment of the former Worcester State Hospital Campus in Worcester, Mass., take a big leap forward with the State of Massachusetts’ selection of the Worcester Business Development Corp. to spearhead the project. A total of 44 acres of land located in the Greater Boston area will now be transformed into a 500,000-square-foot biomanufacturing property.

The State’s re-envisioning of the former hospital site is part of its ongoing Open for Business Initiative, which targets underutilized state assets for redevelopment. “Transforming this unused property into a biomanufacturing park is exactly the type of project we envisioned when we launched the Open for Business initiative,” Lieutenant Governor Karyn Polito said in a prepared statement.

It’s a project that will replace the site’s troubled past with a bright future; the new biotechnology park will bring new life to a property that once represented a sad period in the history of mental health in the U.S. Originally developed in 1832, the Worcester State Hospital was first known as the State Lunatic Hospital before a series of name changes—State Lunatic Hospital at Worcester, Worcester Lunatic Hospital and Worcester Insane Hospital—that finally ended in 1909 when the complex was renamed Worcester State Hospital, according to state records. The hospital officially shuttered in 1991; however, a few buildings remain on the sprawling site and are listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

The creation of a biomanufacturing destination is fitting, given Worcester’s status as a burgeoning biotech hub. As noted on the official website of the city of Worcester, the city’s notable concentration of intellectual capital and proximity to top medical facilities and teaching hospitals—along with a favorable business environment—has helped position Worcester as an internationally recognized hub for biotech and life sciences R&D. Demand for suitable space in the city is on the upswing for another reason: rental rates.

“I have been seeing a continuous cross-migration in the Cambridge market, where small companies are being priced out and larger companies are moving in,” Markell Blount, an assistant vice president with NAI Hunneman, said in an interview published on the commercial real estate services firm’s monthly blog in April. “There’s virtually no space available in Cambridge, so many of these smaller companies are looking for space in the nearby suburbs like Waltham and Lexington, and some are even heading west to the Worcester area.”

When all is said and done, Worcester’s new biomanufacturing facility will have the potential to create more than 500 high-paying positions in the Central Massachusetts area.