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WPI Journal - Spring 2000 - Rewriting a Poem in Stone
As executive director of the Worcester Redevelopment Authority , Michael Latka has helped bring about two of the cornerstones of the city's revitalization : Union Station , seen here , and the new Worcester Medical Center.
Three WPI alumni , John H. McCabe '68 , chairman of the WRA board of directors , Michael Latka
'71 , executive director of the WRA , and Cindy Blondin '92 ( M.S. ) , the WRA's assistant director of engineering , have been instrumental in restoring the station to its former glory.
...Latka holds a management degree from WPI and an M.B.A. from Western New England College and is a member of the Urban Land Institute , the American Institute of Certified Planners and the American Planning Association
.He was assistant city manager for development and director of the city manager's Office of Planning and Community Development before being appointed to his current post in 1991
Union Station is the focal point of a $1 billion economic development effort that includes a medical complex , a convention center , an outlet mall , and the Massachusetts Turnpike/Route 146 connection projects , says Latka
.The city needs Union Station to strengthen the success of these projects , facilitate the movement of people in and out of downtown , and increase community activity and pride..
As executive director , Latka
works with a six-member staff , under the oversight of the board of directors , to identify and implement urban renewal plans within Worcester and to secure funding for them.In recent years his
focus has been split between the four-year , $43 million Union Station restoration and the nearby $280 million Worcester Medical Center project.
A major project like Union Station or Worcester Medical Center requires you to utilize all of your academic and professional experience , says Latka
.Financial , engineering , planning and political skills are all stretched to the limit.But the satisfaction of restoring a historic structure or creating new opportunities for economic development where decadent and blighting influences have languished for years is indescribable.That defines public service for me..
Working out of WRA offices recently moved to the station , Blondin and Latka say they thrive in their jobs despite the pressures.
Now that the first phase of the renewal is complete , Latka
is concentrating on the financial partnership components of the complex form of historic tax credits through to the master developer agreement with Finard.Partnerships with the MBTA and Amtrak and leasing deals are in the works.
Michael S. Latka, AICP
Michael S. Latka, AICP
has over twenty-five years experience as a planning official and real estate development leader.From 1975 to 2000, he served in planning positions in the City of Worcester.Beginning as Director of Special Projects, he rose to Planning Director and Director of Community Development before earning the chief development position in the Administration, Assistant City Manager for Development.Mr. Latka also served as chairman of the Designer Selection Board.In 1992 he was appointed as the Executive Director of the Worcester Redevelopment Authority from which he retired after 25 years of accomplishment within the City.
accomplishments were successful master planning, code updates, grant preparation and administration and many open space and urban redevelopment projects.These include Brosnihan Square/Gateway / Urban system grants where he
worked with the Executive Office of Transportation to facilitate the MBTA Commuter Rail extension to Worcester; the Heritage State Park Program; Downtown Streetscape / Beautification Program; securing over $80 million in direct public funding awards from various grant applications that leveraged over $100 million of private investment.Projects of particular note include infrastructure improvements for the Worcester Airport Industrial Park and for the Massachusetts Biotech Park, expansion of two downtown parking garages and construction of a new 1,000 car garage, all aspects of the 360 million dollar public/private Medical City Urban Renewal Project on 20 acres of the Central Business District and the 34 million dollar historic renovation /preservation of the Union Station and construction of the new intermodal transportation center. He
is a skilled city planner, contracts administrator, grantsman and real estate expert.His experience includes a broad range of development operations such as project planning; designer selection and administration; land takings and tenant relocation; utility and railroad relocation and redevelopment; brownfield reuse and central business district renewal.
The public components of projects completed under his
leadership have values in several hundreds of millions and leveraged private investment exceeding that.
MBA, Western New England College
BS, Management Engineering, Worcester Polytechnic Institute
WRA Executive Director Michael Latka says he is prepared to open the station without Amtrak if necessary, adding that the railroad, which runs just two trains daily through Worcester, is not a major component of the station's financial health.The City of Worcester is currently exploring options for a compromise with the help of U.S. Rep.
The WRA board recently authorized WRA Executive Director Michael Latka
to prepare a report on the area under consideration for redevelopment.The report will have to show that properties in the project area are decadent and substandard. The WRA also wants to add the project, to be known as Franklin Science Park, to its Union Station Urban Renewal Plan in order to make it eligible for state and federal urban renewal money, and make it easier to take properties by eminent domain.In exchange, the WRA voted to remove the USURP designation from the area behind Union Station bounded by Franklin Street to the west and Madison Street to the south.The science park, which would be developed in phases over several years, would eventually take up about half of the 50-acre site.
Representatives of the Madison North Business Association, a group of Worcester business owners in the area roughly defined by Kelley Square, Union Station, Water and Green streets, recently called publicly for the WRA to rescind the designation of their neighborhood as decadent and blighted, because they say it is hurting their businesses.The designation, intended to help the WRA get state and federal funding for renewal in the area, is instead making it difficult to draw new businesses into the neighborhood, and keeping existing businesses from being able to expand.
WRA Executive Director Michael Latka
agency does not plan to attach a lien on the church.He
also expresses the view with regard to the Providence Street property that there are $ 50, 000 in assets served by that land..
WRA Executive Director Michael Latka
explains that once the authority hires a master developer for Union Station and Washington Square, the WRA will either pay a market-rate rent or share space with that master developer.Since last fall, the WRA has been in talks with Finard & Co.LLC in Burlington to make Finard the master developer of Union Station Plaza, which would include the station as well as the Washington Square area immediately around it.The four-month negotiating period was to have ended the third week of February, but the WRA board had previously extended it another month, to the third week of March.On another matter, no passenger trains can use Union Station for at least another year because, while the facility has a handicapped-accessible train platform, it is not long enough to satisfy state regulations.The WRA recently decided to seek a waiver of those regulations, maintaining that such a platform would be too costly to construct.
Worcester Redevelopment Authority (WRA) Director Michael Latka characterizes the hospital as a catalyst for private investment in the downtown area."The Medical Center Project has revitalized 24-acres of land, created new construction jobs and increased the City's tax revenue."One thousand construction workers have been employed during the last three years and an estimated 100 permanent jobs will be created.Latka anticipates that the Medical Center Project will generate $875 million in total direct economic impacts in its first 10 years of operation.
According to Latka
, environmental issues were of greatest concern.After the site was classified as one of the dirtiest in the Commonwealth
, extensive clean up efforts involving excavation and soil disposal, soil vapor extraction and groundwater treatment were undertaken.
, "Worcester Medical Center
is a model for public/private partnerships.