40,000 man hours and $20 million later, Mercantile Center’s lobby is finally finished

In Media

View story at masslive.com

Photo: Alban Murtishi

By Alban Murtishi

Mercantile Center in downtown Worcester has some of the city’s only Class-A office spaces, but for the longest time it’s lobby was anything but classy.

That all changed on Monday when the Franklin Realty Advisors team lifted the curtain on a $20 million renovation 40,000 hours in the making.

As Craig Blais, president and CEO of the Worcester Business Development Corp., explained, the newly renovated lobby is now on par with the rest of Mercantile Center.

“You need Class-A spaces in top notch cities, there is no doubt about that. This is an investment in that space,” Blais said.

The renovated lobby space, which covers two floors, had been covered up for years during construction, making the entry floors feel claustrophobic and maze-like.

The redesign evokes the opposite feeling.

The room has been opened up and equipped with half a dozen circular ceiling lights to make the space feel open and breathable. A small seating area with new furniture has been placed near a modern fireplace, making for a cozy place to sit and have a bite for lunch.

The small cafe on the first floor of Mercantile Center has also been cleaned up and redesigned with a larger seating area.

And to think: All of this space was once occupied by the Worcester Galleria mall.

Mercantile Center is far from finished. Developer Chip Norton is continuing renovations on the lobby of 120 Front Street, which is expected to be completed in September, and Franklin Realty Advisors is continuing to renovate spaces in the two buildings to add more tenants.

At least two restaurants are negotiating to open up in the complex, a spokesperson said. Earlier this year, hundreds of employees from UMass Memorial Medical Center’s IT team moved into a brand new office on 100 Front St., and more employees from the real estate firm of Kelleher & Sadowsky moved in next door at 120 Front St.

“We are extremely proud of the Mercantile Center project as a whole, and especially thrilled with the finishing design element – this elegant lobby which is keeping with Mercantile Center’s first-class office environment,” Norton said.

The Mercantile Center has been a keystone of the downtown Worcester Renaissance of dining and development. Norton hopes the lobby serves as a meeting spot for the future entrepreneurs and visitors of Worcester.

“As a thriving part of Worcester’s downtown business community, the new lobby is certain to become one of the key event venues in the city,” Norton added.