Major Development Proposed For Westborough's Former Hospital

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Westborough's Economic Development Committee heard a proposal from developer Anton Nel on Tuesday morning about his ambitious plan to redevelop the closed state hospital. Photo Credit: File photo

WESTBOROUGH, Mass. — Since its 2010 closing, Westborough's state hospital has sat unused, but developer Anton Nel proposed his plan to turn the area surrounding Chauncy Lake into a leisure destination.

In the plan's first public presentation to the Economic Development Committee on Tuesday morning, he outlined his intended use for the area, including a media hub, residential space, boutique shops, a garden, an outdoor theater and open space for residential or start-up business interest.

The plan also includes a 96,000-square-foot theater as part of the 108-acre proposal. 

"I've been to the site and it's completely viable for what I want to do," Nel said, noting that he's done work in South Africa, Croatia and New Mexico, and that he was recently in Los Angeles to find that there was interest in a small business/media incubator like what he is proposing. 

"This would unlock Lake Chauncy to its fullest value," he said.  

The proposal would also contain a state-of-the-art hotel that would overlook the lake, a small portion of the property falling in Northborough. The plan would retain all athletics fields, views and the maximum amount of existing trees. 

Nel emphasized that the availability of space for start-up industries would provide potential business development for Westborough once they grew out of the "baby shoes." 

"From our perspective, we're definitely interested in the spillover industry," Town Planner Jim Robbins said.

"I think Anton's approach, although completely conceptional at this point, is a perfect fit for the site." 

While heavily emphasizing that the idea is simply that, Westborough officials in attendance said they were encouraged by the forward thinking of the proposal. 

Selectman Ian Johnson, along with planning board chair Lester Hensley and Robbins, all spoke in favor of the plan.

"I think what's exciting about this is that it's a much bigger concept that than what's ever been done before around film," Hensley said, noting that the plan is media centered. 

"Its an extraordinary blend of uses."

One of the main issues facing the plan is the presence of state-owned buildings, one of which falls in the middle of where the development has been proposed. With barbed wire along the exterior, the look of the building would make the site "nonviable," said Nel. Early reports from the state, according to the board, have indicated that there shouldn't be an issue moving the property. 

Robbins said the state would also have to "surplus" the land, and also agree to allow Westborough to redevelop. 

The plan will be officially presented again at the Dec. 13 Planning Board meeting, and public forums will be planned regarding the potential development. The board noted that, even if the project moved forward, it would likely be several years before any construction could begin. 

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Comments (2)

dkb1135:

To "Csharris53": You have a good point, a sarcastic one - but a good one!

Csharris53:

What a great idea to build such a complex ....next to a prison? Wonderful!

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