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Lofts Developer Right ‘at home’ in Square

The Webster Square Business Association’s October monthly luncheon meeting at the Verzillo family’s Christo’s restaurant on Stafford Street last Thursday gave the organization a chance to meet “the new kid on the block”—guest speaker Jeff Brooks of The Abrams Group, which is developing the Fremont Lofts on Fremont Street—and Brooks in turn to sing the praises of the ninety seven-unit luxury loft-style complex.

It was love at first sight. This was apparent when Brooks mentioned a cemetery that is situated in close proximity to the development. “Hold on, ” WSBA VP Mike Marchand of Roy Funeral Home said, in mock protest. “What’s wrong with cemeteries?” “Nothing,” Brooks replied, good-naturedly. “In fact, we consider them an amenity!” Brooks was referring, of course, to the peace and quiet.

Brooks was so full of information, so accommodating, so well-spoken and so charming that he got an enthusiastic round of applause—intermixed with questions from the audience—when finished.

In his remarks, Brooks noted that The Abrams Group, which is based in Boston, sees Worcester as poised to make the same sort of resurgence that Lowell has undergone in recent years. Lowell’s revitalization came about as a result of a collaboration of public and private interests, he said.

“We see the trend,” Brooks said. “We came to Worcester. We want to be here. It’s a city of approximately 180,000 people, with colleges, universities, museums, Union Station. You have the recipe for success here. You have a real city here. Lowell has done it. It all started in Lowell with a very conscientious effort from a pro-active City Council and the same thing is happening here.”

Haverhill was a different story when The Abrams Group tried to launch a project there, he said. “We dumped a ton of money into a project up there that we had to walk away from because they just don’t get it,” he said.

Brooks said The Abrams Group has gotten great cooperation from the city, particularly from officials like City Councilor Barbara Haller, Joel Fontaine and Scott Hayman.

The Abrams Group’s first venture in Worcester won’t be its last, Brooks said. The Fremont Lofts, though, is figuring in a transformation of Webster Square that began with the arrival of a new Price Chopper supermarket and a rejuvenated Webster Square Plaza that includes Worcester’s first-ever Bob’s.

The Abrams Group has brought a former mill “back to its original context,” Brooks said of the Fremont Lofts. Units at the Fremont Lofts are moderately priced from $150,000 to $330,000 and boast all kinds of extras. Young couples and empty nesters are among those snatching the units up, he said.

The early success of the Fremont Lofts, which are already 65% sold, is a testament to The Abrams Group’s belief that “if you build the best product in the market at a competitive price, people will come.” Good news for Webster Square, and the city of Worcester.