Can Westborough Support State Hospital Concept and Downtown Businesses?

Two town officials say it can.

A media-focused mixed-use concept presented for the former Westborough State Hospital would compete with – but differ from – Westborough’s downtown businesses, two town officials said Tuesday.

“I think competition is good. I think the town and the area can support both, Selectmen Vice Chairman Ian Johnson said.

“They’re two different developments. The downtown area is in the center of town and is walkable for a number of people. This is somewhat different. It’s in a different location.”

Johnson spoke as the Westborough Economic Development Committee heard DiasporaCapital CEO Anton Nel’s first public presentation of his ideas for redeveloping the former state hospital.

“As far as the retail development, I don’t think it’s going to have such a big impact,” Nel said.

“It’s not going to be a very large mall. It’s much more boutique-ish. It’s going to be bringing in, I wouldn’t say, what exists already. It will supplement that.”

Town Planner Jim Robbins said the two areas would be “good for each other.”

“This doesn’t happen in a vacuum. This site was looked at many years ago when we did the master plan,” Robbins said.

“What Anton is proposing is creating a neighborhood. You can look at it that way: a mixed-use neighborhood. Will it be a destination? He hopes so. I hope so as well. But, it’s a very different neighborhood and a very different business climate than the center of the community. The downtown is in the historic center of the town. It has small shops. People relate that part of town with sort of the genesis of an old New England community.”

The downtown businesses, including 22 restaurants, are “highly visible, because people drive by them every day,” Robbins said.

The state hospital project, meanwhile,“will be a destination with the lake, with open space, with hiking trails. If I want to go hear birds, I don’t walk in the rotary. If I want to go fishing, I don’t fish in the rotary,” he said.


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