Southbridge Associates Announces Initial Phase of the Southbridge Innovation Center Master Plan


SOUTHBRIDGE, MA – Southbridge Associates, LLC (“SALLC”), owner and operator of the Southbridge Innovation Center and an affiliate of Franklin Realty Advisors LLC, announced the initial phase of the Southbridge Innovation Center Master Plan with the renaming of Lensdale Pond to Southbridge Pond and the reveal of the new pond fountains.

SGA, a Boston and New York City-based national award-winning architecture, interior design, planning, branded environments and virtual design and construction practice, served as the architect for the Master Planning of the project.

As part of the redevelopment efforts, SALLC has recently completed a Master Plan for the Southbridge Innovation Center. The Town of Southbridge and SALLC have reached a mutual understanding to convert portions of the Innovation Center for access and use by the general public. In conjunction with that understanding, SALLC and the Town of Southbridge will jointly pursue federal and state infrastructure programs to fund the infrastructure improvements. It’s anticipated that the Town of Southbridge will acquire funds from the Commonwealth’s Transportation Bond Bill, the Commonwealth’s Executive Office of Housing and Economic Development, along with a Public Works grant from the US Department of Commerce and Economic Development Administration (EDA). All improvements and redevelopment objectives are prioritized to benefit both the Southbridge Innovation Center and the Town of Southbridge.

This Master Plan identifies approximately $15 million of improvements throughout the former AO campus, such as new lighting throughout, roadway and bridge upgrades, an enhanced signage program, creation of walking trails, and establishing public water access to the Quinebaug Reservoir. SALLC had sought out to implement and further improve on various redevelopment plans as well, including but not limited to the addition of approximately 148 new units of affordable housing to Southbridge’s housing inventory, a comprehensive training site for Massachusetts law enforcement, and the redevelopment of 200,000 square feet of manufacturing space. The redevelopment of the balance of the Southbridge Innovation Center should generate upwards of 350 new jobs in addition to the current 353 jobs on site.

The media event featured a photo opportunity highlighted by a backdrop of the fountains being shot into the air, creating a new picturesque feature for the Town of Southbridge.

There is quite a bit of history for the interesting switch used to activate the new fountains during the unveiling. The Corinthian column is from the original American Optical building’s fireplace, and the wood used to mount the switch is also from the American Optical building. The original water jets were a big inspiration for the new fountains. They featured a system used to cool the water that is sprayed back into the pond from which it originally came, allowing the water to be properly recirculated through the pumps and used again. The high flow design of the new fountains showcases stunning, crisp spray patterns, providing beautiful aerating displays, along with an array of 8 energy efficient, fully programmable LED lights capable of providing endless stunning color schemes.

Chip Norton, Owner of Southbridge Innovation Center and Manager of Franklin Realty Advisors LLC said, “These iconic fountains are a reminder of the water jets that used to shoot here as a part of the former American Optical property. It is those water jets that were the true inspiration for the new

fountains we are unveiling here today.” Chip continued, “The stunning new features and design of the fountains provide a sense of serenity and beauty to Southbridge Pond. They enhance the daytime lure of this landscape, while also creating a spectacular picturesque view when lit up at night.”

Franklin Realty Advisors LLC is a regional real estate development and advisory firm headquartered in Wellesley, Massachusetts with specific expertise in public/private partnerships and historic preservation projects. Over the past few decades the managing directors and senior management of the firm and its affiliates have developed, acquired and/or managed over $750 million of real estate projects throughout the United States, including more than $200 million in office and mixed-use projects in Central Massachusetts. Some significant local projects include the $100 million Southbridge Innovation Center, $90 million Mercantile Center project in downtown Worcester, as well One and Two Chestnut Place in Worcester, The Worcester Business Center and 385 Grove Street in Worcester.

Southbridge Innovation Center offers visionary corporate facilities planning professionals a wide variety of building types offering terrific potential uses as R&D, office, light manufacturing space, biotechnology, life sciences, high technology, and other business operations. The center’s numerous single- and multi-story buildings are primed for conversion to office, industrial, warehouse, manufacturing, and classroom space – combined for a total 1.2 million square-feet. Two of the existing buildings are planned for redevelopment for residential use, which could provide housing for the full-time training, technical support, or other operational staff.