New developments in Worcester could take away seven-year-old community center

WORCESTER, Mass. — Trevor Delapara knows his way around some jerk chicken, a skill that saved him from being a homeless drug addict.

“I was an addict in town and God reached out to me,” said Delapara, who owns R&R Jerk Chicken Food Truck. “I was able to set up my business and earn an honest living, so we have to figure out what we’re going to do from here.”

Not only does he have to figure out what to do, so does Daniel Ford, who founded a learning facility and community center for at-risk youth called The Bridge. It focuses on trades and the arts and even offers free food for the community in need.

“They shut the doors on us,” Ford said. “We were supposed to have another fundraiser last weekend and it sort of got abruptly stopped because you’re going to bring too much attention to The Bridge and the private sale of The Bridge was compromised.”

He said they just found out this week; they have a month to move.

“I went home, it was like somebody to put a ton of bricks on my shoulders,” Delapara said.

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“Seven years out of your life, your heart poured into one thing, and this is a slap to the face,” Ford said.

The owner of the building is selling it to an investor who saw the Polar Park construction down the street and now wants some apartments.

“You want gentrification 101 or do you want economics 101,” Ford said. “Economics says to teach the kids and they can provide for themselves later on down the line. Gentrification says we’re going to top-down.”

“We definitely want to be cognizant about growing in a way as a community that is still affordable,” said Peter Dunn, the chief development officer for the City of Worcester. “We definitely want to avoid those kinds of concerns around displacement.”

The city is trying to help The Bridge find a new location but hasn’t had any luck so far. Now, with a few weeks left, The Bridge has raised $750,000, and even if they were able to raise the last $250,000, they said it would still take a miracle at this point to keep the building.

“We are hurt right now, I don’t want to say anything negative, but at the same time I hope someone can see this for more than another million-dollar condo,” Delapara said. “We have enough of those in Worcester, this is not going to be low-income housing.”

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