Initiative gives boost to Fitchburg downtown transformation

May 4, 2018 : The Sentinel & Enterprise

FITCHBURG -- MassDevelopment has designated the city's downtown district under its Transformative Development Initiative program.

"(The) timing is excellent for Fitchburg to receive this TDI program and we cannot be more thankful to MassDevelopment and the Baker-Polito Administration. Seventy-five million dollars in total investment is already underway downtown by three major projects," said Mayor Stephen DiNatale. "A strong momentum is clearly building, and TDI will be a catalyst toward even greater development and investment downtown."

The three-year program, aimed at downtown revitalization for Gateway Cities, will include the assignment of a "TDI fellow" for the city who will work exclusively on achieving the vision for the district, which is to serve as a thriving arts and culture hub for North Central Massachusetts.

The TDI fellow is expected to start in August and other components of the grant will start later this month, according to Tom Skwierawski, executive director of Community Development.

The initiative will also include opportunities for real estate technical assistance, capital investment and grant programs. Fitchburg's TDI proposal was structured using a local collaborative partnership that includes the city, Fitchburg Art Museum, Fitchburg State University, NewVue Communities, Montachusett Opportunity Council, North Central Massachusetts Chamber of Commerce, Fitchburg Pride, and The Fitchburg Plan.

Of the 26 Gateway Cities eligible for the program, Fitchburg was one of only two selected for a three-year TDI District designation.

"Through targeted state investments and the support of local leadership, the Transformative Development Initiative helps communities support long-term, sustainable growth and tackle broad challenges," said Gov. Charlie Baker. "The resources we are announcing will extend support to exciting new economic development projects across the commonwealth."

Matt Fournier, TDI partner and president of Elite Construction & Design Inc. in Fitchburg, said the designation will be ideal for the downtown district.

"This is another example of how Fitchburg leadership has the city on track for success. Partnering with MassDevelopment through the TDI program is an ideal opportunity for collaboration that will lead to transformative economic development downtown," said Fournier.

The overall goals of TDI are to concentrate revitalization efforts, resources and investments in a compact downtown area, thus creating a critical mass of activity that inspires investments by local residents, entrepreneurs and businesses that lead to additional private development, according to MassDevelopment.

Fitchburg's TDI District has the Theater Block and City Hall at its geographic center, extending outward for a distance equal to a five-minute walk radius, continuing from Main/Prichard Streets to the Upper Common and from Longsjo Middle School to Laurel Street. Included within the district are Fitchburg State University's Theater Block, the former B.F. Brown School (Fitchburg Arts Community), and historic Fitchburg City Hall.

"I have had the pleasure of touring many TDI districts across the commonwealth, and have seen the transformations that are underway in many of our Gateway Cities," said Lt. Gov. Karyn Polito. "This innovative program helps our Gateway Cities leverage existing assets and target opportunities to advance their city's economic development goals, generate new opportunities for residents and build thriving downtowns."

The Fitchburg TDI partnership grew out of another partnership, ReImagine North of Main, which began in 2014 through a grant from the Federal Reserve Bank of Boston's Working Cities Challenge, and further supported by the Health Foundation of Central Massachusetts. The Fitchburg TDI partnership extends the team's reach further, including the North Central Massachusetts Chamber of Commerce, Elite Construction & Design, and two local business partnerships: Fitchburg Pride -- a downtown business coalition -- and The Fitchburg Plan, chaired by Fitchburg State University President Richard Lapidus and Enterprise Bank Board Member Ken Ansin.