MassDevelopment awards grant for The Green @ UTEC

January 4, 2022 : The Lowell Sun, by Alana Melanson

LOWELL — MassDevelopment has awarded a $38,555 grant to assist UTEC in a project to transform an underutilized open space downtown.

The space, located at the intersection of Warren and Hurd streets, adjacent to UTEC’s headquarters, will be transformed into a public outdoor area that will be known as The Green @ UTEC.

The grant was awarded through MassDevelopment’s special Commonwealth Places COVID-19 Response Round: Resurgent Places, which aims to assist local economic recovery efforts and help community partners to prepare public spaces and commercial districts to serve both residents and visitors.

“The Commonwealth Places program is one way that we can help the vibrant centers of our cities and towns bounce back as a driving force behind the strength of local economies, and continue to be the places where we gather to dine, to shop and to be entertained,” state Housing and Economic Development Secretary Mike Kennealy, who serves as chair of MassDevelopment’s Board of Directors, said in a statement. “The Baker-Polito Administration has been pleased to support The Green @ UTEC through the MassWorks Infrastructure Program, and this Resurgent Places grant will provide additional resources to activate this public space, boost economic activity and support an equitable recovery.”

About 2,000 square feet of the downtown space will be designated as a public park. UTEC will use the grant funds to provide outdoor seating and an audiovisual system, as well as perform interior plumbing and electric work.

UTEC will also use a portion of the space for events and child care and will make it available for community members and local businesses to rent.

In May, UTEC broke ground on the project, which previously received a nearly $1.1 million grant award from the state Executive Office of Housing and Economic Development’s MassWorks Infrastructure Grant Program in partnership with MassDevelopment.

The project will help to activate a highly visible area in the downtown that has experienced increased vacancy due to the relocation of Lowell District Court to the new Lowell Justice Center on Jackson Street.

“Lowell will join Gateway Cities across Massachusetts in leading economic development through expanding green spaces that drive foot traffic downtown, stimulate their local economies and create hubs of community and cultural activity,” MassDevelopment President and CEO Dan Rivera said in a statement. “MassDevelopment is proud to help UTEC Inc. advance The Green @ UTEC and breathe life into a prime parcel in downtown Lowell.”

Since 2016, the Commonwealth Places grant program has aimed to engage community members and spur individual donations to placemaking projects, providing the incentive of a MassDevelopment funding match in the event crowdfunding goals are achieved.

In 2020, MassDevelopment introduced the Commonwealth Places COVID-19 Response Round: Resurgent Places in response to the pandemic, awarding $224,965 in funding for 21 placemaking projects across the state in the first round. The second round opened that December, making $390,000 in funding available.

Nonprofits and community groups can apply for seed grants of $250 to $7,500 to fund inclusive community engagement, visioning and local capacity building to support future placemaking efforts, or implementation grants of up to $50,000 to execute such projects.

For implementation grants, such as the one awarded to UTEC, up to $10,000 per project may be awarded unmatched. Awards over $10,000 must be matched with crowdfunding donations. For this project, UTEC crowdfunded $28,555.

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