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REC awarded $40k for garden and arts project in Main South

January 21, 2020 : Telegram & Gazette, by Brad Petrishen


WORCESTER – The Regional Environmental Council has been awarded a $40,000 state grant toward a project in Main South that will spruce up community gardens and culminate in a food festival.

The grant, funded by the Barr Foundation, is one of the larger of $340,000 in grants announced statewide Tuesday as part of a state initiative to improve struggling areas of large cities.

Entities in those cities – referred to as Gateway Cities – were eligible to apply for grants that served areas covered under a state program called the Transformative Development Initiative.

Worcester has chosen Main South as its current TDI district, and the state has funded a coordinator there who has been working since fall 2018 to unite business owners and identify opportunities for economic growth.

Ivette Olmeda, a city resident, has helped business owners get a small business association off the ground and solicited input from residents on area improvement, among other tasks.

Tuesday’s grant to the Regional Environmental Council, a Main South nonprofit that works on food justice issues, will be used to bring together city growers, restaurants, urban farms and artists, according to a news release issued by MassDevelopment, the state’s finance and development agency.

The grant will help REC install wayfinding signs and planters on Main Street, it said, build art installations in community gardens and also host a Main Street food festival that will feature a farmer’s market with food prepared in Main South.

The $40,000 grant is the maximum amount awarded through the grant program, which is called the TDI Creative Catalyst Grant awards . The other Central Massachusetts city to receive a grant is Fitchburg, where nonprofit NewVue Communities received $25,000.

Through that grant, NewVue will look to convert vacant storefronts downtown to affordable artist studio spaces used for public art installations, performances and workshops, MassDevelopment said.

According to the MassDevelopment, the Transformative Development Initiative has, in its first three-and-half-years, invested $13.5 million in districts statewide, investment is said has “directly influenced over $39.8 million and assisted an additional $80.6 million of public and private investments in the districts.”