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Transformative Development Initiative Report Highlights Need for Local Solutions

February 3, 2016


Kelsey Abbruzzese, MassDevelopment, 617-330-2086 & 617-448-9077 (cell)

An analysis of Gateway Cities that MassDevelopment commissioned to advise its Transformative Development Initiative (TDI) work reveals varied community characteristics and distress levels in these 26 former industrial centers, reinforcing the need for local approaches to spur redevelopment. Gateway Cities are home to more than one-quarter of the Commonwealth’s population and more than 20 percent of its jobs, highlighting the continued import of public and private investment. The cities also have significant assets, including desirable walkable downtowns and historic architecture, upon which local leaders hope to anchor their redevelopment plans.

The University of Massachusetts Donahue Institute compiled the data for the report, which provides an economic analysis of Gateway Cities and the 10 designed TDI Districts in Development. In addition to traditional socioeconomic metrics, the study includes a snapshot of new place-based economic and redevelopment market data, as well as district-level data. This report supports initial needs assessment work in the districts and provides a refined set of recommendations to shape the second year of the program. 

“The Transformative Development Initiative is the cornerstone of our efforts continue to grow economic opportunities in the Commonwealth’s Gateways Cities,” said Housing and Economic Development Secretary Jay Ash. “I commend MassDevelopment’s commitment to the revitalization of these communities through the TDI program.”

“What’s so exciting about the TDI program is the partnership between MassDevelopment and local, neighborhood economic development efforts,” said Senator Benjamin Downing (D- Pittsfield). “The expertise and investment made possible by TDI leverage the talents and skills of residents in Pittsfield and the other TDI communities to realize their potential.”

“MassDevelopment is doing a great job implementing the Transformative Development Initiative with very limited funds,” State Representative Antonio F.D. Cabral said. “This report provides much needed insight into the investment opportunities in our Gateway Cities and how we in the Legislature can support MassDevelopment’s TDI program to produce the greatest returns for Massachusetts.”

“While Gateway Cities face significant economic challenges, the Transformative Development Initiative has provided a collaborative approach to creating conversations and driving growth at the local level,” said MassDevelopment President and CEO Marty Jones. “The support of the Baker Administration and the Legislature has made the success of the program possible, and we appreciate the efforts of our partners who are committed to revitalizing our Gateway Cities one block at a time.” 

“While Gateway Cities are mostly discussed in a very uniform and homogenous way, there is actually a great deal of variability among Gateway Cities across a number of demographic, socioeconomic, and market indicators,” said UMass Donahue Institute Director of Economic and Public Policy Research Mark Melnik. “With that, these indicators should be considered in the context of each cities, and similar cities, to get a more complete understanding of the assets, opportunities, and challenges in each Gateway City and the TDI Districts.”

MassDevelopment designated 10 TDI Districts in 2014, which are receiving enhanced technical assistance to kick-start activity in downtown areas. The program is structured along core principles of community engagement, local collaborative partnership stewardship, and district focus.  Each district will have a combination of Technical Assistance to help to support district redevelopment plans, and enhanced MassDevelopment staff support to focus additional tools to catalyze ongoing investment and to build momentum.  In October, the Agency made its first TDI Investment by purchasing the building at 8-12 Stearns Square in Springfield’s TDI District. To build additional capacity at the local level, the program also has economic development fellows in Haverhill, Lynn, and Springfield, and is hiring fellows for Brockton, New Bedford, and Pittsfield in 2016. TDI provides resources for all Gateway Cities with Cowork grants for innovative collaborative workspaces, and small Placemaking grants of $1,000 to $10,000 for small-scale projects supportive of district visions to help to build community identity while supporting improvement of public spaces—such as pocket parks, pop-up stores, community gardens, and farmers’ markets.

MassDevelopment, the state’s finance and development agency, works with businesses, nonprofits, financial institutions, and communities to stimulate economic growth across the Commonwealth. During FY2015, MassDevelopment financed or managed 294 projects generating investment of more than $2.5 billion in the Massachusetts economy. These projects are projected to create about 6,100 jobs and build or rehabilitate about 2,000 residential units.