MassDevelopment’s “Commonwealth Places” is a competitive opportunity to advance locally-driven placemaking in downtown and neighborhood commercial districts in eligible communities throughout Massachusetts. Placemaking is a collaborative process through which people in communities work together to improve public spaces and maximize their shared value. The process facilitates creative patterns of use, and leverages the local physical, cultural, and social assets that define a place and support its ongoing evolution.
On June 19, 2020 MassDevelopment announced $225,000 in funding for a new round of Commonwealth Places. The COVID-19 Response Round: Resurgent Places funding round is being made available specifically to help community partners prepare public space and commercial districts to best serve their population during communities’ economic recovery efforts. Eligible projects will comply with the Commonwealth’s Reopening Massachusetts plan, and may include outdoor seating spaces, sidewalk retail venues, partitions to support social distancing, and more.
Non-profits and community groups are eligible to apply to MassDevelopment for grant awards of up to $25,000. Up to $10,000 per project may be awarded as an unmatched grant; awards greater than $10,000 must be matched with crowdfunding donations. Applications closed on July 31, 2020. MassDevelopment anticipates releasing a subsequent round of Commonwealth Places funding, which may or may not also be dedicated to COVID-19 response, before June 30, 2021.
Commonwealth Places COVID-19 Response Round: Resurgent Places complements the Massachusetts Department of Transportation’s (MassDOT) recently announced Shared Streets & Spaces, a grant program that will provide grants as small as $5,000 and as large as $300,000 for municipalities to quickly launch or expand improvements to sidewalks, curbs, streets, on-street parking spaces and off-street parking lots in support of public health, safe mobility and renewed commerce in their communities.
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Created in 2016, Commonwealth Places aims to engage and mobilize community members to make individual contributions for placemaking projects, with the incentive of a funding match from MassDevelopment if the crowdfunding goal is reached. Through its first three rounds, Commonwealth Places has launched 64 projects in Massachusetts, with communities crowdfunding more than $2.3 million and MassDevelopment providing more than $1.8 million in matching funds. Previous projects have included main street improvement projects in Hyannis, North Adams, and Wakefield; neighborhood-wide public art installations in Lynn, Salem, and Worcester; and pop-up retail activations in Ashland, Brockton, and Lowell, among others.
What is Placemaking?
Placemaking aims to improve the quality of public places and the lives of communities through a participatory process. While urban design and economic development is central to placemaking, the most significant component is the community process and programming that can facilitate social interaction, spark public discourse and increase local capacity and engagement. Increasingly, placemaking has been used to revitalize commercial districts using these small, community-driven investments that leverage economic growth and development.
What is Crowdfunding?
Crowdfunding is an increasingly-used tool by which private organizations and public entities are able to fund projects ranging from consumer products to public space improvements. This, in effect, has democratized the raising of capital by allowing the public to monetarily support initiatives. Simply, it allows the public to vote with their wallets. By tapping a large donor pool for small donations, organizations are able to better leverage funds. Further, crowdfunding engages the public to play a part in achieving community improvements and instills community pride as residents become invested in their surroundings.