Central Massachusetts Transformative Transit-Oriented Development (TTOD) Regional Forum

Event Recap

On Tuesday, May 21st, the Fitchburg Art Museum hosted the Central Massachusetts Transformative Transit-Oriented Development (TTOD) Regional Forum.

Along with event partners, the MassINC Gateway Cities Innovation Institute explored how Fitchburg, Leominster, Worcester, and other cities are using transit-oriented development to transform communities in Central Massachusetts. The panelists and presenters shared insights about proposed rail service improvements, as well as ideas for leveraging state, local, and federal tools for TOD.

The day began with tours of Fitchburg’s TOD area and the MART Intermodal Complex. Tom Skwierawski, Fitchburg’s Executive Director of Community Development, led a group on a walking tour from the complex through Fitchburg’s downtown, pointing out recent developments and new opportunities, including the City Hall renovation and Innovation Hub. Meanwhile, Mohammad Khan, MART Administrator, led a journey through Fitchburg’s Intermodal Complex, which includes a transit hub, commercial space, MART headquarters, and Fitchburg State University facilities. MART tour participants learned about local bus and rail transit, pedestrian and biking amenities, and the RTA’s extensive Health and Human Services brokerage program, which provides 6.5 million rides annually for communities across the Commonwealth.

Both groups later met at the Fitchburg Art Museum for presentations, a panel discussion, and networking.

Roy Nascimento, President and CEO of the North Central Massachusetts Chamber of Commerce, opened the event, noting the importance of gathering all stakeholders in this conversation.

Mayor Stephen DiNatale then welcomed the attendees to Fitchburg, calling attention to the unique assets of the city and Montachusett region. He also emphasized the importance of connecting communities across the region and the state and the need for more housing in Gateway City downtowns.

Immediately after, Dr. Tracy Corley of MassINC presented on the ability of transit-oriented development to spark transformative change through a “virtuous cycle” of TOD benefits. With cities like Fitchburg, Worcester, and Framingham as regional hubs, she described how TOD could improve the environmental, fiscal, and equitable growth of the entire region (click here for Tracy’s presentation).

This teed up the presentation by Alexandra Markiewicz of MassDOT, who highlighted the Rail Vision task force’s scenarios for improving the speed and reliability of the current commuter rail system (click here for Alexandra’s presentation). She showed a few options that provide 15-minute, all day service to key stations in Littleton, Framingham, Worcester, Natick, and Fitchburg.

Roy Nascimento then led a panel discussion, which dove in the key issues specific to Central Massachusetts communities, like improving regional mobility in areas without nearby commuter rail stops.

The panel was composed of Tricia Pistone (Montachusett Opportunity Council), Marc Dohan (NewVue Communities), Paul Matthews (495/Metrowest Partnership), and Tim Murray (Worcester Chamber of Commerce).

The panel also covered topics including the changing landscape of Gateway City downtowns and how to encourage development using a blended municipal, state, and federal toolkit.

After brief closing remarks by Dr. Corley, the evening transitioned to networking over cocktails in the museum.

For more information on MassINC’s TTOD initiative, click here.

MassINC would like to thank Mayor DiNatale, our partners from the City of Fitchburg, Fitchburg Art Museum, North of Main, Fitchburg State University, NewVue Communities, the Montachusett Opportunity Council, the Montachusett Regional Transit Authority, the Montachusett Regional Planning Commission, Re-Imagine North of Main, the North Central Massachusetts Chamber of Commerce, the Barr Foundation, Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts, Eastern Bank, and everyone who participated in our Transformative Transit-Oriented Development (TTOD) Regional Forum.

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