Hearing that glorious swish

The Gateways Cities Journal

Down for nearly a decade, Gateway City real estate markets finally show signs of life. From Brockton to Fall River and Lynn to Worcester, private developers are unveiling plans for exactly the kind of mixed-use TOD projects these regional urban centers need to become 21st-century cities. However, as we’ve learned from previous real estate cycles, time is not on their side. We’re at that defining moment when the team has clawed out of a deep hole and the coach calls players over to the sideline. Gateway Cities need a final play, a strategy that not only gets construction underway before the market retreats but one that also puts them in a better position to emerge quickly from a downturn.

The first move has to be increasing the cap on the state’s Housing Development Incentive Program (HDIP). All of these pending projects require the approval of state HDIP credits to close their financing and begin construction. Forgoing this private sector investment because the state’s HDIP program is oversubscribed is flat-out bad policy. The Baker administration showed tremendous leadership to get this cost-effective program going. Gateway Cities need the administration to take up the mantle once again and help right-size the annual cap on HDIP credits before time runs out.

With HDIP catalyzing dense mixed-use development in the areas surrounding Gateway City rail stations, the next move is also clear. We must move forward expeditiously on efforts to transform commuter rail into a more powerful conduit for regional economic development. As we think about the future of growth and mobility in Massachusetts, it is clear that concentrating development in Gateway Cities and increasing travel along existing rail corridors is the most viable long-term strategy. Last year, the Governor’s Commission on the Future of Transportation endorsed this compelling opportunity. And this month MassDOT made commuter rail enhancements coupled with infill development in Gateway Cities a central component in a plan to tackle debilitating congestion. 

Investors and markets will respond to this integrated growth and mobility strategy just as soon as we make policies to actualize it. As we noted last month, the transportation bond bill recently filed by the Governor does not provide sufficient resources to begin the process of transforming commuter rail. When the Legislature takes up this legislation and debates new funding mechanisms to increase investment in our tired transportation networks, it is critical that they address the needs of commuter rail.

To succeed, athletes must envision themselves hitting jumpers at the buzzer. Policymakers are in a very different business; they can’t will Gateway Cities back. For years, the state has been hesitant to invest in communities outside of Boston because the fundamental economic logic was hard to compute. Modest interventions, like MassDevelopment’s Transformative Development Initiative, were the right approach to test the waters and establish a foundation for bolder investments. Now there is a clear market-driven rationale. If we can build vibrant urban centers with great connectivity to Boston, we will most assuredly hear that glorious swish.

Housing & Economic Development 

Brockton unveils plans for the largest development in the city’s history.

With help from MassDevelopment’s TDI program, Chelsea moves forward with a plan to bring new energy to the downtown business district.

Swansea-based BCBBK LLC proposes a 49-unit HDIP project near the new commuter rail station in Fall River 

The new Hampton Inn in Salem gets topped off with a final steel beam.

Brookings Metro releases a new report on the establishment of metro-to-metro partnerships. And the Urban Institute explores the practice of Opportunity Zoning at the local level. 


Brockton students have their art on display at the Fuller Craft Museum. 

The Crocker Elementary School in Fitchburg will be reopening for the first day of school, after a water pipe burst damaged ceiling tiles containing asbestos in December 2017.

Students with special needs in Haverhill attend an extended school program that allows them to learn life skills through growing and harvesting fruits and vegetables.

Lowell city councilors unanimously support a motion to request that the city’s law department ask a federal judge to add another option for a mixed at-large/district system of electing municipal officials to a consent decree issued in the wake of a voting rights lawsuit.

Revere High School teacher Nancy Barile and a class of motivated sophomores defy all expectations.


 A report released last week by the state Department of Transportation puts forward strategies to address traffic congestion.

Haverhill residents are frustrated with the lack of handicapped parking spaces.

The mayors of Holyoke and Salem call for a carbon fee in order to counteract the effects of climate change.

Residents urge state transportation officials to maintain two tracks for commuter rail service between Boston and Worcester while construction takes place on the $1.2 billion Allston Multimodal Project.

Industry publication Mass Transit offers a good-news story of improvements to the region’s commuter rail in the five years since Keolis took over operation of the system.

 Springfield’s Pat Beaudry blogs on the need to improve RTA service.

Worcester completes repairs on Union Station.

The Telegram & Gazette tries to investigate the state of reverse commuting (people traveling to Worcester from points east, including Boston), but ends up with a bunch of random anecdotes because the commuter rail system has no way of tracking riders.

Elsewhere: Houston voters will go to the ballot to vote on a $3.5 billion transit project that includes rail and complete streets investments to stimulate TOD. And Syracuse looks at spending $2 billion to replace a viaduct that tore apart a historically African-American neighborhood with a new “community grid” that reclaims 25 acres of land.

 Communities & People

 We break tradition in a space reserved for positive news to mourn the departure of columnist Clive McFarlane from the T&G. After 26 years of faithful service to the Greater Worcester community, we lament that he was let go without the recognition he deserved.

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