State agency offers $500,000 in place-making funds

MassDevelopment matching crowd-sourced money

One of the 2018 POW! WOW! murals in Worcester.

MASSDEVELOPMENT IS OFFERING a total of $500,000 in matching grant money over the next 3 ½ months to municipalities and nonprofits seeking to launch creative place-making projects across the state.

The money is part of a nearly four-year effort by the authority to revitalize downtowns and commercial districts by combining state and crowd-sourced funds. MassDevelopment is accepting applications in this latest round through January 15 and approving them on a rolling basis.

The initiative, called Commonwealth Places, has provided funding for the second Beyond Walls festival in Lynn, the POW! WOW! public arts festival in Worcester, and the PROVA! venue in Brockton. In all, 67 projects have received a total of $4.1 million in funding – $1.8 million from MassDevelopment and $2.3 million from local, crowd-funded donations via the website Patronicity.

“Projects must demonstrate that they will activate a new or underused space that is open to and accessible by the public,” the MassDevelopment website says. “It is important that these projects have established public awareness and local momentum. The project should be located in a downtown or commercial area and enhance the public realm at the pedestrian scale.”

The MassDevelopment website provides a sampling of possible projects, including streetscape improvements, pocket parks, pop-up parks and retail establishments, farmers’ markets, bike paths, and community theatre rehabs.

To be eligible for MassDevelopment funds, the project must require a minimum of $10,000, with three-quarters of the money going for capital costs. Preference is given to projects that leverage additional funding. Participants must be backed by a municipality or a nonprofit and must reach the crowdfunding goal in 60 days. No more than $10,000, or 35 percent of the funds raised, whichever is less, can come from an individual donor.

The program has no geographic restrictions, but the MassDevelopment website indicates preference is given to projects that help low-income populations. Projects in communities with a median household income equal to or less than the state median household income can qualify for matching grants up to $50,000.  The topping out point is $25,000 in communities where the median household income is between 100 percent and 120 percent of the state median. Communities with median household income anywhere above 100 percent of the state level can qualify for matching grants of up to $50,000 if the project has a “direct and significant impact on low-income populations,” according to the website.

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