Recapping the Seventh Annual Gateway Cities Innovation Institute Summit & Awards

Catalyzing Transformative Transit-Oriented Development

The Gateway Cities Innovation Institute Summit & Awards—held each year between the November elections and the Thanksgiving holiday—has become a tradition for those who believe wholeheartedly in the power of our small to midsize regional cities. On November 20th, we returned to the DCU Center in Worcester for the seventh annual event.

Our morning summit began with a call to action from Christopher Coes, Smart Growth America’s Vice President of Land Use and Development (watch here). His interactive presentation touched on major transportation challenges communities throughout the country face and strategies to address them with transit-oriented development (TOD).

To unpack these ideas further, Dr. Tracy Corley, MassINC’s TOD Fellow, led three panel conversations. The first focused on mobility (watch here). Monica Tibbits-Nutt, Executive Director of the 128 Business Council and a MassDOT board member, described how communities can create better access to public transit through partnerships. Steve Kadish, chair of the Governor’s Commission on the Future of Transportation, talked about the long-term challenges Massachusetts faces and efforts to respond with urgency today. Matt Ciborowski, Senior Planner at Arup, stressed the need to instill youth with a deeper understanding of mobility and what it means for the communities we create.

The second panel took on the issue of development (watch here). Wendy Estrella, a private developer and real estate attorney from Lawrence, emphasized the ways in which small, local developers with personal connections to communities can do TOD in a more inclusive and equitable manner. BlueHub Capital’s Michelle Volpe described the need to provide developers working on complex TOD projects with a variety of financial tools. Mickey Northcutt, CEO of North Shore Community Development Coalition, shared the creative ways they’ve approached TOD in Salem’s El Punto neighborhood.

The morning summit wrapped up with a conversation about how mobility and development generate growth (watch here). LISC Boston’s Executive Director Karen Kelleher described a range of strategies to provide low- and moderate-income residents with more economic opportunity through TOD. Himanshu Bhatnagar, CEO of HB Software Solutions talked about the latent entrepreneurial energy in Gateway Cities, describing how he built a business of intelligent transportation systems that helped grow 400 small businesses. Ramón Borges-Méndez, a Clark University Professor, pointed to the struggles many traditional economic development strategies have had delivering benefits to underrepresented Gateway City residents.

After a lively Q&A session (watch here), attendees moved over to the ballroom for the awards luncheon. Gil Penalosa, founder of 8 80 Cities gave a dynamic keynote address, highlighting the benefits of good TOD with examples from around the globe. He urged us to develop cities that work for children at age 8 and adults at age 80. By designing to this standard, we will have healthy communities where everyone can thrive.

The luncheon continued with the awards presentation, beginning with the new Mayor Bill Carpenter Award for Excellence in Gateway City Leadership. We screened a short video (watch here) recognizing the beloved Brockton mayor’s many contributions to his city and the Gateway Cities cause writ-large.

Senator Harriette Chandler (watch here) and Trinity Financial each received the Champion Award for their work on behalf of Gateway Cities statewide. Ten individuals and organizations were presented with the Gateway City Innovation Award for efforts in their home communities. They included Brockton’s Rob May, Fall River’s Alexandra’s Boutique, Fitchburg’s Tricia Pistone, New Bedford’s Love the Ave, Lawrence’s El Taller, Lowell’s Himanshu Bhatnagar, Salem’s North Shore Community Development Coalition, Springfield’s Valley Venture Mentors, and Worcester’s IGWorcesterMA and Davis Publications.

Thank you to everyone who attended and made the seventh annual event one of our most memorable. We extend a special thank you to the speakers and presenters, and all of the corporate sponsors for their invaluable support. We have a survey (click here to take) that we kindly ask you to complete, your honest responses will help us improve our strategies and content for future events like this one. We look forward to building on the momentum and continuing our collaborative efforts in 2020!

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