Jul 1, 2019
Moulton, a Salem Democrat and advocate for public transportation and rail travel, met Monday with Harborlight Community Partners Executive Director Andrew DeFranza, Massachusetts Smart Growth Alliance Executive Director Andre Leroux, and Tracy Corley, transit-oriented development fellow at MassINC, a nonpartisan public policy think tank, to talk about transit-oriented development…
Corley said there is wider discussion among state transportation officials about the vision of the existing commuter rail, which was designed to shuttle people to and from 9-to-5 jobs in downtown Boston. There is talk of increasing the frequency of trains and having all-day service. To justify the expansion, she said, it would make sense to add both housing and jobs near commuter rail stations.
Jun 24, 2019
McGee spoke at Wednesday afternoon’s North Shore Massachusetts Transformative Transit-Oriented Development Regional Forum, at the Lynn Museum and hosted by the Massachusetts Institute for a New Commonwealth (MassINC), which has released a report on the topic. The discussion was moderated by Essex Media Group (publisher of The Daily Item) Community Relations Director Carolina Trujillo.
In the report, “The Promise and Potential of Transformative Transit-Oriented Development in Gateway Cities,” the executive summary reads that gateway cities can accommodate thousands of new housing units and thousands of new jobs on the vacant and underutilized land surrounding their commuter rail stations. The walkable, mixed-use urban land offers an ideal setting for a transit-oriented development.
Dr. Tracy Corley, a transit-oriented development fellow for MassInc., said their research focused on 13 of 26 gateway cities and what could be done within a half mile of commuter rail stations, which could create the potential of 140,000 new jobs.
Jun 21, 2019
Wednesday, officials from MassINC — a non-profit dedicated to promoting public policy that creates a pathway to opportunity for Massachusetts residents — were in Lynn to promote the TTOD initiative.
That would be a marvelous idea, if Lynn was served by a 21st century transit system. It isn’t. In fact, the commuter rail that passes by here once an hour is archaic. And it’s basically useless. If I work on State Street, or somewhere else in the financial district of Boston, getting off a train at North Station, behind the Boston Garden, is not making my commute any easier.
Jun 7, 2019
The SouthCoast Development Partnership hosted a panel on Tuesday regarding public education in Massachusetts to look at the pipeline from pre-K to the business world. Featuring public officials and educators, the panel discussed how collaboration can strengthen the Commonwealth’s education system, according to a press release from the organization.
Educational Attainment is one of the focus areas of the Partnership.
MassINC’s Research Director, Ben Forman, presented on strengthening local accountability to the group, stating “with much needed education funding coming into communities, now is an opportune time to think about how we strengthen governance at the school and district level so that communities are able to put these funds to work in new and different ways.”
Apr 1, 2019
“Brockton was really slow to see any reinvestment and then all of a sudden the city has built a tremendous pipeline,” said Ben Forman, director of MassINC’s Gateway Cities Institute, which studies the state’s substantial collection of mid-sized, formerly industrial cities. Brockton has since “leapfrogged” many of the cities it once lagged behind in terms of housing production, according to Forman.
Mar 28, 2019
A flexible tax credit equal to up to 25 percent of development expenses, HDIP is quietly accumulating an impressive track record breathing new life into abandoned buildings and long-vacant lots near Gateway City train stations. MassINC research shows each dollar in state HDIP funding has leveraged approximately 12 additional dollars. Housing Choice and Opportunity Funds could provide even more leverage in the future, but the state must have credits available to deploy. Currently, HDIP is up against an annual cap of just $10 million.
Mar 25, 2019
Rob May, Brockton’s director of economic development and planning, famously offers up his seven-layer dip to anyone with a taste for the city’s downtown.
A 121B Urban Renewal plan forms the base. Then, he mixes in 40Q District Improvement Financing, a 40R Smart Growth Overlay District, a 40V Housing Development Zone and a Transformative Development District. He recently has added an Opportunity Zone for a dash of spice. Apparently, a few stout souls have an appetite for this concoction; a downtown that sat idle for four decades has been steadily drawing private investment.
As a case study for planners and policymakers, May’s seven-layer dip raises two central questions: How do we get other Gateway Cities to make better use of available state and federal development tools? And how do we refine these programs so that form a complementary fabric rather than a conflicting patchwork for cities?
Mar 1, 2019
WGBH News’ Bob Seay sits down with President of Transit Matters, Josh Fairchild, Transportation-Oriented Development Fellow of the Gateway Cities Institute at MassINC, Tracy Corley, and Mayor of Salem, Kim Driscoll, to discuss reliability, fare hikes and the future of the Commuter Rail. Watch it here…
Feb 1, 2019
In an attempt to stem the decline of neighborhoods essential to the continued viability of these cities, two legislators, state Sen. Brendan Crighton of Lynn and state Rep. Antonio Cabral of New Bedford have filed bills that would take a multi-pronged approach to stabilizing neighborhoods, increase the state’s investment in such an effort, and coordinate various state initiatives to maximize their impact. Specifically, the proposal would double the cap of the state’s Housing Development Incentive Program to $20 million, create a “spot blight rehabilitation program” that would address distressed properties before they could negatively affect surrounding neighborhoods and consider neighborhood viability when considering school construction, among other measures.
Mr. Forman of MassINC, whose report helped spur the effort, was most excited about the role of schools in the process. “More than half the state’s capital spending in Gateway Cities is in school building,” he told The Eagle. “Schools are the most important drivers of residential property value.” A school, he added, can become the multi-purpose core of a solid, stable neighborhood. “We had to get the state away from the idea that it should build the same school everywhere,” he said, citing the provision of child mental and physical health care and nighttime English language classes as functions influencing the design of a school to suit the needs of its neighborhood.
Feb 1, 2019
New legislation filed by members of the Gateway Cities Legislative Caucus, based on research by MassINC and the Massachusetts Association of Community Development Corporations, aims to address those problems. The bill proposes a combination of state funding and initiatives that supporters say will help towns and cities stabilize distressed areas.
The proposal is built on a report by MassINC, a nonpartisan think tank, and the MACDC completed earlier this year. Representatives from the groups joined lawmakers Wednesday to promote the bill, where copies of the 24-page report were handed out.
“It really comes back to neighborhood policy that we’ve been lacking in some way since the federal government walked off the job,” said Ben Forman, executive director of MassINC’s Gateway Cities Innovation Institute. “These neighborhoods are the greatest assets to our cities.”
Jan 30, 2019
Those steep climbs emerged from deep troughs: Gateway cities suffered more than most in the last recession, and unemployment rates remained stubbornly high even after other communities bounced back. “They didn’t get the wind in their sails until late in the recovery,’’ said Benjamin Forman, research director at the nonprofit Massachusetts Institute for a New Commonwealth, known as MassINC…
We may also be seeing the fruit of seeds sown more than a decade ago, when a 2007 report by MassINC and the Brookings Institution studied the disparities between booming Boston and the state’s smaller outlying cities, and urged lawmakers not to leave the latter behind. State funding followed for an initial group of 11 gateway cities — later expanded to include 26 communities of between 35,000 and 250,000 residents with income and educational attainment levels below the state average. And after years of investments, many are increasingly attractive to home buyers.
Jan 21, 2019
In the wealthy Boston suburbs, housing prices are skyrocketing and affordable housing is hard to find, even for working families.
But travel west to Springfield, and the picture is different.
Housing prices, measured by median price per square foot, are among the lowest in the state. Nine percent of buildings are vacant. Nearly 40,000 residents — more than a quarter of the city’s population — live in areas where poverty rates are above 40 percent, according to a recent report by the MassINC think tank.
Jan 20, 2019
FALL RIVER — As Ben Forman explains it, Fall River’s housing problem is almost the opposite of the issue facing residents and officials in Boston.
While the state’s largest city faces a shortage of housing and a growing demand for places to live, Fall River, and many of the state’s other so-called Gateway Cities, are having to find ways to renovate and fill existing buildings that people can’t afford to, or don’t want to, live in.
″(These are) cities that have an older housing stock,” said Forman, the research director for the independent think tank MassINC. “They’re traditionally in low- or moderate-income communities and as that older housing stock gets more expensive to maintain, you see some challenges.”
Jan 16, 2019
Even with a long period of economic growth and redevelopment through significant stretches of downtown, Worcester has not been spared from some broader troublesome trends, according to a new report from the Boston think tank MassINC.
Worcester home values have fallen by 15 percent when adjusted for inflation since just before the Great Recession, placing it tied for last among the state’s 26 Gateway Cities.
“When you already having broader economic inequality, and you lose the tools to counter that trend, it’s kind of a perfect storm, and it feeds on itself,” said Ben Forman, MassINC’s research director.
Jan 14, 2019
Tyer joined with the nonpartisan MassInc research group to highlight recommendations in a new report, “Building Communities of Promise and Possibility.”
The study depicts a worsening picture for housing in the state’s 11 Gateway Cities — a designation given a decade ago to mid-sized communities that face “stubborn social and economic challenges.” Without new investments, the report says, neighborhoods risk further decay in their housing that can bring further declines…
Ben Forman, MassInc’s research director, credits Tyer with helping early on to identify the issues that went on to be explored in the report released last week. Tyer and Deanna L. Ruffer, Pittsfield’s director of community development, served on the study’s working group.
“Pittsfield has played a really big role in this,” Forman said.
Jan 11, 2019
The report — from the MassINC think tank and the Massachusetts Association of Community Development Corporations — shows that across the state, more than 161,000 people live in areas of concentrated poverty: census tracts in which at least 40 percent of residents are below the federal poverty line.
Ben Forman, MassINC’s research director, says that’s largely because of an increase in economic inequality, but also because support from the federal government in the form of Community Development Block Grants has been eviscerated.
“Our Gateway Cities literally have $100 million a year less today than they had in 1980, to deal with older homes that are blighting a neighborhood and depressing everybody else’s property value,” Forman said.
Sep 14, 2018
“The answer is to build housing in cities that can absorb thousands of units of housing and move people to and from these cities efficiently on infrastructure that already exists,” said Benjamin Forman, executive director of the MassINC Gateway Cities Innovation Institute and research director at MassINC.
MassINC, a Boston think tank, and The Research Bureau jointly hosted a presentation and discussion Thursday night on MassINC’s recent study “The Promise and Potential of Transformative Transit-Oriented Development in Gateway Cities.
The 84-page report uses data from Springfield, Fitchburg, Lynn and Worcester to examine the impact of focusing development in transit-oriented districts – areas generally within a half-mile of commuter rail stations – in 13 Gateway Cities.
The report finds that land surrounding commuter rail stations in these cities is generally either vacant or underutilized. In Worcester, for instance, the think tank calculates that the neighborhood could absorb roughly 10 million square feet of added development, 23,505 more residents, and 6,698 additional jobs.
Jun 26, 2018
If you don’t have a car, getting around in western Massachusetts and Connecticut can be tricky. More trains now carry daily passengers between Springfield and Connecticut cities. But the Pioneer Valley Transit Authority is raising bus fares and threatening service cuts. There’s a cycle to this: Low ridership can mean weak economic investment near transit stations. And that means even fewer people ride.
The new study examines this thin four so-called “gateway cities” in Massachusetts: Springfield, Worcester, Lynn and Fitchburg. Ben Forman with MassINC helped to lead the study.
May 22, 2018
Ultimately, Regional Ballot Initiatives would save money by helping regional planning agencies, city and town governments, and construction contractors budget and plan for local projects ahead of time, instead of waiting on state or federal funds to decide their fate.
The initiatives could also encourage growth in our downtowns: a recently released report by MassINC’s Gateway City Innovation Institute identified Regional Ballot Initiatives as a key way to promote transit-oriented economic development in our state’s mid-sized cities.
When voters are given a choice over raising new revenues, and know exactly where their money will be going, they will fund projects that their communities need.
Apr 27, 2018Large corporations are moving back into the city. To support such a trend — to ensure that employers have easier access to talented workers — we need the state, cities, towns and private developers to embrace transit-oriented development incentives and, once and for all, get on the same track.
Apr 27, 2018
“The interesting thing that we found about Worcester is that the market is strengthening to the point where it can be developed,” said Mr. Forman, citing the CitySquare project as an example. “In Worcester, there’s going to be gaps in some projects, but they’re starting to narrow, to the extent that if we improve the transit service and make the transit service a larger development value,” the development will occur.
Apr 24, 2018The study finds that today, the land surrounding commuter rail stations in these 13 cities tends to be vacant and underutilized. It could potentially house 230,000 residents and 230,000 jobs, which would be an increase of around 140,000 residents and workers.
Nov 22, 2017
Once an industrial force in the state’s economy, the city of Lynn has become a prime example of how an economy can languish when transportation infrastructure is lacking.
Yet, Lynn isn’t alone. As a Gateway City, it is a part of a bigger story of urban centers that are a key piece of the Commonwealth’s economic puzzle, but face debilitating social and economic issues due largely in part to a lack of transportation options. A MassINC and Brookings Institute report revealed that “incomplete transportation networks represent the most visible shortcoming in the Gateway Cities’ infrastructure connectivity.”
8 innovative things ‘Gateway Cities’ in Massachusetts are doing to bounce back from the Great RecessionNov 15, 2017
Activating waterfront property that once drew mill workers along the Merrimack River. Turning an historic Worcester park into an art gallery. A “pop-up restaurant” to help advance the careers of food entrepreneurs in Fitchburg.
Those were some of the initiatives underway across the Bay State, meant to serve as catalyst in their respective “Gateway Cities” as they recover from the Great Recession.
Massachusetts has 26 so-called “Gateway Cities,” urban regions that have traditionally provided economic pathways to residents and immigrants, according to the Gateway Cities Innovation Institute, which is under nonprofit think tank MassINC. While Boston is the likely front-runner, 9 Gateway Cities submitted bids for Amazon’s second headquarters.
“Cities are now factories for ideas,” and it’s ideas and creativity that are drawing in businesses like Google and Apple, according to Mark Davy, a consultant and the founder of Futurecity, who spoke at a MassINC celebration of Gateway Cities.
The initiatives in Pittsfield, Lawrence and elsewhere were honored Wednesday at the Gateway Cities Innovation Awards and Summit, held inside a brick mill building overlooking the Merrimack in Lawrence.
Oct 10, 2017
Budgets, we’re told by politicians and policy-makers, reflect the priorities and values of the community.
Want children educated? Fund education. Safe streets? Fund public safety. And so on.
But lost in the discussion over our priorities and values is a question central to the efficacy of our government: Is money being spent in a way that achieves the desired results?
It is in this light that we take note of a new study, “The Geography of Incarceration in a Gateway City,” prepared by MassINC and the Massachusetts Criminal Justice Reform Coalition.
Oct 9, 2017
WORCESTER – The idea that too many people are given prison sentences instead of treatment for addictions or mental ailments is nothing new.
But a new study released recently by an independent Boston think tank urging criminal justice reform uses Worcester’s neighborhoods to support that theory, mapping in detail where offenders live and suggesting that crime in some areas might actually be driven by high rates of imprisonment.
“You would think that locking people up who are creating disorder is always beneficial, but if you’re putting a lot of people away for nonviolent offenses, it reduces the stigma attached to going to prison and makes it less of a deterrent,” Ben Forman, research director at MassINC, said in announcing the results of the Sept. 25 report.
Titled “The Geography of Incarceration in a Gateway City,” the 18-page report confirms what many would suspect: The bulk of people placed behind bars live in rougher neighborhoods. But by presenting the data alongside other neighborhood measures – voting records and school discipline, chiefly – it suggests that poor neighborhoods may be caught in a cycle of crime driven, as opposed to relieved by, incarceration of law-breakers.
Oct 8, 2017
BOSTON — Fear often trumps levelheaded reasoning when it comes to criminal justice policy in Massachusetts. With audience-hungry news broadcasts constantly fanning the flames, counterproductive laws have accumulated like weeds on a long neglected lot. This has repercussions for everyone, but the pain is especially sharp in Gateway Cities. If these communities are going to provide solid pathways to the American dream in a challenging economy, we must confront this reality.
A new report from the nonpartisan think-tank MassINC demonstrates the extent to which the overuse of incarceration hurts Gateway Cities by mapping the Worcester County Sheriff’s intake data: On some Worcester streets, admissions to correctional facilities come from home after home; a downtown Worcester neighborhood lost one out of every 10 young men to incarceration between 2009 and 2015; within the span of a single year, another neighborhood saw 350 admissions to the county’s correctional facilities.
Sep 29, 2017
This week, however, we were reminded by a MassInc report on the city that economic development must be intractably linked to social development, or the former will be harder to maintain.
According to the report, “The Geography of Incarceration in a Gateway City,” high rates of incarceration can have a chilling impact on community and economic development in cities like Worcester.
In addition to creating a climate for increased crime, high incarceration rates can lead to low school performance, behavioral problems among children, and long-term political and civil disengagement, the report noted.
Meanwhile, communities with high incarceration rates generally nurture high levels of poverty, unemployment and racial segregation, according to the report.
Feb 22, 2017
MassInc. Research Director Ben Forman said that for so-called Gateway Cities like Pittsfield, urban centers outside of Boston that are critical indicators of the state of the commonwealth, to advance, they must enhance their educational assets and vision to create high-quality learning environments.
“If the new formula the state designs to sort schools is not sensitive to the complexity of inclusive urban districts,” Forman wrote in a December 2016 policy paper, “Gateway Cities will have great difficulty attracting both families with young children and talented educators to their communities.”
MassInc. convened a public breakfast forum at the Berkshire Museum last week, in partnership with the Berkshire Compact for Education, to address how to best improve the state’s current accountability system.
Feb 2, 2017
Federal No Child Left Behind legislation measured schools based on test scores, too narrow a gauge for most observers.
But how will schools in Springfield, Holyoke and other Massachusetts Gateway Cities respond to new standards that require a broader measure of how well a school is doing?
“Everybody says that a thing that gets measured gets managed,” said Benjamin Forman, research director for MassINC, a Boston think tank. “What is happening now is that people are taking broader measures of school performance.”
Forman hosted a series of panel discussions Thursday in Springfield in an effort to learn how schools in Gateway Cities — older industrial communities now struggling to reinvent their economies — can have a say in new school criteria and use them to their advantage.