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.
Jan 31, 2017
MassINC and the Univeristy of Massachusetts Dartmouth hosted a breakfast meeting Monday at the Waypoint Event Center to discuss potential changes.
Matthew Deninger of DESE told the group that as the state rewrites the rules for measuring school quality, it could consider such factors as access to the arts, a well-rounded curriculum, advanced coursework in high schools, school climate and culture, and the rate of chronic absenteeism.
“ESSA provides us an opportunity to push our thinking,” he said.
Ben Forman, research director at MassINC, said the state’s system of accountability has helped raise achievement to the point where low-income Massachusetts students now rank first in the nation in Grade 8 math, the same as all eighth-graders in the state, whereas in 2003, low-income students ranked 26th, far behind the general population, which ranked third.
Jan 13, 2017
A thinktank that co-sponsored the forum, the Massachusetts Institute for a new Commonwealth, or MassINC, is helping gateway cities and school leaders take advantage of the new education act as a way to advocate for their school districts.
A MassINC report on ESSA shows the challenges that Lowell and other gateway cities face. An average of two-thirds of students in such districts are from low-income families, a major increase from 2002, and claim a disproportionate share of students who are foreign-born or do not speak English as their native language, according to the group.
Dec 16, 2016
WORCESTER – A teachers union president, a school administrator, and a high school student all agreed at a panel conversation Thursday morning: there is room in the state’s next accountability standards for factors other than test scores.
Other speakers at the event, which was hosted by MassINC and the Worcester Education Collaborative at the Beechwood Hotel, also expressed optimism that Worcester and other “Gateway Cities” in the state in particular could be helped by a new approach to measuring school success.
Worcester Superintendent of Schools Maureen Binienda receives Gateway Cities award for creating more opportunities for studentsNov 16, 2016
SPRINGFIELD — Worcester Public Schools Superintendent Maureen Binienda has worked to create partnerships with local corporations and non-profits to create more opportunities for students.
Those efforts earned her an award at the Massachusetts Institute for a New Commonwealth, or MassINC, fourth annual Gateway Cities Innovation Awards and Summit.
At the event on Tuesday, Binienda accepted the Gateway Cities Champion Award, given annually to someone who has shown “exceptional leadership,” MassINC said in a statement.
“I was humbled to get the award because there are so many people doing great work,” she said Wednesday morning.
The event, held at the MassMutual Center, seemed to have a recurring message of collaboration, Binienda said, which especially stood out to her. She took in stories of other people and organizations who addressed problems by looking beyond themselves.
“Collaboration is the only answer,” she said.
May 11, 2016
On the surface, that seems like a plus for house-hunters and businesses looking to relocate in Gateway Cities — but it actually has negative consequences. The low cost of housing means it is not financially worthwhile for developers to build there, so the cities and their economies are not growing.
That is one of the key pieces of information included in a new study released by the MassINC think tank called Rebuilding Renewal.
The study identifies the economic challenges faced by Gateway Cities due to slumping real estate prices. Although Massachusetts already invests disproportionately in Gateway Cities, the study recommends that the state increase its efforts to invest in what MassINC calls “transformative development,” which means building projects that are meant to catalyze other development in the surrounding areas.
“Urban neighborhoods are attractive to people today… On the other hand, these neighborhoods aren’t improving the way we would like them to,” said Ben Forman, research director for MassINC.
May 6, 2016
“It’s really striking that Massachusetts spent more on courthouses in Gateway Cities than on housing or economic development,” said Benjamin Forman, research director at MassInc. “We need to approach every single dollar spent in these cities by thinking how can this dollar create more growth block by block.”
Mar 14, 2016
U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren gave Clark University’s annual Lee Gurel lecture on Monday at the university immediately preceding a symposium focusing on urban education and federal law, and the nationally-known Democratic politician drew applause and amens from a crowd eager to hear her plans on improving urban education.
The talk was co-sponsored by Clark and MassINC, and the speakers who introduced Warren spent some time talking about Worcester as a “gateway city,” with some needs and areas to improve, especially around education.
Sep 25, 2015
Attorney General Maura Healey on Thursday addressed a closed-door meeting of 25 mayors, police chiefs and other officials from around the state who gathered to swap policing strategies.
The meeting at the downtown campus of Northern Essex Community College was closed to the public. But afterward, Healey and others said it focused on helping police in the state’s so-called gateway cities – mid-sized cities that are struggling to regain their economies after their manufacturing industries failed or left – share best practices in fighting crime.
Nov 14, 2013
Fitchburg Sentinel and Enterprise – Dohan honored as a Gateway Cities innovator
The Gateway Cities Innovative Institute, an organization created by the think tank MassINC, celebrated its first anniversary at a luncheon on Tuesday that included the issuing of these awards.
Nov 13, 2013
Fitchburg Mayor Lisa A. Wong and Salem Mayor Kimberley Driscoll were co-chairmen of the initiative, which involved dozens of people and is supported by the MassINC Gateway Cities Innovation Institute.
Nov 13, 2013
Support for early education and English language learners should be policy priorities for struggling regional hubs like New Bedford, according to a new report on Gateway Cities.
The report, released by the Massachusetts Institute for a New Commonwealth (MassINC)’s Gateway Cities Innovation Institute, was authored by Mayors Kimberley Driscoll of Salem and Lisa Wong of Fitchburg and based on a year-long study of other former industrial cities’ educational needs.
Wong said the purpose of the report is to underscore the unique needs of Gateway Cities and to help lobby the state and federal government to fund education programs to help revitalize them. Read more…
Nov 13, 2013
The state’s Gateway Cities are banding together to try to improve education in their areas, a move they hope will lead to economic revitalization.
Fitchburg Mayor Lisa A. Wong and Salem Mayor Kimberley Driscoll were co-chairmen of the initiative, which involved dozens of people and is supported by the MassINC Gateway Cities Innovation Institute. The group is releasing a report today about the need for more access to high-quality preschool and new approaches in high school.
Gateway Cities, a group of 26 cities identified by law that includes Fitchburg, Leominster and Worcester, are home to a third of the state’s residents under 5 years old and half of all high-need students, Ms. Wong said in a press release.Read more…
Nov 13, 2013
A “grassroots” effort to improve educational opportunities and skills training for students in the state’s 26 “gateway cities” is underway.
The report, the Gateway Cities’ Vision for Dynamic Community-Wide Learning Systems, or the “Vision” for short, calls for increased access to high-quality pre-kindergarten education and academic development in high school, said Fitchburg Mayor Lisa Wong, who co-chaired the initiative.
She, along with Salem Mayor Kimberley Driscoll, who joins Wong as co-chairwoman of the initiative, unveiled the report to news reporters during a phone conference on Tuesday. Read more…
Nov 13, 2013
In order for cities such as Worcester, Fitchburg and Leominster to churn out citizens that are prepared to enter the workforce and strengthen the middle class, they first must create a way to provide a better education in a nurturing and stable environment.
To this end, officials from each of those cities, along with those from more than a dozen other urban communities, spent more than one year preparing a multi-tiered plan, complete with proposals and policy changes, in order to reach their goal.
On Tuesday, Gateway City mayors and members of the Massachusetts Institute for a New Commonwealth (MassINC), a non-partisan think tank, unveiled “Gateway Cities Vision for Dynamic Community-Wide Learning Systems,” a 60-page report focused on strategic ways to better prepare children for careers as adults. Read more…
Nov 13, 2013
A group of mayors and education leaders from the state’s Gateway Cities, such as Springfield and Holyoke, are calling for expanded efforts to help prepare students for 21st century jobs.
The local leaders, in collaboration with a not-for-profit think tank, MassINC, unveiled their vision Tuesday that includes: expanding access to high-quality, pre-kindergarten education and creating stronger partnerships with local employers and colleges.
In addition, the report calls for increasing the number of school-based health centers to help students with “social and emotional growth,” increasing funds for after-school enrichment programs, increasing learning time in the early grades, and expanding summer-enrichment efforts among other endeavors. (Read more…)