Placemaking Fund: Request for Interest (RFI)

The Boston Local initiative Support Corporation (Boston LISC) and the Massachusetts Smart Growth Alliance (MSGA) are excited to announce that we are now accepting Letters of Interest (LOI) for our pilot “Placemaking Fund.” Mini-grants of up to $5,000 will be awarded to projects through a competitive process described in the document attached. A total of $45,000 in funding is available to be awarded in 2016. To apply to the Placemaking Fund, follow the guidelines in the Request for Interest (RFI) below.

Please respond no later than Friday, May 13, 2016, midnight.

Download the RFI

Placemaking Fund RFI (PDF)
Placemaking Fund RFI forms (Word)

Why Businesses Are Moving Downtown

As shown by Smart Growth America’s survey released today, there is a trend nationally and locally for businesses to move to walkable city and town centers.  There is a message here: cities and towns that become more walkable and cultivate a strong sense of place will have a competitive advantage.

Under the model that prevailed for 50 years, businesses were looking for single-use suburban office and light industrial locations.  Employees could live anywhere—they arrived and left by car and parked in surface parking lots.   Economic development strategy primarily focused on marketing the locations—access to highways, cheap land costs, and any concessions the municipality could offer.  Most municipalities weren’t thinking about where the workers would live; in fact, many would frankly say they wanted the jobs, not the housing.

That model is clearly shifting, as companies see a compelling need to attract and retain talented young workers who want to work in walkable and vibrant locations. To take two metrics, the siting decisions surveyed showed a jump in walk score of 36 points (from 52 to 88) and in transit access score of 27 points (from 52 to 79). 

But it is not just about walkability and transit.  Businesses were looking for vibrant places—restaurants, retail, housing, and public space.  At a panel discussion, a Cushman & Wakefield broker said “Our brokers are not pitching an office or a store or a place to live, they are pitching a lifestyle.”

What does the new economic development strategy look like?  It means identifying the places where you have—or can picture having–the kind of neighborhood that will attract businesses.  That is likely to be a downtown, or secondary business district, but it could also be underutilized land near transit. 

Then it means evaluating your zoning in those places—and making sure that the zoning promotes a mix of uses, appropriate density, and emphasizes connectivity by all travel modes. 

And it means asking whether there is a strong sense of place and actively thinking about place-making.  It also requires governance that will provide the amenities and programming that will sustain that sense of place.  Such governance can be provided by business improvement or community benefit districts (if the legislature passes a bill we support, H 144/S 1070). 

The trend to downtowns has another implication for municipalities.  For those cities that are already seeing property values rise, there must be increased focus on building social equity into the equation (using tools like inclusionary zoning and linkage between commercial development and housing). 

Massachusetts is lucky to have a lot of walkable urban places.  If cities and towns want to be part of our thriving 21st century economy, we’ll see even more in the years to come.   

The full report can be found here:

A $15 million down payment

Great news! The Legislature passed a supplemental budget (House Bill 3947) that includes $15 million for the Brownfields Redevelopment Fund, our state’s best tool for cleaning up contaminated and vacant properties and getting them back on the tax rolls.

Please take a moment to thank your legislators.

This is a significant down payment on the $60 million necessary to recapitalize the Brownfields Fund for the next five years and we look forward to working with legislative leadership over the next few months to secure the remaining $45 million that is needed.

Let your legislators know that you appreciate their work and ongoing commitment.

Since 1998, the Brownfields Redevelopment Fund has been used 630 times in cities and towns throughout the state and is considered a national model of success. In the past six years alone, the Fund has led to the creation of over 4,000 housing units and 2,600 permanent jobs.

For more information, including support letters, Boston Globe editorial, and other background info, go to:

Economic growth depends on housing: MAPC

The Greater Boston area’s economic health in coming decades will depend on attracting young workers and the availability and affordability of housing for those workers, according to data released yesterday by Alliance founding member the Metropolitan Area Planning Council (MAPC).

MAPC’s Regional Growth Projections forecast population growth of 6.6 to 12.6 percent by 2040 (over 2010 figures), depending on “status quo” or “stronger region” assumptions. Among key findings of the report, the region will require 17 to 24 percent more housing units than the 1.8 million available in 2010.

Other key findings:

  • Slow growth is in store if the region keeps losing population to other states.
  • New housing demand will outpace population growth due to declining household size.
  • A “senior selloff” may provide most of the single family homes needed by younger families.
  • Many signs point to the resurgence of urban communities.

Specific community snapshops, prefaced by the regional executive summary, are available for download from the regional projections page.

Smart Growth in Action: Somerville ‘Learning Journey’ on Oct. 29

Over the next 25 years, the City of Somerville will undergo a profound transformation. With a new Orange Line station in Assembly Square and at least six new stations along the Green Line Extension, convenient access to rail transit will explode from 15% to 85% of Somerville residents.

Tomorrow’s “learning journey” has a capacity crowd attending the morning presentation, networking session, guided trolley tour of Somerville’s transformational “hot spots”, followed by a lunchtime discussion of our common challenges. Hear about our collective efforts to make sure this public investment stays on track and results in local and regional public benefit through the:

  • Local Jobs Campaign
  • Community Path Design
  • Urban Agriculture Initiative
  • Passage of the Community Preservation Act
  • Implementation of the Somerville Comprehensive Plan (“SomerVision”)

To learn more about Somerville and these opportunities, visit the Somerville webpage of our Great Neighborhoods initiative.




As background for our tour, you may like to view the Somerville page of the Great Neighborhoods website:

Groundwork Lawrence selected as social innovator

Congratulations to our Great Neighborhoods partner, Groundwork Lawrence, for being selected as one of five a social innovators in Greater Boston at Root Cause’s 2012–2013 Social Innovation Forum.

Groundwork Lawrence has done exceptional work in Lawrence on environmental and open space improvements, fresh food programs, youth education, employment initiatives, and community programming and events. This award recognizes these achievements and provides the organization with more than $115,000 in cash and capacity-building services from Root Cause and its partners.

Take a look to at this recent video to see how GWL is helping to build Great Neighborhoods and healthy communities in Lawrence.

Root Cause is a nonprofit research and consulting firm that partners with nonprofits, philanthropy, government, and business to advance solutions to today’s toughest social issues. To see the entire press release click here.