Massachusetts OZ Academy (2019)

The Massachusetts Opportunity Zones Academy aimed to ensure that Massachusetts communities are prepared to make the most of the federal Opportunity Zones tax incentive.

LOCUS selected six Massachusetts communities to participate in a three-part technical assistance program focusing on the role of Opportunity Zones and Opportunity Funds in stimulating investment in traditionally underserved census tracts. LOCUS’ technical assistance team worked to equip participant communities with the tools, skills, and knowledge necessary for developing sustainable growth and development strategies that balance their demand for walkability with the need for jobs, housing, open space, and transportation that is attainable and accessible to all.

The technical assistance program consisted of:

  • Kick-Off Convening at the 2019 LOCUS National Leadership Summit: Opportunity Rising. This annual meeting of real estate developers and investors, planners, policymakers, and elected officials examined the policies, practices, and leadership strategies necessary for catalyzing prosperity, equity, and resilience in communities across the country. As part of the Summit, Academy participants met each other and LOCUS’ technical assistance team, attended relevant Summit sessions, and began framing the ways in which to leverage the Opportunity Zone program in their communities to achieve smart growth development, public and private investment, and equity goals. Attendance at the 2019 LOCUS National Leadership Summit was made possible thanks to the generous support of the Barr Foundation. 
  • Site Visit(s). From July to October 2019, LOCUS worked with selected communities to identify their individual strengths, issues, constraints, and opportunities related to Opportunity Zone-led growth and development. This included 1-3 virtual roundtable discussions in which the technical assistance team met with each community and their Opportunity Zone stakeholders to discuss the economic and real estate development context of each place, as well as the market and capacity gaps that exist there. Community stakeholders and the LOCUS team then designed a one-day site visit in which LOCUS visited the community, met stakeholders, and led numerous training and capacity-building meetings on topics identified as being most prevalent to the community. These topics included: Community Visioning and Strategic Planning; Responsible Land Use and Development; Inclusive Economic Development; Attracting Capital for Smart Growth Projects; Implementing Compete Streets.  
  1. All-Applicant Convening at the 2019 LOCUS New England Leadership Summit. The Academy concluded with an all-applicant convening at the 2019 LOCUS New England Leadership Summit. All applicants, including those not selected to participate in the full Massachusetts Opportunity Zones Academy, were invited to attend a convening with technical assistance recipients to learn about their experiences as part of the Academy, as well as best practices for attracting investment, developing project pipelines, establishing equitable development frameworks, and building a strong ecosystem of Opportunity Zone knowledge across the state.


The six participating Massachusetts communities included:  

Barnstable, MA

In Massachusetts, Barnstable serves as the center of year-round economic activity on Cape Cod. The town’s potential for redevelopment and revitalization is high because of its historic main street, transportation center, regional hospital, and ferry service to neighboring Nantucket and Martha’s Vineyard. During the 2019 Massachusetts Opportunity Zones Academy, Barnstable sought to use its newly designated Opportunity Zone to leverage improvements in its urban form, generate development of multifamily housing and mixed-use development, and catalyze year-round economic activity and residency. 

Planning staff identified a gateway area at the center of Hyannis’ historic downtown and a block away from Hyannis Harbor with significant potential to support new investment and improvements to the urban form as the catalytic focus of their Massachusetts Opportunity Zones Academy participation. Read about how Barnstable used its Opportunity Zone to improve its walkable urban form here

Boston, MA

The City of Boston is home to twelve (12) federally-designated Opportunity Zones; these census tracts were intentionally selected to help further the city’s commitment to equitable development and inclusive economic growth, while protecting Boston residents and businesses from any potential shortcomings of the new tax incentive. 

The Office of Economic Development, in partnership with the Boston Housing Authority, Boston Planning & Development Agency, Office of Resilience and Racial Equity, and the Department of Neighborhood Development, seeks to operationalize its Opportunity Zones to help meet the stated goals of Imagine Boston 2030, its first city-wide plan in more than fifty years.

Fitchburg, MA

The City of Fitchburg is located in the north of Worcester County on the Route 2 and I-495 Corridors, approximately one hour from Boston, MA. Featuring a commuter rail connection to Boston, collaborative anchor institutions, and a lower cost of living compared to inner-core communities, the City of Fitchburg is well positioned to take advantage of the growth in demand for walkable, transit-oriented neighborhoods that are affordable to a range of individuals. 

During the 2019 Massachusetts Opportunity Zones Academy, the City of Fitchburg focused on evaluating its existing land-use policies’ fiscal impacts on development patterns, conducting site suitability analyses for Opportunity Zone districts that assessed the value per acre performance of blocks in each Opportunity Zone, and creating a triaged project development pipeline. Learn about Fitchburg’s Massachusetts Opportunity Zones Academy outcomes here and check out its Opportunity Zone Investor Prospectus here

Greenfield-Montague, MA

In the past decade, the former manufacturing strongholds of Greenfield and Montague in western Massachusetts have seen historic buildings renovated and cultural and entertainment venues popping up in their respective downtowns. During the 2019 Massachusetts Opportunity Zones Academy, the two communities sought to better understand gaps in Opportunity Zone project costs, the fiscal impacts of downtown and peripheral development, and policy and financing strategies for encouraging equitable real estate and local business development. Read about how Greenfield and Montague used its Opportunity Zones to aid in historic revitalization and mixed-use development here

Salem, MA

The City of Salem is home to two Opportunity Zones; one is located in its downtown corridor and is the site of the city’s proposed South Salem Commuter Rail station. The city was eager to leverage the development and investment potential of the Opportunity Zone tax incentive to build economic activity and housing choice in Salem, particularly around the  proposed South Salem Commuter Rail station. Read about how Salem explored the TOD potential of Opportunity Zones during the Massachusetts Opportunity Zones Academy here.

Yarmouth, MA

The Town of Yarmouth is an important economic and tourist hub on Cape Cod in Massachusetts. Route 28 cuts through the edge of town and its designated Opportunity Zone, bringing vehicle and visitor traffic from the peninsula to the town’s commercial corridors. During the Massachusetts Opportunity Zones Academy, the town’s planning and economic development staff identified the local Bass River Sports World site as the focus of its Opportunity Zone and catalytic redevelopment conversation. The town sought guidance on how to use Opportunity Zones as a tool for moving this catalytic development project forward. Read about the outcomes of Yarmouth’s time in the Massachusetts Opportunity Zones Academy here

More information can be found in the 2019 Massachusetts Opportunity Zones Academy Application Booklet

Meet the inaugural class of LOCUS’ Massachusetts Opportunity Zones Academy and learn more about the six Massachusetts communities to kick off first-ever academy on Opportunity Zones on the LOCUS blog.