Massachusetts OZ Academy (2019)

What is the Massachusetts Opportunity Zones Academy?

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

LOCUS will selected 3-5 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 will work 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 will consist of:

  1. Kick-Off Convening at the 2019 LOCUS National Leadership Summit: Opportunity Rising  

Successful applicants will attend the 2019 LOCUS National Leadership Summit: Opportunity Rising from June 23-24, 2019 in Washington, DC. This annual meeting of real estate developers and investors, planners, policymakers, and elected officials will examine 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 will meet each other and LOCUS’ technical  assistance team to launch the 2019 Massachusetts Opportunity Zones Academy, attend relevant Summit sessions, and begin 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 will be fully compensated by Smart Growth America/LOCUS thanks to the generous support of the Barr Foundation. 

  1. Personalized Site Visit(s)

From July to October, LOCUS will work with selected communities to identify their individual strengths, issues, constraints, and opportunities related to Opportunity Zone-led growth and development. This will include 1-3 virtual roundtable discussions in which the technical assistance team meets 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 will then design a one-day site visit in which LOCUS will visit the community, meet stakeholders, and lead numerous training and capacity-building meetings on topics identified as being most prevalent to the community. These topics can include:

  • Capacity building, community education and inclusive engagement around Opportunity Zones,
  • Writing strategic Opportunity Zone and community benefit plans.
  • Land use regulations that unleash economic potential,
  • Zoning Code review to identify obstacles to place-based economic development,
  • Form-Based Codes: The ABCs, Urban Design and Placemaking, Equity, and Formulating, Adopting, and Administering Form-Based Codes,
  • (Re)Building Downtown,
  • Downtown revitalization without displacement,
  • Transit-Oriented Development (TOD), 
  • New mobility options,
  • Planning for resiliency.
  • Fiscal modeling for development scenarios and hotspot analyses,
  • Planning for economic & fiscal health, 
  • Small-scale manufacturing,
  • Rural development.
  • Establishing and operating an Opportunity Fund,
  • Building equitable development project pipelines,
  • Pro-forma training for making real estate deals happen,
  • Building public-private partnerships and other investment vehicles for smart growth development,
  • Navigating federal financing programs for smart growth development,
  • Equitable transportation performance measures and project selection criteria.
  • Designing streets for all users: Drivers, transit, bikes and pedestrians,
  • Formulating and implementing equitable Complete Streets policies.

Following the site visit, the technical assistance team will create a Best Practices and Recommendations report for each participant that identifies key community priorities and action items to address their Opportunity Zones’ economic and social equity needs.

  1. All-Applicant Convening at the 2019 LOCUS New England Leadership Summit

The Academy will conclude with an all-applicant convening at the 2019 LOCUS New England Leadership Summit, scheduled to take place in November 2019. All applicants, including those not selected to participate in the full Massachusetts Opportunity Zones Academy, will be 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.

Eligibility Criteria 

To be considered for the Massachusetts Opportunity Zones Academy, applicants must meet the following eligibility criteria:

  1. Locally-led, community-driven pursuit of Opportunity Zones

Eligible applicants include any local unit of government whose jurisdiction contains at least one federally designated Opportunity Zone; a governmental entity created by the state legislature overseeing activity in an Opportunity Zone may also apply.

  1. Demonstrate commitment or mission to pursue smart growth development 

Seeking communities with comprehensive investment strategies and equitable development plans that promote walkable, mixed-use development. These include, but are not limited to: 40R Smart Growth Districts, TIF/DIF areas, and TOD overlay zones.

  1. Encourage inclusive stakeholder participation

Applicants will be judged based on their ability to include and engage a diverse group of key stakeholders in planning and decision-making efforts aimed at improving the community. These include, but are not limited to: local elected officials, municipal employees, housing, economic development, and social service agencies, and business, philanthropic, civic, community, and equity stakeholders. 

2019 Massachusetts Opportunity Zones Academy Timeline

The 2019 Massachusetts Opportunity Zones Academy will run on the following schedule:

Monday, April 1
Applications open for the 2019 Massachusetts Opportunity Zones Academy

Monday, April 15
Massachusetts Opportunity Zones Academy Informational Webinar

Interested in applying for the 2019 Massachusetts Opportunity Zones Academy but have questions about the structure, timeline, application, or eligibility and selection criteria?

Join the LOCUS technical assistance team for 2019 Massachusetts Opportunity Zones Academy: What You Need to Know, an interactive Q&A webinar, to have your immediate Academy and application questions answered. Register here.

Friday, May 3
Applications close

Mid May
Successful applicants notified

Sunday, June 23 – Monday, June 24
2019 LOCUS National Leadership Summit: Opportunity Rising and Massachusetts Opportunity Zones Academy Kick-Off 

July – October
Site visits

2019 LOCUS New England Leadership Summit

All technical assistance completed

2019 Massachusetts Opportunity Zones Academy Blog

Follow along to see what locally-led, community-driven approaches to Opportunity Zone investment can achieve!




For immediate Massachusetts Opportunity Zones Academy inquires, please contact:

Elijah Plymesser
Director, LOCUS Massachusetts

Tola Myczkowska
Policy Associate, LOCUS

LOCUS: Responsible Real Estate Developers and Investors