Partnership in the News: Forming a vision for the future of business in North Adams, MA

On September 12, local business owners convened at a workshop in North Adams, MA to voice their concerns and priorities for the future of business in their area. This meeting was part of an effort to form a Master Plan for the city, a part of the broader Sustainable Berkshires initiative, funded with grant support from a HUD Regional Planning Grant.

Mayor Richard J. Alcombright emphasized the city’s need for a growth plan, saying,

“This is a very important process for the city, which, on a whole, hasn’t had a master road map in 40 years. Coming from the business world, we always had a plan. It needs to be a design that is in a very bendable, soft cover book, because it needs to be a fluid road map to success. It needs to keep the community on track, but also allows us to change direction. We are definitely a city that is at a crossroads. Our immediate need is growth, and a good solid plan is key to that.”

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Multitude of Unfunded TIGER Grant Applications Points to Need for Continued Funding

The Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery (TIGER) program, provides a unique opportunity for the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) to invest in road, rail, transit, and port projects that promise to achieve national objectives. Now in its fourth round, the program remains critically underfunded. DOT received 703 applications, totaling $10.2 billion in requests. Out of those, 47 projects were selected to receive a total of close to $500 million.

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Partnership in the News: Massachusetts to Study Old Railbed with Help of EPA Grant

The Metropolitan Area Planning Council selected Newton and Needham, Massachusetts as one of five communities to receive an Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) grant. The free technical assistance will be used to study options for a defunct railbed that connects the two communities, reports the Needham Patch. The funding for this project comes from the EPA’s Building Blocks for Sustainable Communities Program.

“We are excited to lend our expertise to a wide range of communities,” Andre Leroux, executive director of the Massachusetts Smart Growth Alliance, said in the press release. “This opportunity advances the Alliance’s goal to help communities here in Greater Boston enhance their quality of life, economic strength, and affordability.”

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From Heavy Industry to Great Neighborhood: Lawrence, Massachusetts leverages its community resources


As one of the last planned mill cities in the Northeast, Lawrence, Mass., was engineered specifically to maximize the water energy potential flowing on the Merrimack River. Between the 1840s and the 1960s, the city’s textile industry generated a constant flow of financial capital, luring other businesses and workers and contributing to a healthy, vibrant community.

But in the aftermath of World War II and a steady decline in domestic manufacturing, the city lost its economic engine and suffered the flight of its middle-class white population to the suburbs. What was a manufacturing powerhouse 40 miles north of Boston is now New England’s most heavily populated Latino City, home to multiple generations of mostly Caribbean immigrants who came as low-wage labor but have stayed to make the city their own.

Since the decline of manufacturing, the city has struggled to stay afloat amid volatile economic and development trends. The recession and resulting public budget crisis have encumbered it even further.

There is hope on the horizon, however: Lawrence possesses a dynamic civil community of nonprofit groups, residents, local property owners and small businesspeople who are charting a new course. Collectively, these groups are spearheading a movement to pump life back into the economy by leveraging Lawrence’s historic resources in a new way.

The textile boom left the city’s rivers and canals lined with 12 million square feet of mill buildings. “Some of these buildings are the same size as skyscrapers lying down,” said Andre Leroux, who has lived and worked in the city and is now the Executive Director of the Massachusetts Smart Growth Alliance (MSGA). “At the time that they were in operation, they were the biggest buildings in the world.”

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Partnership in the News: Somerville Residents Planning for Future

Three years of work have paid off, with the release of Somerville, Massachusett’s first 20-year comprehensive plan, reports the Somerville Journal.

“This is an extraordinary achievement made possible by the hard work of hundreds of community-minded contributors both inside and outside government,” said Mayor Joe Curtatone at the event. “Because it is based on so much public input and review, it truly represents a consensus view of our values and priorities as a community.”

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Momentum Continues in the States

Though all eyes have been on federal transportation policy the last few weeks, states have continued to push forward with their Complete Streets efforts. Bills have been introduced in West Virginia and Rhode Island, and several states with Complete Streets policies in place move ahead with implementation.

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Partnership in the News: Millis Undertakes Study to Spur Development

The Town of Millis, Massachusetts is soon to benefit from a portion of the $4 million Department of Housing and Urban Development Regional Planning grant awarded to the Metropolitan Area Planning Council, reports the Milford Daily News.

To help spur development of the town center, Millis will participate in a feasibility study with the Metropolitan Area Planning Council to encourage new housing and business opportunities.

Millis is hoping to create a “more vibrant” downtown area, and applied for the study in August, said Town Administrator Charles Aspinwall.

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Smart growth news – June 23, 2011

The City and Bikes: Rubber Meets Road
Wall Street Journal, June 22, 2011
Spring was a little shrill and embarrassing. There were crazed media furies about bike lanes, non-stop reports of police crackdowns, hyperbolic worries that the city was transforming into an effete Euro village. If we didn’t defend our streets, the cyclists would overtake Manhattan. Mayor Bloomberg and Department of Transportation commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan would open a leg-shaving station in Union Square…But then a funny thing occurred. It got warmer, more people started riding, and the mania was eclipsed by reality.

Five Smart Growth Projects Receive $1.5 Million in Aid
Boston Globe, June 23, 2011
Five development projects seen as promoting dense urban development oriented around mass transit have been chosen by the Massachusetts Smart Growth Alliance to receive $1.5 million in aid.

Carroll officials take stand on growth, transit, immigration
Baltimore Sun, June 22, 2011
Public prayer is just one of the issues that is defining this five-member, all-Republican board, all but one a newcomer to governance. They were swept into office on the tea party wave last year after a campaign that emphasized property rights and an opposition to many environmental initiatives, affordable housing and public transportation in a county where more than half the workforce commutes to jobs outside its borders. “We don’t want subways or metro buses,” said Richard Rothschild, one of the new commissioners. “They are conduits for crime. That’s not politically correct, but it is factually substantiated.”

Is a housing construction boom coming?
The Atlantic, June 22, 2011
You might think the question posed in the headline above sounds crazy. Aren’t foreclosures very high and thousands of distressed properties hitting the market each day? Didn’t residential construction go bonkers during the housing bubble in an epic overbuilding binge? The answers to these questions are: sort of, but it’s complicated. After the bubble popped, home construction fell to historic lows and stayed there. As a result, we may be on the verge a housing shortage in the U.S., which would actually be very good news for the economic recovery.

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Spotlight on Sustainability: Boston and Littleton, Massachusetts

The following is a guest post from Mark Racicot, Land Use Division Manager for Boston’s Metropolitan Area Planning Council (MAPC)

Last year, a coalition led by the Metropolitan Area Planning Council of Boston was awarded a $4 million grant through the Department of Housing and Urban Development’s Sustainable Communities Regional Planning Grant Program (part of the federal Partnership for Sustainable Communities). The MetroFuture Regional Plan, a groundbreaking initiative, is designed to strengthen the economy, create jobs, increase transportation options, and improve quality of life for area residents.

Residents of the Town of Littleton, Mass., have already seen the major impact this funding can have on a community. A few weeks ago, Littleton residents voted to amend the uses allowed on active farms in residential districts and protect the future of their farming economy. As one component of the larger MetroFuture plan, Littleton used Sustainable Communities funding to protect agricultural land and will use additional funds to look at wastewater treatment programs and development in the village.

Keith Bergman, Littleton Town Administrator, said, “Littleton is committed to economic development consistent with community character. We’re host to IBM’s largest software development lab in North America, but we’re also a rural community with a rich agricultural tradition, active farms, and even a town-owned orchard. We want to help our farmers keep their land in agricultural uses by expanding ancillary uses, so we’re big on green, as well as Big Blue.”

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Smart growth news – June 9, 2011

Report: Deferred road repair poses financial liability
American City and County, June 6, 2011
Some states’ habit of spending on new road construction rather than on regular repair have left many states’ roads in poor condition, and costs to repair those roads are rising faster than states can address them, according to a new report from Washington-based Smart Growth America (SGA) and Taxpayers for Common Sense. The report, “Repair Priorities: Transportation spending strategies to save taxpayer dollars and improve roads,” examines road conditions and spending priorities nationwide and recommends changes at both the state and federal levels that the organization says can reduce future liabilities, benefit taxpayers and create a better transportation system.

U.S. Road Expansion Costing Taxpayers
The City Fix blog, June 8, 2011
A smaller initial investment in renewed priorities of road maintenance actively reduces the scale of future costs, found a new report by Smart Growth America. “Rehabilitating a road that has deteriorated is substantially more expensive than keeping that road in good condition,” the report says.

Scrimping on highway repairs leaves states in a bind
GovPro.com, June 8, 2011
Some states’ habit of spending on new road construction rather than on regular repair have left many states’ roads in poor condition, and costs to repair those roads are rising faster than states can address them, according to a new report from Washington-based Smart Growth America (SGA) and Taxpayers for Common Sense.

Metro Detroit’s bus system fight may risk millions
Detroit Free Press, June 8, 2011
Metro Detroit has its most realistic chance in a generation of creating a rail and bus transit system that could transform how the region commutes and launch economic redevelopment from downtown to the suburbs. But if Detroit and tri-county leaders can’t agree on combining city and suburban bus systems — an ambition that has eluded the region for decades — they risk forfeiting millions in federal money.

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