November 30th Information &
Resources Update
Panel Discussion: Business Response to COVID-19 in 495/MetroWest

The Energy and Sustainable Development Committee of the 495/MetroWest Partnership invites you to a special forum as part of its series on the impact of COVID-19 on economic development, "Business Response to COVID-19 in 495/MetroWest." This panel discussion will focus on how different economic sectors in our region have responded to the pandemic.

The panel is currently in formation, and will include representatives from our region's life sciences, retail, and real estate development industries. This event will take place remotely via Zoom on Wednesday, December 9th 8:30 AM; click here to register. The event is open to all interested persons, though advance registration is required.

Panelists will speak to COVID-19's impact on their business and sector, strategies for pandemic resilience, and their thoughts on the future. Participants will have an opportunity to ask questions of panelists. 

The 495/MetroWest Partnership's Energy and Sustainable Development Committee focuses on issues related to land use, energy, brownfields remediation, low-impact development, broadband connectivity, placemaking, and environmental stewardship. Committee meetings and events are open to all interested participants.
Transportation Committee Meeting Tomorrow Morning, December 1st;
Presentation on Commuter Rail Service Cuts

The Transportation Committee of the 495/MetroWest Partnership will meet via Zoom tomorrow, Tuesday, December 1st, at 8:30 AM. Click here to register. The Committee will hear a presentation from MBTA Assistant General Manager for Policy Laurel Paget-Seekins regarding upcoming MBTA service reductions, including reductions to Commuter Rail. Participants will have an opportunity to ask questions and to offer feedback on the proposed service changes. This meeting is open to all interested persons, though advance registration is required.

The MBTA recently announced a proposed suite of service cuts and capital reallocation maneuvers to address a projected budget gap in FY22 as part of its “Forging Ahead” initiative. Proposed service reductions are likely to remain in place for several years. Click here to learn more about MBTA's "Forging Ahead" initiative

Elimination of weekend service on Commuter Rail is slated to begin in January, with other scheduling modifications targeted for May. 

Proposed Commuter Rail Service Changes:
  • Stop all weekend service (January 2021)
  • Stop all service after 9pm (May 2021)
  • Decrease peak and some midday service (May 2021)

Commuter Rail Capital Projects placed “On Pause:”
  • Franklin Double Tracking & Signal Improvement
  • Framingham/Worcester Line Track & Station Accessibility Improvements (including Third Track Feasibility)
  • Worcester Union Station – Design and Construction
  • Procurement of 181 Bi-level Coaches
Local Rapid Recovery Planning Applications Now Being Accepted

The Massachusetts Department of Housing and Community Development (DHCD) is now accepting applications from municipalities and certain non-profit entities for its Local Rapid Recovery Planning (LRRP). The goal of the program is to assist localities in developing “Local Rapid Recovery Plans” tailored to the unique economic challenges and immediate COVID-19 impacts that have affected downtowns, town centers, and commercial areas.

Eligible applicants include municipalities and certain non-profit entities (however, the application must have a letter of support from a municipality). Only one application will be reviewed for each municipality. Non-profit applicants may include District Management Entities (for example, a Business Improvement District), Community Development Corporations, or Educational Institutions (local college or university) who have some form of demonstrated stewardship in the “Study Area” to be addressed.

Click here to access more information, including application instructions. Applications are now being accepted, and are due by 3:00 PM on December 18th, 2020.

Local Rapid Recovery Plans must be highly action-oriented and seek to help communities develop immediate strategies for short-term recovery. The plans must offer communities and stakeholders a concise road map for project-related investments that support alignment with existing public resources as well as the potential to leverage additional resources from other partners and funders. The plans must include a thorough analysis and exploration of COVID-related challenges and barriers and conclude with a set of projects and strategies necessary to address COVID-19 recovery needs.

The program provides technical assistance as opposed to direct funding. A consultant will be assigned to each applicant to develop the Local Rapid Recovery Plan. Applicants will NOT need to procure consultant services themselves. 

Below are examples of Short, Medium- and Long-Term projects that can be included in plans: this is not an exhaustive list.

Public Realm Investments:
  • Closed streets, dining streets
  • Wayfinding
  • Mobility enhancements within the study area (bike or pedestrian infrastructure, etc.)
  • Placemaking investments in social distancing infrastructure and amenities
  • Targeted placemaking investments to streets, sidewalks and public spaces
  • Enhanced broadband or WIFI networks
  • Facilities for Outdoor activities

Private Realm Investments (for businesses or on private property)
  • Program to attract pop up retailers in vacant storefronts
  • Technical assistance programs to help businesses set up on-line storefronts
  • Window clean up or vacancy camouflage strategies
  • Façade and/or storefront signage improvements
  • Outdoor merchandise displays for retailers

Marketing & Promotion Activities
  • On-line marketplace for Study Area merchants
  • Social media promotion/marketing of retailers with Study Area
  • District Branding
  • Projection lighting or logo projections on downtown buildings
  • Shared advertising
  • Shopping directories
  • Marketing Campaigns (Shop Local, Stay-cation, Day Trip, etc.)
  • Enhanced Community events

Administrative Policy Recommendations
  • Permanent changes to regulations or policies pertaining to outdoor merchandising, outdoor dining, or other regulatory reform
  • Changes to existing use restrictions or retail category restrictions
  • District Management Entity formation (i.e. Business Improvement District)
  • Creation of Parking Benefit District

Comments Being Accepted Through Tomorrow on
Mass. Central Rail Trail Feasibility Study

The Massachusetts Department of Transportation (MassDOT) has released its Massachusetts Central Rail Trail Feasibility Study, which is now open for a virtual public comment period via the Public Involvement Management Application (PIMA) platform. Click here to access the public comment portal. The public comment period closes tomorrow, December 1st. 

The Mass. Central Rail Trail (MCRT) is a partially-completed, off-road shared use trail connecting Boston to Northampton along the former Massachusetts Central Railroad corridor. As of today, approximately 50 miles of non-contiguous rail trail have been developed along the 104-mile stretch. In 2011, The Massachusetts Department of Conservation and Recreation (DCR) executed a lease with the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority (MBTA) for a 23-mile stretch along the corridor from Waltham to Berlin, resulting in the development of MCRT – Wayside. A number of segments within MCRT – Wayside are either completed, under construction, or have secured future funding.  

The Feasibility Study consists of three segments spanning from Belchertown to Berlin. The study provides insight on possible routing options and corresponding implementation scenarios.
Free Webinar on Online Retail Sales

Projections indicate that online shopping will increase by more than 40% this holiday season. Westborough-based Mondofora will be hosting a free webinar on the necessity of selling online, the benefits to local retail, and how to create an online sales operation. The webinar is about 40 minutes long and will take place on Monday, December 7th at 9:00 AM. Click here to register for the webinar.

Mondofora is a Westborough-based multi-vendor eCommerce platform whose goal is "to create a Local Online alternative to the eCommerce giants. We give shoppers an easy, online way to search, shop, and buy from local retailers. And by keeping the shopping local, we keep our communities healthy."
As always, please do not hesitate to reach out if the Partnership can be of any assistance to you. You may reach me directly via email at

Jason Palitsch
Executive Director
The 495/MetroWest Partnership