The Gateway Cities Journal
News and information for leaders who care about Gateway Cities


Transitioning to Transformative Development


With the campaign behind him, Governor-elect Baker will now come head-to-head with the real world policy challenges he so relishes. Budget pressures persist and he has pledged to keep taxes in check, which means finding viable solutions will require exceptional ingenuity. As transition teams form to examine actionable ideas, they should take a close look at significantly expanding the promising Transformative Development Initiative (TDI).


To borrow language from the economic development blueprint Baker issued during the campaign, TDI looks for investment opportunities in Gateway Cities that are "strategic and coordinated, not piecemeal, with clear objectives and metrics for the outcomes."


Strengthening weak real estate markets so that they are investable in the future is the "outcome" TDI is designed to achieve. With adequate resources, TDI can bring the significant real estate holdings of Gateway Cities back into play. This would produce big returns for the Commonwealth's taxpayers. These communities would have greater fiscal capacity and therefore require less state aid. Healing their weak real estate markets would also open up new opportunities for residential and commercial growth in Gateway City neighborhoods where significant infrastructure is already in place-another win-win for the economy and the state's coffers.


TDI has a shot at delivering big because it gives the sophisticated real estate team at MassDevelopment the flexibility needed to configure projects so that have the highest likelihood of producing return on the state's investment. It also helps communities build the collaborative partnerships complex revitalization projects need to succeed. 


This approach is a shift in mindset. It respects and appreciates that urban markets are very sensitive and that each place is different. Developers need to "curate" these markets. It may sound a bit soft but this works; a new breed of real estate development leaders like Graffito SP have proven that you can create real value by assembling parcels and configuring spaces so that they complement each other.


The approach also recognizes that to draw private capital into risky settings, cities must build strong collaborative partnership that can sell the vision and give developers confidence that the community is committed to seeing it through. This has been at the core of the Federal Reserve Bank of Boston's Working Cities Challenge (and it will be a central topic of conversation at Thursday's second annual Gateway Cities Summit).


TDI is hands on economic development. By design, it is very different than the "level playing field" model that Baker has signaled he will favor as governor. At a state level, providing targeted tax incentives to favored industries is problematic and Baker is right that lowering the cost of doing business for all is generally the best strategy. But recognizing that weak markets require unique treatment is critical. The record shows that the Enterprise Zone approach-the translation of the level playing field policy to distressed urban neighborhoods-has a poor track record. Providing tax relief to any businesses that locates in designated area doesn't created the kind of value needed to catalyze reinvestment in urban markets that have been paralyzed by decades of disinvestment and neglect.


MassDevelopment closed its call for Transformative Development District last Friday. Each of the 26 Gateway Cities eligible submitted an application. The full pipeline of 26 proposals represents the varied opportunities that are out there in our Gateway Cities. Unfortunately, the legislation authorizing TDI included just $16 million. The Baker administration must help MassDevelopment identify adequate resources to bring the most compelling plans among the 26 to fruition.


- Ben Forman




2nd Annual Gateway Cities Innovation and Award Summit


The Boston Business Journal reports on Gov. Deval Patrick and House Speaker Robert DeLeo being named MassINC's Gateway Cities Champion Award winners. Both leaders will receive their awards at the Gateway Cities Summit this Thursday.


Election Wrap-Up


The Globe's Shirley Leung named Gateway Cities big winners in last week's contest, while CommonWealth magazine singles outLawrence Mayor Dan Rivera, a Gateway Cities Innovation Institute co-chair, as one of their Big Five.


Some new faces in the Gateway Cities delegation: Rady Mom, the first Cambodian-American elected to the state Legislature, will represent Lowell; longtime State House aide to Senator McGee, Brendon Creighton, will represent Lynn; Republican newcomer Kate Campanale takes the 17th Worcester; Eric Lesser claims the 1st Hampden-Hampshire Senate seat.


A full rundown of Gateway City election results can be found on our blog.


Housing & Economic Development


Fall River tax officials give initial approval to a 15-year tax break to retail giant Amazon for its planned distribution center in the industrial park that sits at the Fall River-Freetown border.


After the state-wide anti-casino ballot question was defeated, MGM Resorts officially receives their licenses for Springfield and pays their $85 million licensing fees, the Associated Press reports.


A forum hosted by Lowell's Partnership for Change to End Homelessness addresses homelessness in the city.


An 11-acre senior housing project is approved in Salem, with work to begin as soon as minor drainage issues are resolved, according to town planner Ross Moldoff.


Peabody City Council approves an updated open space and recreation plan that seeks to maintain and protect existing structures while also laying out an action plan for upgrades and expansions for other city projects.


Fall River has put the last of 15 vacant school buildings, Harriet T. Healy Elementary School, on the market after more than three years of selling off the stock of abandoned buildings.


Lynn officials disclose that a hotel chain wants to build on the Lynnway but needs a tax break, the Item reports.




Haverhill is facing a nearly $800,000 shortfall in its school budget that arose when four students with physical or learning disabilities moved into the district, the Eagle-Tribune reports.


The Standard Times reports the Cape Wind will start training programs at the area's schools and colleges. New Bedford High School Principal Kathleen Dawson noted that the school system "ought to be building a STEM pipeline that next involves the middle schools and eventually filters 'all the way down to kindergarten,' a top-to-bottom K-12 campaign to strengthen the city's workforce".


The Salem News reports that school officials in Peabody are looking to increase the length of the school day for grades K-5, currently five hours and fifty-five minutes long, by thirty more minutes, with the support of Superintendent Joe Mastrocola who said that "all the educational research shows more time leads to better results."


The state denies a request by Fall River to waive a $3.1 million carryover in net school spending for the upcoming year, meaning the city will have to find that money elsewhere to put back into the school budget.




The Center for Transportation Excellence reports that voters approved 71 percent of transportation-related ballot measures on election day. The Atlantic CityLab singles out Massachusetts voters for shooting down the automatic gas tax hike.


Approximately a year after JetBlue operations began out of Worcester Regional Airport, officials declare the first year a success with roughly 10,000 passengers more than projected traveling on the airline, the Republican reports.


The South Coast Rail project is nominated at a Washington, DC infrastructure forum as the North American Project of the Year based on forecasts for its impact on the regional economy and potential job creation.




Following a September removal of over 500 tires from the Haverhill stretch of the Merrimack River thanks to the Clean River Project, Mayor Fiorentini arranges for a company to collect and dispose of the tires.


Brockton Mayor William Carpenter, whose campaign included support for building a controversial power plant that has been stalled, asks the City Council, whose members oppose the plant, to approve funds to fight a $68 million lawsuit by the plant's owners.




Governor-elect Charlie Baker says that Worcester, being the second largest city in Massachusetts, will earn his "full attention". Baker had a nearly hour-long private meeting with members of the Worcester Regional Chamber of Commerce on Friday, including CEO and President Timothy Murray and representatives from local organizations and corporations.


The National Park Service is scaling back the number of employees at the Salem Maritime Site using buyouts, the Salem News reports.


Health/Public Safety


Gov.-elect Charlie Baker says the state's burgeoning opiate addiction problems will be among the first problems he wants to address in office.


Haverhill receives a $437,000 grant from the state to add police officers and increase patrols. Mayor Fiorentini said that the grant will go towards hiring new patrol officers and paying overtime to combat crime head-on, according to the Eagle-Tribune.


Quincy Medical Center will close on December 31st, a move that Mayor Thomas Koch said would mark a "sad day in Quincy". He noted that he is focused on how the closure will affect the city's residents and hospital employees, but that it's too early to start talking about the futures uses of the property, according to the Patriot Ledger.



For a full list of Massachusetts Gateway Cities, click here. The Gateway Cities Journal is a weekly news publication of MassINC. If you would like to unsubscribe to The Journal but would still like to hear from MassINC, please let us know. If you are not yet on our list and would like to sign up, click here. To contribute news or comments, please email MassINC.



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