BOSTON – MassDevelopment has awarded $420,162 in grants to 14 organizations for place-based, community-driven projects to revitalize downtowns and neighborhood commercial districts, such as new outdoor community spaces, public art exhibits, cultural events, and more. The funding was awarded through Commonwealth Places, a statewide initiative that leverages public support for placemaking projects in Massachusetts.
“The Commonwealth Places program is an important resource designed to advance local projects that energize public spaces and welcome people to downtown neighborhoods and commercial districts,” said Secretary of Housing and Economic Development Secretary Mike Kennealy, who serves as chair of MassDevelopment’s Board of Directors. “The Baker-Polito Administration is proud to see MassDevelopment invest in bringing these community-led projects to fruition.”
“Community spaces, public art exhibits, and cultural events are at the heart of placemaking, and cities and towns across Massachusetts recognize the positive impact of these projects in supporting local economies and enhancing quality of life,” said MassDevelopment President and CEO Dan Rivera. “MassDevelopment is pleased to award these Commonwealth Places grants to help organizations build capacity, engage residents and visitors, and implement projects that reimagine public spaces.”
Created in 2016, Commonwealth Places aims to engage and mobilize community members to make individual contributions to placemaking projects, with the incentive of a funding match from MassDevelopment if the crowdfunding goal is reached. Through its first six rounds, Commonwealth Places has launched 132 projects in Massachusetts, with communities crowdfunding more than $3.1 million and MassDevelopment providing more than $2.9 million in matching funds.
Nonprofits and other community groups can still apply to MassDevelopment for seed grants of between $2,500 and $15,000 to fund inclusive community engagement, visioning, and local capacity building that will support future placemaking efforts, or implementation grants of between $5,000 and $50,000 to execute a placemaking project. Businesses may apply if a proposed project will benefit more than one business. Seed grants must be matched with local funding or in-kind donations, and implementation grants must be matched with crowdfunding donations. Applications will be accepted on a rolling basis as funds allow at //massdevelopment.com/commonwealthplaces. Organizations have until September 30, 2022 to submit applications for projects that will be implemented before December 31, 2022.
Belchertown Community Alliance (Belchertown) – $8,000
Community Paint Project Series
Belchertown Community Alliance will use grant funds to support a participatory design process, facilitated by Common Wealth Murals, to generate feedback from community members about the theme, style, and design of public art to be installed at one of Belchertown’s conservation areas. A professional artist from Common Wealth Murals will then create the design on a special poly mural fabric that can be transported to multiple town events at which community members will have the opportunity to paint sections of the mural. The artwork will be used as a backdrop for future community programming and recreational attractions.
Madison Park Development Corporation (Boston) – $25,000
Buy the Block Party 2
Madison Park Development Corporation used grant funds to rent equipment and cover artist fees for its Buy the Block Party 2 project in Roxbury’s Nubian Square. The three-day event, held June 9-11, sought to showcase and spur the local creative economy in Roxbury while championing the neighborhood’s rich cultural history and uniting the community around a shared vision for economic empowerment.
Massachusetts Federation of Farmers & Gardener Markets, Inc. (Brockton & Springfield) – $14,602
Co-Creating Placemaking Capacity with Gateway City Farmers Markets
The Massachusetts Federation of Farmers & Gardener Markets, Inc. will use this grant to undertake an implementation needs assessment with stakeholders in Brockton and Springfield aimed at supporting partnerships and pathways for the successful delivery of inclusive and equitable food-centered placemaking. This assessment will inform capacity building for future efforts in additional Gateway Cities.
Chicopee Chamber of Commerce (Chicopee) – $10,000
Captain Jack’s at Center Space
The Chicopee Chamber of Commerce will use this grant to install water and sewer access at Center Space in downtown Chicopee, which will allow Captain Jack’s Roadside Shack and three other food trucks to occupy the pocket park beginning summer 2022. MassDevelopment previously awarded a $10,000 Transformative Development Initiative (TDI) grant and Commonwealth Places grants totaling $33,000 to the Chicopee Chamber of Commerce to support Center Space.
Fall River Arts & Culture Coalition (Fall River) – $30,000
Mural Arts Fall River
The Fall River Arts & Culture Coalition and other partners will use grant funds to install murals on public-facing walls at John J. Doran Elementary School and 207 Pocasset St. The colorful large-scale murals will activate public spaces by attracting visitors to Fall River and providing increased opportunities for area artists and youth; students at the Doran School will participate in lessons covering a wide range of artistic genres as points of inspiration in order to deeply understand the themes and imagery selected for the murals. This project will be paired with comprehensive community campaigns such as Viva Fall River’s summer tourism initiative.
Extra Special Teas (Great Barrington) – $10,160
Extra Special Teas will use grant funds to expand its tea shop to an outdoor space at the intersection of Pleasant and Main Streets in the Housatonic Village of Great Barrington. At the outdoor space, Extra Special Teas will offer cultural and social events for residents and visitors. The teahouse is a nonprofit that empowers and employs adults with special needs as servers, baristas, craftmakers, content providers, and administrators.
Beyond Walls, Inc. (Holyoke) – $50,000
2022 Holyoke Mural Installations
Beyond Walls, Inc., in partnership with Nueva Esperanza, will use grant funds to install five large-scale public murals in downtown Holyoke. The timing of the mural installations will coincide with Noche de San Juan Festival, an annual event held in June that celebrates the Puerto Rican music, food, traditional crafts, and more.
Ipswich Partnership (Ipswich) – $47,400
Gathr By the River Downtown Ipswich Placemaking Project
The Ipswich Partnership will use this grant to create a public outdoor community space in the heart of downtown Ipswich to host activities and programming currently provided within Gathr Work’s interior space at 42 Market St.
Community Teamwork, Inc. (Lowell) – $15,000
Farmers Market Friday Funday!
Community Teamwork, Inc. will use grant funds to conduct community surveys and engagement to develop its Farmers Market Friday Funday! project, which aims to address ongoing food insecurity by offering fresh farm produce, distributing lunches from local businesses, and hosting activities and performances. Community feedback will focus on identifying preferred location, activities, vendor diversity, and culturally appropriate food.
UTEC, Inc. (Lowell) – $50,000
The Green @ UTEC
UTEC, Inc. will use this grant for its project dubbed The Green @ UTEC, which will create two adjacent outdoor spaces in downtown Lowell. The new multipurpose spaces will provide a play area for children as part of UTEC’s child care center and will serve as a vibrant hub for year-round economic development, community, and cultural activities. In 2021, MassDevelopment supported The Green @ UTEC project with an initial $38,555 Commonwealth Places grant.
Massachusetts Design Art Technology Institute (New Bedford) – $45,000
SHELTER 2022-2023 Phase 1
Massachusetts Design Art Technology Institute (DATMA) will use grant funds to support its SHELTER 2022-2023 initiative, covering costs related to materials, artist and educator fees, promotions, and other expenses. SHELTER will consist of free, accessible, and strategically placed exhibits that leverage existing, vacant, or underutilized public spaces in downtown New Bedford. In 2021, MassDevelopment supported DATMA with a $25,000 Commonwealth Places grant for its 2021 Harvesters of the Deep exhibition in downtown New Bedford.
North Shore Community Development Coalition (Salem) – $15,000
Las Muñecas Sin Rostro – (Faceless Dolls)
North Shore Community Development Coalition (CDC) will use funds for its Las Muñecas Sin Rostro (Faceless Dolls) project, which is a concept derived from a ceramic doll created by Dominican artist Liliana Mera Lime in 1981, an icon familiar to many residents of Dominican heritage that represent the primary demographic of Salem’s Point neighborhood. The project will seek to engage residents and visitors in Dominican heritage through facilitating workshops, promoting local businesses, activating vacant parcels, and installing sculptures. MassDevelopment has previously supported North Shore CDC with $155,000 in Commonwealth Places grants to fund five placemaking projects in the Point: in 2021, the organization received a $10,000 Commonwealth Places grant to improve and drive foot traffic to four storefronts at 117 Lafayette St.; in 2020, the organization received a $25,000 Commonwealth Places grant to assist small businesses in the neighborhood with COVID-19 reopening and recovery efforts; in 2019, the organization crowdfunded $42,150 and received a $40,000 Commonwealth Places matching grant from MassDevelopment to make streetscape improvements to Congress Street; in 2018, the organization crowdfunded $50,250 and received a $50,000 Commonwealth Places matching grant from MassDevelopment to fund public art and streetscape improvements at the Punto Urban Art Museum; and in 2017, the organization crowdfunded $40,000 and received a $30,000 Commonwealth Places matching grant from MassDevelopment to build the 2,000-square-foot Espacio Community Program Space.
Commonwealth Mural Collaborative (Springfield) – $50,000
Fresh Paint Springfield
Commonwealth Mural Collaborative will use this grant for its 2022 Fresh Paint Springfield festival to be held September 11-17, during which it will install 10 new murals in the small business centers of Springfield’s Mason Square, Metro Center, and North End neighborhoods. MassDevelopment has previously supported the Fresh Paint Springfield Festival with $57,500 in Commonwealth Places grants: in 2021, Common Wealth Murals received a $7,500 Commonwealth Places grant to fund an in-depth evaluation of its Community Mural Apprentice Program, which introduced a diverse group of 11 local early-career muralists into the 2021 mural festival. In 2019, Fresh Paint Springfield and the Springfield Cultural Partnership received a $50,000 Commonwealth Places grant for its 2019 Fresh Paint Springfield festival.
Blues to Green, Inc. (Springfield) – $50,000
Springfield Jazz & Roots Festival
Blues to Green, Inc. will use this grant for its 2022 Springfield Jazz & Roots Festival, a free annual festival that draws thousands of people to downtown Springfield and will be held August 12-13. MassDevelopment previously awarded a $50,000 Commonwealth Places grant to Blues to Green, Inc. for its 2021 Springfield Jazz & Roots Festival.
MassDevelopment, the state’s development finance agency and land bank, works with businesses, nonprofits, banks, and communities to stimulate economic growth across the Commonwealth. During FY2021, MassDevelopment financed or managed 416 projects generating investment of more than $1.86 billion in the Massachusetts economy. These projects are estimated to create or support 6,578 jobs and build or preserve 1,909 housing units.