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Workshop at New England Brownfields Summit Puts Spotlight on CDC Projects

June 15th, 2022 by Don Bianchi

At the New England Brownfields Summit in Devens, MA on May 18th and 19th, nearly 300 brownfields practitioners from across the region, celebrated accomplishments, discussed challenges, and identified best practices.  While the weather was changeable (a beautiful and sunny spring day, followed by a rainy day) the quality of the information shared among project developers, licensed site professionals, public officials and others remained consistently high and thought-provoking. 

On the Summit’s second afternoon, MACDC presented a workshop entitled “Brownfields Redevelopment in Massachusetts: Case Studies in Boston and Beyond.”  MACDC President Joe Kriesberg moderated the panel, and two CDC Executive Directors shared their successful experiences redeveloping challenging brownfields sites, and an executive from MassDevelopment presented on a number of projects funded by the Massachusetts Brownfields Redevelopment Fund.

Teronda Ellis from Jamaica Plain NDC (JPNDC) described the JPNDC’s efforts to redevelop Jackson Square, in Boston’s Jamaica Plain neighborhood. She described the history of the site going back to the 1950s and 1960s, when large swaths of the neighborhood were bulldozed to make way for the extension of Interstate I-95, before organized residents succeeded in halting the extension. Teronda has guided the redevelopment of Jackson Square, including the brownfields assessment and remediation, for many years, from her days as Real Estate Director at JPNDC to her current role as Executive Director. She described how the many hours she invested in learning the technical aspects of brownfields redevelopment strengthened JPNDC’s hand in negotiation with, and oversight of, the contractors and professionals involved in the redevelopment.  She also emphasized the need for teamwork among the professionals and meaningful, sustained, and iterative engagement with the community.

Jess Andors from Lawrence Community Works (LCW) described how LCW’s development of Lawrence’s Mill District was, and is, driven by extensive community visioning and engagement in design and problem-solving. The historic redevelopment of the Duck Mill posed numerous challenges, starting with legacy structural challenges associated with having penstocks and raceways under the building and site, to having funds from the Brownfields Redevelopment Fund being frozen partway through construction. Jess shared insights she gained during the process, including the importance of having both technical and “adaptive” experience, making sure there is broad community and stakeholder support, and leveraging any, and all, soft power and connections you may have to solve your problems.

The third presenter, David Bancroft from MassDevelopment, told the stories of several sites along the Fairmount Commuter Rail Line, which runs through the heart of Boston’s neighborhoods. He shared some amazing before and after photos of these sites, along with a quote from a woman who lived in one of the beautiful, redeveloped buildings, who described how she used to pass the vacant building every day and say to herself “This is the house I am going to live in one day with my family.” MassDevelopment administers the Brownfields Redevelopment Fund, an essential resource for site assessment and remediation.

Close to 50 people attended the workshop at the end of the two-day summit, demonstrating the value of learning from those who have done the work on the ground (and in the ground) to turn contaminated sites into community assets.

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Home City Development Celebrates Grand Opening 11 Years After Tornado’s Devastation

June 15th, 2022 by Don Bianchi

On June 1st, MACDC Senior Policy Advocate Don Bianchi attended the Grand Opening of the Elias Brookings Apartments in Springfield. Home City Development rebuilt this beautiful building, with 42 rental homes and a spacious auditorium for resident and community use, on the site of the former Elias Brookings School, destroyed on June 1st, 2011 by the devastating EF-3 tornado that cut a huge swath through Springfield and nearby communities. 

The significance of holding this celebration 11 years, to the day, since that awful day, was not lost on the presenters or the attendees.  In addition to hearing from leaders of Home City Development, one of MACDC’s Western MA Members, there were remarks by Congressman Richard Neal, State Senator Adam Gomez and Rep. Bud Williams, as well as by Springfield Mayor Dominic Sarno and representatives of project funders. Among all of the speakers, the most powerful was Terry Powe, the Principal of the Elias Brookings School (which has been rebuilt on a nearby site) who was the principal on that day 10 years before.  With imperfect information, she made the decision to close the school that day, and so, when the tornado struck the school building just past 4:30 p.m., students and teachers who would normally be there for after-school activities were instead safely home.   

After the presentations, a few of the residents graciously made their homes available for a tour. The units, which were renovated with great skill and care, each contain a chalkboard. The building’s renovation included other historic features: terrazzo corridor floors, a wood gymnasium floor, and carved “grotesques” (pictured above) featured in classroom corridors. 

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Harborlight Community Partners Commits to Advancing Racial Equity

June 14th, 2022 by Mila Roemer

At its Annual Meeting in November 2021, the Massachusetts Association of Community Development Corporations committed to a Racial Equity Pledge, upholding their dedication to making their organization a more diverse, equitable, and inclusive place. As of June 2022, 28 member organizations have signed on to the pledge as well. The pledge stemmed from a push for more racial equity from the CDC movement in the summer of 2020. Organizations who have adopted the pledge are signing on to embrace four key values: 

  1. committing to learning and addressing the different levels of racism so they can take action to dismantle those inequities; 
  2. their staff should be diverse, equitable, inclusive, and representative of the communities they serve; 
  3. their board should be diverse, equitable, inclusive, and representative of the communities they serve; and 
  4. authentic representation in programming/services. 

Harborlight Community Partners provides and advocates for affordable and inclusive housing in communities north of Boston, such as Beverly and Hamilton, through property management, real estate development, resident services, and public education. Prior to signing onto the Racial Equity Pledge in December 2021, they were engaged in discussions regarding racial equity. Those conversations were paused in the summer of 2020, to seek out CDC wide efforts and movements to address issues of racial inequity. 

“We’re looking at MACDC’s pledge format and trying to plan around that, the action items to take to further our objectives in this space, to advance substantively education and knowledge in the staff and board... as well as some technical items around how we’re functioning, how we’re investing time, energy, money, how we’re recruiting for the board, staff, and other groups” said Andrew DeFranza, Executive Director of Harborlight, on how the pledge is intersecting with their prior racial equity work.  

Harborlight has been working to increase representation, equity, inclusivity, and diversity in all levels of their work. “The main issue with it had been holding seats on the board for people of color...and you have to find people who want to do it, in the region, who have statistically little access. It's harder to find people who are interested, who are qualified, and have the experience,” said DeFranza of challenges with this work. “We're very active on the development front for the percentage of minority workers hours in our MBE participation, and that’s been quite successful”.  

Looking into the future, DeFranza is “very supportive and interested in the idea of going upstream and providing training and internship capacity to get to younger candidates of color...to create a pipeline.” Providing young candidates of color with these opportunities early on will help address challenges CDC’s face when it comes to representation among their staff and board, he said.  

MACDC hosts meetings for both members who have already adopted the pledge and for those who are considering it. To support members in their implementation, we also offer member-only workshop opportunities through the Mel King Institute. For more information and a full list of adoptees, visit the Racial Equity Webpage.  

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