State agency offers $500,000 in place-making funds

MassDevelopment matching crowd-sourced money

MASSDEVELOPMENT IS OFFERING a total of $500,000 in matching grant money over the next 3 ½ months to municipalities and nonprofits seeking to launch creative place-making projects across the state.

The money is part of a nearly four-year effort by the authority to revitalize downtowns and commercial districts by combining state and crowd-sourced funds. MassDevelopment is accepting applications in this latest round through January 15 and approving them on a rolling basis.

The initiative, called Commonwealth Places, has provided funding for the second Beyond Walls festival in Lynn, the POW! WOW! public arts festival in Worcester, and the PROVA! venue in Brockton. In all, 67 projects have received a total of $4.1 million in funding – $1.8 million from MassDevelopment and $2.3 million from local, crowd-funded donations via the website Patronicity.

“Projects must demonstrate that they will activate a new or underused space that is open to and accessible by the public,” the MassDevelopment website says. “It is important that these projects have established public awareness and local momentum. The project should be located in a downtown or commercial area and enhance the public realm at the pedestrian scale.”

The MassDevelopment website provides a sampling of possible projects, including streetscape improvements, pocket parks, pop-up parks and retail establishments, farmers’ markets, bike paths, and community theatre rehabs.

To be eligible for MassDevelopment funds, the project must require a minimum of $10,000, with three-quarters of the money going for capital costs. Preference is given to projects that leverage additional funding. Participants must be backed by a municipality or a nonprofit and must reach the crowdfunding goal in 60 days. No more than $10,000, or 35 percent of the funds raised, whichever is less, can come from an individual donor.

The program has no geographic restrictions, but the MassDevelopment website indicates preference is given to projects that help low-income populations. Projects in communities with a median household income equal to or less than the state median household income can qualify for matching grants up to $50,000.  The topping out point is $25,000 in communities where the median household income is between 100 percent and 120 percent of the state median. Communities with median household income anywhere above 100 percent of the state level can qualify for matching grants of up to $50,000 if the project has a “direct and significant impact on low-income populations,” according to the website.

Meet the Author

Bruce Mohl

Editor, CommonWealth

About Bruce Mohl

Bruce Mohl is the editor of CommonWealth magazine. Bruce came to CommonWealth from the Boston Globe, where he spent nearly 30 years in a wide variety of positions covering business and politics. He covered the Massachusetts State House and served as the Globe’s State House bureau chief in the late 1980s. He also reported for the Globe’s Spotlight Team, winning a Loeb award in 1992 for coverage of conflicts of interest in the state’s pension system. He served as the Globe’s political editor in 1994 and went on to cover consumer issues for the newspaper. At CommonWealth, Bruce helped launch the magazine’s website and has written about a wide range of issues with a special focus on politics, tax policy, energy, and gambling. Bruce is a graduate of Ohio Wesleyan University and the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University. He lives in Dorchester.

About Bruce Mohl

Bruce Mohl is the editor of CommonWealth magazine. Bruce came to CommonWealth from the Boston Globe, where he spent nearly 30 years in a wide variety of positions covering business and politics. He covered the Massachusetts State House and served as the Globe’s State House bureau chief in the late 1980s. He also reported for the Globe’s Spotlight Team, winning a Loeb award in 1992 for coverage of conflicts of interest in the state’s pension system. He served as the Globe’s political editor in 1994 and went on to cover consumer issues for the newspaper. At CommonWealth, Bruce helped launch the magazine’s website and has written about a wide range of issues with a special focus on politics, tax policy, energy, and gambling. Bruce is a graduate of Ohio Wesleyan University and the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University. He lives in Dorchester.

Despite the restrictions, a number of organizations in relatively well-to-do communities have won matching funds. A group in Newton earlier this year received a $7,500 matching grant from the agency for a program to stamp the words of 10 poems on to city sidewalks. Groups in Cambridge got $25,000 for a mural project in Central Square and $30,000 for math learning installations at a city park. A Somerville group got $50,000 to refurbish the Bow Market Plaza in Union Square and a group in Dedham won a $50,000 matching grant to turn the auditorium of a former elementary school into a performance space.

Matching grants have been awarded to a number of lower-income communities, including Lynn, Salem, Lawrence, Haverhill, and Pittsfield.