Youth running grants

If you haven’t visited the SouthCoast Urban Indicators Project yet, do so now! You’re missing out on some really rich data about Fall River and New Bedford, such as the fact that 17.4% of Fall River kids and 19.2% of New Bedford kids are classified as obese (the statewide rate is 16.3%).

Two grant opportunities we just learned about could help SouthCoast organizations bring those numbers down:

1) ING Run for Something Better initiative

“The ING Run for Something Better program will provide a minimum of fifty grants of up to $2,500 each for schools to establish a running program or expand an existing one. The first $1,000 will be awarded to winning schools upon notification of the grant, while the second installment will be distributed upon conclusion of the program and evidence of a culminating running event, receipt of PACER data, and other required post-evaluation materials.

Awards are available for programs serving boys and girls in grades K-8 . Schools must design an eight-week program that runs before, during-, and/or afterschool and that is offered (to the best of the school’s ability) to all students in eligible grades at least twice a week, with a culminating event completed by December 31, 2013. In addition, the program must have a commitment of at least twenty-five students in grades 4 through 8 and must supply PACER data results to NASPE. Any school districts currently involved with ING Run for Something Better or that already participate in an ING U.S.-sponsored culminating event are not eligible to apply.”

2) Saucony Run for Good Foundation

“The foundation awards between ten and twenty grants a year for programs that encourage active and healthy lifestyles in children. To be eligible for a grant, organizations must have 501(c)(3) tax-exempt status, operate a program that serves youth age 18 or under, and be able to demonstrate positive impact on the lives of program participants through their increased participation in running. Grant recipients will be announced two months after the application deadlines (in February and in August).”

Grant opportunity: LEGO Children’s Fund

The LEGO Children’s Fund supports organizations and programs that support children ages birth to 14, with special consideration for:

  • groups that support disadvantaged children
  • groups that are supported by LEGO employee volunteers
  • special projects or programs designed to elevate a child’s opportunities for exploring creativity
  • organizations serving Connecticut and Western Massachusetts

Amounts typically range from $500 to $5,000. The next deadline to apply is April 15. Application instructions can be found at this link.

Grant opportunity: MA Cultural Facilities Fund

The MA Cultural Council will be awarding approx. $5m in grants to nonprofits, municipalities, and institutes of higher education for the purposes of planning around and capital improvements to cultural facilities statewide. Successful applicants must provide a 1:1 match of all funds awarded. The full RFP is here.

Interested applicants must submit a notice of intent to apply by February 15, and final applications are due on March 15. Info sessions will be held throughout the state (though not in the SouthCoast) for those interested in learning more.

Recent SouthCoast recipients of Cultural Facilities Fund grants include the New Bedford Whaling Museum ($250,000 in 2012 for the construction of an education center, and another $617,000 for building restoration), the Lafayette-Durfee House Foundation in Fall River ($7,500 for a heating system installation), Fall River’s Little Theater ($38,000 for repairs), Dartmouth’s Lloyd Center for Environmental Studies ($10,000 for grounds improvements), Fall River’s Narrows Center for the Arts ($60,000 for handicap accessibility, and another $32,000 for sound system upgrades), New Bedford’s Rotch-Jones-Duff House ($38,000 for garden preservation and restoration), New Bedford’s Spinner Publications ($24,000 for office upgrades), and New Bedford’s Zeiterion Theater ($56,000 for restoration).

Planning grants have also been awarded to local organizations like Fall River’s Little Theater and the Espirito Santo Museum Foundation and New Bedford’s Zeiterion Theater.

Patrick Administration continues to show strong support for South Coast Rail

In big, bold text, the front page of last Friday’s Standard Times read, NO RAIL? NO SIGNATURE.  The article, Governor’s office demands South Coast Rail, quoted Lt. Gov. Tim Murray saying, “The governor will not sign a transportation financial plan unless funding for South Coast Rail is included,” adding that, “We’ve made investments in other parts of the state and it’s South Coast’s turn.”  Then, just this afternoon, the administration released its long-awaited transportation plan that includes a fully funded, 1.8 billion dollar South Coast Rail project.

While this may be the strongest commitment we’ve heard from the administration in quite some time, or perhaps ever, most of us can’t help but wonder if these promises, and similar pledges heard over the last twenty years, will ever become a reality.   Nonetheless, hopefully the administration’s efforts will help drive more positive conversation around this project.

I haven’t lived in the area for very long, but since moving here I’ve increasingly wondered why there isn’t more chatter among my peers- 25-35 yr. old working professionals- living in and around Fall River and New Bedford.  We represent an important and growing (albeit slow) demographic in the region that would likely benefit the most from commuter rail service.  I won’t speak for the many others in my situation, but I know that a true commitment to this project would be a major incentive for me to stay in the region when I finish grad school.

MassINC releases report encouraging “transformative investments” for Gateway Cities

Last week, Boston-based think tank MassINC released “Transformative redevelopment: strategic state policy for Gateway City growth and renewal,” a report that recommends new–and big–public investments to spur private development in the state’s smaller industrial cities like Fall River and New Bedford. How big? The price tag on MassINC’s policy recommendations is $1.7 billion, but the authors suggest that this would net a return of $3.4 billion and over 80,000 new jobs.

What would transformative redevelopment look like? One example that comes to mind is New Bedford’s North End, generally defined as the area north of Coggeshall Street extending to Brooklawn Park and bordered by the Acushnet River and Ashley Boulevard. This area has seen a major influx of public dollars through the MassWorks program, which provided $3.2 million to develop a stretch of Acushnet Avenue into an “international marketplace.” This investment has resulted in ongoing improvements to the streetscape, which is anticipated to bolster businesses and residents working and living along this corridor while attracting visitors, new development, and the dollars that both will bring. Will this investment prove “transformative”? It’s not yet apparent, but the recent rehabilitation of several previously vacant mills into loft apartments suggests that the private investment is happening, and if these trends continue, the North End may look and feel like a much different place in the next 10-15 years.

Check out MassINC’s report here, and if you want to continue the exercise of applying the North End’s redevelopment to their concept of transformative redevelopment, check out this video on plans for that neighborhood.


Community Land Trusts (CLTs): A possible solution for vacant and abandoned land in Fall River and New Bedford?

Recent work here at the Urban Initiative leaves us once again reflecting on the strong links between the social and economic conditions of Fall River and New Bedford and their physical condition: like communities in cities across the country, decline is physically manifested in vacant and abandoned lots, absent or unruly green spaces, and housing in disrepair.  Housing stocks, primarily in particularly blighted neighborhoods, are estimated to be between 9-12% vacant, significantly higher than the state average of 6.8%.[1]

An article released by the Standard Times today, Historical Commission wrestles with demolition recommendations, discusses the current dilemma between the City of New Bedford’s efforts to address decaying properties and the desire of city residents to have a seat at the table for discussions regarding how land should be used in their neighborhoods and communities.

The article goes into detail about the City’s recommendation to tear down eight derelict properties that have been an eyesore (not to mention unsafe) for several years now.  Few would argue with the City’s attempts to address these issues; however, the opposition, consisting of city residents and members of the Historical Commission, are arguing for a clear explanation of what will happen to the land after demolition, and where appropriate, it appears they’d like to have a say in the planning process.

In my view, the City, its residents, and key stakeholders in the community are working towards a common goal, however, until collaborative efforts are made, these goals will be difficult to accomplish.  With that said, I also believe the future is bright, as there are several models through which partnerships can develop to revitalize vacant and deteriorating urban parcels.  The Urban Initiative has recently begun investigating the use of Community Land Trusts (CLTs) to answer these challenges.  CLTs in Massachusetts and beyond have empowered community members to manage and make decisions about land in their own neighborhoods, ensuring that its use is appropriate for the needs and future of those living there.

The idea of using a CLT model to address land-based challenges in the region’s cities has begun to circulate among a few key organizations and community groups, but there are several information gaps that need to be filled before a CLT could be feasibly and sustainably implemented. The Urban Initiative is currently seeking funding to complete an information-based assessment describing the landscape of vacant and abandoned parcels in Fall River and New Bedford.  The assessment would also specifically analyze if and how a CLT model should be applied in these SouthCoast cities.  The aim and design of the report will be centered on promoting conversation in communities wanting to have a say in the way land is being used in their neighborhoods.  Conversations should, in turn, translate into well-defined partnerships from which community members and stakeholders may strategically align their resources to develop and grow CLTs, or similar models, with specific purposes.

If you have ideas about helping us move this project forward, or simply want to learn more about our proposal, feel free to contact us!

[1] Vacant housing units were taken from 2006-210 American Community Survey 5-year Estimates. That data can be accessed at