Acushnet Ave Steering Committee Recap

Yesterday evening the Urban Initiative held the first meeting for the Acushnet Avenue Economic Impact Study’s Steering Committee. The Community Economic Development Center on the Avenue was gracious enough to host the event at their offices located near the center of the International Marketplace.

Although not all committee members were able to attend, those who did contributed to a robust discussion about the Acushnet Avenue commercial corridor and offered insight on how we should direct our research efforts to best engage with the business community. The meeting covered the following topics:

Commercial Boundaries

Acushnet Ave is probably one of the most heavily traveled streets in the city. Technically it extends from New Bedford’s northern border with the town of Acushnet to the peninsula in the south (with small detour along Route 18 before it reemerges downtown as an official street intersecting with Elm). For the purpose of community development bloInternational Marketplaceck grants, the city has defined the “International Marketplace” to include the Census tract 6507 and four blocks from the tract to the south. This area is pictured here, with the Avenue highlighted. But most city residents have their own definitions of what constitutes “the Ave.”

Seeking more clarity, we asked committee members to define where the commercial district ends. Members suggested the boundaries for the research area include the walkable portions of the Avenue, side streets along the Avenue extending as far east as Belleville Avenue and as far west in some points as Purchase and Church Streets. The northern boundary was agreed to be Brooklawn Park, as the break in commercial activity offered by the park and the church across the street presents a clear delineation. Interstate 195 was the obvious southern boundary line. While gathering statistics and data for our research we will no doubt have to deal with more cut and dry boundary lines adhering to Census tracts and block groups, the area the committee agreed upon is outlined below.

Research area

 

Study Benchmarks

One of the core ideas behind convening a steering committee for this project was to give the study community ownership from the start. Therefore, we looked forward to committee members reviewing our proposed metrics and offering suggestions as to what they would use to measure improved economic conditions in the neighborhood.

It was generally agreed that the indicators identified in our grant proposal would be good metrics to gauge economic success for the area. These included various socioeconomic demographics on neighborhood residents (annual household income, employment, race/ethnicity, etc.) and information on area businesses (sales and employment figures, product/service diversity, lending, and tax generated). We also hope to investigate the role played by place in the economy by looking at the occupancy rates, density, and age of the neighborhood’s housing stock.

Committee members expressed interest in seeing the change in commercial vacancy rates over time. This would not only show the temporary occupancy of business real estate but also demonstrate which types of businesses had the most success in the commercial corridor and what the market was lacking.

 

Disseminating Results

Committee members were very excited about exploring new means of sharing our research with the community. In the past, reports such as this have been shared via open forums, onetime events that rely on incentives like free food to increase attendance. In lieu of this, the committee suggested a visually stimulating presentation that could be aired on local cable access, and then shared with city officials, local advocacy groups and other stakeholders to use as they choose. It was also suggested that slides or stills from the presentation could be printed as posters and displayed in vacant storefronts, as a way to show passersby that efforts were underway to revitalize the neighborhood. It was agreed this approach would be versatile and allow for maximum exposure.

 

Next Steps

The meeting was adjourned and the committee agreed to reconvene in the early fall, when our survey to area business owners would be nearing completion. Members were open to reviewing drafts of the survey before it was sent out, and many pledged support to help drum up involvement in the survey. Lastly, members agreed to set up one-on-one meetings with our research team to further explore their areas of expertise on neighborhood economic activity.

Summer Intern Work Update: Survey of Elected Officials

Hi! It’s your summer interns: Emma and Ellie!

We are thrilled to announce that we recently completed our survey of elected officials gender, age, race, language, educational attainment, annual income, and geographical location in Fall River and New Bedford. We received our first response today and hope to receive many more in the coming weeks. We expect to be able to share our results with the online community in mid-August, so keep your eyes peeled!

Happy reading!

July project update

Here’s a rundown of our projects and tasks for July:

1. Friends Academy/Center for Education Innovation (CEI) evaluation

We recently wrapped up a survey of elementary school teachers across the New Bedford Public Schools in order to determine the degree to which their feedback about things like technology, collaboration, professional development, and instruction is different than their peers who are working with CEI. We’re also crunching numbers to learn about the impact of CEI’s program on the performance of the students of participating teachers.

2. LifeWork Project

We’ll be writing the first year evaluation report at the end of this month, a report that will document the impact this program has had on participants’ academic performance, career paths, finances, and well-being.

3. New Bedford Regeneration Committee

We’re also approaching the report-writing stage of this project. The report will outline a set of action steps recommended by committee members for regenerating the economy of the city and the region.

4. Health Data SouthCoast

The network of organizations that supported our development of a website that provides easy access to regional and municipal health data is getting ready to publicly launch the site, so we won’t preclude their efforts here. All we’ll say is that it’s ready to go!

5. Taunton HOPE VI

We’re conducting our third and final resident focus group tonight, with the goal of learning about how the program has impacted residents’ abilities to enroll in job training programs and access employment opportunities. Next, we’ll go about updating data to compare current metrics to 2012 baselines in the areas of housing, economy, socioeconomic status, and demographics.

6. NEW: Acushnet Avenue commercial corridor study

Thanks to a just-awarded grant from the Garfield Foundation, we’ll be spending the next six months studying New Bedford’s Acushnet Avenue commercial corridor and the degree to which it influences the local economy. This project will involve data collection and analysis, survey research, and engaging with neighborhood stakeholders to obtain objective information with which to advance the neighborhood’s revitalization.

 

Adam Vieira reflects on his past & future as UI summer intern

My name is Adam Vieira, and I am a returning intern for the Urban Initiative program here at UMass Dartmouth.  I have had the privilege of serving as a Summer intern for the past two years at the Urban Initiative, working on various projects which have focused on public policies and public data regarding gateway cities in Massachusetts.

My first summer with the Urban Initiative in 2012 provided me with the opportunity to develop involvement in the South Coast Urban Indicators Project (SCUIP), a sweeping research-based report on Fall River and New Bedford that examines urban success factors, including safety, education, and cultural engagement, amongst many others. Finding the topic of education particularly interesting and pressing for gateway cities as a whole, the summer high school internship program researched the topic of college accessibility for youth in Massachusetts gateway cities for the summer of 2013, culminating in a final report on the financial, academic, and cultural barriers to college-attendance which was released in the fall of 2013.

Coming back to the Urban Initiative for the last time as a high school intern, it is my hope to continue the mission to highlight and incite discourse on the various issues pertinent to our local urban communities, their residents, and those who possess the power to direct decision-making through research rooted in quantitative and qualitative methodologies. Through research and discussion, resolution to public issues germane to our local municipalities can be reached. A proud citizen of New Bedford, I graduated from New Bedford High School last month (Go Whalers!)  and have a consecrated interest in aiding our gateway cities through the creation of data. Come September, I will be attending Brown University, where I intend to concentrate in Public Policy—a discipline of study that I was attracted to in great part due to my experience interning here at the Urban Initiative for these past few Summers. Upon my entrance to college in September, I am going to deeply miss the Summer afternoons spent in the cool Chase Road office, scribbling ideas on the conference room whiteboard and “nerding-out” with tons of public data. That said, It is my hope to continue working with public issues, particularly those relevant to urban centers, as policy stands to unlock incalculable potential.  In the meantime, in conjunction with the Urban Initiative, I look forward to providing insight on all things relevant to our gateway cities throughout the Summer.

Happy Reading!

Welcome returning intern Emma York

Hello again! This summer I am thrilled to continue collaborating with fellow interns at the Urban Initiative to discuss a myriad of local issues including…..

Religion in New Bedford, purportedly the most godless city in America according to a recent article in Time Magazine which cited statistics from the American Bible Society http://time.com/1541/godless-cities-in-america/

Racial, Age, Gender, and Geographic Representation in Our Elected Officials and its effect on voting habits and funding allocation in New Bedford and Fall River, areas with recent influxes of immigrant populations

And any other issues that spark our interest over the summer!

I will be entering my senior year at New Bedford High School and recently completed an Advanced Placement Statistics course in my Junior Year in which we chose to survey students at New Bedford High School to answer the inquiry: Does race effect our perception of beauty? My results, a resounding yes, have certainly influenced my interests this summer and hopefully the course has honed my skills as a statistician and I hope that I can bring all of that enthusiasm to the urban initiative page over the summer so stay tuned!

Meet Eleanor Bodington, our new summer intern!

Hi, I’m Eleanor Bodington, and I will be a senior this fall at Durfee High School in Fall River. I transferred to Durfee my junior year, and I spent this past year pretty much getting a feel for the school and all it has to offer. I joined the mock trial team and dance team, and this upcoming year, I plan on joining the debate team as well. At my old school, Tiverton High School, I was on the school newspaper, the Tiger Rumble. This summer, I hope to be able to gain a greater understanding of my community and the people that live here. I also hope to be able to analyze data and interpret it in a way that could benefit my community. This autumn, I will be applying to college, where I hope to study Broadcast Journalism. However, I have been recently considering taking a “gap year” to become a “real person” as a coworker once told me. But I suppose it all depends on what I decide come autumn. My biggest anxiety about college is being able to afford it. My parents already have two children in college, so I am going to try my hardest to get a substantional scholarship. Hopefully the Urban Initiative will help me stand out in the application process. I am very excited to be working with the other interns on the Urban Intiative, and I’m sure I’ll have a great summer!

Meet our new summer intern: Mason Thibault

Hello readers,

My name is Mason Thibault, and I will be a senior next year at BMC Durfee High School in Fall River, Massachusetts. Firstly, I must state that I am delighted to possess the opportunity to learn and benefit from my summer internship. The prospect of learning more about my community and the general civic infrastructure is both alluring to my intellectual and humanistic senses, and an opportunity to work and collaborate with my peers in an effort to seek creative solutions to the growing problems facing our generation. I hope to focus on raising awareness for both the Urban Initiative Program, and any effective studies conducted by the group. The efforts and aspirations of all parties who make this internship possible deserve profuse recognition, and I intend to invoke a greater awareness for understanding the effects of civic infrastructure in ways that are accessible to civilians in urban areas. In summary, I hope to develop a mutuality that helps develop my academic and research based skills, while ultimately providing a unique outlook that can flavor and append the work of the Urban Initiative team.

This upcoming school year, I seek to continue to build and expand upon my debate team by forming a strong collective club that can function with the changing winds of graduating classes and educational reform.  I also seek to competitively apply to prestigious colleges and better my developmental athletically and artistically through participation in theater and fall sports.

In regards to higher education, I cannot possibly conceive a more beneficial experience for the young intellectual than that of formal college education. While I plan to apply to Georgetown, Boston College, UMass Amherst and Brown University, I also have begun the application process for the United States Military Academy at West Point. Despite the differences from traditional college, I strongly aspire to attend West Point to fulfill my desire for purposeful service to the country and community, and for the physical, mental, and moral betterment of myself and my fellow personages. While my desire to attend West Point stems from my personal experience, and experience in scouting and as an Eagle Scout, my desire for formal post-high school education has existed since elementary school, and it has since been reinforced by my instructors, parental figures, and by my own personal convictions and beliefs. In conclusion, I bring a wide range of social and civic experiences, and most importantly I am strongly grounded in my own beliefs, but liberally open to discussion and development, providing excellent grounds for participation in this summer’s Urban Initiative program. In the words of the great Whitman, “the powerful play goes on”, and I can only anticipate that my contributed verse is met with thought provoking dialogue in the community.

Happy Reading!