Acushnet Ave Economic Impact Project Update

After the first meeting of the steering committee, we are moving on to the next phase in our study of Acushnet Avenue’s economy. For early September, our research team is drafting a survey to be distributed to business owners in the Acushnet Avenue commercial corridor. After incorporating helpful comments from our colleagues at the CEDC, who have extensive knowledge of the Avenue’s business climate, we will begin surveying business owners. A major challenge is keeping the survey brief enough to be manageable for busy owners to complete in a short time, but also extensive enough to get an understanding of the challenges facing businesses in the area, where they get materials and employees, their working capital, earnings, access to technology, and opportunities for growth and future investment. Hoping both for a large response rate and meaningful answers from those who do respond, we will open the survey period later this month and conclude in mid-October. 

Since the report will also examine the role place plays in the Acushnet Avenue economy, we have contacted New Bedford’s Office Housing and Community Development. Eddie Bates is hard at work analyzing GIS information so we can have better understanding of the physical and built environment of the Avenue and it’s side streets. The data we receive from Housing and Community Development will show the location of trees, street lighting, public spaces, benches, and give us a detailed look at the housing density surrounding the commercial corridor. The office will also be aiding us as we investigate occupancy and vacancy rates. I’m very interested to see if we can determine vacancy by floor, as well as by building. Although getting street level space occupied is still a challenge for building owners along the Avenue, upper level tenants (whether mixed-income residential or commercial) will be key in securing long-term vitality for the neighborhood.

As the survey period wraps up, I will be going over Census and business records for the study area. With this analysis, I am hoping to show how the make up of the neighborhood’s residents and businesses has changed over time. Culling through the wealth of information we obtained from the ReferenceUSA historical business database, I have already noticed an increase over the last five years in grocery stores serving the needs of Central and Latin American immigrants.

Check back in for updates on the survey process and on our one-on-one discussions with steering committee members.

Jason Wright, 2014-15 Graduate Research Assistant

By Jason Wright, Graduate Research Assistant, UMass Dartmouth Urban Initiative

I graduated from William and Mary in 2009 with a Bachelor’s degree in psychology.  My background is in psychological research, and I have served as a research assistant and research coordinator at both the state and federal level. Through these positions I had the opportunity to work on a number of projects dealing with intimate partner violence, PTSD, and substance use. I am passionate about efforts to reduce poverty. This interest has developed as a result of personal experiences as well as exposure to vulnerable populations and data suggesting socioeconomic status as a risk factor for things like PTSD and intimate partner violence.

This is my first semester in the MPP program, and I am looking forward to learning more about the policymaking process, expanding my set of research skills, and narrowing my research interests. Furthermore, I am excited to be involved with the Urban Initiative working on meaningful projects that benefit the residents of the Southcoast and our Commonwealth. The team here has been friendly and welcoming, and I look forward to our journey together.