Transformation of Place in Small Cities


  • Small, flexible tools to help underserved neighborhoods organize to attract investment and programming to create lasting change
  • How to assemble local networks and capacity to begin major district-scale transformation of place
  • Innovative ideas for creative placemaking and high-impact real estate and business transformation


MassDevelopment has been serving as an "urban innovation lab" for Massachusetts, developing programming and making investments that assist local residents and businesses in building community capacity, revitalizing real estate, and activating place. We introduce some of the young leaders doing this work at MassDevelopment and provide insight into two of our most innovative programs: Commonwealth Places – an effort to provide matching crowdfunding support for creative placemaking projects – and the Transformative Development Initiative [TDI], an effort to build local capacity, partnerships, and investments in targeted districts in small post-industrial cities outside of Boston. This story is told through the lens of the City of Lynn and the recent "Beyond Walls" festival, which included installation of 15 murals, underpass lighting, and vintage neon signs, attracting unprecedented public participation and tremendous goodwill in the city. Commonwealth Places and TDI were both an integral part of "Beyond Walls," and the story of the impact of this festival is inspiring, and more importantly, replicable, even in low-income and otherwise underserved communities. Learn about a different take on economic development – one that focuses on the power of place and the empowerment of people that make up our communities.