Five ‘smart growth’ projects get $1.5m in aid

By Kaivan Mangouri
Globe Correspondent / June 23, 2011

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Five development projects seen as promoting dense urban development oriented around mass transit have been chosen by the Massachusetts Smart Growth Alliance to receive $1.5 million in aid.

The projects were the first to be selected by the alliance and will be recognized at an event today at the University of Massachusetts Boston. They include two in Boston, and one each in Lawrence, Somerville, and Winchester. The projects are:

■Improving the area around the Dudley Square MBTA bus station in Roxbury.

■Upgrading properties along the underutilized Fairmount commuter rail line, which runs from downtown Boston to Hyde Park.

■Converting Lawrence’s North Canal Mill district into a mixed-use, mixed-income neighborhood.

■Developing the commuter rail corridor in downtown Winchester.

■Planning for the future along the proposed MBTA Green Line route through Somerville.

The alliance will also provide technical assistance and strategic advice on promoting job growth, green space, and affordable housing in transit-oriented developments.

Funding for the alliance’s program, known as Great Neighborhoods, comes from the Boston-based Barr Foundation, which is supplying $1 million, and the New York-based Ford Foundation, which is donating $500,000.

The alliance began in 2003 with the goal of spurring neighborhood-focused community development around the state. In the five projects, it envisions 3,000 units of mixed-income housing, more than 1 million square feet of commercial space, and 12 miles of bicycling and walking paths over the next decade, executive director Andre Leroux said.

Leroux said the group aims to ensure development is done right the first time, which may require rewriting outdated zoning laws and more collaboration between civic and government groups.

“I lived in Worcester and worked in Lawrence, and I think that there are tons of great places in Massachusetts that haven’t achieved their potential, and it’s thrilling for me to help these places turn around.’’

The Barr Foundation’s executive director, Pat Brandes, praised the alliance’s dedication to transit-oriented development. The winning plans show a commitment to connected, vibrant communities that are also environmentally friendly, she said.

“If you have great neighborhoods that are bike-able and walk-able, with a rich array of transit options, then you don’t need to depend on cars in the same way,’’ Brandes said.

Kaivan Mangouri can be reached at