Peabody Mayor Edward Bettencourt said he was shocked when he recently received a phone call from state officials notifying him that Peabody has been dubbed a Gateway City.
The designation has been largely reserved for communities in serious need of revitalization and Bettencourt wasn't expecting to be part of the program.
In order to become a Gateway City, an area must have a population count between 35,000 and 250,000, have a median household income below the state average of $65,981, and have an educational attainment rate of a bachelor’s degree or above.
“It wasn’t something we applied for,” Bettencourt said. “I have mixed feelings about it right now because I don’t have much information on it.
"I’m hopeful that it could be something that’s beneficial for the city by increasing the access to opportunities and resources for different grants and programs.,'' the mayor said. "I think I need to learn a great deal more about what this means for our city.”
The Office of Housing and Economic Development annually reviews the last five years’ worth of data to determine eligibility for the Gateway Cities program. Peabody and Attleboro are the first changes since the original 24 Gateway Cities were named following the creation of the program in the 2010 economic development legislation. Other Gateway Cities include Brockton, Lynn, Salem, Revere and Haverhill, among others.
“Our Gateway Cities possess tremendous potential and opportunities and the Patrick-Murray Administration’s emphasis on these communities is designed to help unlock that potential,” said Greg Bialecki, secretary of the Office of Housing and Economic Development, in a recent announcement. “By continuing to invest in innovation, infrastructure and education in these communities we are creating new opportunities for growth in the future.”
Gateway Cities have access to programs such as the Gateway Cities Parks Program, which develops and restores parks in urban neighborhoods; the Housing Development Incentive Program, which provides Gateway Cities with a development tool to increase market-rate housing and support economic development; and Housing Planning Grants and Gateway Plus Action Grants, which support revitalization and economic development opportunities.
Although Bettencourt remains leary about this recent appointment, he is looking forward to learning more about it.
The mayor said he is meeting with a representative from the Patrick-Murray Administration’s Executive Office of Housing and Economic Development to discuss what this means for the city of Peabody, and how residents can benefit from various programs.