Innovation Districts in Massachusetts

Increasingly, cities and regions have come to realize the importance of catalyzing innovation and entrepreneurship through planning, policy, and development approaches. The greater Boston area has been at the forefront of developing innovation ecosystems to drive the local and regional economy. Lessons from two of its well-established districts have helped shape other cities' plans for innovation districts across the country. Creating spaces where creative people can work, connect with potential partners, and develop their ideas into projects is a critical component to supporting innovation and entrepreneurship. Other elements common to successful efforts include building relationships with educational institutions, and facilitating communication across industries and between the public sector and communities of entrepreneurs and creative professionals. Finally mixing spaces for work with housing and nightlife activities are important for generating a sustainable hub of innovation.

Together, Boston and Cambridge are home to three distinct innovation districts, organized around different management and development strategies, and operating at different scales. Kendall Square in Cambridge, MA, developed as a place where academic discoveries from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology could fuel business ideas in the engineering and life sciences sectors. The Boston Innovation District represents a successful example of a city government using innovation to fuel economic development and transform its working waterfront into a dynamic, mixed-use 21st century neighborhood. The Talbot Norfolk Triangle (TNT) Eco-Innovation District showcases the potential for innovation to operate at the scale of an existing residential neighborhood and integrate technical knowledge of environmentally sustainable practices into local workforce development strategies.

 

Mitigating Displacement

The success of Kendall Square and the Seaport Innovation District have highlighted the need for strategies to manage neighborhood change and mitigate displacement as part of innovation district planning. Both districts have seen commercial rents rise rapidly and have needed to develop strategies to preserve affordable work spaces for entrepreneurs and companies from the start-up phase to the point at which they are fully established. In addition, residential neighborhoods that become hubs of arts and innovation are likely to attract new residents and workers eager to access the scarce spaces and resources that support innovation, entrepreneurship and the arts. Increasing housing supply at a range with subsidies to ensure affordability to a range of income levels, a range of household types and a range of family sizes is an important strategy for combating rising housing prices and displacement pressures. In addition, the districts have introduced zoning use categories for small, flexible and shared workspaces and required that such spaces be included in new commercial developments. The work of the Codman Square Neighborhood Development Corporation in the TNT Eco-Innovation District illustrates the way that neighborhood-based organizations can develop a network of programs that work in concert to improve the physical condition of a neighborhood as well as the increase the economic opportunity of its residents.

ADDITIONAL RESOURCES

This field scan, commissioned by ArtPlace America,explores the intersection of arts, culture, and housing outcomes ? focused specifically on work within the housing sector that seeks to build and maintain high quality housing affordable to low-and moderate-income individuals. Through an analysis of both housing sector priorities and place-based arts and cultural work, this scan uncovers six primary ways that creative placemaking strategies are helping to meet affordable housing goals.

This field scan, commissioned by ArtPlace America, is an inquiry into the state of arts, culture, and creative placemaking as it relates to the public safety sector. Its findings and recommendations draw upon existing literature, an online survey of 100 creative placemaking stakeholders, and semi-structured interviews with the community of artists, thought leaders, investors, and organizations working at this intersection. It also identifies projects at the intersection of creative placemaking and public safety and organizes them into five areas of activity.