5 communities south of Boston get share of $38 million in MassWorks grants

Five communities south of Boston will get a share of $38 million in state grants aimed at supporting economic development and housing creation in cities and towns throughout the Commonwealth.

Competition for the grants, awarded under the state’s MassWorks Infrastructure Program, was stiff. Of the 130 applications submitted, only 26 projects were selected.

Brockton was the region’s biggest winner, picking up $4 million to help get a major downtown revitalization project underway. Hull received $1.95 million to upgrade a section of its famed Nantasket Avenue. Marion and Milton were each allotted $1 million to strengthen their respective village areas. And Plymouth received $1.5 million to begin a major beautification effort along its harbor, ahead of the town’s 400th anniversary in 2020. 

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The MassWorks program, overseen by the Executive Office of Housing and Economic Development, provides communities with money to upgrade infrastructure, such as roads and water and sewer systems, to support new residential and commercial growth.

The state gives priority to projects in gateway cities like Brockton and in town centers where communities have put together plans that benefit the immediate area as well as the region.

Mary Waldron, executive director of the Brockton 21st Century Corporation, called the $4 million award “a crucial step” in the city’s downtown revitalization. The money will help in the purchase of the downtown block bordered by Centre, Montello, and Main streets and Petronelli Way. Money will also cover the cost to demolish the 122-year-old Gardner building and prepare the site for future development. The work is part of a $100 million downtown redevelopment plan proposed by the Boston-based firm Trinity Financial. 

Waldron said a new building will be constructed on the Gardner site to house 215 apartments and artists’ lofts on upper levels, commercial development on the main level, and a parking garage below ground. The Enterprise building, also on the block, will be completely renovated and leased.

The influx of residents to the downtown will create a demand for businesses and services, Waldron said. “We’ve had great difficulties bringing business into downtown,” she said. “The MassWorks grant will help get the downtown project up and running.”

In Hull, Town Manager Philip Lemnios said the $1.95 million in MassWorks money will cover road paving, updated sidewalks, and historic lighting on a section of Nantasket Avenue that is part of a larger area targeted for redevelopment. “It will provide quite a redo and bring the area up to date,” Lemnios said. “We’re very grateful.”

Marion’s $1 million allotment will cover some drainage improvements, road resurfacing, and sidewalk construction on South Street, Ryder Lane, and a small section of Spring Street in Marion Village. The area consists of residential homes and Tabor Academy school buildings.

“We’re very pleased,” said Town Administrator Paul Dawson of the award. “Marion is a small town with not much of a commercial tax base to speak of. This will help us make some big improvements and provide a safe area for students and residents.”

William Clark, Milton’s director of planning and community development, said the town’s $1 million grant will help connect Milton Village with the Central Avenue business district and make the area more inviting for walkers and bike riders.

High Street, an old and narrow road, will be rebuilt and a sidewalk expansion, or bump-out, installed to tie in crosswalks in the area and make the distance across the street shorter for pedestrians to navigate. Current streetlights will be replaced with ornamental period lighting, Clark said, and a pocket park will be built directly across from the commuter rail station.

“The town has a limited commercial base,” said Clark, who added the town has worked to bolster economic development in its villages for the past several years. Zoning changes were made to encourage a mixed residential and business use there.

“The purpose of the grant is to reinforce linkage of Milton Village to the Central Avenue business district, making it more walkable and accessible,” Clark said.

In Plymouth, the $1.5 million MassWorks grant will be used to enhance the promenade along the waterfront.

“For the town of Plymouth and the 400th anniversary, this grant is a great kick start,” said public works director Jonathan Beder, who applied for the funding. “The town is doing water, sewer, and drainage improvements in the downtown and harbor.

“With the grant, we’ll start at Nelson Park and work toward Plymouth Rock. Improvements will include paving, lighting, landscaping, and decorative sidewalks that are something more than asphalt and concrete. Residents will see a great change there by next summer.”