Downtown Revitalization Strategy
The objective of the City of Cambridge Core Area Revitalization Strategy is to:
i. help stimulate growth,
ii. offer opportunities for partnerships with private sector companies, non-profits and public institutions in terms of long-term and legacy projects that will be catalysts for economic and residential growth, and
iii. increase diversification, talent attraction and increase employment promoting urban vitality in our core areas.
One of the key ingredients to a healthy downtown is people: people who work there during the day and, most importantly, live there in the evenings and on weekends. In order to achieve this desired outcome, key strategic investments are required to both directly fund projects and to create the overall environment for people to invest. This can be achieved through direct investment, providing financial incentives through Community Improvement Plans, and creating a supportive and flexible policy and regulatory environment.
To City created a number of different initiatives to achieve this, mainly:
1. The Core Area Transformation Fund (CATF) is a $20-million dollar Council approved fund that includes three pillars:
I. Private Sector Stimulus
II. Strategic Land Acquisition/Disposition
III. Placemaking and Experiences
2. The creation of new Community Improvement Plan (CIP)
I. Created 5 new programs to leverage private sector investment paired with public grants to revitalize core areas buildings.
The City also has increased staff support through internal staff working groups including the Downtown Working Group, Downtown Development Team, staff liaison position with the three area Business Improvement Areas (BIA’s) and a Core Area Connections page on the webpage that is a one-stop shop to everything core related.
Council recognizes that vibrant, healthy core areas are a fundamental building block of great cities. The strategic land acquisition/disposition pillar supports the growth of the core area(s) population in terms of both workforce and residents, coupled with the future expansion of LRT, the city has an opportunity to take the lead on making future-oriented strategic land acquisitions (buying land). Over time, the disposition (selling) of City holdings will spur development and revenue generation. The placemaking and experience funding pillar is used to enhance capital projects or partnerships that encourage experiences and create a unique sense of place.
Even though the programs have only been active for 2 months and only 6 applications fully approved, the approved applications will create 20 new residential units and revitalize 4 commercial units for new tenants leading to many new jobs created. In addition, we have received 3 tentative placemaking/experiences being planned to increase the downtown experience for residents and drive tourism.
While these initiatives are still relatively new, the success is already apparent as evidenced above. This project is unique as it brings together major initiatives that will have transformational impact to the core areas under one larger strategy. It is a unique solution to revitalizing the core areas as it encompasses private and public stimulus and citizen led initiatives that create welcoming and authentic spaces through placemaking and is replicable and adaptable to other communities.