Framingham, MA- On Thursday, April 19, 2018 the City of Framingham was informed by the Baker-Polito Administration that Framingham’s Opportunity Zone Application was selected for submission to the United States Treasury Department along with 32 other Massachusetts communities. Opportunity Zones are comprised of low-income community census tracts designated by governors in every state. The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act established Opportunity Zones to spur private investment, boost economic development and job opportunities. This program provides federal tax incentives for private investors to reinvest unrealized capital gains into low-income areas, benefitting both the residents living in the area and the private investors.
The Community Economic Development Division in partnership with the Mayor’s Office selected two tracts in Southeast Framingham for consideration, both tracks are within the Central Business zone. The first track, is located within the Beaver Park area and is home to a large concentration of subsidized housing where 95% of the residents have low/moderate income levels. This track has been identified as an Environmental Justice community; a large city-owned park was a former industrial landfill and has been underutilized due to contamination concerns. This area is home to commercial uses including salvage, auto repair, industrial suppliers and a contaminated former chemical plant.
The second track is home to a significant amount of industrial and institutional land, and houses a former automotive plant, a correctional facility, a bus depot, other auto related uses and the site of a contaminated former gas plant. There are approximately 3,269 residents, of whom 83% of the residents are considered low/moderate income levels. This area has very few open space opportunities, with low connectivity to adjacent neighborhoods due to the rail lines.
Framingham is moving aggressively to realize a vision for a dynamic and diverse downtown, supported by transit-oriented development (TOD). In 2015 Framingham completed a state-funded research and planning process that established the TOD opportunity, then adopted zoning changes enabling feasibility TOD projects within a 10 minute walk of the MBTA Commuter Rail station. The changes included expanding the Central Business District zoning. Through the adoption of the Urban Center Housing Tax Increment Financing plan in 2017, Framingham was able to enter into agreements with two developers; one of which is advancing a 270 unit project at 266 Waverly Street.
The Southeast Framingham Neighborhood Action Plan set the strategy to coordinate municipal efforts to elevate this long-overlooked neighborhood. The plan identifies near-, mid-, and long term actions intended to attract and improve multi income housing, amenities needed by the residents; and open space options; promoting walkability & safety; and implement public realm/streetscape improvements. This effort complements the Southeast Framingham Brownfields Action Plan that assesses brownfields cleanup and redevelopment opportunities.
“This is an exciting step that is consistent with our administration’s goal of invigorating our economy particularly in south Framingham! We are pleased that the Baker–Polito administration selected Framingham to participate in this program” said Mayor Yvonne M. Spicer.