Lauren Liss Speaks to MassEcon

Westborough, MA – Lauren A. Liss, President and CEO of MassDevelopment, told MassEcon members recently that MassDevelopment, a quasi-public agency nearly 20 years old, has taken on new responsibilities in recent years.

The agency is taking on more responsibilities including managing the working piers in Fall River and New Bedford, in addition to the Gloucester pier it already controls.

Four more districts will be added to the TDI initiative, including locations in Chelsea, Lawrence, Fitchburg, and a second area, focusing on the arts, in Worcester.

MassDevelopment assists communities and projects with development through finance programs – including bonds, tax-exempt finance, and loan guarantees – and spending on real estate. The agency managed the transition at the Ft. Devens U.S Army base when it was closed in the late 1990s. “It is now a thriving mixed-use community,” Liss said, with about 200 residents and a dozen more parcels still available for commercial development.

Liss said one of the major successes of the TDI was an “iconic” program to promote murals on walls in Lynn. MassDevelopment contributed $50,000, and a local group raised even more, organizing a popular mural festival that was “a model … in ways to activate communities.”

A major challenge of development in older cities is unused buildings. “It could take $5 million to put back into service a building that is worth nothing,” she said, but the goal of rehabilitating “these great historic buildings” rather than demolishing them is to provide catalysts for regrowth.

MassDevelopment oversaw the redevelopment of the office building at 100 Cambridge St. in Boston several years ago and is using funds from the successful sale of that property to spur further growth elsewhere from its general fund.