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MassWorks Grant at Work in Dedham Square

MassWorks Grant at Work in Dedham Square

You will often hear business owners and business groups like the Chamber of Commerce talk about the role of government in business. Usually the refrain is "the less government interference, the better," or "government is best when it stays out of the way." I am happy to say that there is a local story of government working to improve the situation for business. Recently the Dedham Square Improvement Project was awarded a $1.7 million MassWorks Infrastructure Grant for a comprehensive traffic, safety and pedestrian improvement project in Dedham Square. The completed infrastructure project will cost $5.2 million and is scheduled to be complete by November 2013. The project is currently 20 percent complete, on time and on budget, with 23 parking spaces created to date. This has been accomplished while maintaining the use of the Keystone Parking lot and limiting the disturbance to local businesses.

On Wednesday, August 8, I had an opportunity to join Lieutenant Governor Timothy Murray along with other state and local officials to tour the Dedham Square Improvement Project. One of the unique components of the project is the level of communication which exists from the development team to the community. The project has a website, a Twitter feed and a Facebook page (who doesn't these days?). Anyone can use these online tools to monitor the progress of the project (http://www.dedhamsquareproject.com,) but most importantly to learn in advance what the construction schedule looks like. This way, business owners can plan accordingly around the construction schedule with a minimum of disruption to their operation. If the sidewalk in front of my storefront is going to be ripped out and inaccessible on a certain day, well then maybe that's a good day to catch up on administrative duties or better yet, go to the beach.

As always, communication is key and it's heartening to see a level of communication on this project that is often missing. The other benefit that I see to this project is that it will encourage people to shop locally. While this has been a familiar mantra lately, the result of this project will actually create an environment in Dedham Square that truly helps to entice people to shop in their downtown. Ease of parking, attractive streetscaping and a vibrant retail mix all work together to bring the community downtown.

Here's what a few of the officials at the walk through had to say about the project:

"Our Administration continues to partner with cities and towns to invest in local infrastructure improvements," said Lieutenant Governor Timothy Murray. "By working with the Town of Dedham through the MassWorks Infrastructure Program and also partnering with local, state and federal agencies, we are paving the way for future opportunities that will advance economic development in Dedham and support regional economic growth."

"The Dedham Square Improvement Project is a great infrastructural investment for the town that will improve traffic operations and public safety," said Senator Michael Rush. "I commend local and state officials for their partnership and focus on reconstructing a Dedham Square that is attractive to residents, visitors, and businesses."

"The Dedham Square Improvement Project is truly a public/private partnership at its best," said Representative Paul McMurtry. "The commitment of state and local government, along with the efforts of Dedham Square Circle, the merchants and residents is something we can all be proud of. I am grateful to the Patrick-Murray Administration for supporting the residents of Dedham, as well as, valuing the economic vitality and importance of our historic downtown."

"The MassWorks grant is the single largest grant award in the history of Dedham," said Town Administrator, William G. Keegan, Jr. "It was a critical element in leveraging the additional necessary financial resources and creating the working partnerships across a broad spectrum that came together in support of this project. No one group could have accomplished this alone. Beginning and continuing to this day with grass roots support led by Dedham Square Circle, our non-profit partner dedicated to the revitalization of the Square, we traveled a long path together to this day, but one ultimately well worth traveling. Along the way we solicited input and support from the entire community from local businesses to residents who voted the funding for the overall project at Town Meeting. Norfolk County was an early and key contributor with engineering work. By working together we were able to make the best case possible to the Commonwealth to join us in this major economic investment and improvements to Dedham Square, setting the stage for future growth and retaining its historic character."

The MassWorks Infrastructure Program, which is overseen by the Executive Office of Housing and Economic Development, held its first competitive grant round in September 2011, consolidating six capital budget programs to give communities a single entry point and one set of requirements for state public infrastructure grants. The consolidation aimed to improve efficiencies and streamline the decision-making process, increase access for municipalities of all sizes and enhance state-regional-local partnerships around economic development and housing production.

During the first grant round, 158 applications requesting more than $400 million in infrastructure grants were received from cities and towns of all sizes and representing every region of the state. In total, HED awarded $63.5 million in grants to 42 communities throughout Massachusetts for public infrastructure projects that began this spring and summer.

The annual MassWorks Infrastructure Program application round will be accepting applications from August 27 - September 10, 2012.

To learn more about the MassWorks Infrastructure Program and how it is supporting job growth and long term, sustainable economic development, please visit: http://www.mass.gov/eohed/infrastructure.