Friday, August 19, 2011

Upper Merrimack Redevelopment Committee Goes on a Fieldtrip

Tuesday of this week-- August 16, 2011--I had the pleasure of joining UMass-Lowell officials, Lowell community activists, and members of the Lowell city government--on a fieldtrip to Clark University in Worcester, Massachusetts to learn more about the incredible community redevelopment work that has been going on there over the last couple decades.

UMass Lowell has just purchased the old St. Joseph's Hospital which will become a new hub at the end of Merrimack Street--University Crossing.  We wanted to learn how Clark University had used their presence and property to engage with the community to make things better for everyone.

I was so inspired by the commitment of the various individuals we met--how long they had been working, how many steps it took, and how they cheered each other on.

Clark is a beautiful campus.  This is where we pulled up.   Not bad, huh?!

One of the really wonderful people on the trip was the Director of House of Hope in Lowell, which works with homeless women and young families.  (sorry I didn't write down your name!!)

We had a really royal welcome--beginning with an introduction from Clark's President David Angel, who talked about the guiding vision for the long partnership work that has been going on to renew the Kily Gardner Hammon Neighborhood. 

That is Dr. Angel on the left with Marty Meehan, Chancellor of UMass-Lowell to his right.

We also had the opportunity to hear from the Mayor of Worcester, Joe O'Brien--Mayor O'Brien is on the his left is Micki Davis, Director of Clark's Center for Community Engagement and Volunteerism.

The person who shepherded us through the visit was Jack Foley, Clark's Vice President for Government and Community Affairs--he needs to be cloned and distributed to all universities--his commitment was so deep and so real.  It was really a pleasure to learn of the long attention he has given to the issues of community/university partnership.

 Jack Foley is the man with the open computer.  To his left is Barbara Haller, District City Councilor for the area (and another long time champion of the neighborhood). 

During lunch we heard from a panel of people engaged with the Worcester schools in the area.  Here's the line up:

 The man on the left is Tom ElPrete, Director of Clark's Hiatt Center for Urban his right is an official from the school district.  The woman next to him is the Superintendent, Melinda Boone, and she is flanked by Ricci Hall, principal of University Park Campus School.  The Hiatt Center is endowed and focuses specifically on issues related to urban education.  They have taken on the schools in the neighborhood for a long term commitment--a lot to learn here, too.

Finally, we wrapped off the day with a visit to the neighborhood--to look at the extensive real estate development that Main South Community Development Corporation as been spearheading...and to visit the Worcester Boys and Girls Club, smack in the middle of the formerly notorious Kilby Street neighborhood.

 The Boys and Girls Club was the piece de la resistence.  The director was so enthusiastic--and knew his club inside and out.  I was impressed with the fund raising that comes from so many committed volunteers... Many Clark Work Study students are used at the Center...more food for thought.

I came away pretty excited for what we could do in Lowell.  I live blocks from the University Crossing area, so this has a lot of importance for me--above and beyond being a faculty member.  It seemed like we have many of the pieces that they have initiated in Worcester, but the question for us is--what's the glue?  How do you bring it together?

Thank you Paul Marion (Communications) and Bob Forrant (Center for Family, Work, and Community) for making this experience possible. 

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