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What is the Payoff of Worcester’s $14 Million Visitor Center?

Saturday, February 22, 2014

 

Renewed plans for a visitor center along Route 146 represent a large, collaborative investment in the future of Worcester's Quinsigamond Village.

The Blackstone Gateway Park and Visitor Center, billed as a $14 million combined effort with support at the local, state, and federal level, was hailed by Congressman Jim McGovern as a “signature project” during Thursday's conference. Citing the tireless dedication of local residents, McGovern, who secured $5.5 million in federal funding, said he knew the project would “serve as a catalyst for future economic development.”

But how the project's success is benchmarked depends on who you ask.

What's the measure of success?

The center is set to include a welcome area and restrooms for travelers; exhibit, office, theater, and meeting space; and central regional offices of the Massachusetts Department of Conservation and Recreation.

City Manager Ed Augustus said Thursday the project would enhance economic revitalization efforts in Quinsigamond Village while also serving as a destination point for residents and visitors.

“It's going to bring people into the neighborhood,” said city Councilor George Russell, including not only visitors but also state DCR employees and students from the College of the Holy Cross.

“The success will be measured by what impact it has on that neighborhood,” Russell said on Friday.

Worcester Regional Research Bureau Executive Director Timothy McGourthy offered a half-dozen future considerations for evaluating success, including visitor numbers, repeat visitors, and the extent of programming. “As a community location, how many individuals or organizations choose to hold events or other programs at the site?”

While the research bureau hasn't studied the project, McGourthy said it was safe to assume some level of “economic spinoff” benefiting the surrounding neighborhood and city from new and returning visitors.

Finally, “the project includes a significant amount of park land along the Blackstone River, and the preservation and maintenance of this land has a value,” McGourthy added.

Frank Conte, a policy analyst for the Beacon Hill Institute at Suffolk University, contended the main economic upshot of the project would be dependent on the effect on neighborhood housing prices and businesses. “One way it may be successful is if it increases demand around it,” Conte said, adding the quality of life impacts were harder to quantify.

In terms of development, Conte said an economist would factor the project's opportunity cost, or in other words, how else the funding might be used more efficiently. “It's not really an investment, in that it doesn't increase the productive capacity of the economy.”

“For economic development, the project doesn't have real economic value.”

Development impact: more than just jobs

While investments are often measured by specific indicators like job growth or leveraged dollars, the project in Worcester reflects a larger sphere of considerations covering environmental and quality of life concerns.

The envisioned visitor center has been scaled down from earlier plans after a 2010 fire destroyed the former factory building set to house the original project. The complete venture now includes complementary infrastructure including improvements to adjacent parks and a $1.5 million federally funded Quinsigamond Village Bikeway linking to the larger Blackstone River Bikeway.

Also included are sidewalk improvements along McKeon Road granting better access between the village proper and Holy Cross students.

All told, the project combines the efforts of the city, state conservation department, state and federal transportation officials, Holy Cross, and the Blackstone River Valley National Heritage Corridor.

“It all works together,” Russell said. “If it's some kind of specific barometer, I can't point to that.”

But many in the community development field are eying such a barometer to measure projects outside of their financial bottom lines.

Planners at Portland State University and the University of Arizona are working on such a tool that consider more factors surrounding development investment.

Called the Triple Bottom Line Tool, the online calculator is designed to measure the impact of investments on not only economic vitality but natural resource stewardship and community well-being.

 

Related Slideshow: Central Massachusetts Migration Totals

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13. Hampshire County

Migration Totals

Net Migration: -165
Outbound Migration: 772
Inbound Migration: 607

Net Migration by Education

Bachelor's Degree: 46
Graduate or Professional Degree: -3

Net Migration by Income

Household Income ($150,000 or more): 54
Individual Income ($75,000 or more): 5

For more migration pattern details, click here.

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11. Norfolk County (Tie)

Migration Totals

Net Migration: -121
Outbound Migration: 1,636
Inbound Migration: 1,515

Net Migration by Education

Bachelor's Degree: 75
Graduate or Professional Degree: -28

Net Migration by Income

Household Income ($150,000 or more): -51
Individual Income ($75,000 or more): -44

For more migration pattern details, click here.

Prev Next

11. Franklin County (Tie)

Migration Totals

Net Migration: -121
Outbound Migration: 701
Inbound Migration: 580

Net Migration by Education

Bachelor's Degree: -30
Graduate or Professional Degree: 22

Net Migration by Income

Household Income ($150,000 or more): 4
Individual Income ($75,000 or more): -21

For more migration pattern details, click here.

Prev Next

10. Barnstable County

Migration Totals

Net Migration: 8
Outbound Migration: 250
Inbound Migration: 258

Net Migration by Education

Bachelor's Degree: -47
Graduate or Professional Degree: -25

Net Migration by Income

Household Income ($150,000 or more): -3
Individual Income ($75,000 or more): 22

For more migration pattern details,
click here.

Prev Next

9. Nantucket County

Migration Totals

Net Migration: 20
Outbound Migration: 0
Inbound Migration: 20

Net Migration by Education

Bachelor's Degree: N/A
Graduate or Professional Degree: N/A

Net Migration by Income

Household Income ($150,000 or more): N/A
Individual Income ($75,000 or more): N/A

For more migration pattern details, click here.

Prev Next

8. Dukes County

Migration Totals

Net Migration: 36
Outbound Migration: 45
Inbound Migration: 81

Net Migration by Education

Bachelor's Degree: N/A
Graduate or Professional Degree: N/A

Net Migration by Income

Household Income ($150,000 or more): N/A
Individual Income ($75,000 or more): N/A

For more migration pattern details, click here.

Prev Next

7. Suffolk County

Migration Totals

Net Migration: 165
Outbound Migration: 1,407
Inbound Migration: 1,242

Net Migration by Education

Bachelor's Degree: 143
Graduate or Professional Degree: 106

Net Migration by Income

Household Income ($150,000 or more): 105
Individual Income ($75,000 or more): 98

For more migration pattern details, click here.

Prev Next

6. Bristol County

Migration Totals

Net Migration: 197
Outbound Migration: 567
Inbound Migration: 764

Net Migration by Education

Bachelor's Degree: 139
Graduate or Professional Degree: 7

Net Migration by Income

Household Income ($150,000 or more): 40
Individual Income ($75,000 or more): 21

For more migration pattern details, click here.

Prev Next

5. Berkshire County

Migration Totals

Net Migration: 207
Outbound Migration: 71
Inbound Migration: 278

Net Migration by Education

Bachelor's Degree: -33
Graduate or Professional Degree: -11

Net Migration by Income

Household Income ($150,000 or more): 0
Individual Income ($75,000 or more): -14

For more migration pattern details, click here.

Prev Next

4. Hampden County

Migration Totals

Net Migration: 213
Outbound Migration: 1,005
Inbound Migration: 1,218

Net Migration by Education

Bachelor's Degree: 99
Graduate or Professional Degree: -3

Net Migration by Income

Household Income ($150,000 or more): 64
Individual Income ($75,000 or more): 29

For more migration pattern details, click here.

Prev Next

3. Essex County

Migration Totals

Net Migration: 360
Outbound Migration: 479
Inbound Migration: 839

Net Migration by Education

Bachelor's Degree: 112
Graduate or Professional Degree: 65

Net Migration by Income

Household Income ($150,000 or more): 115
Individual Income ($75,000 or more): 55

For more migration pattern details, click here.

Prev Next

2. Plymouth County

Migration Totals

Net Migration: 377
Outbound Migration: 554
Inbound Migration: 931

Net Migration by Education

Bachelor's Degree: 116
Graduate or Professional Degree: 6

Net Migration by Income

Household Income ($150,000 or more): 1
Individual Income ($75,000 or more): -23

For more migration pattern details, click here.

Prev Next

1. Middlesex County

Migration Totals

Net Migration: 1,863
Outbound Migration: 4,451
Inbound Migration: 6,314

Net Migration by Education

Bachelor's Degree: 280
Graduate or Professional Degree: 258

Net Migration by Income

Household Income ($150,000 or more): 344
Individual Income ($75,000 or more): 129

For more migration pattern details, click here.

Prev Next

Worcester County Totals

Migration Totals

Net Migration: 2,709
Outbound Migration: 11,938
Inbound Migration: 14,647

Net Migration by Education

Bachelor's Degree: 900
Graduate or Professional Degree: 394

Net Migration by Income

Household Income ($150,000 or more): 673
Individual Income ($75,000 or more): 257

For more migration pattern details, click here.

 
 

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