Main South is a vibrant, diverse inner-city neighborhood located in Worcester, Massachusetts. However, it deals with its fair share of challenges, such as a plague of gang activity, drugs, and prostitution, which has taken a toll on its social-economic status and physical condition, from abandoned lots to fire-damaged buildings. On a mission to revitalize the neighborhood, the Main South Community Development Corporation (CDC) is a 501 (c) (3) nonprofit organization that provides quality affordable housing and economic opportunities for low and moderate-income families.
The Main South CDC has developed over three hundred units of housing, has sold sixty-eight houses to first-time home buyers, and currently manages two hundred affordable rental units. The Kilby-Gardner-Hammond Neighborhood Revitalization Project, one of the many projects of the Main South CDC, has helped to create Clark University’s athletic complex and a new Boys & Girls Club facility. With each improvement, the Main South CDC hopes to change community members’ perceptions and the overall quality of life in the neighborhood. Throughout the process, the Main South CDC has involved many members of the community, and, as a member myself, I desire to be a part of such an important mission.
This summer I will be assisting Casey Starr, Director of Community Initiatives at the Main South CDC, with place-making and the activation of public spaces. Our goal is to plan and coordinate free family-friendly activities in public spaces in the neighborhood. Main South CDC aims to “take back” spaces deemed unsafe by community members, such as parks and vacant lots. To “take back” a space means to create functionality and comfort in a public area that is struggling with a spoiled reputation because of illegal activity. Often in inner-city neighborhoods, these spaces are vital because not everyone has a backyard. Not to mention, the Main South CDC hosts monthly neighborhood meetings to address community members’ feedback and concerns with a city elected official and police officer always in attendance. I plan on attending a few neighborhood meetings during my time with the Main South CDC.
The Main South CDC programs are what we like to call Summer Saturdays, which are multiple activities and programs held on Saturdays. The various activities target an extensive age range starting at age zero with the Worcester Family Partnership Early Childhood Playgroup to the predominantly elderly presence at the Farmer’s Market. The Summer Concert Series held on Wednesday nights at University Park is a community favorite event with cultural music that speaks to the diversity of the community. Additionally, the newly renovated Castle Park programs fitness circuits run by the YWCA, Recreation Worcester Summer Camp, and capoeira on Saturdays as well. All programming works to create a safe and lively atmosphere.
To ensure community members are aware of the many different activities, Julia Dowling, my co-intern, and I will promote programming through social media, emails, flyers, direct calls to residents, and signage on bulletin boards. It is essential to get the word out because these programs are implemented to accommodate the needs of children, adults, and low-income families. In this day and age it is safe to say social media is an important tool for promotion, which is why I will also be responsible for managing the Main South CDC’s Facebook and Instagram. As I attend programs and events, I will make sure to capture the fun and share it on both platforms.