Amanda Chisholm is the Director of Community Technical Assistance for MassDevelopment. A former Chief Economic Development Planner for the Metropolitan Area Planning Council, Chisholm earned her bachelor’s degree from the University of Notre Dame and her Masters in Urban and Environmental Policy and Planning from Tufts University.
- MassDevelopment is a respected institution in the Commonwealth. What should the average ULI Boston member know about this agency?
MassDevelopment, the state’s economic development and finance agency, works with businesses, nonprofits, financial institutions, and communities to stimulate economic growth across the Commonwealth. We are fortunate to have a number of tools at our disposal including financing, development expertise, and real estate technical assistance. In my role as the Director of Community Technical Assistance, I sit on the real estate side of the house. Through a number of technical assistance programs, I work directly with municipalities to help them tackle their real estate and economic development challenges.
- In your role, you support cities and towns that are tackling economic development issues. Can you name a municipality that overcame significant challenges to reposition their community?
The City of Taunton is a community we have worked with in multiple capacities. It has done a lot of work to reposition itself and overcome economic development challenges. MassDevelopment manages the 220-acre former Paul A. Dever State School redevelopment project, a $27 million effort that has expanded the Myles Standish Industrial Park and created a new business park in the city, bringing $98 million in private investment and more than 1,400 new jobs to Taunton in the last six years. This project started as a planning study in 2008. Through the MassDevelopment Real Estate Services Technical Assistance Program, we were able to work with the city this past year to put together a downtown plan as well. Taunton had already done significant work on major streetscape and infrastructure upgrades and had set a great framework for continued improvements to the downtown. The plan that we worked on with them examined development feasibility downtown and presented strategies for reactivating, reusing, and redeveloping some of the existing vacant buildings. It also included an urban design component focused on options for public parcels behind the active City Hall redevelopment as well as for a vacant city-owned lot directly on Main Street. Right after the completion of the plan, the city was able to secure a Housing Choice Grant to redesign and repurpose the vacant city-owned lot. I would be remiss not to note that the downtown plan that we funded was also a follow-on to an initial ULI Technical Assistance Panel (TAP) convened in 2015. It is a great example of how various programs can work together to generate real results for communities.
- How has being a member of ULI shaped your professional practice?
My experience as a member of ULI has contributed to my professional practice in many ways. Not only have I had the chance to expand my network and work more closely with colleagues at other firms and agencies throughout the state, but I’ve also taken advantage of a number of opportunities for further education. I have participated in numerous trainings and conferences where I have been able to hone my technical skills and real estate knowledge. I have also had access to a wealth of resources that I have been able to utilize in my own professional practice.
- You are an active member of the ULI Real Estate Advisory Committee, which oversees our Technical Assistance Panel (TAP) program. Why should ULI members participate in this important initiative?
The Technical Assistance Panel (TAP) is a unique and valuable opportunity that I would encourage ULI members to learn more about and participate in. The program is designed to provide objective, expert advice to municipal and community-based organizations on the feasibility, design, or implementation of development initiatives. Communities apply for the opportunity to participate in a TAP and present ULI with three economic development challenges that they are facing. In response, our committee works with ULI staff to convene an expert panel of ULI members that comes together for a full day to provide the community with advice, best practices, and resources for tackling the challenges they face. Participating in a ULI TAP is a great way to get to know colleagues, understand more about the economic development programs that are available to Massachusetts communities, make a difference for municipalities throughout the state, and glean best practices that can be pulled into each panelist’s individual professional discipline. MassDevelopment sponsors multiple TAPs each year and I would also encourage communities to look into this valuable program, learn more about it, and to reach out and ask questions.
- What is on your current reading list?
I just finished reading Hillbilly Elegy, a memoir from a former U.S. Marine and Yale University Law School graduate who grew up in the Rust Belt. The book offers an interesting take on the culture of working-class Americans in that area of the country. I found it to be a very engaging book about both breaking free from and learning to embrace one’s culture and identity, drawing on the strengths of your own experience, and recognizing the opportunities that have been placed in front of you. I would definitely recommend it.
To connect with Amanda please visit the ULI Member Directory (click here