Where We Live

The Middle Class Index: Is The Dream Deferred?

By WGBH News   |   Wednesday, November 9, 2011
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Nov. 9, 2011

Watch the segment that aired on Nov. 8 on WGBH's Greater Boston.


BOSTON — Greater Boston received exclusive access to research conducted by independent think tank MassINC about whether or not Massachusetts residents believe the American Dream is still attainable.

MassINC's report indicated that as many as one in three Mass. residents feel they are in danger of falling out of the middle class. The data shows that while the American dream is still attainable by some, others are finding it increasingly difficult to do the things that have historically symbolized success in the US, including owning a home, paying for college and saving enough money for retirement.

The news isn't all bad though. Mass. does fare better than most states in some areas. More residents are covered by health insurance, more students are going to college and more are graduating with a four-year degree.

Greater Boston ventured out to hear from Mass. residents about one benchmark of the American Dream: whether they feel they are better off today than their parents were. Then, MassINC researchers explained how they came to their conclusions and dug deeper into the findings.

Where You Live: Beverly

By Mickey Coburn   |   Monday, April 4, 2011
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Apr. 4, 2011

For our Where We Live series, WGBH reporters and producers traveled to nine cities and towns looking for stories of economic struggle, renewal and transition throughout Massachusetts. But we know we can't tell the whole story, and that's where you come in. We're asking members of the WGBH community to send us stories, photos or video about the economic changes you see in your town. You can submit your own stories here, and see what else we've collected here.

A dock in Beverly, Mass. Submitted by Mickey Coburn.

"When we moved to Beverly from PA in 1969, we had a city newspaper, Beverly Times; a Marshalls, a Zayres, shoestore in the center of town. The school systems was not terrific but adequate. Very little diversity.

"I was able to open an acting school & little theatre and it thrived. Was gone from the city for a number of years, returning in 2006. Same mayor for eight terms; a plethora of second-hand stores. The terrific medium-size family grocery in downtown is locked up; Montserrat School of Art gives the city a good pulse; some good restaurants.

"The school system doesn't seem to progress too much. Two neighborhood schools were closed, plus the new middle school (the one left is overcrowded) and the high school has been expensively rebuilt.

"Beverly still has minimal diversity. A new group, Main Streets, is trying to make a difference.

"On the weekends, the streets are painfully empty except thankfully for two thriving coffee houses. I take my grandkids over to Salem or up to Newburyport to walk about. We have a great coast, some of which is made private to the wealthy folks who live there. We have many disenfranchised folks — I feel too many, given the size of the town. Because of our major train connection to Boston, many folks (are) attracted to live here, I think.

"People don't seem to come to visit — tourists. They pass through on their way to other North Shore towns. The city has history. Something sorely missing. Not sure what that is."

Devens Makes Plans Far Beyond Evergreen Solar

By Andrea Smardon   |   Friday, April 1, 2011
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Small design-manufacturing center Eglomise Designs is located in a renovated army building (exterior at left).(Andrea Smardon/WGBH)
 


FORT DEVENS, Mass. — The former army base Devens has been thrust into the spotlight as the place where alternative energy company Evergreen Solar built a manufacturing plant, then abruptly closed it, moving its operations to China.  But Evergreen is only part of a larger story of rapid economic change in Devens. 
 
Fifteen years ago, the army pulled out of Fort Devens, taking away 7,000 jobs, and leaving abandoned buildings and polluted land. The land was sold to a quasi-public agency now known as MassDevelopment.  The idea was that the former base would be cleaned up and transformed into an economic hub.

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Meg Delorier, chief of staff at MassDevelopment, says, “I would never have imagined that 15 years later Devens would look likes it looks today.” 
 
Delorier once lived at Fort Devens when her former husband was stationed there.  “There were a lot of people who thought that we would be lucky to have warehousing and distribution facilities and that would be it; those would be the companies that would be attracted to Devens because there were large, flat parcels of land,” Delorier said.
 
But that’s not all that’s come to Devens. The base does have some warehousing and packaging companies.  But it also has small businesses, and it’s been able to attract some prize life sciences and new energy technology companies like Evergreen Solar, American Superconductor, and Bristol Myers Squibb. 
 
DeLorier says one of the most important advantages that Devens has is fast-track permitting. There is a single body known as the Devens Enterprise Commission which reviews all applications within 75 days of submission.  

Former military barracks are pictured in the town of Devens, Mass. (AP)

“It’s an expedited permitting process which is time and usually money for a company.  That’s been one of the biggest attractions in Devens so far especially for the major employers,“DeLorier said.
 
But some nearby residents think there should be more time taken with these large projects.  Frank Maxant is a selectman for the town of Ayer. He says pharmaceutical company Bristoll Myers Squibb was permitted too quickly – a record 49 days.
 
Maxant says he was concerned about “millions of gallons of biochemically active soup,” which he said would have been located right near the town’s only high-yield aquifer. “They boasted about their permitting process when they were through. Did they boast about prudent they were, how careful they were to protect everybody’s interest, protect the environment?  They boasted about setting a speed record,” Maxant said. 
 
Staff from the Devens Enterprise Commision said they hired an environmental planner to review the application.  They defended the process and said it is possible to do a high quality plan review within that timeframe.
 
While economic development has moved quickly at Devens, the quest by residents to become an official town – remember, they’re still an army base -- is deadlocked.
 
The original reuse plan requires approval from the surrounding towns, and the residents in those towns don’t all agree. Frustrated with the stalemate, some Devens residents have petitioned the state legislature to bypass the towns and approve Devens as a municipality. 

Devens is hoping to bring new businesses to its former military and other available spaces. (Andrea Smardon/WGBH)


 
Rick Bernklow is one of those residents.  He’s also a professional real estate appraiser. He says he wants Devens to become a town so they can govern themselves, but he would also like to keep the special permitting process.
 
“There’s nothing else in the commonwealth matches that,“ Bernklow sad. “It is a primary generator for economic growth here. I see people everywhere trying to get things permitted take a year, 2 years, 3 years. I think the state has put expedited permitting in, they’ve given extra money to do it, and the towns that keep it will be better off economically.”
 
The downturn in the economy has affected Devens just as it has in the surrounding towns.  Even with incentives and expedited permitting, businesses are reluctant to start new projects.  But MassDevelopment staff say the phones are starting to ring again, and they’re cautiously optimistic more companies will chose Devens to locate their business. 

Frontline: Life and Death in Assisted Living

Friday, July 26, 2013
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Crane Estates

By WGBHArts   |   Tuesday, September 18, 2012
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Cindy Brockway, Cultural Resources Program Director for The Trustees of Reservations at Crane Estates, ponders the relationship between art and nature:
 
“I like to thing that extraordinary art is made exceptional by its juxtaposition to outstanding natural scenery. For me, great art is found in the interaction between the natural and the cultural, each inspiring and informing the other. A great work of landscape architecture can be humbled in the face of an incredible sunset, the birth of a Least Tern chick, or sunlight raking an old stone foundation. Similarly, some of our greatest landscape paintings celebrate the vicissitudes of the American landscape more dramatically that Mother Nature herself. It is this emotional and intellectual response to our surroundings that write newchapters in our emotions, shake our inner self, make us feel small, move us in awe, and encourage us to wander, and to wonder. At The Trustees, this is our journey.”

 

Crane Estates
290 Argilla Road, Ipswich, MA 01938
978.356.4351
Ttor.org
 
The 2,100 Crane Estate is comprised of three distinct properties: CraneBeach, Castle Hill (National Historic Landmark), and the Crane Wildlife Refuge. Bounded by the Essex and Ipswich River Estuaries, the Crane Estate represents some of Massachusetts’ most scenic, historically important and ecologically diverse landscapes. Each component of the Crane Estate possesses a unique set of historical and ecological resources. Collectively they represent an oasis in which the splendor of an American Country Place has been preserved and its resources are protected through attentive active stewardship. This fall, the Trustees of the Reservation bring a series of events to Castle Hill and theGreat House at Crane Estate: lectures and tours on English history, architecture, and designed landscapes; an art show and sale featuring artists based in the North Shore; and a winter festival with live music, dance performances and gift donations. Learn more on our website.

massmouth, inc.

By WGBHArts   |   Friday, August 10, 2012
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Norah Dooley, storyteller and co-founder of massmouth, inc. tells us about how storytelling changed her life:

"I heard my first storyteller in graduate school.  For her final project, she presented the story of her abusive relationship with no props, no visuals, no costumes, no notes, no lights, no staging - just a story.  We were all spellbound and by the end of it, totally speechless. I promptly changed my major, wrote my Master’s thesis on storytelling and have been a professional storyteller ever since. These days, we make art (tell stories), where it is least expected.  On street corners, coffee shops, and orchards we create a truly unique opportunity for strangers to stop, listen, share their own stories and come together."
 


massmouth, Inc.
http://massmouth.ning.com/

Our mission is to renew and promote the timeless art of storytelling in Massachusetts through live performance, education and social media; to cultivate new audiences and support new storytellers while we return storytelling to its rightful place as a recognized art form.  We host events where real estate agents, lawyers, teachers, scientists, homeschooling moms, journalists, grad students, artists and professional storytellers - nearly a thousand people in all - come to bare their souls on topics ranging from “supernatural” events, to rolling on “wheels”, to “Cupid’s” antics. Additionally, we organize the only inter-mural high school story slam project and other workshops throughout the year. Our goal is to enable anyone, in any walk of life, to tell his/her story.

About the Authors
WGBH News
The WGBH News team comprises the WGBH radio newsroom, The Callie Crossley Show, The Emily Rooney Show and WGBH Channel 2 reporters and producers from Greater Boston and Basic Black. 

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