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15-Minute Cities for Pandemic Recovery? Start with Streets!

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Date and time
Friday, September 25, 2020

Although fewer people are driving to work every day, data shows that, outside of Boston and job centers like MetroWest, congestion and miles traveled haven’t decreased much since last year – they’ve simply moved closer to home. Many Gateway Cities and surrounding communities lack safe sidewalks and bike lanes as well as parks, grocery stores, places of worship, and pharmacies in the neighborhoods people live, making car travel a must. And in this pandemic, travel is making it harder to contain the spread of COVID-19. 15-Minute Cities, a COVID-19 recovery tool lauded by mayors around the globe, puts most of a resident’s needs within a 15-minute walk or bike ride from home. Having essentials a short walk away helps people follow public health guidance and stay close to home. The concept also promises to refill municipal coffers drained by critical services to address the public health and economic crisis. But are Gateway Cities in Massachusetts primed to follow the lead of other metropolitan areas in leveraging this tool for recovery? Join GBH Reporter Bob Seay and MassINC Researcher Dr. Tracy Corley as they welcome Tom Skwierawski of the City of Fitchburg, Francisco Ramos of NewVue Communities, Aimee Gauthier of the Institute for Transportation and Development Policy, and Denise Delgado, Executive Director of Egleston Square Main Street to probe this topic. Image courtesy of Francisco Ramos

Francisco Ramos is a community organizer with NewVue Communities, a non-profit dedicated to creating strong, healthy neighborhoods.
Tom Skwierawski has served as the Executive Director of Planning and Community Development for the City of Fitchburg since 2017. While in the role, Tom has led efforts to achieve comprehensive zoning reform, including expanding Fitchburg’s Smart Growth district to allow up to 1000 additional units of by-right housing downtown. Tom worked to secure Fitchburg’s designation, and has served as the lead partner for, Fitchburg’s TDI District, which aims to transform downtown Fitchburg into North Central Massachusetts’s’ hub of arts and culture. In administering the City’s CDBG funding, the Community Development and Planning Department has worked to creatively implement block grant funding to support the arts, small business development, and Complete Streets. Tom led City efforts to secure $3.3 million in MassWorks and Complete Streets funding to transform Fitchburg’s downtown traffic patterns to two-way Complete Streets traffic, and is managing the City’s role in the Twin City Rail Trail, a $18 million, 4.5 mile off-road trail connecting downtown Fitchburg and Leominster. Prior to his role with the City, Tom served as Project Coordinator for ReImagine North of Main, a public-private partnership focused on revitalizing Fitchburg’s downtown neighborhood. Tom received a Bachelor Degrees in Urban Studies and Sociology from the College of Charleston, and his Masters in Urban Planning from the Harvard Graduate School of Design.
Denise Delgado is a writer, artist and cultural organizer. She is also the Executive Director of Egleston Square Main Street, an organization focused on strengthening Egleston’s business district and revitalizing surrounding public spaces.
Aimee (she/her/hers pronouns) manages ITDP’s global initiatives, international policy program, leadership and innovation program, and global research and projects. She is responsible for the organization-wide implementation and alignment of programs and practices through effective communication, monitoring, and evaluation. Aimée is also instrumental to ITDP’s international advocacy, raising support for sustainable transportation and urban development from major international agencies, governments, and key stakeholders and decision makers around the world. This role is complemented by her involvement in our MOBILIZE program and Sustainable Transportation Awards. Aimée has been with ITDP since 2003 and brings a strong technical background and in-depth understanding of the wider political and global context to her current role. In countries across sub-Saharan Africa, she has promoted sustainable transport, helped plan and implement successful BRT projects, supported the development of small bicycle-based businesses, and researched improvements to health care delivery and transportation. Aimée has been heavily involved in many of ITDP’s key publications and was an editor of the BRT Planning Guide, the BRT Standard, the Bike Share Planning Guide, the TOD Standard. She is also working on urban mobility analytics—a system of metrics for cities to use in the implementation of sustainable development policies. Aimée has a master’s in urban planning and dual bachelor’s degrees in anthropology and political and social thought. Prior to joining ITDP, she worked at the Moriah Fund, a private philanthropic foundation, as the grants and office manager.
Dr. Tracy Corley is the Director of Research and Partnerships at CLF, supporting scientific practices and partnerships across the organization. Tracy identifies areas where research and science can support active advocacy and litigation and also coordinates independent research related to climate change and environmental justice across New England. She brings experience in research, public policy, law, and conservation to her role and thrives on bringing people together to tackle the systemic issues that drive conservation and environmental justice. Prior to joining CLF, Tracy served as the Transit-Oriented Development Fellow at MassINC, where she conducted research and convened stakeholders to promote equitable development in Massachusetts’ Gateway and regional cities. Her time at MassINC followed her mid-career graduate studies, when she researched the economic development potential of New England cities at the Dukakis Center for Urban and Regional Policy, then split her time between Boston and the German Rhineland investigating informal work in Germany’s skilled trades and crafts sector. She also has lived in Seattle, Washington, where she conducted strategic planning and coordinated a participatory research program for formerly incarcerated workers at Seattle Jobs Initiative; founded two consulting firms that helped advance clean technologies, sustainable development, and energy efficiency; and advocated for inclusive economic development as Vice-Chair of Small Business for the Seattle Chamber of Commerce Board of Trustees. She has also worked as an architect and designer in Washington state and South Carolina. Tracy holds a B.A. in Architecture from Clemson University and both an M.S. in Public Policy and a Ph.D. in Law and Public Policy from Northeastern University. She grew up on a farm in South Carolina, enjoys being out in nature, and believes that urban places can be regenerative for people and the planet. Outside of work, Tracy enjoys opera and museums, neighborhood bike rides with friends, and experiencing new places. She also writes, speaks, and teaches regularly.