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Peabody Now Among 26 'Gateway Cities' in Mass.

With the new status comes access to targeted state aid for housing and economic development projects and/or preference in broader, statewide programs.

Peabody is now listed among 26 "Gateway Cities" in Massachusetts after a review by state officials of recent local data found mid-range household incomes fell below the state average along with the number of adults who hold a four-year college degree.

While on the one hand, that's discouraging news for the Tanner City, on the other hand, it does mean Peabody has greater access to state aid for housing and economic development projects.

“Our Gateway Cities possess tremendous potential and opportunities and the Patrick-Murray Administration’s emphasis on these communities is designed to help unlock that potential,” said Secretary of Housing and Economic Development Greg Bialecki in a statement.

“By continuing to invest in innovation, infrastructure and education in these communities we are creating new opportunities for growth in the future,” he said.

The Executive Office of Housing and Economic Development says Peabody median household incomes have fallen below the state average of $65,981 down to $65,471.

A press release Monday did not cite a range on college degrees, but according to the Boston Globe, the state average is 38.7 percent. Only 30 percent of Peabody adults have a bachelor's degree or higher education.

Mayor Ted Bettencourt told the Globe he was "surprised" at the new status for Peabody and only just received a phone call that morning notifying him of the news. As such, he said, he was unsure of the program's benefits to Peabody, but would be meeting with state officials this week to learn more. 

So what does Peabody get out of this new status? According to Bialecki's office, Gateway Cities have access to a targeted parks program that develops and restores parks in urban neighborhoods, housing development incentives aimed at increasing market-rate housing stock and supporting economic development, and planning grants that target revitalization.

Last month, state officials also announced $3.4 million in grants targeted at English language instruction and early career education for students. In the current school year, Gateway Cities have been pledged $3.9 billion in general education aid.

That's in addition to $1 billion in active construction contracts through MassDOT, millions more in public safety grants, Gateway City Park grants and $1.14 billion in financing from MassDevelopment, according to Bialecki's office.

Gateway Cities also get preference on project funding under statewide programs, such as MassWorks' infrastructure program or brownfields program, as long as those projects create economic development and housing opportunities.

Peabody has in fact received similar funding already for local projects -- $1.5 million from MassWorks for Main Street and the majority of the $1.5 million it cost to create a new city park at 45 Walnut St. came from brownfields redevelopment funding, a parklands program and MassDevelopment.

Bialecki's office annually reviews the last five years' worth of data for cities to determine eligibility to the Gateway Cities program and this is the first year additions have been made since the program launched in 2010.

A spokesman from Bialecki's office told the Globe Peabody was added to the program when its median household income dropped below the state average.

The third eligibility factor is a population between 35,000 and 250,000 -- Peabody is 51,653, according to 2011 figures from the U.S. Censu Bureau. Attleboro was also included in the program this year.

The other 24 Gateway Cities are:

Barnstable, Brockton, Chelsea, Chicopee, Everett, Fall River, Fitchburg, Haverhill, Holyoke, Lawrence, Leominster, Lowell, Lynn, Malden, Methuen, New Bedford, Pittsfield, Quincy, Revere, Salem, Springfield, Taunton, Westfield and Worcester.

Elena D. February 26, 2013 at 02:03 PM
Seems to be a rather dubious "honor"...
Stephen Raymond February 26, 2013 at 02:54 PM
In my opinion handouts, and lets be clear thats just what this is, keep people down and keep people needy. Handouts also keep our leaders from having to develop creative ideas that lift the community and foster permanent positive development. This status is based on a measure of education and income versus the Statewide average. Please tell me how building "market rate" housing and sprucing-up local parks addresses that criteria. Why not help adults in these communities attain that college degree?? If 30% of Peabody adults have a 4-year degree versus the 38% State average how is that disparity addressed by this program? Contractors and developers will certainly enjoy the paychecks coming their way but this program, as described here will do little to improve our city's status.
Steve February 26, 2013 at 03:42 PM
So disappointed in my city. Peabody used to be a great place to live. That's what you get when you elect hacks I guess.
Kathleen February 26, 2013 at 03:47 PM
Have to agree that I don't find anything positive about this. In fact, I find it very disturbing. Leave it to the mayor to put a positive spin on it as he did in today's Salem News article about this.The Salem News article even uses the terms "in order to 'gain' Gateway status", and "Peabody 'won' the title, along with Attleboro, after a review of “five years’ worth of applicable data.” How is this a win or a gain? To me it's proof of a five year downward spiral for the city. Take a look at the MCAS & SAT scores as well as the graduation rates of the other Gateway cities. How can anyone say we are in good company?
Patricia February 26, 2013 at 05:11 PM
Take a look at Lynn and sew what the Gateway program has done for them. Why don't the taxpaying residents have a say in these programs?
Silence Dogood February 26, 2013 at 06:00 PM
Our next door neighbor, the Great and Wonderful Salem is a Gateway City..... Let's be honest, if it means we will get more money to do more projects to improve the City like the new downtown park, I am for it. Maybe it will get us more money for flooding downtown and in South Peabody.
Maria Santos March 03, 2013 at 09:58 PM
We can't be the city that prides ourselves in having the lowest tax rates around and still think there's plenty of funds to be innovative in education and other areas. Peabody now being a "Gateway City" is bitter sweet, we're in the category were in need so state handout but then again it helps us improve city area in need without raising taxes.
Kathleen March 04, 2013 at 04:51 AM
Maria, how can you possibly think that this distinction is 'bitter sweet'? And to think that this administration will not raise taxes is very short-sighted. Having the lowest tax rate around has not been a good thing for Peabody. It has resulted in deteriorating schools, a blighted downtown, and declining property values. I think that most people would agree that it is usually better for a governing body to raise taxes incrementally in small amounts to pay it's bills rather than waiting until its reserves are exhausted and hitting tax payers with a big increase all at once. Tax payers in Peabody have been hit with large tax increases for the last few years and this is sure to continue given that we will now be financing the building of a new middle school. These handouts will do nothing to improve the income and education levels of the citizens in Peabody. It will actually do the opposite as most handouts do. What incentive is there for a city to break away from this program once the free money rolls in? In order to keep the gray train rolling, the city has to basically attract more low income residents. The cycle begins...There is nothing positive about this distinction. It is an insult to this city.
Peabody resident 9876 March 04, 2013 at 11:09 AM
I really wish the study provided an age range of those low-income households. Peabody has a huge retirement population. Many of those "retirement" households are low income, and many retirees do not have a college degree. I really wish the study went into more details as to this segment of the low-income population, so we could have a clearer picture of the situation. For example which percentage of this low-income population are retires? Which percentage are young working families working low wage jobs? And, which percentage are the able bodied who would rather not work at all but live off the government?
John Castelluccio (Editor) March 04, 2013 at 02:37 PM
Just to clarify, the income data used for this distinction is not focusing on just low-income households. It's the median household income in Peabody, which is now $65,471 and just below the state average of $65,981, according to the Executive Office of Housing and Economic Development.

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