The Wachusett Station Smart Growth Corridor Plan: A Case Study on Engaging Underrepresented Communities

link to publicationTargeted engagement with underrepresented and diverse communities can be a critical strategy for developing an effective and authentic neighborhood or regional plan. This NADO Research Foundation case study highlights the efforts of the Montachusett Regional Planning Commission (MRPC) to ensure an inclusive, participatory approach to corridor planning around a transit stop.


In 2011, the Montachusett Regional Planning Commission received a $129,500 grant from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) to create the Wachusett Station Smart Growth Corridor Plan. The goal of the plan is to design a walkable, bikeable, transit-oriented corridor in the 2.5-mile radius around the Wachusett station in Fitchburg, a city of 40,000 residents located in central Massachusetts. The Montachusett Regional Transit Authority (MART) received a $55.5 million Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery (TIGER) grant from the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) in 2010 to build the station to better connect the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority (MBTA) commuter rail system with the area. The station is expected to be completed by the end of 2014.

During the planning process, MRPC intentionally sought to engage diverse and historically underrepresented populations in community conversations and focus groups, including local Latino, Hmong, and Vietnamese residents. MRPC recognized early that collaboration with diverse communities would create the best possible plan for the future and better address some of the challenges facing neighborhoods near the station.

Click here to download the case study (PDF)


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Joe McKinney serves as Executive Director of the National Association of Development Organizations (NADO). Headquartered in Washington DC, NADO provides advocacy, education, research, and training for the nation’s 500+ regional planning and development organizations.

Joe has thirty-one years of experience having served in city, county, regional, national association, and government management since 1991. He holds a bachelor’s degree in Public Policy Analysis from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and is a candidate for a master’s degree in Public Administration from UNC-Chapel Hill.

McKinney has provided congressional testimony on numerous occasions regarding the importance of regional development organizations in helping shape the nation’s economic growth. He is nationally recognized for promoting innovative solutions in areas such as planning and economic development, workforce development, transportation and transit, and aging services.

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