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Site Re-Launch and Fall 2011 Practicum

There are several exciting updates related to MIT@Lawrence this week. The website has been relocated to http://mitatlawrence.mit.edu.  There has also been a slight re-organization of the site with detailed information and reports posted for each practicum over the history of the partnership centralized under the new section The Practicum.

Lastly, the report for the most recent Practicum in Fall 2011 has been posted. Students in this course worked with the City of Lawrence to develop an operating manual covering vacant land inventory, illegal dumping of waste and healthy food access.

Join Lawrence CommunityWorks for Union Crossing’s Groundbreaking!

Join Lawrence CommunityWorks, Secretary Greg Bialecki and the City of Lawrence to celebrate the start of construction on Union Crossing.  Union Crossing is the redevelopment of an historic but underutilized complex of mill buildings along the Merrimack River into a thriving new neighborhood with housing, jobs and services for Lawrence families and businesses. Union Crossing Phase I is being developed by Lawrence CommunityWorks, in partnership with Lou & Juan Yepez.

You are also invited to join Secretary Bialecki at his first stop of the day, a ribbon cutting for the newly renovated Levis Building at 12 Methuen Street in Lawrence.

Please join us to celebrate this important milestone! Lunch will be served.

Looking for a redevelopment site for a project, paper or thesis? Opportunity in Lawrence, MA

Everett Mills Real Estate is looking for students to help them examine two redevelopment projects – the Everett Mill and the Stone Mill. The Everett Mill is 525,000 square feet of mixed use/light industrial space, currently at 55% occupancy. The Stone Mill is 100,000 square feet at 50% occupancy. Everett Mills Real Estate hopes to work with a student to evaluate the cost/benefit of physical improvements to the parking yards and vertical systems including elevators and lobby cores. They are particularly interested in developing a plan to maximize the large floor plates, ample parking, excellent transit, good workforce and reasonable rent structure to meet the right industry. Lastly, they are also interested in developing a business attraction strategy to bring new industry to fill the space and join the Lawrence economy. If interested, please contact Marianne Paley Nadel at (617) 504-5331.

Are you an Activist Scholar? You Are Not Alone.

In this essay MIT Activist Scholar and Associate Professor of Urban Studies and Planning Lorlene Hoyt uncovers the importance of universities and communities collaborating to solve modern urban problems. Hoyt has led a partnership between MIT and the City of Lawrence, Massachusetts since 2002. Hoyt is a Faculty Affiliate at CoLab. Her essay is a call for activist scholars, at MIT and beyond, to boldly explore alternative forms of scholarship.

What Do You Do?

What do you do when an Italian energy conglomerate owns the alleyways, canals and dam of one of America’s earliest industrial cities and the people of the city want those assets back?

A poster advertising course 11.423: Information, Assets and the Immigrant City sparked controversy when it first appeared along the corridors of Buildings 7 and 9 at MIT in early February 2010.  The poster’s question referred to the ongoing debate in the City of Lawrence, Massachusetts over ownership of the alleyways and canals in the city.  Some say these spaces are owned by the Enel Corporation, the Italian energy conglomerate that, many believe, assumed ownership of these assets when it bought the Essex Company, the group that first constructed the city.  Others argue that the City government is the rightful owner; still others maintain that abutters (property owners whose land is immediately adjacent to an alleyway, for example) own them. While the debate continues over ownership, some residents have tried to maintain the spaces, but most of the alleys and canals have fallen into grave disrepair.

So what do you do? To find out, download and read the final report, Taking Back Lawrence and watch the class reflections. You can also read more about the class’s journey via a series of CoLab Radio posts found below.

Past Student Projects

Deployment of Reflection and Other Methods Recording and Disseminating Community-Based Knowledge (aka “The Story Project”)

MIT began to systematically examine and document the history and experience of the MIT@Lawrence partnership for the purpose of learning, strengthening relationships, and disseminating community-based knowledge and strategies for working in other struggling post-industrial cities. This work, named “The Story Project” as its working title, aims to shed light on the principles of network organizing, a theory of practice developed by community partners, which have guided some of the most effective community revitalization work and projects in Lawrence.

Predatory Tales: The Story of OsmaraThe Story of Isabel and Advice from the Experts

How have families been coping predatory lending for the past ten years? The predatory lending digital media project brings opportunities for individuals who have been victimized by unscrupulous lenders to tell their stories. Through a digital media workshop, Lawrence community members collaborated with Lawrence Community Works and its community partners, MIT@Lawrence, and MIT’s Center for Advanced Visual Studies to produce video shorts about their individual experiences with the subprime mortgage market using puppets and a puppet stage. Alexa Mills, a 2008 graduate of in MIT’s Department of Urban Studies and Planning, headed the Predatory Lending Project. She worked with Damon Rich, at the Center for Advanced Visual Studies at MIT to produce the video.

Green Jobs Initiative

MIT initiated the Green Jobs Initiative, which will facilitate green-interested networking opportunities and build momentum around specific green opportunities within the City of Lawrence. This work aims to leverage Lawrence’s competitive advantage as a city that is green business friendly.”

A digital story by Alexa Mills, describing the connections between MIT and Lawrence, MA.

GIS HelpDesk

Working with numerous organizations and individuals in Lawrence,  MIT initiated the GIS HelpDesk, to provide GIS mapping services and products. In Lawrence, community organizations identified the need for a GIS laboratory located within the City, equipped with the appropriate hardware, software, and skilled GIS technicians in order to benefit from this technology.

Holistic Revitalization in Small Industrial Cities: Ideas and Tools for Urban Housing Development

MIT initiated an examination of emerging ideas and tools for holistic housing development in small industrial cities, using a mixed-use mill redevelopment in Lawrence as its case study. MIT will document the tools and best practices use in order to share replicable aspects of this work with practitioners.

Lawrence@MIT Program

MIT continued and expanded the Lawrence@MIT Field Trip Series. The Lawrence@MIT program is a university-wide partnership with Lawrence Family Development Charter School, and seeks to expand upon science curriculum in the eighth-grade class and inspire students to attend college after graduation.

Lawrence Leadership Program

MIT initiated the Lawrence Leadership Project in collaboration with the Higher Education Resource Center (HERC) and Lawrence High School Learning Center. This school-based program works to create a support network for college bound youth within Lawrence public high schools.

Mapping City Assets

Working with CDD and the Department of Public Works on a project called Mapping City Assets, MIT undergraduates who are a part of iHouse will collect spatial data on city assets in the Arlington Neighborhood, which is one of three identified Neighborhood Revitalization Strategy Areas in Lawrence. Students will use GPS technology to map the location of fire hydrants, manholes, and other essential infrastructure data points.

Strategic Plan for the Development of Affordable Housing

MIT and the City of Lawrence Community Development Department commenced a housing study aimed at assessing the current community housing conditions and needs, and creating a strategic plan to achieve a mix of housing types suitable to the goals of the City and its residents.

Union Crossing Interpretive History Project

The initial phase of this project had the goal to empower Lawrence youth to conduct, record and edit audio interviews with employees of the relocating Southwick Company and key participants in the Union Crossing re-development project.

Spring Practicum Course Explores Storytelling at Union Crossing

Check out this video of the final presentation to the Lawrence Community Works Union Crossing Committee, describing programs devised by the graduate and undergraduate students in the Spring 2009 Lawrence practicum course in the Dept of Urban Studies and Planning (11.423 Lawrence Practicum: Info, Assets, and the Immigrant City). The presentation described three ideas for programs where LCW could incorporate storytelling as a process for community building around the re-development of a mill complex into green affordable housing and neighborhood revitalization – through channels such as on-site installation, skill-building workshops that feed into larger events, and virtual story documentation and sharing online on a social network.


Check out the archived Stellar site for the course to learn more about the class.

Green Drinks Networking is Coming to Lawrence

Come the inaugural Green Drinks networking event in Lawrence on

Wednesday, March 25, 5:30 PM to 7:30 PM

Terra Luna Cafe, 225 Essex St.

Greens Drinks is an international movement which brings together people who are passionate about the environment and green technology to share ideas, make contacts, and talk about anything and everything green.

Check it out at www.greendrinks.org

Green Drinks Lawrence is being organize by the following groups promoting Green Technology and Green Jobs in the Greater Lawrence area:

  • MIT @ Lawrence
  • Merrimack Valley Economic Development Council
  • Merrimack Valley Planning Commission
  • Groundwork Lawrence
  • Veritas Bank (I.O.)
  • YouthBuild Lawrence
  • and others!!!


City of Lawrence launches “Green Commons” collective marketing campaign

by Jeff Beam, MCP/MSRED, 2009
Research Assistant, MIT@Lawrence

In October 2008, the City of Lawrence Community Development Department released the MIT@Lawrence-produced “Green Commons” brochure as part of a collective marketing campaign for the range of sustainable initiatives currently underway throughout the City. The brochure provides information and outreach for a variety of private ventures, non-profit programs and development, and public and university initiatives, including:

  • A 392 solar panel array generating 121 kilowatts of clean, renewable energy atop Sal’s Riverwalk, a commercial mill redevelopment;
  • Private Lawrence entrepreneurs building businesses around renewable energy, sustainable modular housing and water-conservation fixtures;
  • A multi-year initiative to create a 1.3 mile park system and pedestrian walkway along the Merrimack River;
  • A collaborative task force for public health issues, consisting of businesses, health care providers, environmental groups, institutions and planners;
  • A 400,000 square foot mixed-income housing and commercial development that transforms a complex of former industrial mill buildings into a new neighborhood.

The initial distribution placed 1000 copies in city buildings, departments and public areas as well as City-sponsored conferences and seminars. Ellen Minzner of the Community Development Department spent a year working with MIT@Lawrence research assistant Jeffrey Beam to investigate and catalogue the growing network of green initiatives. The Green Commons brochure represents the beginning of an ongoing project to achieve a more sustainable Lawrence.

For more information on the Greening of Lawrence, contact the City of Lawrence: (978) 620-3510 or www.cityoflawrence.com.

MIT@Lawrence History Center

Brown, Barbara. “MIT@Lawrence History Center.” September 26, 2008

Monday, September 22, 2008 over 30 students and faculty members, Leon Trilling and Wesley Harris, from Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Cambridge came to the Lawrence History Center.

Arriving at 9:00am the guests met with LHC Board President Pamela Yameen, Director Barbara Brown and Matt Russell. Brown gave them an overview of the history of Lawrence and information about the extensive collections housed at the History Center. The guests then toured the facility, viewing the collections, Essex Company documents; touring the walk-in vaults and the additional buildings in the historic courtyard. Interests ranged from engineering; public housing issues; public health and architecture. Many questions were posed but the recurring one was when would we be digitizing this extraordinary collection!

After viewing the site, we boarded a trolley to see the City first hand. When we arrived at the Great Stone Dam, an engineer working for Enel Corporation met us to describe the new engineering technology presently being installed at the dam.

Upon returning to the History Center after an hour on the trolley, the students and faculty then met at the Center with City employees, Milagro Grullon and Ellen Minzner member of LHC Board and City Community Planning Department.

During the many conversations that took place, we also realized that MIT works with 8th grade students at the Lawrence Family Development Charter School – coming to the school the school to teach science and the the students go to Cambridge on alternative weeks.

This is the same school that the LHC has partnered with for the History Is What You Are Doing Now Summer Camp. For summer 2008, the cooperative project is to develop a tour guide of the City for the students to use – highlighting not only the current sites in Lawrence but putting them into the historical context of on an Industrial Revolution city. Students will acquire a greater understanding and respect of their City of Lawrence as well as incorporate public speaking skills and presentations. This idea came from discussions of such a project between Holly Jo Sparks of MIT, Barbara Brown of the History Center and Susan O’Neill of the Charter School based on a similar project called Our Town previously done in Dorchester and Roxbury.

Here at the History Center we are pleased that our nationally significant collection has been viewed by MIT and we anticipate further research, collaboration and input as we go forward. LHC is especially grateful to MIT community members Holly Jo Sparks; Rebecca Madson, Jeffrey Beam, and especially Lorlene Hoyt, who first proposed such a meeting to Barbara Brown in June.

I would also like to also acknowledge LHC Board Member Chet Sidell, who has been promoting just such a collaboration and Matt Russell,an MIT alum, for supporting our efforts.