Course Meeting Times

Lectures: 2 sessions / week, 1.5 hours / session

Overview of the Client and Project Focus

The spring 2003 class will work with the City of Boston’s Main Streets Program and Main Streets Partnerships to formulate plans for two Boston neighborhood Main Streets: Mission Hill and Egleston Square (pending sufficient enrollment to undertake two projects). The Mission Hill district is centered along Huntington Avenue and Tremont Street adjacent to the Longwood Medical Area. Egleston Square is at the border of Roxbury and Jamaica Plain with its center at the intersection of Columbus Avenue and Washington Street.

The Boston Main Streets Program designates neighborhood Main Streets districts and provides funding and technical assistance to help these districts create healthy and sustainable commercial areas. Each designated neighborhood district has established a separate 510(c)(3) corporation to implement its Main Streets program and has funding for one full time staff person. Main Streets districts work under a framework developed by the National Trust for Historic Preservation’s Main Street Center that organizes work into four interrelated activities, each overseen by a volunteer committee:

  • Design: addressing the district’s physical design needs, such as façade improvement;
  • Promotion: marketing the district to attract more customers;
  • Economic Restructuring: identifying and attracting new and viable economic uses; and
  • Organization: addressing organizational issues such as governance, fund-raising, and volunteer recruitment within the district.

Class Project

The class project will consist of a three-stage process: baseline analysis, detailed research in priority areas, and formulation of a final plan. Each neighborhood Main Street district will serve as a separate client for a team of six to ten students. Each district team may divide its planning work into smaller sub-teams of three to four students. Throughout the semester, these teams will present their work for discussion and commentary by the entire class with client input. The Main Street district’s role as client will include:

  • Facilitating student research by providing background material, serving as liaison to community members and organizations, and integrating student work into their planning process
  • Providing guidance on the District’s goals and priorities
  • Providing feedback on team ideas and products
  • Assisting student efforts with District volunteers if necessary

The three stages of the class project are the following:

Baseline Analysis to Document Existing Conditions and Identify Priority Areas for Detailed Planning

In this first phase, student teams in both districts will collect and analyze data to better understand existing physical and economic conditions in the business district, local visions and goals for the district among stakeholders, existing activities and plans, and key future opportunities. This work will include: (a) reviewing existing data, regulations and studies; (b) surveying and mapping existing environmental conditions; (c) conducting an inventory of existing properties and businesses; and (d) conducting demographic and economic analysis to create profiles of the district’s market and key business sectors.

Based on the findings from this preliminary analysis, student teams will recommend priority opportunities and issues to address in their revitalization plans. After reviewing these findings and recommendations with the client, student teams will select priority issues for more detailed research and planning.

Detailed Research and Analysis in Priority Areas

In this second phase, student teams will undertake more in-depth research and analysis of priority areas and issues to better understand the requirements needed to realize goals and opportunities, assess existing resources and assets, identify critical obstacles and resources gaps to address, and define other factors that shape effective strategies and interventions to generate the Main Street district’s desired revitalization goals.

While specific research tasks will depend on the priority issues chosen, they may include conducting interviews with key stakeholders, surveying district customers and business, researching applicable zoning and regulatory obstacles, investigating design options, identifying best practices used in comparable neighborhoods, and analyzing potential resources for implementation. Based on this detailed research, each student team will develop findings and recommendations for their final plan.

Formulation of Recommendations and Preparation of the Final Plan

In the final phase, student teams in each district will review the results of their analysis and research and will integrate them into a draft overall business district revitalization plan. After a review of this draft plan with the entire class and the client, each team will revise its plan for a final public presentation and written report. Students will present the final plan to the client and an invited audience sometime during the final two weeks of class. The final report will be due on the last day of class.

Class Requirements

This class is a workshop. Class requirements include extensive reading, one short project during the first week of the class, active class participation, and active involvement and contribution to the team project.


Active Participation and Contribution to Class Discussions 15%
Attendance 10% 
First Short Assignment 10% 
Group Project
(Develop an urban design/economic development plan for a Main Streets District in Boston)

Team members will be asked to evaluate and grade each member of the group (including themselves) based on individuals’ active participation in the project and contribution to the team. These evaluations will be considered during the grading process.

All readings are included in a reader. It is essential that all reading be completed in advance of each class.

Course Info

As Taught In
Spring 2003
Learning Resource Types
Lecture Notes
Written Assignments with Examples