Mass MoCA: How Can Public Investment Pay Off?
North Adams Massachusetts is a postindustrial old factory town with little hope.
North Adams Massachusetts is a vibrant center for the arts poised to take off.
Which of those two statements is true?
How about both?
North Adams is one of dozens of very similar towns spread all across New England much like small Pennsylvania manufacturing towns which were centered on steel, coal and railroads. Towns like North Adams, Lowell, Pawtucket, and so on produced a broader range of goods that supplied the world with textiles, clocks, brass, firearms and 20th century electronic components. What happened to those New England factory towns is what happened to the Pennsylvania and other rustbelt towns: relocation by major employers, changes in global trading patterns, and subsequent impoverishment and depopulation for the communities themselves. A recent article in the Valley Advocate, an alternative newsweekly serving Central and Western Massachusetts posed a question: why, after millions of dollars spent and hundreds of thousands of visitors since Mass MoCA’s opening in 1999 has the city not benefited as much as it could have. The focus of the article centers on a film done by a local university team is on the damage done by the postindustrial shift, and posits that the wars in South Asia and the Middle East, recent corporate bailouts, and income disparity have delayed or halted revival of North Adams.
The director calls for a new New Deal, to solve the problems of towns like North Adams. It is clear that such a New Deal is unlikely to happen anytime soon. The original New Deal had a finite existence, and a re-launch would eventually end as well.
The relationship of Mass MoCA to the continuing problems of North Adams is not clear, but valid issues of urban layout and disincentives to invest are clearly ongoing problems Problems and Solutions Closer to home Regional planners and urban design experts have noted that the streetscape in North Adams may not be conducive to attracting visitors to downtown, which has seen many businesses come and go since 1999, hoping to capitalize on the presence of so many well-heeled visitors. The planners have a point. I've been to North Adams on many occasions, both before and after Mass MoCA opened.
It does take some work to get from Marshall Street to Main Street. The Mohawk Trail (Route 2) has the unfortunate effect of diving onto the streetscape before splaying out into a multilane road bordered by large parking lots, presenting a fairly significant pedestrian barrier just in getting to Main Street. To continue to the complete essay follow this link.