Central to HCED's mission and philosophy is collaboration with local leaders and institutions to take action to improve their communities. Active engagement with communities provides students with practical experience to guide their knowledge and skill development, allows faculty to study and test innovative and effective approaches to building equitable and sustainable urban communities and expands resources for governmental and non-profit organizations in poorer cities and neighborhoods.

HCED faculty, students and staff have built community partnerships in four cities to realize our goals of learning and scholarship through community engagement: Boston, Lawrence and Springfield, Massachusetts and New Orleans, Louisiana. Each of these partnerships are long-term and involve work with multiple institutions to address a range of planning and community building issues including affordable housing, economic development, health, and youth development, urban design and physical planning and urban sustainability.

We invite you to learn more about these community partnerships by exploring the summary web pages (and associated links) on this site and to participate in the partnerships as MIT students and alumni, and local citizens and practitioners. Please contact lead faculty and staff for each partnership to learn about ways to you contribute to these exciting and challenging initiatives.



Boston Main Street Program

HCED has a long-standing partnership with the Boston Main Streets Program that has included:

  • Preparing a study on the program's impacts and success factor as part of the Solutions for America project
  • Completing revitalization plans for seven Boston Main Street districts through the Revitalizing Urban Main Streets class. Three of these plans have won either state or national APA student project awards: Hyde Park, Egleston Square and Hyde/Jackson Squares
  • Senior Lecturer Karl Seidman serves on the board of the Boston Main Streets Foundation and has conducted research and provided training for local Main Streets districts

The core of HCED's Boston Main Street partnership is 11.439 Revitalizing Urban Main Streets. This practicum course brings together faculty and students from the City Design and Development and Housing Community and Economic Development Program Group to prepare plans for neighborhood Main Street districts. The spring 2011 class is working on a plan for the East Boston Main Street district'a vibrant commercial center in one of Boston's oldest neighborhoods and a historic gateway for immigrants. This news article describes on a student March 2011 student presentations on their analysis of the districts: Boston Globe Article

Revitalizing Urban Main Streets focuses on the physical and economic renewal of urban neighborhood Main Streets by combining classroom work with an applied class project. The course content covers three broad areas:

  1. an overview of the causes for urban business district decline, the challenges faced in revitalization and the type of revitalization strategies employed;
  2. the physical and economic development planning tools used to understand and assess urban Main Streets from physical design and economic development perspectives; and
  3. the policies, interventions, and investments used to foster urban commercial revitalization.

Students work with a client neighborhood Main Street program to analyze its commercial district's physical and economic conditions, develop a framework for a revitalization plan and prepare the plan. An example of a final plan prepared by students in Revitalizing Urban Main Streets can be found here: Mission Hill Main Streets Plan

Fairmount Corridor Sustainable Neighborhood Plan

Student and faculty in HCED are working with community-based organizations in Boston's Dorchester neighborhood to help implement sustainable and equitable planning measures as part of the Fairmount Corridor Initiative - an innovative inner-city smart growth/transit-oriented development program featuring new MBTA transit service in a low-income, minority district.

Through studio projects and other course work, HCED students are developing strategies to connect housing, transportation, and energy policy that will improve the quality of life and enhance economic opportunity without causing displacement of existing households.

A sample of student work on the Fairmount Corridor is available at Fairmount Corridor.





MIT@Lawrence is a long-term commitment to support dynamic and mutually beneficial relationships between faculty, students, and staff at MIT, together with civic leaders, residents, and community-based organizations in Lawrence, Massachusetts.

The MIT@Lawrence commitment includes service learning, technical assistance, and community-based service projects in three program areas: affordable housing, community asset-building, and youth pathways to career and education. These areas promise opportunities for action-oriented scholarship through university-community engagement for the purpose of contributing to an equitable and sustainable future in the City of Lawrence. MIT@Lawrence aims to establish a self-sustaining network for reciprocal knowledge transfer and innovation amongst scholars, practitioners, and residents in the MIT and Lawrence communities.

Knowledge gained from this research is incorporated into teaching and shared with students in seminars, discussions, and classes. Students - undergraduate, masters, and Ph.D. degree candidates - are encouraged to join faculty in this broad research agenda.


Program Director: Lorlene Hoyt

Lawrence is home to a burgeoning network of civic leaders and organizations dedicated to building the city's capacity and effecting long-term change. Their commitment is both the inspiration for and the force behind MIT@Lawrence.


Lawrence is a small, ethnically diverse city 30 miles north of Boston. It lies along the Merrimack River, which has strong currents that prompted investors to plan and build an industrial city there in the early 1800s. The large, brick textile mills are the central physical feature of Lawrence to this day.

Lawrence and its residents face challenging economic and political conditions, stemming from this industrial legacy and subsequent economic and demographic upheavals. There are many small cities like Lawrence throughout the Northeast and Midwest; cities that were industrial powerhouses but now face uncertain futures.


Since 2002, the Department of Urban Studies and Planning (DUSP) has offered a service-learning course in partnership with community organizations, residents, and youth in Lawrence. In 2005, MIT and its community partners secured financial and in-kind commitments from the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD)

to build on these relationships and support the creation of additional connections between MIT and Lawrence. A growing network of MIT alumni living and working in Lawrence provides additional community support for this project.



New Orleans

New Orleans and HCED

Following the devastating impact of hurricanes Katrina and Rita and the resulting flood control system failures, many students and faculty within the Housing, Community and Economic Development group have worked to support the efforts to rebuild New Orleans and its neighborhoods in a just and sustainable manner. This work takes many forms and is part of the group's long-term commitment to assist in rebuilding efforts while enhancing learning and public service opportunities for DUSP students. It has encompassed affordable housing, community organizing, economic development, education and neighborhood planning but at its core it seeks to enhance the capacity of organizations on the front line of rebuilding to better understand key rebuilding issues and options and to take action to advance their agendas on a neighborhood, city and regional scale. These efforts include on-going partnerships with DUSP alumni and organizations in the New Orleans city government several New Orleans neighborhoods including Broodmoor, Fauborg St. John, Mid-City, Treme, and Village de L'Est.

HCED Courses Engaged in New Orleans

  • Economic Development Finance:Over five semesters, student teams have completed 24 technical assistance projects for public and non-profit community and economic development organizations on program design, project feasibility, business or project financing. Clients have included Good Work Network, Jefferson Economic Development Commission, Lower 9th Ward Neighborhood Empowerment Network Association, Broadmoor Development Corporation, Mary Queen of Vietnam Church and Community Development Corporation, the New Orleans Mayor's Office of Economic Development, New Orleans Neighborhood Housing Services, SEEDCO Financial Services, and The Idea Village.
  • Revitalizing Urban Main Streets:This practicum course focusing on integrating urban design and economic development to prepare revitalization plans for city neighborhood commercial districts. In Spring 2007, the course worked with neighborhood associations and other stakeholders in the Mid-City, Tulane-Gravier, Treme, and Fauborg St. John neighborhoods to prepare a rebuilding plan for New Orleans' Broad Street corridor. This plan lead to the creation of Broad Community Connections and a ground-breaking commercial corridor initiative to help improve and connect four neighborhoods that is described in more detail below. In Spring 2009, this class prepared a revitalization plan for the St. Claude Main Streets district, focusing the area between Elysian Fields Avenue and Press Street.
  • Cityscope:CityScope is a project-based introduction to the contemporary city that focuses on assessing scenarios for the purpose of formulating social, economic and design strategies to provide humane and sustainable solutions. In Spring 2007, this course focused on New Orleans with students developing several tools to assist rebuilding efforts in the Broadmoor neighborhood.
  • Downtown Management Organizations:In Fall 2006, students worked for the Mayor's Retail Task Force to prepared plan for a Business Improvement District serving New Orleans French Quarter, in collaboration with a team from Economic Development Finance.

Student Internships & Projects

Office of Recovery Management (ORM) Summer Internship Program

Supported by a grant from the MIT Public Service Center, The Community Innovators Lab sent 15 undergraduate and graduate students from DUSP, Arch, CCE, and MechE to work at the Office of Recovery Management during Summer 2007. Students created a full-fledged recovery plan for each of the 17 Target Areas the ORM identified as areas in which to invest public, long-term recovery funding. Students also worked on the creation of a sustainability plan for the city, entitled GreeNOLA, which includes plans and recommendations for green building, energy production and distribution, waste and recycling, transportation, climate change, environment, and coastal protection and environmental justice.

NOLA Fellows Programs

Through a joint project between Co-Lab and HCED, six DUSP students worked as year-long fellows for community organizations in New Orleans adding to their capacity to plan and implement rebuilding projects from 2008 to 2010.

January 2011 IAP Initiative

Nine students from CDD and HCED collaborated to work on several three week intensive projects in New Orleans: Elaine Braithwaite, Jessica Garz, Stephen Kennedy, Marcie Parkhurst, Lindsay Reul, Farzana Serang, Alice Shay, Jonah Stern and Ann-Ariel Vecchio. One team worked with the city's Office of Blight Policy and Neighborhood Revitalization to map and document blighted properties across the city. Other students worked with Broad Community Connections on three projects: (1) creating guidelines and resources to implement their Iconic Sign program; (2)conducting a feasibility for reuse of a vacant building as a gym/fitness center; and (3) mapping uses and conditions along the Lafitte corridor and preparing tools to support community participation in planning for the development of a new greenway across four neighborhoods.

New Orleans Neighborhood Development Collaborative

DUSP/HCED graduate student Ted Schwartzberg worked with the New Orleans Neighborhood Development Collaborative (NONDC) in 2007 to create a policy fellowship program to research best practices on affordable housing and community development, and then place fellows on staff with City Councilors and other public officials. Throughout 2010, NOLA Fellow Laura Manville assisted NONDC to develop a framework and methods to evaluate their impact, implement housing development projects and research financing tools and strategies to expand the scale and scope of their housing improvement efforts.

Broad Community Connections

The work of 2007 Revitalizing Main Street course catalyzed the creation of Broad Community Connections to revitalize New Orleans' Broad Street into a vibrant street that connects its four adjacent neighborhoods. Since 2007, faculty member Karl Seidman, NOLA Fellow Aditi Mehta, DUSP undergraduate intern Alison Sheppard, and seven 2011 IAP interns several students have assisted BCC in developing and implementing several projects and initiatives. BCC has also been the client for two Chase Competition projects (see below) and a project in the 2009 Financing Economic Development class to design a commercial property revolving loan fund.

Broadmoor Redevelopment

Three DUSP students worked with the Broadmoor Development Corporation beginning Fall 2006. They supported projects to re-open Keller Library (Anna Brand), develop program and funding proposals for the redevelopment of the Bohn Ford Building (Jeff Schwartz), and develop a land trust (Cali Kay Gorewitz). A fourth student (Hattie Silberberg) joined these three students during January 2007 to work on commercial finance. NOLA fellow Bernadette Baird-Zars worked for the Broadmoor Development Corporation in summer 2009 to create a financing strategy to rehab air and build new homes on blighted properties and land.

St. Roch Project

NOLA Fellow Jacquelyn Dadakis research and developed a business plan for new energy efficiency enterprise to be established undertaken by this community-based non-profit.

Affordable Housing Policy Analysis

From September to December 2006, DUSP student Rachel Wilch worked for the Neighborhood Housing Services as a policy analyst on affordable housing issues. Her work helped affordable housing advocates get a voice in housing policy decisions and provided on-going communication of critical housing policy information to community members across barriers of culture, language and literacy.

Environmental Justice in Treme

During Summer 2006, DUSP students Sharlene Leurig, Chris Lyddy, Laura Machala, Sagree Sharma, and Dulari Tahbildar organized a workshop series held at the People's Environmental Center (PEC) in Treme that covered housing rights, environmental contamination, soil remediation and safe indoor cleanup for returning residents. Leurig worked with a team of architects to design a soil remediation demonstration garden at the PEC to identify low-cost soil remediation technologies and connect the designers and PEC staff with environmental scientists who have tested these technologies in low-income neighborhoods.

Surveying Needs of Grassroots Organizations

In January-February 2006, four graduate students - Leigh Graham, Jainey Bavishi, Rachel Wilch, and MIT alumna Susana Williams surveyed the activities and needs of grassroots organization in New Orleans and provided periodic reports to inform several foundations on current conditions and critical funding needs. Bavishi and Wilch continued this work through June 2006, with funding by the Unitarian Universalist Association-Unitarian Universalist Service Committee and provided periodic reports to inform the national philanthropic community on current conditions and critical funding needs.

Chase Community Development Competition

The Chase Competition is a national competition in which student teams prepare a development plan for a community development project for a non-profit client. From 20008 to 2010, the competition has focused on projects in New Orleans. HCED students worked on the following project plans, all of which received awards under the competition.

Bridge: Community Health Center for New Orleans East.

Seven MCP students, Mai Dang, Kevin Feeney, Laura Manville, Erik Scanlon, Brian Valle, Yan Ping Wang, and Ryan Maliszewski worked with MQVN Community Development Corporation to prepare a plan for expansion of a community health center MIT. The project plan placed first securing a $25,000 prize for the CDC to help advance pre-development efforts. A copy of the final project report can be found here: Bridge Health Center Report

Linking Educational Assets and Economic Development:425 South Broad Street

Seven MCP studenst and one architecture student, Timothy Bates, Anne Bowman, Caroline Edwards, Anne Emig, Amanda Martin, Sagarika Suri, Ann Woods, Aspasia Xypolia, prepared a plan for Broad Community Connections to reuse a vacant middle school into a construction and design center. The project placed second in the competition securing a $15,000 prize for Broad Community Connections to seed project implementation. A copy of the final project report can be found here: 425 South Broad Street

Broad Street ReFresh

As part of the 2009 Chase Community Development HCED students Jacquelyn Dadakis and Aditi Mehta worked in conjunction with two architecture students at Washington University to prepare a development plan for the reuse of a vacant supermarket on Broad Street The project placed second in the competition securing a $15,000 prize for Broad Community Connections to seed project implementation. BCC gained site control over the property in fall 2010 and is working on securing tenants and financing for the project.

Franz Building Redevelopment

As part of the 2008 Chase Community Development HCED students Holly Jo Sparks and Lakshmi Sridaran worked in conjunction with an architecture class at Washington University to prepare a development plan for the reuse of the Franz Building in Central City into a neighborhood business incubator and offices for Good Work Network. The project placed first in the competition securing a $25,000 prize for Good Work Network to seed project implementation and began construction in 2010.




Springfield Partnership

While the Springfield Studio is not being offered, Dr. Ceasar McDowell continues to work with the Northend community in Springfield. Students interested in this work should contact Professor Caesar McDowell directly.

Since 2001, HCED students and faculty have worked with community organizations in Springfield's North End neighborhood to address health, housing, economic development and urban design issues. The North End is a predominantly Puerto Rican neighborhood just north of downtown Springfield, adjacent to Bay State Medical Center and divided by the I-91 highway. Despite its status as one of Massachusetts' poorest neighborhoods, the North End is a vibrant community with many civic and community-based organizations. It has been particularly innovation in addressing community health needs through the efforts of Brightwood Health Center and North End Outreach Network, and others. Under the leadership of Professor Ceasar McDowell, several DUSP faculty, scores of students and multiple practitioners have partnered with North End organizations to help frame and advance their community development agenda.

Springfield Studio

  • Spring 2004: In this semester, the studio investigated urban design issues in the context of social and economic challenges within the community with the ultimate goal of integrating social, programmatic and physical development interventions to reinforce community revitalization efforts. The focal point was a design plan for a campus of community buildings in the North End developed in collaboration with a committee of local organizations.
  • Fall 2005: This class was charged with charged with formulating an economic development plan for the North End. The course covered the areas of neighborhood economic development such as small business development, education and workforce training and real estate development along with analytical and planning tools used to understand and assess urban conditions from an economic and community development perspective. A major focus of the plan was the creation of a new economic development partnership for the neighborhood that could leverage funding and hire staff to implement economic development initiatives.
  • Spring 2007: In this iteration, the Studio work with the New North Citizens Council (a locally elected political and social service agency of the neighborhood) to assess local housing conditions and prepare a strategy for the New North Citizens Council to address neighborhood housing needs.
  • Spring 2008: The 2008 studio built on the work of the prior year which recommended the establishment of a new housing organization in light of the failure of the community CDC to provide for the neighborhood's housing needs. This new organization, the New North Housing Initiative (NNHI) was formed by the New North Citizens Council and the studio focused on helping to build the capacity of NNHI to function at the highest level in providing affordable housing development and community engagement. This included working with the newly formed board of NNHI to education them on affordable housing development options and to formulate a comprehensive approach to affordable housing development with active community involvement.