In 1986, the Main South Community Development Corporation (MSCDC) was established to help address neighborhood concerns about increased crime, lack of affordable housing, and economic development. Anchored by Clark University, the historic research university, MSCDC has been working to improve the Main South neighborhood, only about a mile from downtown Worcester.
MSCDC’s work to revitalize the neighborhood began in 1988 with the rehabilitation of abandoned multi-unit buildings for affordable rental housing and has now reached a point where they are responsible for the creation of 341 new or renovated housing units, 67 homes for first-time home buyers, and total constriction cost of more than $48 million. Their current strategic plan addresses a 33-acre parcel of land that was primarily vacant lots and empty factory buildings. This project has resulted 3 than 100 new rental and home ownership opportunities, the development of a new $9 million Boys and Girls Club, and the construction of a new $2.75 million athletic field for Clark University that will be shared with the Boys and Girls Club.
As part of the comprehensive approach to revitalizing the neighborhood, the University Park Partnership (UPP) provides several innovative educational opportunities to the residents in Main South. In 1997, Clark University partnered with the Worcester Public Schools to create the University Park Campus School for middle school and high school students in the neighborhood. UPCS has now become nationally-recognized for its success in preparing all students for college. Clark also offers free tuition to any neighborhood student who is accepted into the University and has lived within the designated neighborhood for five years. There are currently 25 students from the neighborhood attending Clark and the program has served 62 students at a total tuition waiver of greater than $6 million.
In the summer of 2012, MSCDC partnered with Woodland Academy in the Main South neighborhood to launch the Virtual Reading Room Program that provided 65 students temporary access to an Amazon Kindle or Barnes & Noble Nook during the summer. Program facilitators worked with the students to download and read books then discuss them in small groups.
The MSCDC computer classes provide community education without an age limit. Community members attend six-week courses that train them in Microsoft Office software and basic internet literacy. The skills learned in the classes are an important component for workforce development in the area.
In partnership with Clark University, MSCDC and the University Park Partnership has expanded its neighborhood advocacy beyond traditional housing and physical development to include offering real educational opportunities for children and families in the neighborhood. “We have proven that we can make a real difference in the lives of our neighbors,” says Jack Foley, MSCDC board treasurer and vice-president of government and community affairs at Clark University.