UMass Dartmouth

Urban Initiative and Gateway Cities Project

Colleen Dawicki, Urban Initiative Project Manager



UMass Dartmouth serves as a catalyst for regional economic, social, and cultural development through partnerships that engage the community to address local issues and facilitate change. The Urban Initiative addresses challenges and opportunities in the region’s older industrial cities of Fall River and New Bedford through research, programs and technical assistance on urban policy issues.


In 2008, mayors from Brockton, Fall River, Fitchburg, Haverhill, Holyoke, Lawrence, Lowell, New Bedford, Pittsfield, Springfield and Worchester, created the Gateway Cities Project to revitalize their older industrial cities that hadn’t shared in Boston’s economic growth. They agreed to work with each other and UMass Dartmouth to address common challenges around employment, education and economic development.


This new partnership was based on recommendations outlined in “Reconnecting Massachusetts Gateway Cities: Lessons Learned and an Agenda for Renewal”[1], a report on these 11 older mill communities. Named “Gateway Cities” for their historic role in attracting immigrants, they suffered significant job and investment losses from a decline in manufacturing over the years. Although these cities are home to 30% of all Massachusetts residents living in poverty, they received just 5% of the state’s economic development investments over the past 10 years.


The Brookings report recommended all 11 cities and the state recognize the assets these communities possess and market them as the infrastructure needed for sustainable economic development. [1] published jointly by MassINC and the Brookings Institution.