Framingham Hosts Life Sciences Executives from All Over the World

Bus Tour for BIO Conference Participants Highlight the Benefits of Locating in Metrowest

life scienceOn Friday, June 8th, 50 executives from Life Sciences companies boarded a bus in Boston and took the 30-minute ride to Framingham and Natick.  The executives, who had attended the international BIO Conference that took place at the Boston Convention and Exhibition Center (BCEC), stayed an extra day to check out the opportunities that the Metrowest region can offer their growing businesses.

The extensive visit allowed participants to get a sense of the region as a lower-cost, high-quality alternative to the region’s Life Sciences hub in Boston and Cambridge.  After boarding a bus at the BCEC, the visitors – who came from countries that included Australia, India, and South Korea – learned first-hand of the relatively short distance between Framingham and Boston.  After arriving at 1 Grant Street in Framingham, the location of Alira Health, a growing life sciences firm, participants were welcomed by State Senator Karen Spilka; Travis McCready, CEO of the Massachusetts Life Sciences Center; Paul Matthews of the 495 Metrowest Partnership; and representatives from life sciences 2Framingham and Natick’s governments.

“We were happy to join with local life sciences industry executives, as well as with the Town of Natick and the Metrowest Chamber of Commerce to help organize this visit and to host these Life Sciences executives in Framingham,” said Arthur Robert, director of Framingham’s Community and Economic Development division. “Framingham and the Metrowest region have a lot to offer these companies in terms of quality of life and an educated workforce, but with lower overhead costs.  And they were able to see that for themselves with this visit.”

The bus tour participants heard directly from the region’s Life Sciences executives, who could help to answer their questions on the benefits of Metrowest.  A panel discussion that included individuals from AliraHealth, Sanofi Genzyme, Berg, Aleta BioTherapeutics, Boston Heart Diagnostics, and Virtech Bio were all on hand to describe their experiences and to highlight the emerging Metrowest Life Sciences Network that the sector is creating to help foster communication and a sense of community.  The Metrowest Life Sciences Network organized the bus tour.

“We were really pleased to welcome these individuals from all over the world to the Metrowest region, and show them what communities like Framingham, Natick, and others in the area have to offer their growing businesses,” said Gabriele Brambilla, the CEO of Alira Health and a leader within the Metrowest Life Sciences Network.

Participants enjoyed lunch at Springdale Barrel Room, a taproom that is part of the award-winning Jack’s Abby Brewing Company’s growing presence in Downtown Framingham.  The group then visited Sanofi Genzyme’s bio-manufacturing facility at the Framingham Tech Park.  The group concluded the tour at ABI Lab, a life sciences incubator/bio-accelerator, in the Natick Business Park.

“Metrowest offers Life Sciences companies all of the benefits of Greater Boston’s highly-skilled workforce at a lower cost and with a high quality of life.  We were happy to host this delegation here at ABI Lab so that they could see that Metrowest makes sense for so many in our sector,” said Gary Kaufman, a managing partner at ABI Lab in Natick, and a part of the Metrowest Life Sciences Network.

Tour participants told the Metrowest Daily News that they enjoyed their day in Framingham and Natick, and the experience gave them food for thought about their companies.  “This is an absolutely amazing trip,” said Srinivasan Parthiban, the CEO of Vingyani, an artificial intelligence company based in India, to the paper.  That was echoed by Tae Gyu Lee, president of South Korea’s Osong Medical Innovation Foundation, who told the Metrowest Daily News, “it was quite impressive.”  As the newspaper reported, “At least a few businesspeople Friday said they would seriously consider setting up shop in the area.”

You can also listen to Framingham’s Arthur Robert describe the Life Sciences bus tour on a recent episode of the podcast OA on Air and read his tweets on the day of the trip.

Spotlight on Framingham, the Commonwealth’s Newest City

April was an exciting month for Framingham, the Commonwealth’s newest city, as an important milestone for its downtown redevelopment was achieved and the city’s newly-elected – and inauguralShovels at Framingham.jpg – mayor, Dr. Yvonne Spicer, had the opportunity to lay out her economic vision to Framingham’s business community.

On Tuesday, April 3rd, Wood Partners, a national leader in real estate development and construction, celebrated the groundbreaking of Alta Union House, which is the first large-scale development to be built in Framingham’s Downtown in decades.  Mayor Spicer was joined by Mike Gatlin, chair of Framingham’s Economic Development and Industrial Corporation (EDIC), City Councilor Cheryl Tully Stoll and Wood Partners Director Jim Lambert at the event.

Alta Union House will include 196 rental units, 20 of which will be designated as affordable housing and will include 2,600 square feet of ground-level retail space. “I can tell you – you have picked the right place to grow. Framingham is a city on the move, and I’m excited to be a part of it,” said Mayor Spicer in her remarks at the event. It is this Alta Housegrowth that brought Wood Partners to Framingham.  “Downtown Framingham is full of exciting possibilities,” said Jim Lambert, Wood Partners Director. “This is a welcoming place for us to do business, and we know it will be a wonderful place for our residents to live, work and play. It has a unique and exciting blend of economic opportunity, cultural diversity, urban amenities, but with a small-town feel.”

In 2015, Special Town Meeting members voted overwhelmingly to support zoning changes to Framingham’s Central Business District with the goal to make Downtown Framingham an attractive, vibrant, diverse center that will be a hub of economic activity for the MetroWest region. Previous zoning laws had discouraged developers from creating the kind of new units that appeal to young professionals and others who may otherwise be attracted to Framingham.

The rezoning has been critical to encouraging transit-oriented development (TOD) projects like Alta Union House.  In addition to this project, Mill Creek’s Modera Framingham development at 266 Waverly Street, permitted for 270 new units of multifamily housing, is expected to begin demolition in the near future. Framingham’s Planning Board has also permitted 411 new units for downtown.

Two days later, Mayor Spicer outlined her economic development vision to more than 75 Mayor Spicermembers of Framingham’s business community at an event at the Sheraton Framingham organized by the EDIC as part of an ongoing series of panel discussions and events as part of its Choose Framingham campaign.

“We’ve got great bones, we’ve got to build the meat on these bones,” said Mayor Spicer at the afternoon event, which also featured remarks from Mike Gatlin and Paul Joseph of the MetroWest Chamber of Commerce.

After mentioning the Alta Union House groundbreaking and the fact that Framingham has permitted 877 units of housing, Mayor Spicer mentioned that she has seen an ebb and flow with regard to the downtown in the more than 30 years she’s lived in Framingham. She proclaimed the development activity as “exciting” and talked about the advantages that the city has, in terms of its location to both Boston and Worcester. She also discussed the city’s importance as an economic engine for the MetroWest region, saying “we are in a sweet spot” and pointing out that more 50,000 workers are employed at Framingham businesses.

Acknowledging that “economic development is a driver of our community,” Mayor Spicer also said that “of everything we do, my underlying question is always ‘how does it benefit Framingham?’”

Framingham has recently launched a comprehensive economic development plan that the city anticipates will help this new city grow even more. For more information, please visit www.chooseframingham.com, Like the Choose Framingham initiative on Facebook and Follow Choose Framingham on Twitter.

Attorney General Healey Okays Framingham’s Plan to Rezone Downtown

Approval Will Allow Town to Move Forward with Transit-Oriented Development Plans

Choose FraminghamFramingham, Mass. (February 10, 2016) – Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey today approved plans by the Town of Framingham to rezone its Central Business District, Downtown Framingham.  The rezoning plans were approved on October 21, 2015 by Special Town Meeting members.  Town officials see the rezoning as critical to encouraging transit-oriented development (TOD) in Downtown Framingham, and will move their efforts forward to encourage this kind of residential development.

“Downtown Framingham is poised to reclaim its title as an important walkable, urban center for economic development in MetroWest and Greater Boston,” said Charlie Sisitsky, Chair of Framingham’s Board of Selectmen.  “The Town of Framingham is excited to offer in Metrowest an urban living experience to people who may be attracted to the Town’s small-town atmosphere and convenient proximity to Boston.  We anticipate this rezoning will attract new investment, new visitors, and new energy as we advance our transit-oriented development plans.”

On October 21st, by overwhelming numbers, Special Town Meeting members voted to support zoning changes to Framingham’s Central Business District with a goal to make Downtown Framingham an attractive, vibrant, diverse center that will be a hub of economic activity for the MetroWest region.  Previous zoning laws in the Town of Framingham discouraged developers from creating the kind of new units that appeal to young professionals and others who may otherwise be attracted to Framingham.

“Framingham residents are ready to take the next step in revitalizing Downtown Framingham as an important commercial center for Greater Boston,” said Bob Halpin, Town Manager of the Town of Framingham.  “Thank you to the Special Town Meeting members and other residents who were a part of this process.  With the Attorney General’s approval, we are eager to move forward.”

The strategy approved by the Town recommended making changes to the existing Central Business District zoning to encourage this development while also maintaining the neighborhood’s distinctive urban downtown.  Working with Metropolitan Area Planning Council (MAPC), the Town performed a feasibility analysis for new development in Downtown to directly inform what the zoning regulations should specify to preserve the area’s character but allow enough growth to make it an attractive place to invest in.

With new residential and commercial development, the rezoning will ultimately increase the Town’s overall tax base while not placing an additional burden on Town services.  Based on development projections for three hypothetical parcels in the Downtown, the Town and MAPC project new development could accrue up to $1 million in additional commercial and residential property taxes for the Town of Framingham.

“Framingham’s commitment is to make Downtown Framingham an attractive option for developers planning TOD projects, in part by reducing the need for special permits, reducing parking requirements, allowing more flexible uses, and setting clear timelines for site plan review,” said Arthur Robert, Director of the Town of Framingham’s Community and Economic Development Division.   “The zoning changes allow for smaller projects, by right, with minor site plan review.  Design standards and guidelines will also contribute to predictability. Development projects will be designed with pedestrians in mind, to promote the area’s attractiveness, walkability, and support for transit alternatives.”

At the same time, the Town plans to preserve the historic nature of Downtown Framingham by setting controls – use variance prohibitions, height limits near residential districts, and design standards and guidelines – to help ensure that developments make sense for current residents and businesses.  Any new structure will require site plan review, which will give the Town an opportunity to work with the developer to ensure appropriate preservation measures.  Height limits will be considered where they may impact quality of life, but the Town will allow six story buildings to encourage density where it seems appropriate. The design standards will ensure quality construction and elements that are consistent with or complement existing structures.  Furthermore, the Town will utilize federal and state resources to preserve or reuse historic buildings in creative ways.

As part of the rezoning effort, the Special Town Meeting members and the Attorney General also approved revising the Central Business District boundary.  The new boundary represents an area within a ten minute walk to the Downtown commuter rail station, providing more TOD project options, and demonstrating the Town’s commitment to increasing TOD opportunities for Downtown Framingham.  The new boundaries also encompass some of the gateway entrances to the Downtown so as to ensure their consistency with the vision established for the area.

“We are pleased that Attorney General Healey has accepted the changes to Downtown Framingham that the Special Town Meeting members approved,” said Mike Gatlin, chair of the Town’s Economic Development and Industrial Corporation (EDIC).  “Residents are ready to make Framingham the next great Massachusetts TOD success story, and we are looking forward to working with developers to make that happen.”

For more information, please visit the Framingham Community and Economic Development website (http://www.framinghamma.gov/103/Community-Economic-Development) or contact the Division of Community and Economic Development at (508) 532-5455.