At first glance, the City of Brockton looks much like one of many leafy, green cities in the American northeast that are shaking out their feathers after the stresses of COVID-19. But, since meeting with three of its inspiring leaders, I am stuck on the theme song from the 1980s box office sensation, Rocky Balboa’s Eye of the Tiger – and the rich texture that this homespun community of almost 106,000 residents has created for itself – despite the global hardships of recent years.
Home to the legendary world heavyweight boxing champion, Rocky Marciano, as well as world middleweight champion Marvelous Marvin Hagler, there is a lot more to the City of Brockton than it first lets on. Situated south of Boston, this thriving city in Massachusetts is the largest in the state’s south-east and, as such, is also the regional capital. Brockton is as dynamic as it is diverse – and it is open for business.
Midway between Boston, Massachusetts, and Providence, Rhode Island, the City boasts a well-thought-out transit system that allows for a free flow of feet into its central business district and beyond. “Brockton offers quality of life. [We] emphasize the diversity of our communities. Brockton welcomes everyone. It is proven by our [collaborative] leadership and the work we are doing in educating people on Brockton,” says Robert Jenkins, Executive Director of the Brockton Redevelopment Authority.
As in all cities around the world, communities like Brockton had a lot to deal with during the COVID-19 health crisis. But, in contrast to many, instead of putting a hold on development and construction efforts, the City took its foot off the brakes and went for gold. “In other major municipalities in the commonwealth, many mayors put a pause on construction. I chose not to do that; I chose to continue building in a safe manner. And it’s paying off,” says Mayor Robert F. Sullivan.
One prime example of the City’s continued construction is the Sycamore on Main on the corner of Main Street and Frederick Douglass Avenue. A mixed-income development, the 48 apartments sit above the headquarters of the Brockton Beer Company, the first Black-owned brewery in Massachusetts, on the first floor. The building was initially run-down, and the City stepped in to demolish the building. Key shareholders then turned the property into one of the City’s most beautiful – and promising – crown jewels. It is owned by NeighborWorks Housing Solutions headquartered in Quincy, Massachusetts, and the project was recently visited by the Commonwealth’s Secretary of Housing and Economic Development, Mike Kennealy, who was impressed to find just how resourceful Brocktonians are when given the appropriate support.
Part of the beauty of the building’s location is the street named after Frederick Douglass, who was a human rights activist and abolitionist who argued against slavery in the nineteenth century and would often speak at the Liberty Tree on this very street, which served as a stop on the “Underground Railroad.”
The Brockton Beer Company’s brewery is unique in that it is Black-owned – the first of its kind in the state. The Mayor is particularly excited about the project. “On behalf of the City and as Mayor of Brockton, I wholeheartedly support this endeavor. It is wonderful. [And] it is a game-changer. It is a catalyst for development – other amenities will follow,” he says. The Brockton Beer Company was founded by Pierre Alexandre, Rowan Olmstead, Eval Silvera, Latisha Silvera, and Ed Cabellon, with their mascot, Mr. Gloves, lending moral support.
“This is part of our blueprint for Brockton’s downtown urban revitalization efforts. This particular building, which was in planning for approximately two and a half years, brings vitality to the people who work, live, and play downtown,” says Jenkins.
Such projects are made possible thanks to the Mayor’s foresight when he was City Councilor At-Large for fourteen years. “We have to credit the Mayor for implementing 40R Smart Growth Zoning,” says Rob May, City Planner and the Director of Planning and Economic Development. “This laid the groundwork for growth because this zoning allowed for mixed-use development in areas where it wasn’t [possible before].” May points out that as a result, higher density and lower parking counts are now possible. “This forms the basis of what we were trying to do downtown around the train station,” he adds.
Thanks to this visionary approach to revitalization and business development, Brockton continues to be popular among large corporations like WB Mason, a nationally significant office supply giant whose headquarters have been based in Brockton since 1898. Such large employers combined with the new residential possibilities will drive the City’s vision for the downtown area to become fully alive and buzzing day and night.
The community’s businesses such as these are supported both by robust communications infrastructure and a wealth of natural resources, such as water. The combination of these factors continues to draw many manufacturers to the area, and the result is that a number of established food manufacturers – including one of the biggest food fabrication facilities around – continue to thrive and grow.
In addition to business, the City also holds its residents in high regard. Support services to its most vulnerable population include public grants and health and technological support for the young and old alike through collaborations between its public service organizations, Chamber of Commerce, local banks, and local, state and federal authorities. The aforementioned entities are doing what they can to put residents in a better position than ever before.
One such initiative leading the improvement of the City’s overall wellbeing is driven by the Brockton Partnership, a collaboration between business owners and local communities. It is headed up by Eastern Bank and HarborOne Bank, two entities that have created a loan fund supporting small minority businesses with expanding or upgrading facilities. Mayor Sullivan and the Old Colony Planning Council (OCPC) also recently introduced a new tech application called Brockton MA City of Champions, a directory that markets two thousand businesses to locals and visitors alike via both Apple and Android platforms.
Indeed, the City is constantly exploring how to further establish secure employment, competitive incomes, and rich amenities for all Brocktonians. “[Our work] has been very successful over the past seven years. We have over 400 units that have been created or are in construction right now, [with around] 350 that are in the planning process. We’ve seen a tremendous amount of growth,” says May.
Achieving such a feat takes teamwork. The City Council, the Mayor’s office, the Brockton Redevelopment Authority (BRA), and the state all collaborated to deliver the enormous change that is sweeping the City and its communities.
With minority groups and women featuring high on the City’s priority list when it comes to opportunity, it comes as no surprise that Brockton is booming. Apart from several new restaurants, the City has also seen many more large developments come to fruition, including One Nine Residence (at 19-31 Main Street), formerly known as The First Parish building. Today, it is set to become a 20-unit residential building with two commercial spaces and a bistro on the main level. Then there is Trinity Financial’s Enterprise Block with 109 mixed-income residential units, with a new development at 93 Centre Street recently also setting sail to create 53 residential units.
In addition to fresh new apartment blocks, one of the City’s biggest draws for new arrivals looking to make a life here is its comparatively low cost of living. “The price point in Brockton is favorable to someone who wants to rent an apartment compared to other municipalities,” says Mayor Sullivan. “People can get more for their money here, with high-end living arrangements. And it gets even better with Boston being only a thirty-five-minute commute away by train. In this way, the City hopes to attract even more young people to live and work here.”
To be sure, Brockton is a place to play, with many places of interest and opportunities for rest and relaxation. The City is home to the Fuller Craft Museum, which was founded as an arts center that would also educate. Over the years, the center has developed into the hub of creativity it is today, offering free access to all Brockton residents. There is also the Milton Museum, recently revived in the Enso Flats Building on 50 Centre Street, after hundreds of exquisite pieces of art by masters such as Renoir, Cézanne, Manet, Picasso, Whistler, Turner, Warhol, and more were put into safekeeping around 2019. With such a prize collection, the museum offers viewers a taste of a select art world. It also houses impressive Asian and modern art collections that are every bit as decadent as its older European pieces.
The Brockton Rox, the City’s very own professional baseball team, is another big attraction – not to mention the City’s fantastic choice of restaurants that cater to the large and diverse communities who call it home. Its restaurants include Cape Verdean, Ecuadorian, Caribbean, Asian, Peruvian and Portuguese cuisine.
Taking root around 1649, Brockton’s history reads like a treasure map. Thomas Edison established himself here, opening the Brockton Edison Electric Illuminating Company Power Station on 1 October 1883. Thanks to Edison, Brockton became the first City with an electrified fire station, movie theatre, and street lights in the United States. It is also home to the first Edgars Department store whose founder, James Edgar, is claimed to be the world’s first ‘department store Santa’, starting the tradition in 1890. The country’s oldest family-owned candy manufacturer, F.B. Washburn Candy, operating since 1856, is Brocktonian, too. Once known as ‘the shoe capital of the world’, Brockton was catapulted to fame during the two World Wars as its factories supplied stores across America and further afield. But today, people come here for many new reasons.
Statistics show that recent homebuyers place Brockton in the top three most popular cities in the region. “We’re also the single largest location for mortgages [awarded to minority groups]. This is a very welcoming community where people are staking out their futures,” adds May. One of the biggest drivers for families moving here is the City’s public high school, the largest east of the Mississippi River and earmarked for huge upgrades soon.
Brockton’s public high school is one of the largest east of the Mississippi, with over 4,000 students. In addition, Massasoit Community College Campus is also considered to be the largest in Plymouth County, and affords another big opportunity for young people to improve their futures. There is also an adult learning center and a virtual learning academy alongside several other types of schools, such as nearby Bridgewater State University and Stonehill College. In total, there are fifteen tertiary education institutions in the immediate vicinity ranging from public schools to the prestigious Harvard University in Cambridge just under thirty miles away.
In addition, three hospitals and a neighborhood health center make for solid healthcare infrastructure that locals can count on when the need arises. As large employers, the hospitals drive a steady influx of younger healthcare professionals who come to live here, taking advantage of the inexpensive living cost. As far as overall safety goes, the City has also set aside an entire block for the development of a next-generation public safety hub that will house critical response teams including the fire department, police department, information technology and the Brockton Emergency Management Agency (BEMA) as well as athletic fields and everything else needed to make such a space optimally functional.
One of its greatest attractions for investors, apart from the City’s great fiscal status, is its latest superpower – a fiber installation between Boston and New York that comes straight through the downtown, making it the hottest place to be for operators in need of red-hot internet speeds. “[These high internet speeds] make us a location for future investment in knowledge-based industries. Robert Jenkins and I are working on a series of urban renewal plans [to] expand downtown into an area that we call Trout Brook, a former railway yard. We can see [a future for investment in] knowledge-based, high paid and high-skilled jobs there,” says May. In a different part of the City, the Good Samaritan Medical Center will also be taking advantage of the excellent possibilities brought about by such technology to make advancements in its life sciences equipment. This also opens the doors to the biotech industry and a greater banking presence.
The Hollywood film industry is bringing even more opportunities for residents to prosper, with a major Netflix film starring Meryl Streep, Leonardo DiCaprio and Jennifer Lawrence recently shooting in Brockton. AMC also films a television series within the City. “We are in the people business,” says Mayor Sullivan. “We have a winning formula for success. I know that we’re going to continue thriving, and it is a wonderful time to be a business owner and a resident in Brockton.”
With increasing international, national and local interest in the City’s great return on investment plus its strong Moody’s rating, the City of Brockton is preparing itself for a bright future – one where all Brocktonians can flourish. Because everything’s better in Brockton.