The Shared Space initiative seeks to encourage Shirley Ave businesses

The money was awarded through MassDevelopment’s Transformative Development Initiative, which supports economic development in select low-income neighborhoods in 13 of the state’s 26 gateway cities.

“What we’re talking about with existing businesses is that you can lease a portion of your space to another business that’s trying to establish itself,” said Laura Christopher of Revere’s MassDevelopment TDI.

The four participants in the space-sharing project partnered with MassDevelopment for the TDI Initiative in the Shirley Ave neighborhood, which is home to several immigrant businesses.

A grant of $20,000 to $40,000 will be awarded to two to four space-sharing pilots. From a pop-up catering service that uses a restaurant kitchen after hours to a gallery that posts art in a storefront office window, or a workplace that “pops up” in a night club during daytime hours.

Eligible uses for the grants include lease subsidies, renovations to prepare spaces for new tenants and hiring consultants. Each pilot is intended to last at least three months, giving participants time to determine whether their joint arrangements will work.

The city is contributing $12,000 to fund the lease subsidies.

“The Shirley Ave neighborhood in Riverside is a business district that is constantly growing, changing and adapting,” said Mayor Brian Arrigo. “I’m grateful to have the support of TDI Partnership and Women’s Empowerment as they work to bring innovative solutions to space constraints in the area.”

Empowering Women provides services to low-income women and their families, especially immigrants, in Revere and surrounding communities, said Executive Director Olga Thakur.

According to the latest census figures, 41 percent of Revere’s 62,000 residents are foreign-born.

Noting that the office is located in the Shirley Ave neighborhood, Thakur is happy that her team is involved in a project to support small businesses.

“We’re trying to prevent displacement,” she says. “We want people to stay and run their businesses locally. For us, this fits our vision and I’m happy and excited.”

Women’s Empowerment Executive Director Olga Thakur, City of Revere Chief of Planning and Community Development Tom Skwerowski and Laura Christopher of MassDevelopment’s Transformative Development Initiative are working together to support common spaces in Revere. Joseph Garcia

According to Christopher, unlike some Gateway City neighborhoods, Shirley Avenue does not have a large amount of vacant commercial space. But the new initiative will help prevent future vacancies by supporting existing businesses struggling with rising rents and utility bills, he said.

“Co-location can help them alleviate their high operating costs,” Christopher said, and also “help drive foot traffic to the location.”

Equally important, she said, the program provides essential spaces for small businesses and nonprofits that are currently out of business.

Space-sharing is done informally in the area, Christopher said, such as the local Elks Lodge allowing a Muslim prayer group to use the building for Friday prayers.

Women’s Empowerment Works Out of Space The US Jewish War Veterans have agreed to share in the Honorary Housing Authority building, and WEE allows community organizations to use the event and classroom space outside of work.

“This is an opportunity to elevate what’s been going on in the neighborhood and give more people a chance to share space,” Christopher said.

Using a separate MassDevelopment grant, the project partners recently hired Studio Luz Architects to develop a strategy to identify potential space-sharing opportunities in the neighborhood and other steps in the process.

Businesses and groups interested in participating in the program are asked to complete an initial survey. The project partners and Christopher help match organizations interested in sharing space and then invite grant applications.

Two information sessions were held on the initiative. Empowerment Sessions will be held on March 8th from 10:00am to 11:30am and in person from 6:00pm to 7:30pm on March 16th at the Women’s Empowerment Office, 50 Walnut Ave. Search

For more information on the Shirley Ave Shared Space Pilot Program, go to the project website at or email Christopher at

John Laidler can be reached at

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