Surveying Community Economic Development in the South End

Source: Google Maps, research by Alan Wiig 2016.

Community Economic Development Organizations in the South End

· ABCD: Used to be at 112 Shawmut Ave., area was re-zoned by the BRA in 2012, in 2015 ABCD put the building up for sale — Boston Herald used to be in the area, now a Whole Foods and high end apartments ( Now central office at 178 Tremont St. (

· South End Neighborhood Service Center: 554 Columbus Ave. — (part of ABCD) — offers a wide array of CED-related services — see website for details.

· Tent City Corporation (affordable housing) — 130 Dartmouth St.



· Inquilinos Boricuas en Acción (affordable housing and more) 405 Shawmut Ave.

· United South End Settlements

Original location and offices at 566 Columbus Ave. — settlement house now CDC.

Background Info:

Walking surveys and windshield surveys:

Windshield and walking surveys can be used to assess general community needs — to estimate the poverty level, for example — or to examine more specific facets of the community’s physical, social, or economic character. Some possibilities for a GENERAL survey:

  • The age, nature, and condition of the community’s available housing
  • Infrastructure needs — roads, bridges, streetlights, etc.
  • The presence or absence of functioning businesses and industrial facilities
  • The location, condition, and use of public spaces
  • The amount of activity on the streets at various times of the day, week, or year
  • The noise level in various parts of the community
  • The amount and movement of traffic at various times of day
  • The location and condition of public buildings — the city or town hall, courthouse, etc.

To consider for Community Economic Development SPECIFICALLY:

· What kind of public presence does the organization have?

· What are their neighbors?

· What else is in the neighborhood?

· _____________________________

· _____________________________

Things to consider:

  • Study a map beforehand, or do a drive-through so you’ll know where you’re going
  • Try to work in teams. Teams should probably not be larger than two or three, unless you’re splitting up. Two or three people walking together is a normal group, but five or six is a crowd, and stands out.
  • If you want to experience the community, take part in everyday activities. Take public transportation, eat in a local restaurant, buy something in a drugstore or supermarket or discount store. This will give you a chance to listen to people’s conversations and to get a sense of how they interact.
  • Go inside public buildings and cultural institutions
  • Sit down in a quiet place to take notes

Analysis to guide notetaking afterwardWhat are the community’s outstanding assets?

  • What seem to be the community’s biggest challenges?
  • What is the most striking thing about the community?
  • What is the most unexpected?
  • Are you struck by the aesthetic quality of the community, either positively or negatively — i.e., is it particularly beautiful or particularly ugly?


From Community Development Assessments, Jack Vincent II, p. 137 (Phillips and Pittman Community Development Reader)

Observe and listen

This author often drives into and all around a community on a “windshield tour” the afternoon before the day he is expected. He visits local coffee shops and stores. By politely eavesdropping on conversations and asking a few questions during the visit, a great deal of information is collected. These methods often produce many qualitative insights about a community’s strengths and weaknesses.

If “a picture is worth a thousand words,” then a drive around all areas of the town can be an eye- opening experience. Be certain to travel not only the main streets but back streets as well. Later, you will likely find that even some locals do not know all that may be found in their own town’s back streets.

Use a camera

Digital and 35mm cameras are valuable tools to record support for visual observations. Later, when making public presentations or when compiling reports, it is possible to use pictures to reinforce

major findings. Photographic images give residents the ability to visually visit all areas of the community including areas that most citizens do not visit or see. The images provide them with a more comprehensive understanding of their community’s strengths and weaknesses.