East Somerville Main Streets' mission is to promote a vibrant and diverse commercial district in East Somerville. We do this by:
providing direct assistance to local businesses
celebrating the neighborhood’s remarkable cultural heritage through community programming and
creating a unique neighborhood identity by enlivening public spaces
This is East:
East Somerville Main Streets is part of a nationwide movement of nearly 1400 Main Street Organizations working to build thriving local economies and centers of community. These districts develop local pride and identity, often at a contrast with an increasingly homogenous national landscape. The Main Street Approach advocates a return to community self-reliance, local empowerment, and the rebuilding of traditional commercial districts based on their unique assets: distinctive architecture, a pedestrian-friendly environment, personal service, local ownership, and a sense of community (for more info. see www.mainstreet.org).
East Somerville is Somerville’s most diverse neighborhood, with a 35+% immigrant population and about 78% of the establishments in the commercial district immigrant-owned. The neighborhood is Somerville's most economically repressed and in need of resources to develop and maintain its unique characteristic. All of East Somerville Main Streets work is addressing these needs.
On a federal level, East Somerville has been identified as priority area for improvement, receiving the designation of “Neighborhood Revitalization Strategy Area” (NRSA), as 62.2% of the population qualify as low or moderate income.
East Somerville Commercial District Stats:
Over 20% Vacancy Rate A healthy rental vacancy rate typically hovers around 7 to 8 percent. A vacancy rate of above 12 percent is considered high, and above 20 percent is considered hyper-vacancy.
Less than 17% of the storefronts are owner-occupied Most of the businesses rent their commercial space, making them more debt obligated and less financial stable in the long-run.
36% of the active storefronts are restaurants East Somerville is a restaurant-heavy commercial district. The restaurant industry is known for operating by narrow financial margins, which puts them at more financial risk than other types of industry. However, our uniquely diverse restaurant scene is also what contributes to the East Somerville character and adds diversity, vibrancy and vitality to the community.
In the 1970’s, the East Somerville neighborhood was islanded from the rest of the City of Somerville by the construction of Interstate 93. Geographically isolated, East Somerville's heart, a linear business district, became a dilapidated community focal point which gained a reputation for gangs and violence. However in the early 2000's a new wave of immigrants from Central America, Brazil and Haiti brought new economic vitality to the neighborhood by opening up restaurants, hair salons, barbershops and filling the empty retail storefronts.
In 2009 East Somerville Main Streets was established to support the local community of East Somerville by assisting the local small business community (78% of which is immigrant owned) and to create community programming that would bring the diverse community together across cultural divides. East Somerville Main Streets, along with community partner organizations, created new street festivals, beautification projects, storefront improvement projects and more to the community.
In 2015 East Somerville Main Streets in collaboration with a coalition of community partners ventured on capitalizing on new revitalization project that the City was undergoing in order to strengthen the neighborhood’s cultural identity at a time of drastic change for the neighborhood. The coalition of community partners came together to address the need of a “public expression of character” for the neighborhood in what became known as the “This is East” Project.
Today, East Somerville Main Streets completes between 10-12 direct Technical Assistance projects a year for micro-enterprises (businesses with five or fewer employees and who’s owners household falls within the low-to-moderate income range) in East Somerville as well as several public events a year – continuing to brand the commercial district as a destination for visitors and improving the quality of life for the residents. East Somerville Main Streets is in the process of applying for a state designated Cultural District for lower Broadway.
In the time of COVID-19
East Somerville Main Streets (ESMS) has had to pivot our programming in order to meet the needs of the businesses and residents. While large staple events such as the annual Carnaval festival have been canceled – new programs and services for the community have arisen such as the Safe Pick-up Market, Porch Portraits and the East Somerville Blood Drive have been created to serve the community in this time of need. Additionally, East Somerville Main Streets has been assisting the small business community by sharing important City updates and resources as they become available, assisting with the City’s Small Business Relief Fund process, creating new resources such as health and safety signage for the businesses, rent-deferral requests and connecting businesses with financial and legal assistance programs.