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Supporting Downtown Vitality

Bethann Steiner, Senior Director of Public Affairs

photo of an outdoor festival, people walking in a green space that is peppered with white tents, in the back ground you can see ship masts. In the foreground an art installation with the letters spelling "Love Local" stand amidst festival-goers
Hyannis HyArts Cultural District’s Love Local Fest

Updated – 7/12/24: Big news! The Massachusetts Senate passed the Downtown Vitality Act last night as a part of the 2024 Economic Development Bond Bill (S. 2856), the Mass Leads Act. Thank you to Senator John Cronin (D- Lunenberg) for sponsoring the successful amendment that was adopted by the Senate to advance this proposal. Now a Conference Committee will be appointed to negotiate a final bill, which must be adopted by the House and Senate by July 31 in order to be sent to the Governor’s desk. This is a great win for the creative and cultural sector, and Mass Cultural Council is so pleased to be a part of the coalition that has worked hard this session to advance this proposal.


During the 2023-2024 legislative session, Mass Cultural Council is proud to join partners like MassINC, MASSCreative, and the Massachusetts Association of Business Improvement Districts in support of H. 228/S. 130, An Act to promote downtown vitality, legislation sponsored by Rep. Cabral and Sen. Cronin.

These proposals are currently pending review by the Joint Committee on Small Business and Community Development. Under the Joint Rules of the Massachusetts House of Representatives and Senate, the Committee must schedule a public hearing and make its recommendation on this matter by Joint Rule 10 Day, which is February 7, 2024.

About the Downtown Vitality Act

This bill would establish the Downtown Vitality Fund and allocate 5% of receipts from online sales originating in Massachusetts to support staffing and operations of business improvement districts, main street associations, state-designated cultural districts, and parking benefit districts in Gateway Cities and other low-income communities.

Because Mass Cultural Council manages the Massachusetts Cultural District Initiative, we felt it was important to join the coalition working to create a new revenue stream for these types of state-approved entities.


Small businesses districts in communities across the Commonwealth need vibrant, walkable areas to attract enough foot traffic to succeed in today’s challenging commercial environment. Online retail has siphoned dollars away from local economies, contributing to economic and cultural displacement. An Act to promote downtown vitality seeks to reinvest 5% of remote retailer tax revenue back into our Main Streets and downtowns, helping to level the playing field by promoting district management and creating strong local places.

Massachusetts has the foundation for success, with historic areas, urban squares, town centers, and rural villages. Yet we have lacked the governance and financing structures to manage these places adequately for 15-hour districts, 7 days a week. That is changing. A burgeoning network of Business Improvement Districts (BIDs) has emerged over the last five years, and dozens of Cultural Districts have been established. Parking Benefit Districts represent a new management tool, and innovative public-private-civic partnerships have arisen.

However, the state lacks a funding mechanism to scale up this local innovation and create a system of management capacity on the sublocal or district level. An Act to promote downtown vitality would transform our state into a national leader and ensure that our communities, large and small, have a thriving, beating heart. We can do this in a way that values and strengthens our state’s diversity, builds entrepreneurship among immigrants and communities of color, and enhances our unique cultural business districts.

Next Steps

Review a section-by-section summary of this proposal and indicate your support by joining the coalition and endorsing it online.

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