Join us! 

Planning and Economic Development Internship, Fall 2019
An internship opportunity to join a leadership team working to address in practical terms the challenges of urban transformation.

Somerville is a petri-dish for changes engulfing America’s coastal cities. Dubbed Slummerville by some as recently as thirty years ago, the city is undergoing a breakneck transformation, grappling with pitfalls that run parallel with economic and cultural opportunities. Nowhere is Somerville’s change more concentrated than in Union Square. 

Historically a highly diverse working-class immigrant community, a streetcar suburb providing a workforce for local industries such as meat-packing and, later, automobile construction, and laborers for Harvard and MIT campuses, Union Square offered affordable housing and a home for family-operated immigrant businesses.

With the growing attractiveness of urban living, Somerville by the late nineties became sought after rather than shunned. Rents went up; demographics shifted. The population has now become 45% millennial generation. In Union Square, a former manufacturing complex became home to a brewery, a rock climbing gym, and the largest makerspace on the East Coast. Families moved out; singles moved in. Rents increased. Small businesses collapsed, while restaurants and bars proliferated; displacement anecdotes were the perennial topic among long-term residents. Meanwhile, new entrepreneurial businesses developed, reflecting or responding to the new population and a shifting economy - incubator spaces, workshare space, a cafe/brewpub culture, makerspace. Already a bus hub, Union Square will soon have a station on the Green Line Extension, now under construction, and as a transit-oriented mixed use urban center, is adjusting to the reality of up to 5 million square feet of new development, threatening to overwhelm the very culture that attracted investment in the first place.

Union Square Main Streets (USMS) is an established nonprofit organization that works collaboratively to actively support a vibrant neighborhood by preserving the character and advancing the economic strength of the Union Square business district and community. If you have a passion for mission-driven work that engages multiple stakeholders, this internship presents an exciting opportunity to gain in-the-field experience. 

This is a particularly meaningful time to work with USMS. The City of Somerville is partnering with residents, businesses, and property owners to shape the Square’s future in a way that will preserve the unique character of the Square while taking advantage of new and emerging industries, increasing demand for housing, and the arrival of the Green Line. USMS works closely with everyone involved in transit-oriented planning efforts.  Now in its 15th year of service, USMS is focused on understanding how to most effectively respond to the evolving needs of its district in the coming years. To accomplish this, USMS has contracted with a consultant to create a strategic plan using a collaborative process that will engage its board, staff, and community stakeholders including local business owners and/or employees, community-based organizations serving Union Square and its creative economy, residents, subject matter experts, and local leaders. 

A USMS intern plays an integral and multi-faceted role in USMS’ work. This internship grants an opportunity to expand knowledge and gain skills related to urban, community, and strategic planning; place-based economic development, and communications. This position will be compensated on an hourly basis up to 15 hours per week from late October through mid-May 2020, and may be available for Work-Study depending on the availability of funds in your institution. 

Responsibilities and tasks may include, but are not limited to, supporting the following:

  • Working with USMS staff, City Assessor, Office of Strategic Planning and Economic Development, and Somerstat, research, map and analyze data specific to the USMS district, including but not limited to:

    • Assessed value of commercial properties

    • Property tax rate trends: commercial and residential since 2005

    • Commercial property sales since 2005

    • Commercial property construction since 2005

    • Small business lease inventory, including type

    • Average rent for Retail, Lab, Office: 1st floor, 2nd, Fab

    • Frequency of home based business 

    • Number, type, and longevity of district businesses

      • Independent, franchise, or chain

      • Start date

      • Lease type and duration

      • Immigrant owned

      • Minority owned

      • Women owned

    • Estimate number of remote workers

    • Document worker commuting patterns to Union: transit, bike, walk, drive, other

    • Population fluctuation since 2005

    • Crime rates

  • Working with USMS staff, research and analyze regional and national research data related to: 

    • Impact of gentrification on small business

    • Strategies to mitigate small business displacement 

  • Participate in stakeholder engagement, including individual and group interviews as well as electronic and/or intercept surveys 

  • Given a time of local economic growth, expanding employment and industry trends in Union Square, and changing state, local, and federal funding mechanisms for similar organizations, research and analyze alternative Place Management Organization models for USMS. 

  • Work closely with Strategic Planning Chair, Executive Director, and Consultant Team to ensure timeliness of deliverables 

  • Communications: assist in synthesis of data analysis; propose/draft content and messaging for strategic planning related activity


  • Enrollment  in or recent completion of a graduate program in an appropriate field

  • Demonstrated interest in urban development issues

  • A keen interest in researching and analyzing data related to communities   

  • Excellent organizational skills, ability to problem solve, prioritize, and meet deadlines

  • Strong written and interpersonal communication skills 

  • Detail oriented and able to work both independently and as part of a team

  • Strong computer skills, including Google Drive 

  • A high degree of personal and professional integrity

  • Passion for community-driven work and working with a small team that has a big agenda

  • Sense of humor

How to Apply: Send a letter of interest and resume to before October 18, 2019.