Brief article in today’s New York Times discusses the changes in North Adams over the last 15 years and the (alledged) connection with MASS MoCa

Once a sleepy, economically depressed mill town, with the state’s highest unemployment rate and lowest downtown occupancy rate, North Adams has changed. According to state government figures, unemployment has declined to less than 6 percent from more than 18 percent in the late 1980’s. A study conducted by the museum shows that the storefront occupancy rate, which was below 30 percent in the mid-1990’s, now stands at 75 percent. In the last five years eight restaurants have opened in North Adams.

The article, and museum director Joseph Thompson, are eager to devote as much credit for the changes in North Adams to MASS Moca. Of course, the impossible-to-answer question is what North Adams would look like today if MASS MoCa had never happened. Certainly, by the time the museum opened in 1999 North Adams had already made great strides from the pit of 1980’s despair.

There is an interesting tension here between the work of Victor Matheson — debunking the claim that public spending on sports facilities is worth the money — and the supporters of MASS MoCa who claim that public spending on art facilities is nothing but gravy for all concerned.

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