From her master’s degree in nonprofit management to her time with the Mass Cultural Council, Jennifer Atwood has spent much of her career helping small organizations stay afloat and contribute to their communities.
She took the helm as executive director at East Somerville Main Streets at the start of October, where she’s steering the two main prongs of the organization: creating a cohesive neighborhood community, mainly through events, and supporting small businesses, which can mean everything from help creating an online presence to assistance finding a space.
“In the future, it’s going to be a lot more—as the neighborhood changes with the development coming in and the changes to the neighborhood that will inevitably happen—[of] how do we best meet the needs of local business owners,” Atwood says. “The Green Line Extension’s going to be changing a lot of things for the area, the improvements to the Kensington Underpass eventually happening, and even the casino going in and the improvements that are going to be happening over at the Sullivan Square station. Those are the big pillars of change that are happening.”
Atwood expects rising rents to be the primary challenge neighborhood businesses will face because of these changes, and acknowledges that not all businesses will be able to weather the transformation.
“[We’ll] try to work with those who will be the most in danger of that situation and try to figure out ways they can adapt and change, because there isn’t a whole lot we can do to prevent rent from rising,” she says. “What can we do, as an organization, to help those businesses that rent in the area meet, adapt, and change to the new rent? Does it mean increasing their prices? Does it mean putting more effort into marketing to a new clientele?”
Atwood is still getting her footing in the new position, but her ideas for the future include trying to get East Somerville designated as a cultural district and a 2020 reboot of the This is East programming. She’s also introducing new events, including an Ugly Sweater Bar Crawl that will hit Mount Vernon Pub, Vinny’s Ristorante, Rincón Mexicano, La Brasa, Fasika, and Casey’s. The bar crawl is free to attend, and will run from 2 p.m. to 6 p.m. on Dec. 16.