New economic chief brings background in reducing Brighton vacancies

Ted Fields'It's not about me; it's about Arlington.'-- Ali Carter

Joins town at 'critical time'

UPDATED, Nov. 1: A 35-year-old economic pro is leaving Brighton, where she is credited with spurring the development and reducing vacancies by 13 percent, to head the town's effort to boost business creation.

Allison Carter plans to start work Nov. 14 as the town's third economic-development coordinator. Ted Fields left for Natick in August following a tenure that began in 2013. The first was Alan S. Manoian, who left for family reasons in January 2013 after declaring broad hopes while serving since the summer of 2012.

"My experience as a Main Streets director in the Brighton neighborhood of Boston has afforded me the opportunity to learn a great deal about economic development," she wrote Oct. 24 in response to a question from YourArlington about how her background squares with the job she faces. "I have seen firsthand how improvements to bike infrastructure, pedestrian safety and business storefronts can positively impact the economic development of a community."

Carter explained the 13-percent reduction this way Tuesday, Nov. 1, after a reader asked about it: "Of the 179 storefronts in the Brighton Main Streets district, we have nine vacancies currently, which is just over 5 percent. The highest vacancy rate we had during my tenure was 34 vacancies out of 179 stores, which is just under 19 percent."

 Push to reenergize Center continues

A town news release Monday, Oct. 31, says: "She joins Arlington at a critical time as community groups, citizens and businesses have expressed concern over the vibrancy of Arlington's business districts. Ali will be integral to improving collaborative relationships in all of Arlington's business districts."

The "critical time" refers, in part, to the town's effort to reenergize its Center, beset since at least 2014 with long-vacant storefronts and some landlords who do not appear to be in a hurry to fill them. Carter will be working with businesses and the public, including citizens' groups, Support Arlington Center, as well as Support Arlington Heights. Each has have pushed for improvements in since summer.

In addition, a Special Town Meeting voted in favor of a measure requiring businesses to register vacant properties.

Asked whether she plans to contact directly Center landlords who were the focus of discussion last summer and to comment on whether the registration bylaw might work, she wrote that she was not prepared to comment on those questions.

Economic-development needs

On the other hand, she commented on a question asking what she believes the town's economic-development needs are. She wrote Oct. 24:

"For years, I have been coming to Arlington to dine, shop and play. I love this town and really enjoy all it has to offer in terms of shopping, recreation, and culture.

"However, I would like to hear from residents and business owners in the town before I determine what the greatest needs are. I like to hear from the community and respond to the collective concerns I hear rather than make top-down decisions. It's not about me; it's about Arlington."

Asked how she would address the town's needs, she wrote: "My approach is generally to collect data, both formally and informally from constituents. Based on what I hear, I will work with the team at the Planning Department in Arlington to determine where the need is greatest and where we can make the biggest impact. From there a plan of action will be made. That's all to say it really depends on the situation."

The town release encapsulates what Carter's role will be -- as part of the Department of Planning and Community Development, she joins the town to advance "its economic-development activities, help recruit and retain businesses, increase the commercial and industrial tax base, and work with multiple stakeholders to maintain economically vibrant business districts to strategically position the town to compete regionally for economic development."

Municipal, nonprofit background

She arrives here with municipal and nonprofit organizational experience in economic development and work with business and community groups. She joins the town after serving as executive director of Brighton Main Streets since January 2014.

"I am excited to start a new challenge with Arlington," she said in the release, "and look forward to working with the business community."

Her annual salary is $76,813. The town's economic development services are outlined here >> 

Jennifer Raitt, director of Planning and Community Development, said in the release: "Ali’s experience working with the private sector and her depth of knowledge about how to serve Main Street businesses makes her a key addition to our department and the town."


Carter's background includes the following:

-- Brighton Main Streets, Brighton, executive director: January 2014 to present

• Raised more than $200,000 in grants to support community economic development
• Reduced commercial vacancy rate from 18 percent to about 5 percent since 2014
• Appointed to Boston's Small Business Planning Council, which developed first citywide small business plan
• Engaged with developers to share data on business district and community priorities
• Managed the neighborhood Storefront Improvement Program

-- Historic Newton, Newton, education programs manager: September 2008 to December 2014

• Managed Education and Exhibitions departments
• Organized largest annual fundraising and community education events, the Newton House Tour and Newton Preservation Awards
• Identified strategic partnerships with businesses and community groups
• Raised more than $98,000 in grants to support education and museum exhibitions

-- Pierce House, Historic New England, Dorchester, museum teacher: April 2008 to September 2008

• Developed and instructed educational programs for school and adult groups
• Evaluated and improved existing programs by analyzing teacher feedback

-- American Meteorological Society, Boston, editorial assistant: June 2007 to March 2008

• Edited references, processed proofs, and corresponded with authors
• Collaborated with management to streamline training and production processes

-- The New England Quarterly: A Journal of New England Life and Letters, Boston, editorial assistant: September 2005 to May 2007

• Editor of book review section
• Managed finances and prepared financial reports
• Maintained subscriber database


Northeastern University, Boston, MA
• M.A. in History with certification in Public History, 3.89

University of Massachusetts Amherst, Amherst, MA
• B.A. in History, Minors in Art History and French
• Cumulative grade point average of3.72; graduated cum laude


• 2014 Brighton Board of Trade as the Member of the Year
• April 2011: Authored Boston Landmark Commission application for 125 Highland St., Roxbury, the William Lloyd Garrison House

Planning, Redevelopoment basics

The Department of Planning and Community Development is committed to improving the quality of life for Arlington's residents by improving housing opportunities, transportation access, economic development to enhance the vitality of our business districts and generate commercial tax revenue, providing opportunities for low- and moderate-income households, and preserving and promoting the town's natural, historic and cultural resources.

The department is focused on planning, redevelopment and creating future development opportunities. The department oversees various planning and community development activities within Arlington. Staff members are involved in many key initiatives, including implementation of the master plan, Mass. Ave. Phase II planning, Complete Streets and efforts in our business districts.

The department has nine full-time and four part-time staff members. The department provides staff support to the Arlington Redevelopment Board, the town's Planning Board and its redevelopment authority. The board manages three town buildings: Jefferson Cutter House, Central School/Senior Center and 23 Maple St. 

Aug. 31, 2016: GONE: Economic-development coordinator heads to Natick

Aug. 3, 2016: Are landlords squeezing store owners with larger plans in mind?

Aug. 1, 2016: 100 turn out to help the Heights live up to its name

July 11, 2016: Residents' energy aims to spur town to fill Center's emptiness

June 21, 2016: Ideas unveiled aimed at refreshing Mass. Ave. in the Center

Aug. 22, 2014: Vacant -- but waiting to be occupied with your ideas

April 9, 2013: Ex-ARB member named to economic-development job

Jan. 13, 2013: Family issues lead town's first economic officer to resign

This news summary was published Monday, Oct. 31, 2016, and updated Nov. 1, to clarify vacancy reduction.