After helping lay the groundwork for Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s 1.8-million-square-foot Kendall Square redevelopment, Meredith Harris has settled down in the suburbs and is maintaining Marlborough’s momentum as a Metrowest economic development success story.
With a background that spans politics and commercial development, Harris was well qualified to assume the leadership of Marlborough’s Economic Development Corp. in 2015. The city was in the process of filling up vacant spaces in its office parks with new tenants such as Whole Foods Market after a series of high-profile corporate moves, and now is concentrating on downtown revitalization and additional growth.
The development of the Apex Center of New England, a 450,000-square-foot dining and entertainment complex, showed Marlborough’s formula to foster development, Harris said. With support from the mayor and city council, the project went from permitting to completion in two years.
“It was a real team effort and one of the most amazing case studies of a city and private developers coming together to make things happen,” said Harris, whose agency helped obtain $3 million in state infrastructure grants for road upgrades near the property.
After interning at the Statehouse during college, Harris took a job as a legislative aide to state Rep. F. Jay Barrows and obtained her master’s degree in public affairs from University of Massachusetts-Boston. She got her first taste of high-stakes real estate at Massachusetts Institute of Technology, learning about asset management and property acquisitions for MIT’s investment management company as it sought approvals for the Kendall Square development now under construction.
Harris’ combination of public sector and real estate skills seemed like a good fit to Marlborough Mayor Arthur Vigeant, who suggested she apply for the economic development position when it became available. After a stint as director of business development and interim director, she was picked to permanently lead the agency in 2016.
Under Harris’ leadership, the EDC offers a range programs to attract and retain businesses. Its revolving loan fund provides gap financing for growing businesses, and other incentives pay for beautification and infrastructure upgrades. The agency is preparing a marketing campaign promoting Marlborough’s restaurant scene and other attractions through advertisements on the Phantom Gourmet show.
The 30-year-old Harris recently bought a home in Marlborough, and said her transition to the suburbs is emblematic of Millennials’ readiness to explore alternatives to city living.
“At some point they want to settle down and it’s a different culture,” Harris said. “If you’re OK with driving to work, this is the place to be.”