The Assembly Square section of Somerville has a lot going for it these days.
It’s home to one of the region’s busiest shopping centers, Assembly Row, along with one-bedroom apartments that go for $3,000 a month. Partners HealthCare moved more than 4,000 workers to a building there on top of a new Orange Line stop. Plans for nearly 5 million more square feet of office space are approved or are under review by the city.
And, soon, investors in Assembly Square could enjoy a federal tax break aimed at helping low-income neighborhoods. Despite the frenzied pace of development in this hot section of Somerville, it is one of 138 areas the federal government on Friday designated as “opportunity zones,” under a new program designed to spark jobs and development in places left behind by the economic recovery.
The program could bring much-needed investment to struggling corners of Massachusetts. But in booming markets like Greater Boston, some worry it will simply subsidize development that’s already happening, and could accelerate gentrification in some neighborhoods, increasing the chances that residents are pushed out.
“Some of these places already have a strong economy,” said Brett Theodos, a researcher at the Urban Institute who is tracking opportunity zones. “We could wind up subsidizing things that would have happened anyway.”