A lot of potential on Western Avenue

January 6, 2017

ITEM PHOTO BY OWEN O’ROURKE
This former gas station at 870 Western Ave. is a brownfield site. The city has applied for a $200G grant to clean it up.

By THOMAS GRILLO

LYNN — More than 20 years after a Western Avenue gas station closed and left a blighted lot behind, the city is hoping it will be the next location for much needed housing.

Lynn Economic Development and Industrial Corp. (EDIC), the city’s nonprofit development bank, has applied for a $200,000 Environmental Protection Agency grant to clean up the so-called brownfield site and make it safe for homes. Brownfields are abandoned contaminated commercial sites.

The saga began in 1988 when the Lynn J. Robert Corp. of Peabody and Jerome Sousa of North Hampton, N.H., acquired the 12,288-square-foot lot at no cost, according to the Southern Essex County Registry of Deeds. In 2012, the city seized the abandoned station for nonpayment of $2,296 in real estate taxes.

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In 2015, the city sold the property to the EDIC for $1. Last year, EDIC made two attempts to sell the parcel, but failed to receive any worthwhile bids, including a marijuana dispensary, according to James Cowdell, EDIC’s executive director.

Cowdell then contacted Ward 6 City Councilor Peter Capano, whose district includes the shuttered gas station covered in graffiti. He suggested housing made the most sense for the visible site.

“Would I like to see a pot dispensary or housing?” asked Capano. “I’d rather see housing, but I wouldn’t mind retail either. If there were other options, I would be open to them as well. We would like to see the site improved.”

Since then, the EDIC has spent about $55,000 assessing and cleaning the contaminated site that has an oil tank in the ground.

Despite the progress, the highest cleanup standards are required if brownfields are to be used as housing, Cowdell said. As a result, EDIC is seeking the EPA’s help to defray the costs.

“It’s a small but very visible lot and 20,000 cars pass by this blighted property right now,” Cowdell said. The EPA grant would finish the clean up and make it ready to meet residential standards.”

If the city is successful in getting the funding and completes the job, they would sell the parcel to a developer who will determine what kind of housing fits.

Mayor Judith Flanagan Kennedy said she is excited at the prospect of cleaning one of the city’s brownfields.

“This would give us one more piece of land that we can put to productive use,” she said.


Thomas Grillo can be reached at grillo@itemlive.com.