GLSS blows out 40 candles

GLSS employees and volunteers for the evening; Katherine Prouty, Andrea Chaves and Eileen Burk. (Photo by Bob Roche)

By Bridget Turcotte

LYNN — Greater Lynn Senior Services is celebrating 40 years.

An anniversary celebration was held at the Lynn Museum on Thursday evening. The Lynn Police and Fire departments, city council, the Department of Public Works and partners of GLSS were invited to celebrate the milestone.

Paul Crowley, executive director, stressed that while they’re celebrating how far the nonprofit organization has come, they’re also thinking about what’s to come.

“A big part of what we wanted to do was applaud the people in the community that have supported us over the last 40 years,” said Crowley. “Then pivot to the future and say ‘what does the next 40 years look like?”

Since its incorporation in 1976, it has adapted to the changing needs of seniors, providing community health and social services to help people maintain independence. In its next 40 years, Crowley said the focus will shift to serving people of all ages and abilities.

“The entire community plays a role in all of this,” he said. “We are actively in partnerships with the (Lynn Community) Health Center, Element Care, the Housing Authority, Lynn’s EDIC, the mayor’s office. We work with the Lynn Shelter Association, My Brother’s Table. There are just so many organizations that we are actively involved with. It’s a community effort.”

But as time has progressed, the core values of the organization have remained the same, which Crowley said is a big part of why he believes it has been successful.

“The spirit of collaboration that exists between us and other community partners, the innovation came from Vince Lique, who ran GLSS for 24 years until he died,” Crowley said. “He was quite a visionary. He came up with a lot of great ideas that formed my approach to things.”

He estimated that GLSS serves more than 3,000 seniors each day with homecare-related matters, in addition to the 3,000 rides it provides to seniors who need transportation services.

“On a daily basis we do about 6,000 incredible things,” he said. “We’re nostalgic about what has happened but we’re really focusing our attention on what we need to do to continue. There’s a lot of excitement about what we do, going forward.”

Bridget Turcotte can be reached at bturcotte@itemlive.com. Follow her on Twitter @BridgetTurcotte.

City takes the LEAD with developers

Charlie Patsios talks about the future of the land that used to house the old General Electric gear plant site during the economic development tour today. Item Photo by Owen O’Rourke

By Thomas Grillo

LYNN — Jay Connolly admits he is “somewhat of a stranger to Lynn,” but the vice president of Beverly-based Connolly Brothers Inc. registered for Tuesday’s city development tour of Lynn to find new opportunities.

“The city seems to have lots of potential, proximity to Boston and waterfront opportunities, so it’s exciting to see it,” Connolly said.

More than 100 investors, developers, lenders, brokers and contractors like Connolly boarded three buses for a glimpse at the city’s development opportunities.

“It’s encouraging to see so many new faces looking at Lynn,” said Matthew Picarsic, managing principal of RCG, a Somerville-based real estate firm whose Lynn projects include the Boston Machine Lofts building on Willow Street. “Lynn has lots of opportunities … and it seems ready to go.”

Hosted by the Economic Development & Industrial Corporation of Lynn (EDIC), MassDevelopment, the state’s economic development agency, U.S. Rep. Seth Moulton and the Lynn Economic Advancement and Development (LEAD) team, the tour showcased acres of waterfront land and more than a dozen underdeveloped properties in the downtown.

Charles Patsios, the Swampscott developer who is preparing to build a $500 million complex on the 65-acre former General Electric Co. Gear Works property that will feature 1,200 apartments adjacent to the train stop, met the tour on his site.

“Lynn has the best of the best and it’s been hidden in plain sight for so long,” he said. “Lynn is the next Charlestown, East Boston, South Boston, North End, Somerville, Cambridge, Kendall Square, all of those components can be found in Lynn. The future is Lynn … the opportunities abound.”

Mayor Judith Flanagan Kennedy welcomed the visitors at the ferry terminal parking lot on Blossom Street extension, telling them that few people know there are 200 acres of undeveloped land available in the city, much of it on the waterfront. She urged them to let their imaginations stay open throughout the event. “Hopefully, you will come back with some ideas to transform Lynn,” she said. “All of us are standing by, ready to make that happen for you.”

Jay Ash, Secretary of Housing and Economic Development and a member of a LEAD team, said he’s excited about Lynn’s present and future. He said the response he’s received about investing in Lynn has been encouraging.

“For those of you who are thinking about development in Lynn, I can’t think of a better place to make an investment,” he said. “It’s a jewel along the water. This place is happening. We are prepared to work with you to help make your development successful. We know that together there are great days ahead for Lynn and we are happy to be a small part of it.”

Gregory Bialecki, who held Ash’s job in the Patrick administration and is now a principal at Redgate, the Boston-based developer who is considering Lynn, said as housing prices soar in places like Somerville and Chelsea, Lynn is the next logical place to build apartments.

“Twenty years ago, people said Chelsea was not on the list of where people with choices would want to live, but they’ve turned the corner,” he said. “The conditions are ready for it to happen in Lynn.”

Sen. Thomas McGee (D-Lynn) sang the city’s praises to the potential investors, telling them Lynn has a vibrant sense of community that is unmatched.

“Our waterfront offers one of the most beautiful sites on the East Coast and there are regional water transportation opportunities,” he said. “I know I’m biased living here in Lynn, but people in this city really care about this community.”

State Rep. and City Council President Daniel Cahill said so many elected officials gathered for the tour because they believe in the city.  

“We have done lots of rezoning, so you will see lots of build as-of-right possibilities, a very exciting phrase to developers, and we have expedited permitting,” he said. “You will find some great parcels and great investments.”

Just before the tour, James Cowdell, EDIC’s executive director, said the downtown has been rezoned to allow for conversion of industrial buildings into housing. As a result, he said, more than 300 new residents live downtown.

He provided a preview of the stops along the trek including 545 Washington St., the five-story former home of Prime Manufacturing Co. that is zoned for commercial use on the first floor and residential above; 11 Spring St., a six-story building across the street from the MBTA that has been used for location shots for Hollywood movies; 40-48 Central St., vacant buildings with adjacent parking which comprise a site for multi-story, market rate housing above commercial space; 38 South Common St., and the 1893 state-owned Lynn Armory that is on the National Register of Historic Places and is available for sale.

In addition, Cowdell noted there are multiple sites available on the waterside of the Lynnway including 40 acres owned by National Grid that could be developed.

“The sky’s the limit,” Cowdell said.

State Rep. Brendan Crighton (D-Lynn) said the city is finally getting noticed, in part, because they have a full set of tools in their toolbox to help developers.

“We want to show off the city and get feedback to see if there are things we can do better,” he said.

U.S. Rep. Seth Moulton met the tour at the Lynn Museum & Historical Society and compared the proximity of Lynn to Boston in the context of Brooklyn and Manhattan.

“Think about how Brooklyn has taken off in the last 10 years and it’s not just the Brooklyn of 50 years ago” he said. “There are a tremendous number of start-ups, a great tech scene and all sorts of things that are very much relevant to today, not just the economy of old. That’s the kind of thing we want to see in Lynn.”

At the start of the tour, about two dozen members of Lynn United for Change, a community organization that supports affordable housing, used the gathering to advocate for low- and moderate-income units. They held signs that read “Lynn Says No To Gentrification” and “Lynn Families Before Developer’s Profits.”  

“In this city, we need affordable housing that’s accessible to the working people of our city,” said one protester through a bullhorn.  

City Councilor-at-Large Brian LaPierre, who was present during the protest, said the developer’s tour was not the time or place to air their grievances over housing.

“I would not go along with 100 percent of the units in a new development being affordable. But I am sympathetic to their cause. But the details are subject to them talking to the developers to see how many affordable units, if any, developers are willing to do.”

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

Enough, already, in Lynn

An artist rendering of the waterfront residential development to be built at the former Beacon Chevrolet site on the Lynnway by Mimco Development. Image courtesy of Arrowstreet

Mayor Judith Flanagan Kennedy and City Council President Daniel F. Cahill deserve credit for sending a “hands-off” message to a local organization trying to interject affordable housing and union labor into a 348-apartment waterfront development.

The New Lynn Coalition, in the words of one of its members, wants to “start a conversation” with Arthur Pappathanasi and Louis Minicucci, owners of the so-called Beacon site on the Lynnway, about hiring union labor to build the development and include affordable housing in it.

In the broader context of what is good for the city, the timing of the Coalition’s proposal could not be worse.

The percentage of affordable housing in Lynn hovers around 30 percent. That number includes a 14 percent state affordable-housing calculation for the city, plus housing vouchers assigned locally. It does not include federal vouchers issued elsewhere that are being used by people moving into the city.

Think about that for a minute: Almost one-third of the city’s housing stock is tax-dollar subsidized. And the percentage will increase once the Gateway Residences project on Washington Street, which will include affordable housing, is built.

Lynn’s legislative delegation, Mayor Kennedy, the City Council, and the Economic Development & Industrial Corporation (EDIC/Lynn) deserve credit for drafting and implementing the zoning changes required to get Gateway built.

Lynn is a city in desperate need of economic stimulus. That stimulus comes from economic development — businesses expanding or opening in the city and, in turn, hiring local residents and raising their standard of living.

What the city doesn’t need is more subsidized housing. It has enough – if not too much.

A better way to help people who want to be self sufficient is to provide them with jobs and the ability to increase their housing opportunities.

A hands-off approach on private development is the best way for the city to move forward.

The city has been working in conjunction with the state and federal government – in the form of the LEAD (Lynn Economic Advancement and Development) team – since last November to attract developers to Lynn, particularly along the waterfront.

It is most unfortunate that Councilor-at-Large Brian LaPierre has interjected himself into private-developer hiring decisions. One of several union-affiliated councilors, LaPierre is lobbying for unions, which is detrimental to the city’s relationship with prospective developers.

Unions have a long and strong history of doing well in Lynn, and firms that pay union wages can and should compete for private construction contracts just like any other. LaPierre and city government should stay out of the conversation.

Lynn is not Boston, with cranes on every corner, developments springing up on every vacant lot.

Right now, the City of Lynn has one significant project of market-rate housing ready to go.

Get a shovel into the ground.

Letting appointed boards shine

Veterans Memorial Auditorium in Lynn.

Something interesting happened when the Lynn Licensing Board met during July and August, 2015 in Veterans Memorial Auditorium to hear arguments for and against the 1 a.m. liquor establishment closing time.

Dozens of residents, as well as bar owners and employees, spent a couple of summer evenings talking about closing times as well as the economic contributions liquor establishments make to Lynn.

The Licensing Board probably draws more people to its hearings than the City Council and School Committee because board decisions almost always affect livelihoods. But attendance at the 2015 rollback hearings suggests every city board and commission should spend at least one, maybe a couple of nights a year, on the auditorium stage in the limelight.

The Planning Board, Zoning Board of Appeals, Traffic Commission, Off Street Parking Commission and a host of lesser-known boards make decisions every week affecting local residents and their neighbors. But most of their public hearings are attended by people, accompanied by an attorney, who have specific requests to make to the applicable board.

There are two reasons to showcase the roles of appointed boards. The first is to provide an opportunity for residents to understand and appreciate how boards shape neighborhoods across Lynn by defining the appearance of new buildings or ones slated for renovation as well as sorting through traffic and parking considerations.

The Economic Development and Industrial Corporation’s board of directors play a major role in shaping the city’s economic vision, including future use along the waterfront. Its members along with members of other city boards and commissions, should have the opportunity to sit on the Veterans Memorial stage, under the big lights, and outline the responsibilities and scope of their respective boards and entertain questions from residents before proceeding through their agenda.

The second reason for highlighting local boards and commissions is to focus on the commitment their members make to the city. Some board members have served the city without compensation for decades. Their reasons for volunteering are varied. But many of them like playing a role in monitoring a relatively little-known but vital city function.

Most board and commission volunteers are also interested in recruiting new members to boards. Filling volunteer appointments is a task Mayor Judith Flanagan Kennedy has shouldered during her tenure and, working with the City Council, she has made sure the city Disability Commission and Human Rights Commission are well represented by local residents.

The best reason to highlight the work of local boards, including ones with admittedly limited responsibilities, is to give local residents opportunities to serve the city and, by extension, to improve it.

Athanas family exploring reuse of Hawthorne site

The Hawthorne parking lot behind the restaurant. Item Photo by Owen O’Rourke

By Thomas Grillo

LYNN — Thirteen years after the Athanas family shuttered the landmark Anthony’s Hawthorne restaurant downtown, something is brewing.

The family isn’t talking, but New Hampshire Demolition was spotted last week at the once-popular eatery evaluating the cost of razing the 16,000-square-foot building on Central Avenue, a source told The Item. The Athanas family also owns the 32,000-square-foot parking lot behind the restaurant on Washington Street.

Wig Zamore, a consultant to Anthony’s Hawthorne Inc., said the family is considering its options. He declined to elaborate.

Several years ago, the family floated the idea of using the restaurant and parking lot for a mixed-use development that could include housing, retail and office.

“We’d love to work with the city and other people in the area to move that part of downtown forward,” said Zamore.

New Hampshire Demolition, the company that razed the landmark Hilltop Restaurant on Route 1, did not return a call seeking comment.

One of the challenges to development is that the land beneath the Hawthorne and the adjacent parking lot is contaminated with chemicals from Whyte’s Laundromat that once operated on Willow Street next to the post office.

In 2011, the city’s Economic Development and Industrial Corp. of Lynn (EDIC), a nonprofit that functions as the city’s development bank, considered taking the Athanas property by eminent domain. But no action was taken by the City Council because of the liability associated with the clean up.

“The Athanas family’s position has been they will not develop that site until the Whyte’s Laundromat is cleaned up because the contamination from laundry is still coming onto their property,” said James Cowdell, EDIC’s executive director.

It appears the clean up, which has a projected cost of more than $350,000, may not happen anytime soon. The federal Environmental Protection Agency recently said no to the city’s request for $150,000 to assess the cleanup of the parcel.

The late Anthony Athanas opened what would be the first of five Anthony’s Hawthorne restaurants in 1937 in downtown Lynn. At one time, it was considered the highest grossing eatery in the region. The eatery closed in 2003 and has been vacant since.

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

The sky’s the limit in Lynn



LYNN — Five months ago, Jay Ash, state Secretary of Housing and Economic Development, joined Gov. Charlie Baker and Mayor Judith Flanagan Kennedy on the steps of City Hall and vowed to deliver on the city’s long-awaited transformation.

Today, Ash is meeting with a group of local, state and federal officials to review progress on their partnership. Their mission is to find resources that can revitalize the city and spur development on vacant and underused parcels, including the city’s waterfront.

“People in Lynn have a right to say, ‘I’ve heard all this before,’ but this is happening,” Ash said. “I don’t know which groundbreaking will be first and then…bam… there will be so much attention, so much action, so much positive development for Lynn, that it’s really going to take off.”

Ash is meeting with the Lynn Economic Advancement Team, a panel that, in addition to Ash, includes U.S. Rep. Seth Moulton, Transportation Secretary Stephanie Pollack, James Cowdell, executive director of the Economic Development and Industrial Corp. (EDIC), Environmental Secretary Matthew Beaton and others who can cut through the bureaucracy and make things happen.

I’m in Lynn every other week talking to developers looking at property and we’ve come to the table with a bag of resources,” Ash said. “There are about six major projects that could take place over the next year or so. We have identified dozens of permitting issues and public actions that should advance development.”

Among the projects on the wish list include:

  • MBTA stop on the commuter rail at the GE property
  • Continue ferry service to Boston  
  • A new gateway to Lynn from the city’s south side
  • Waterfront residential development
  • Hotels and high-end retail
  • Parks
  • Transform GE parking lots in West Lynn into apartments

The governor, who drives through Lynn enroute to the State House from his home in Swampscott each day, has identified $918 million in spending for economic development. Much of the cash is in programs that Lynn and other so-called gateway communities could benefit from.

O’Donnell’s associate,
Charles Morneau, said they hope to start construction next spring with a $69 million luxury apartment project that would include 250 units in a wood frame, three-story building.Joseph O’Donnell, founder of Boston Culinary Group and Belmont Capital in Cambridge, is developing the 17-acre former Building 19 site on the Lynnway. The company bought the mortgage for the parcel from the FDIC in the 1990s for an undisclosed amount.

The key to the development is public transportation, he said. It would help his project and trigger more mixed-use construction in the waterfront district if the MBTA’s River Works Station on the Newbury/Rockport line was not limited to GE employees.

“We believe it’s a great spot with spectacular views that will attract tenants,” he said. “If we get public transportation, that whole area works because everyone wants to be near the T because it’s the only way to get into Boston economically.”

While this would be the first major waterfront project to put a shovel in the ground,  Morneau said his company is not a pioneer.

“We have owned the land for a long time and we are committed to make a go of it now,” he said. “We’re in the position to get out of the gate first and we are willing to do it, at least at that parcel, and that will give others the chance to see what the market is and what else can be built.”

Minco Development Corp. has presented plans for a $90 million mixed-use development that will include 348 one- and two-bedroom apartment units at the former Beacon Chevrolet site on the Lynnway.

Charles Patsios has plans to construct 1,200 apartments on a former GE site near the Building 19 parcel.

Gregory Bialecki, who held Ash’s job in the Patrick administration and now works as executive vice president at Redgate, said the Boston-based developer doesn’t have any properties under agreement in Lynn, but they are on the lookout.

“We are looking for places that are a short ride into Boston by subway or commuter rail, so the fact that Lynn is a quick trip into the city by rail checks the box for us,” he said. “Our target population is seeking an interesting urban neighborhood when they get home and Lynn checks that box off too.”

It helps that the Baker administration has sent a strong message to builders that the commonwealth will support new development in Lynn, Bialecki added.

Lynn’s Cowdell said they are also looking to General Electric Co. to boost jobs and examine several parcels in West Lynn, primarily parking lots, that could be transformed into apartments.

“If there were skeptics as far as the governor’s commitment to Lynn, there shouldn’t be any skeptics now,” he said. “The team has worked effectively and in a very short period of time has been able to move key projects along.”

Ash, who is well known in the development community for bringing a revival to Chelsea over his many years as city manager, said something is happening in Lynn that can’t be denied.

I have had multiple conversations with a dozen property owners in Lynn and probably another two dozen conversations with developers outside the city,” Ash said. “One of those includes a big one in Boston who is used to doing billion dollar projects who said, ‘I hear you guys are all in Lynn, what have I been missing and where should I be looking?’”

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

Ferry could arrive in 2014

LYNN — Splashdown for the Lynn ferry is scheduled for 2015 but Economic Development and Industrial Corporation Executive Director James Cowdell is working to bring it ashore one year ahead of schedule.

“We’re really trying hard to put it in the water next summer,” he said. “In part to try and keep momentum going.”

The ferry project is nearly five years in the making. Phase III will be completed in the spring.

“Everything will be ready but the boat,” Cowdell said.

Phase I of the ferry project was completed in 2008 when EDIC rebuilt the boat ramp at the end of Blossom Street extension, tore down an decrepit bait shop, upgraded the drainage and put down new asphalt for the driveway. Phase II followed, wrapping in 2012, when a new steel bulkhead was installed to protect the shoreline and at the same time expanded waterfront access from 60 feet to 150 feet.

In June of 2012, the Seaport Advisory Council handed over a check for $3.2 million which funded Phase III, dredging, the installation of a 60-foot wave attenuator and a new pier coupled with upland improvements like sidewalks, striping and lighting.

Cowdell said he would like to have a bid ready to go out for a boat and an operator by the time the dock work and other projects are finalized.

There are two ways the city could go in terms of an operator. Salem owns its own ferry, but other communities contract with an operator and vessel. Cowdell said Lynn has chosen the latter scenario.

To date, $6 million has been spent of the project, funded through Seaport Advisory Council.

“We’re still looking for federal and state money to build a two-story terminal,” Cowdell said.

The first floor of the terminal will cater to commuters with places to purchase tickets, coffee and a paper, while the plan for the second floor is a restaurant with water views, Cowdell said.

Cowdell stressed that he is simply shooting to get a ferry in the water by 2014, and it is far from a done deal.

“But people said this (ferry) would never happen and it’s definitely going to happen,” he said. “We’re trying to get it done earlier than scheduled but however it happens it will happen.”

Empty Lynn storefront on city planners’ radar

LYNN — An empty storefront on Central Avenue is a cause for concern with city planners.

“EDIC has a vested interest,” said Economic Development and Industrial Corporation Executive Director James Cowdell. “It’s on our radar because we want to make sure that whatever goes in there supports the newer establishments in the area.”

The city now owns the once troubled Kevin’s Cultural Corner, a small building located at 151 Central Ave., after the owner failed to pay his tax bill.

Cowdell said ideally he would like to see the property transferred over to EDIC because he believes his department would be better equipped to find a tenant that would be in keeping with the changes taking place in the downtown area.

D’Amici’s Downtown opened on Sutton Street in September, Rossetti’s Restaurant opened next door on Nov. 6, and both are just around the corner from the defunct Kevin’s. Cowdell said last thing the city needs is to allow another poorly run bar to move into the area.

Public safety officials were well acquainted with The Cultural Corner. The owners suffered a five-day liquor license suspension in 2011 for serving to a minor, they got hit with another suspension in 2012 for serving after hours, and, in July, the building sustained nearly $1,000 in damages when fireworks exploded, blowing a hole in the roof. There was also an incident where a young woman was kicked in the face and then shot during an after-hours brawl.

Ideally, Cowdell said he would like to see another restaurant move into the shuttered building.

“The more the merrier,” he said. “We’d like a restaurant row, make it a destination so when people think about going out to eat they come to Lynn.”

To make that happen, however, the City Council would have to agree to sign the property over to EDIC. Cowdell said once the new council is sworn in in January he will file a petition to have the building transferred.

“If that happens then we’ll prepare an RFP (request for proposals) with guidelines of exactly what we’re looking for,” he said.

He may, however, have a fight on his hands. Councilor Richard Colucci, who is chairman of the council’s Public Property Committee, called the storefront a prime piece of real estate.

“Goes to the highest bidder unless EDIC has a compelling argument,” he said.

Cowdell believes he does have a compelling argument.

“It would be a step back,” he said. “We took a blighted building and with Rossetti’s and D’Amici’s brought the area back. We need to build on that.”

Lynn EDIC struggling with artist loft project

LYNN — Nearly two years after it bought the building, Lynn Economic Development and Industrial Corporation is still struggling to turn 33 Central St. into artists’ lofts.

“It’s over-budget,” said EDIC Executive Director James Cowdell. “The estimates came in at $2.8 million and we budgeted $2 million.”

Cowdell said despite the delay he is committed to seeing the project through, but he does not have unlimited funds and therefore must cut costs. Where to do so has been an ongoing debate.

EDIC bought the old Arnold Stationery Store in late 2011 with a plan to turn it into eight artists’ living/work spaces with a business on the first floor.

A number of buildings in the downtown area have been turned into loft-style apartments but Cowdell said previously that these apartments would target working artists specifically, and on Tuesday he said that is still the plan.

Abacus Architect and Planners, of Allston, is designing the project. Cowdell said the company has much experience with artist live/work space but the five-story building has been gutted, which means the project is starting from scratch.

“It’s a complete build-out of a five-story building in the middle of downtown,” he said.

The largest expense driving the project is the cost of steel, which has jumped dramatically over the last 60 days, according to Cowdell. Other large expenses include a $300,000 elevator.

“But it’s five stories,” Cowdell said. “Will we really be able to market the third and fourth floor without an elevator? Probably not.”

EDIC is saving some money however by using Neighborhood Development as the general contractor, and Cowdell said he is happy to note that the low bid on the project went to a Lynn contractor, DeIulis Brothers Construction.

“Now we just have to cut $800,000 from the project,” he added. “It’s not easy, but it’s going to happen. We’re committed to the project; we’re just trying to do it at the budgeted cost.”

Chris Stevens can be reached at cstevens@itemlive.com.