James Cowdell

Former gay bar undergoing renovation to become housing

BY THOMAS GRILLO

LYNN — The shuttered home of what’s been called the Bay State’s oldest gay bar will soon have a new lease on life: a $2.2 million apartment house.

Fran’s Place closed last fall after more than three decades on lower Washington Street as a safe haven for gay patrons.

Last fall, the 20,148-square-foot, three story building was purchased by 776 Washington Street LLC for $297,500. The entity is owned by Omar Guerrero, who once managed Omar & Oscar Jewelry of Lynn in Central Square.

Guerrero declined to comment.

But filings with the city’s Inspectional Services Department revealed he is seeking to build 14 one-bedroom apartments on the two upper floors while keeping the 5,000-square-foot former bar as commercial space.

The LLC borrowed $1.75 million from the Massachusetts Development Finance Agency, the state’s development bank, for the renovation.

James Cowdell, executive director of the Economic Development & Industrial Corp., (EDIC) the city’s development bank, said he’s met with Guerrero and supports the project.

“He’s putting more than a dozen market-rate units in that section of the city,” he said. “And when he’s done, it will look great.”

Charles Gaeta, executive director of Lynn Housing Authority & Neighborhood Development, whose office provided Guerrero with a $20,000 planning grant, said he’s excited about the project.

“The city is expected to invest more than $150,000 in new sidewalks and trees in that area,” he said. “It will dovetail nicely with our nearby Gateway Residences project.”   

Last year, the Gateway Residences on Washington broke ground, the first housing development to benefit from a $100 million state fund to create workforce housing.

The 71-unit mixed-income housing complex is a collaboration  of Neighborhood Development Associates of Lynn and Boston-based Hub Holdings LLC.

Gateway Residences will feature a five-story, wood-frame building with 18 one-bedroom units, 46 two-bedrooms and seven three-bedrooms. Eight units will be market-rate. The project also will contain a common room, fitness center, laundry rooms and other common tenant spaces.

“We’re excited, said Gaeta.That whole area is being rejuvenated and there’s more on the way.”


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

$1.2M grant funds waterfront development

ITEM PHOTO BY SPENSER HASAK
Mayor Judith Flanagan Kennedy addresses the crowd during her annual update to the Lynn Area Chamber of Commerce at the Porthole Restaurant on Friday.

By THOMAS GRILLO

LYNN — The city received a $1.2 million state grant that will create a new entrance to the city’s first waterfront development in decades.

Mayor Judith Flanagan Kennedy unveiled the award Friday in her annual update to the Lynn Area Chamber of Commerce. The cash, under MassWorks, a state program that provides funding to support economic development, will be used to build a southbound turn into the former Beacon Chevrolet site on the Lynnway. The $80 million project featuring 348 waterfront apartments is expected to break ground in November.

“These dollars have not only assisted the developer in making the project a reality, but those funds will also help to connect the downtown with the waterfront, creating a walkable, livable community with great housing, businesses, and open space,” she said.

Kennedy, who is seeking a third term this year, never mentioned the race or her opponent, state Sen. Thomas M. McGee (D-Lynn).

Instead, the mayor focused on what she called a series of accomplishments to keep the city moving forward.

North Shore Community College’s (NSCC) $21 million expansion project is nearly complete, the mayor said. Staff has moved into the new space and students will take their seats in new classrooms in September.

“The expansion is testimony to how vital NSCC is to Lynn,” she said. “Much like our K-12 public schools, the college is bursting at the seams and the expansion will go a long way to provide an affordable college education to North Shore students.”

On Washington Street, construction is underway by the Lynn Housing Authority & Neighborhood Development on Gateway Residences, 69 units of affordable housing and retail space which, she said, will fuel the city’s effort to revitalize a gritty section of the city.

“It will act as a catalyst for other development,” Kennedy said.

The only applause in the 15-minute speech came when the mayor hailed Lynn YMCA’s plans to expand. She said the city has deeded a 35,000-square-foot portion of Wheeler Street to the nonprofit to be used for the facility’s expansion.

So far, the Y has raised more than $7 million in tax credits and another $7 million in donations for what will be a 70,000-square-foot Y, she said.

“A groundbreaking is coming,” she said. “Lynn will surely have the best YMCA on the eastern seaboard. Take that Peabody, Lynnfield and Marblehead.

Other projects she noted include 23 Central St., better known as the Flatiron Building. Quincy-based MG2, formerly the Mayo Group, is converting the former office building in the downtown into 49 market rate apartments. Tenants in the $12 million project are expected to move in this fall, she said.

The mayor and staff have been meeting with the new owners of the former Item building where apartments are planned for the upstairs and retail on the ground level.

“They plan to keep the printing press and we have been talking to them about having them open a microbrewery called the Press Room,” she said.

Kennedy also mentioned smaller projects such as the makeover of the Lynn Marketplace, the strip mall on State Street, and Hacienda Corona, a family-owned restaurant that features traditional Mexican dishes on the Lynnway, is expanding to the downtown.

The mayor blamed the city’s recent financial woes on the growing public school enrollment. When she took office in 2010, the city had 13,625 students and the school budget was $107 million. This year, there are more than 16,000 students and the budget has swelled to nearly $144 million, a 30 percent increase.

“At the same time, some of the city departments have been level funded,” she said. “It’s been quite a struggle to try to keep city services at the current level while at the same time making ends meet.”

Kennedy said the Lynn Auditorium continues to expand with more shows than ever. Donny and Marie are coming this year. The mayor also mentioned the opening of Market Basket at the former General Electric Factory of the Future.

“We will continue to lead the way and make Lynn, Massachusetts all that it can and should be: a great place to live work and play,” she said.

James Cowdell, executive director of the Lynn Economic Development and Industrial Corp., the city’s development bank, said the city recently received a $200,000 grant to clean the contaminated 15,000-square-foot Whyte’s Laundry site.

That could clear the way for redevelopment of the shuttered Anthony’s Hawthorne Restaurant in the downtown, he said.


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

Ferry will float again this summer

ITEM FILE PHOTO
Limited ferry service to and from Boston is returning.

BY THOMAS GRILLO

LYNN — All aboard.

After rejecting ferry service for more than a year, Gov. Charlie Baker has reversed course and will fund a weekday excursion from the city’s terminal to Boston’s Long Wharf.

The boat is expected to launch on Tuesday, June 20, and run until Friday, Sept. 22. It will consist of one departure from the Blossom Street Extension at 7:45 a.m., arriving in Long Wharf at 8:20 a.m., and one evening return from Boston at 6 p.m., arriving in Lynn at 6:35 p.m.

The cost for the 35-minute trip is $7 each way, $3.50 for children and seniors.

“We are pleased to provide the needed additional resources for Lynn to once again offer this seasonal ferry service, which will give residents and visitors yet another transportation option,” said State Transportation Secretary Stephanie Pollack, in a statement.

This represents a change in direction for the Baker administration and the Massachusetts Department of Transportation (MassDOT).

Last summer, the governor said Lynn’s two-year demonstration project in 2014 and 2015 to launch the ferry on the state’s dime was an opportunity to examine whether the service made economic sense. He concluded it didn’t generate the ridership and the price tag per rider was too expensive.

On Thursday, a spokeswoman for Pollack said the state is providing a Highway Division grant of up to $200,000 for ferry service this summer to mitigate the impact of Route 1A and Sumner Tunnel construction projects.

“We don’t expect the city will need all of the $200,000 since the ferry generates fares,” said Jacquelyn Goddard.

During the 2014 season, the estimated total number of rides was 13,322 and during the 2015 season, the estimated number of rides taken totaled 14,577.

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But in 2016 the Baker administration halted service and blamed the city for failure to come up with the $700,000 in operating expenses needed to operate the ferry.

That disagreement appears to be over for now.

State Sen. Thomas McGee (D-Lynn), who has been a champion of the ferry and criticized Baker for failing to fund it last summer, praised Pollack for her leadership.

“Residents of Lynn and the North Shore will certainly benefit from an affordable and stress-free commute this summer,” McGee said in a statement.  “This significant momentum is not just beneficial for the continuation of service in Lynn this summer, but for advancing the long-term vision of water transportation, with Lynn as a key component, in the entire Massachusetts Bay.”

James Cowdell, executive director of the Economic Development and Industrial Corp., the city’s development bank said he’s excited that the ferry is back.

“The two year pilot program proved that there is a demand on the North Shore for a commuter ferry out of Lynn,” he said in a statement.

Last spring, in an effort led by U.S. Rep. Seth Moulton (D-Mass.) and in partnership with state and local leaders, the Federal Transit Administration awarded a $4.5 million dollar grant for Lynn to purchase a vessel to support ferry service.

“The ferry will provide access to higher-paying jobs, housing, and opportunity for Lynn,”Moulton said in a statement.

Additionally, MassDOT provided technical assistance resources last winter for the city to develop a long term sustainability plan for ferry operations, and is currently assisting with the purchase of the boat.  

Mayor Judith Flanagan Kennedy could not be reached for comment.

Thomas Grillo can be reached at tgrillo@itemlive.com

 

West Lynn comes full circle

PHOTO BY SCOTT EISEN
Traffic makes its way around the new rotary.

By THOMAS GRILLO

LYNN — David Ackerman has been watching construction at the convergence of Western Avenue, Federal, and South Common streets for weeks and wondering what lies ahead.

“I don’t know what to make of it,” said the 71-year-old retiree.

“I was so used to the other way.”

By the end of June, the congested, and some say unsafe intersection near Market Square in front of the new Market Basket will be transformed.

The traffic lights are gone, a rotary has been built and the two lane road has been reduced to one.

“The old way was dangerous, that’s for sure,” said Ackerman. “Construction workers tell me this will be a lot safer for the simple reason the traffic is narrowed to one lane and it will slow cars naturally.”

James Cowdell, executive director of the Economic Development & Industrial Corp. (EDIC), the city’s development bank, said the $2 million infrastructure project is being fully paid for by DeMoulas Super Markets Inc., the Tewksbury-based chain store.

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Originally, the city was in line for a $2 million MassWorks grant to provide road, sidewalk and traffic signal improvements on Western Avenue and Federal and Boston streets to make the former General Electric ‘Factory of the Future’ site more accessible for supermarket customers.

But the deal with the state fell through and DeMoulas stepped up for fill the void, Cowdell said.

“The rotary is operational and almost universally people are reporting that it’s much quicker than the lights,” he said. “Once construction ends in two weeks, traffic will be even quicker than it is today. We are very happy with the result.”

In addition, he said DeMoulas has also pledged $1 million on landscaping in and around the new market.

Scheduled to open in August, the $30 million project will give the popular retail grocery chain a Lynn presence and provide 400 jobs, with hiring preference for Lynn residents.

“It will look really nice when it’s done,” said Cowdell. “We’ve been working on this for four years and now we are weeks away from opening.”

Former Ward 7 City Councilor and councilor-at-large candidate Rick Ford and co-owner of the Little River Inn, the popular diner on Boston Street, said so far, customers have been saying good things about the new traffic pattern.

“People are saying it’s messed up there now, but the changes should help to fix the traffic jams,” he said.


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

 

Can we have nice things?

ITEM PHOTO BY SPENSER HASAK
One Dollar Zone has opened on the Lynnway.

By THOMAS GRILLO

LYNN — Another dollar store has opened on the Lynnway as the city solidifies its place for discount retailers.

“Those kind of stores expand to locations that cost nothing to open, where they don’t pay their workers much and the demographics fit,” said Michael Tesler, a marketing lecturer at Bentley University.  “Lynn has lots of newer immigrants without much money who prefer dollar stores to Target and Walmart.”

Lynn already has its share of discount retailers. There are three Family Dollar shops, two Dollar Tree stores, and One Dollar Zone has opened its second store at the former Sleepy’s on the Lynnway. That doesn’t include a number of other independent cut-rate shops such as J & M Dollar Store.

Where else can you get glassware, candy, cleaning supplies, snacks, toys, party supplies, stationery, crafts, books, automotive products, pet supplies and seasonal goods for just $1 each?

Tesler said the immediate prospects of attracting upscale shops to Lynn seems remote.  MarketStreet, the premium open-air shopping destination in Lynnfield which boasts more than 80 shops and restaurants, offers the kind of retail some would like to see in Lynn, including Victoria’s Secret, Williams-Sonoma and Lucky Brand Jeans.

“Lynn lost its way, it has an image problem and the downtown deteriorated,” Tesler said.  “When I was a kid, my mother’s favorite shopping trip was to Hoffman’s in the downtown, and there used to be a place called Roland’s for ice cream and that was a magnet. But those kinds of retail attractions are missing today.”

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Still, it’s not an impossible dream to transform Lynn’s waterfront. Consider Assembly Square, renamed Assembly Row, in Somerville.

“Assembly Square should be an inspiration for Lynn,” Tesler said. “At one time, the area was infested with rats and lacked  access to the Mystic River. Today, it’s a new neighborhood with waterfront apartments, outlet shopping, a new stop on the MBTA’s Orange Line and office space for Partners HealthCare.

“Lynn needs a real strong community effort like in Somerville,” he said.

Mark Browne, a Boston commercial real estate broker, said the city’s perception is that of dollar stores, check cashing shops, and feeding the kids with fast food for $5.

“It’s very challenging to change people’s view of a city,” he said.

Still, he said Lynn is not the only community with an underdeveloped waterfront.

“Look at Providence’s waterfront,” he said. “It’s lined with oil tanks and refineries.”  

Ward 6 City Councilor Peter Capano, whose district includes the Lynnway, said the proliferation of dollar stores does not fit his idea of what the neighborhood could be.

“This is absolutely not the kind of development we want to see there,” he said.

While he prefers more upscale shops, Capano said those businesses do not want to be in Lynn. But he’s not sure how to fix it.

“I’d rather see a Guitar Center,” said Capano about the California-based retailer that calls itself the world’s largest musical instrument chain. “But they haven’t chosen to come here.”

As Trahant steps down, others step up

It’s clear, he said, Lynn residents wants these stores and that’s why they’re growing.

It wasn’t supposed to be this way.

More than a decade ago, the city collaborated with Sasaki Associates to create a master plan to guide development on the Lynnway. The Watertown-based planner determined the Lynnway waterfront could accommodate 4 million square feet of apartments and condominiums, 2 million square feet of retail, office, hotel and light manufacturing, 5,000 permanent jobs and generate $18 million in real estate tax revenues.

But so far, it’s still a dream. While three projects totaling $649 million are in the works that would bring waterfront apartments to the Lynnway, a shovel has yet to go into the ground.

And despite creation of the Lynn Economic Advancement and Development Team (LEAD) in late 2015, the high-powered working group intended to jumpstart development by aligning federal, state and local stakeholders, there’s little to show for its efforts.

Capano said he’s frustrated. But the city can’t do much if developers don’t come to the city with a proposal or if a landlord leases space to a dollar store.

“What do I say to the guy who has had empty building on the Lynnway for two years?” he asked. “For example, we don’t allow auto repair shops on the Lynnway, but we can’t stop one retailer and allow another. They would go to court and win.”

James Cowdell, executive director of the Economic Development and Industrial Corp. (EDIC/Lynn), reiterated there’s not much the city can do to prevent such stores from opening.

“If we could write legislation to restrict those stores, I would be the first to do it,” he said. “They cheapen what we’re trying to do. But they are allowed as of right.”

Jen Cookke, a professor at the MIT Center for Real Estate, disagrees that the city is powerless.  She said communities have a number of tools at their disposal to guide development.

“The city holds a lot of the cards, but it takes courage for city leaders to uphold the master plan,” she said.  “Officials have the ability to create incentives such as tax breaks if the owner brings a mixed-use development. You just need one outlier and others will follow. For a community that is innovative and has vision, the sky’s the limit.”


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

 

Work continues for Market Basket access

ITEM FILE PHOTO
Construction continues on the new Market Basket on Western Avenue.

LYNN — Work is underway to improve access around the new Market Basket under construction at the General Electric Factory of the Future site.

The $2 million project, funded by DeMoulas Super Markets Inc., the Tewksbury-based chain store, will reconstruct and upgrade Boston and Federal streets and Western Avenue.

It is intended to support the city’s Market Square revitalization, which includes the redevelopment of the 22-acre former GE site. Market Square will feature an 84,000 square foot state-of-the-art supermarket and 50,000 square feet of retail and office space.

Contaminated factory site up for sale

“We have been working on this project for three years and are excited that we are on schedule to open Aug. 1,” said James Cowdell, executive director of the city’s Economic Development and Industrial Corp., the city’s development bank.

The $25 million store is expected to employ 75 full-time employees and 400 part timers. Market Basket will join Shaw’s, Stop & Shop and PriceRite in the city.

Shuttered since 1988, the once state-of-the-art factory sat empty until Mayor Judith Flanagan Kennedy met with high-level GE executives to discuss redeveloping the parcel.

Charles Patsios, a Swampscott developer, bought the property from GE in 2013 for $4 million.


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

Happy Khmer New Year

ITEM FILE PHOTO
Sokhema Chhorn waits to perform onstage as a bridesmaid.

By BRIDGET TURCOTTE

LYNN — The year of the monkey is out and thousands are expected to gather at Lynn Common today to bring in the year of the rooster.

The Khmer Cultural Planning Committee is throwing the 10th annual Khmer New Year Community Fair from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. The New Year is traditionally celebrated in Cambodia over three days on April 13-15, but more commonly celebrated during the weekend in present-day United States, said City Councilor Hong Net, who is also a member of the committee.

Net, a Cambodian native, said the holiday is a celebration of the changing seasons and that farmers can finally harvest their crops.

“They plant rice and crops, so now that the monsoon season is over, they start to harvest,” said Net. “They celebrate and consider it a new year.”

Light at the end of the tunnel on Lynnway

To kick off the day-long event, at about 8 a.m., a parade of people dressed in angel and other traditional costumes will arrive. Starting at 10 a.m., there will be tables with popular Cambodian food offerings, including beef sticks, coconut and cane juice, fried rice and chicken, said Net.

James Cowdell, executive director of Economic Development and Industrial Corporation (EDIC), will be the featured guest speaker. Net said Cowdell will talk about attracting small investors and people who want to open small businesses to the city.

The afternoon will be filled with traditional dances, games, music, a fashion show, and live bands. In Cambodia, residents celebrate by filling the streets with dancing and games.

Lynn has the second largest Cambodian population in Massachusetts with roughly 7,000 people, said Net. Lowell takes the lead with about 35,000 people, or about 30 percent of its population, being Cambodian, he said.


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

Transforming the city’s waterfront

By THOMAS GRILLO

LYNN — It will take more than shops and high-rise apartments to transform the city’s waterfront, it will require parks and boardwalks.

That’s the word from James Cowdell, executive director of the Lynn Economic Development & Industrial Corp., the city’s development bank.

“You can’t just develop every single inch of waterfront,” he said. “You need to have open space and guarantee that the public will have access, those are state rules.”

Next month, a public hearing will be held at City Hall to share ideas for locating potential new parks, public spaces and a promenade along the waterfront.

Police and fire chiefs ask for more resources

While a shovel has yet to get in the ground for any of the proposed projects to bring housing to the Lynnway, Cowdell assured members of the City Council’s Economic & Workforce Development Committee Tuesday that the former Beacon Chevrolet site is ready to go. It will feature 348 apartments with sweeping water and city views. The $80 million development is expected to break ground this year, he said.

“The open space meeting will ask questions like: Where should we put the green space, where is the public access and how will the city guarantee it?” Cowdell said. “It’s a chance for the public to let us know what they would like to see.”

The hearing will be Tuesday, May 2, in the City Council chamber.


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

‘Welcome to Student Government Day’

PHOTO BY SCOTT EISEN
Lynn District Fire Chief Stephen Archer leads a training session as students Gabby Graham, left and ElizabethWeeks listen.

By GAYLA CAWLEY

LYNN — High school students were handed the keys to the city on Tuesday, when they were able to take over roles such as the fire chief and superintendent, or assume a place on city council.

“Welcome to Student Government Day,” said EDIC/Lynn Executive Director James Cowdell to the participating high school students. “This is one of our favorite days of the year. We hand over the keys to the city to the students, the future leaders of our great city.

Participating schools included Lynn Classical High School, Lynn English High School, Lynn Vocational and Technical Institute, St. Mary’s High School, KIPP Academy and Fecteau Leary Junior/Senior High School.

“Whatever school you’re from, we’re all from Lynn and sometimes outside of Lynn, people look at us in a negative light,” Cowdell said. “Wherever you go, be proud of your roots. You’re from Lynn, Mass. Say that with pride.”

Gabby Graham, 18, a senior at Fecteau-Leary, was district fire chief for a day, pairing up with District Fire Chief Stephen Archer. She was shown a rapid access mass decontamination drill at the former Thurgood Marshall Middle School on Porter Street, which simulated a situation where there is a large number of people exposed to some contaminant, Archer said.

Archer said in that situation, firefighters would get exposed people quickly hosed down and thoroughly decontaminated before they could be taken to the hospital. Water volumes and pressures are played with until the effective washdown is achieved. The drill showed how people are instructed to walk through a massive stream of water.

“It only takes one contaminated person to shut down a hospital and that’s what we’re trying to avoid,” Archer said.

Graham said her eyes were opened to see how much firefighters do, rather than just go into burning buildings.

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Fire Chief James McDonald was paired with his niece, Elizabeth Weeks, 18, a senior at St. Mary’s High School. He said he took her to his office, fire stations, and then to the 911 call center, where she learned what calls needed to be dispatched.

Weeks said it was interesting to see how government affects everyday life.

“You can (only) learn so much in a classroom, but having that firsthand experience gets you so much more immersed,” she said.


Gayla Cawley can be reached at gcawley@itemlive.com. Follow her on Twitter @GaylaCawley.

Lynn moving forward with city planner job

By THOMAS GRILLO

LYNN —  Less than two weeks after Mayor Judith Flanagan Kennedy outlined the idea to hire a planner, the city has secured the cash to pay for the position.

On Tuesday, the Lynn Economic Development and Industrial Corp. (EDIC) board of directors unanimously approved contributing $150,000 to fund the job for three years. The city’s nonprofit development bank has agreed to pay half the salary while the Department of Community Development offered up the other $150,000.  

Under the terms of the deal, the mayor in consultation with EDIC and Community Development will hire a planner at a salary between $75,000-100,000.

“Some people have called for having an entire planning department, which would be great, but I really don’t have the money to do anything like that,” said Kennedy.  “We will start small and simply get a planner who will centralize many of the functions that are going on already.”

The mayor said she hopes to have the job description written by month’s end and post the opening on a number of online job websites next month. She expects to hire someone by July 1.

“This person should have the biggest voice on any decision about planning, housing, economic and community development,” Kennedy said.  

The new hire will have a desk in the city’s Inspectional Services Department alongside the Planning Board and support staff.

James Cowdell, EDIC’s executive director, said his office typically spends $150,000 annually on consultants. The new planner will be able to do some of those functions and save the agency money.   

“A planner would be a great help to us to fulfill our mission,” he said. “It’s a much-needed position and overdue. Hopefully it will be someone with a master’s degree in planning.”

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Charles Gaeta, EDIC’s chairman, backed the concept.

“I am glad you are doing this,” he told the mayor. “I’m not sure one person can do it, but as time goes on, we will reap so many benefits by having this position. It will strengthen what we have, but the person must be somewhat independent.”

The employee will be a contractor worker who must abide by the city’s residency requirement, Kennedy said.

Lynn has been without a planner for more than two decades.

“Now’s the right time,” Kennedy said.


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

 

A ferry good chance of service returning

ITEM FILE PHOTO
Ferry service was halted by the state last summer.

By THOMAS GRILLO

LYNN A private consulting firm was confident Tuesday that ferry service could return to the city’s waterfront. But a timetable and a way to pay for it remain uncertain.

“There’s hope,” state Sen. Thomas McGee (D-Lynn). “It was positive in terms of a number of things we can do to continue the progress on getting a year-round ferry service out of Lynn.”

Lynn officials met with the Massachusetts Department of Transportation (MassDOT) staff as STV, a national consulting firm with offices in Boston, unveiled the “Lynn-Boston Water Transit Sustainability Analysis.” The presentation focused on what it would take to relaunch the ferry service to the Hub and its two-year history.

The ferry from the Blossom Street Ferry Terminal in Lynn to Boston’s Seaport operated a pilot program in 2014 and 2015. But the service was decommissioned last summer by Gov. Charlie Baker’s administration, which argued it didn’t generate enough riders to justify the $700,000 in state funds annually to operate it.

The 90-minute meeting, which was closed to the press and the public, was shrouded in secrecy. MassDOT declined to allow Astrid Glynn, the agency’s transit administrator who hosted the session, to talk with The Item. A spokeswoman would not answer questions about the study’s cost or why the meeting was private. Mayor Judith Flanagan Kennedy said she was instructed by Glynn to allow the agency to issue a press release instead of granting an interview.

In a statement, MassDOT said: “We had a productive discussion of some of the variables surrounding future seasonal ferry options from Lynn to Boston and why they would benefit people on the North Shore. MassDOT used a PowerPoint presentation that contains information which is part of the internal deliberative process and will be able to provide a copy of this at a future date.”

The Item obtained a copy of the report which outlined how ferry service could be viable if the city owned the vessel; received more riders from new waterfront residents; partnered with another North Shore community; developed new revenue from terminal parking fees; received contributions from waterfront developers; raised fares; and made connections to harbor cruises and trips to Cape Cod for leisure travelers.

On the plus side, last spring the Federal Transit Administration awarded a $4.5 million grant to the city of Lynn for the purchase a new 149-passenger vessel to support the service. But the grant comes with strings. The city must contribute a 20 percent match, or $900,000 to build the ship at a time when the city is struggling to fill a budget gap.

In its analysis of the pilot project, STV found that while the ferry could accommodate 250 passengers, it attracted fewer than 100 per trip, only 5 percent of riders paid full fare and fares covered just 4 percent of operating costs. In conclusion, the report said fare-paying ridership was too low and costs were too  high.

Still, McGee saw a bright side. He said owning the vessel, which would take up to three years to build, will reduce operating costs to less than $500,000. He said if the city follows the consultant’s recommendations, they could get closer to covering 65 percent of operating costs.

“We are trying to get to the point where the subsidy is more like what’s happening in other communities, like Hingham which have been operating since 1978 and their subsidy is about 35 percent,” he said. “That’s the best return of any mode of transportation. The commuter rail is subsidized at 50 percent.”

McGee said he has been exploring sharing the ferry service with the University of Massachusetts/Boston, who along with the Boston Convention & Exhibition Center and the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library & Museum, are hoping students and visitors will use it.

“The report reinforces what we all think is untapped potential,” he said.  

State Rep. Brendan Crighton (D-Lynn) said construction of more than 300 apartments at the former Beacon Chevrolet site that is expected to break ground later this year, will add more riders.

“These market rate apartments will be 200 yards away from the ferry,” he said. “Lots of pieces that could come together in the next few years will make the ferry a success.”

State Rep. Daniel Cahill (D-Lynn) said the consultants provided a roadmap on how to make the ferry profitable.

Still, James Cowdell, executive director of the Lynn Economic Development & Industrial Corp., said he has been working on the ferry for a decade.

“I want the ferry in the water today and I think the long-term prognosis for the ferry is good,” he said. “But in the short-term, the prognosis is not good.”

What happened to the ferry?


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

Incoming furniture store credits city diversity

ITEM PHOTO BY OWEN O’ROURKE
BD’s Discount Furniture will open in Lynn next month.

By THOMAS GRILLO

LYNN — Nearly two years after Logan Furniture closed on the Lynnway, another home goods store is slated for the 45,000-square-foot space that hopes to attract immigrants.   

A temporary sign has appeared at the shuttered shop announcing “BD’s Coming Soon.” BD’s Discount Furniture, which calls itself one of the largest discount and quality general merchandise and home furniture stores in New England, will open its sixth shop in Lynn next month.

“We are coming to Lynn because it’s an area full of ethnics,” said Arthur Tuffaha, the shop owner who emigrated to the U.S. from Jerusalem more than two decades ago. “There are lots of Dominicans, Iraqis, Brazilians, Italians and Portuguese here, they are my customers and what they want are good prices.”

He hopes to tap the city’s immigrant community which, he said, is looking for good quality products at low prices. Of the more than 92,000 residents of Lynn, 36 percent are Hispanic, 12 percent are black and 9 percent are Asian, according to city-data.com.

“On the national stage, the discussion about immigrants started with a divisive campaign, painting them as the problem,” said Eva Millona, executive director of the Massachusetts Immigrant and Refugee Advocacy Coalition. “But the truth of the matter is immigrants are part of the fabric of our economy. They are huge consumers, they’re taxpayers, they’re homebuyers and business owners.”

Tuffaha launched his first store in Chelsea in 1993. In addition to Lynn, he has expanded to Dorchester, East Boston, Providence, R.I. and the Square One Mall in Saugus.

On Tuesday, workers were setting up dining room and bedroom sets as well as unloading boxes of home goods.

BD’s will face competition from a number of area furniture shops including North Shore Furniture on Union Street, Boston Bed Co. on Market Street, Alto Decor in Saugus, Sozio Appliance & Home Furnishings in Revere, as well as bigger players such as Bernie & Phyl’s Furniture and Bob’s Discount Furniture in Saugus.

The former Logan property, on the waterside section of the Lynnway, is owned by Car Realty LLC, an entity managed by Kenneth Carpi, according to city records. Carpi and his attorney, Thomas Demakis, did not return calls seeking comment.

But a few weeks ago, Demakis wrote to the city’s Inspectional Services Department seeking zoning clarification for the new store, according to  Clint Muche, Lynn’s deputy building commissioner.

“We told him the furniture store is an allowed use,” he said. “Within that waterfront zone, landlords are permitted to engage in a variety of businesses by right with the exception of auto sales.”

Last year, Carpi proposed to lease the space to Everett-based Inman Motor Sales for a used car lot on the property. But the city’s new waterfront zoning prohibits car dealerships on the Lynnway and the deal quietly folded.

Ward 6 City Councilor Peter Capano, whose district includes the Lynnway, said Carpi gave him a heads-up a few months ago of his intention to lease the space to a retailer.

“I’d rather see something other than a furniture store on the property,” he said. “But I don’t blame him for putting it there since it’s the only thing that’s allowed.”

James Cowdell, executive director of the Lynn Economic Development and Industrial Corp., said the city envisions better uses for the waterfront parcel.

“We are working with the owner to find a higher use for the property, such as a hotel,” he said.  

2 new businesses at MarketStreet Lynnfield


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

MG2, city iron out a deal for market-rate housing

ITEM PHOTO BY OWEN O’ROURKE
23 Central Ave. in Lynn is undergoing repairs.

By THOMAS GRILLO

LYNN — City officials have made a deal with a developer to keep all the apartments in a downtown flatiron building market rate in exchange for tax relief.

MG2 Group, the company that is transforming the former Security Trust Co. office building on Central Avenue into 49 apartments, has applied for tax incentives from the state’s Housing Development Incentive Program (HDIP). The  Quincy-based firm bought the eight-story property in 2014 for $2 million.

Under the terms of the deal that still needs approval from the city council, the mayor and the Department of Housing and Community Development, the developer promises to keep all the units at the higher-priced market rate. In return, the MG2 receives up to $2 million in tax credits.

“It helps with the overall development costs,” said Joseph Donovan, MG2 vice president. “It reduces the local real estate taxes and provides a state tax credit based on qualified substantial rehab expenses.”  

HDIP provides Gateway Cities midsize urban centers, such as  Lynn, that anchor regional economies but face unrealized potential with a development tool to rehabilitate or build multi-unit market rate housing. The incentive allows builders to make the economics of a project work without affordable housing subsidies.

When the building opens next spring, studios will average $1,450, one-bedrooms will be priced at $1,650 and the 1,100-square-foot two-bedroom units will be listed at $1,900.

The $13.5 million project has already received $1.5 million in tax credits from the Massachusetts Historical Commission and is eligible for another $775,000 in the next round, according to a spokesman for the commission.

Over the next decade, the project is expected to generate $2.3 million in local real estate taxes. The 10-year tax credit term allows forgiveness of 25 percent of real estate taxes for the first five years and 10 percent for the last five years for a total of about $310,500 or $31,000 annually.

James Cowdell, executive director of Lynn Economic Development and Industrial Corp., said the tax credit is key to revitalizing the downtown.

“It’s to bring people with disposable income to live and spend money in the downtown,” he said.

State Rep. Brendan Crighton (D-Lynn) who championed HDIP on Beacon Hill, said it’s an essential tool in a developer’s toolbox to bring upscale housing to urban centers.

In addition to the luxury dwellings, the first floor will feature a pizzeria and a cafe.

Pie and Pint will offer two dozen craft beers and pizza with seating for 105 people. A coffee shop, called The Brew, will feature high-end coffee and free wifi. They will join other high-end eateries in the downtown including Rossetti’s Restaurant, D’Amici’s Bakery and the Blue Ox.

“We’ve already seen the changes over the last eight years with people living in the downtown and very successful restaurants,” Cowdell said.  “We want to continue down that path.”


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

Waterfront development backed up by questions

PHOTO COURTESY OF ARROWSTREET
An artist rendering of the waterfront residential development to be built at the former Beacon Chevrolet site on the Lynnway by Mimco Development.

By THOMAS GRILLO

LYNN — The city’s first major waterfront development that promises to jumpstart the Lynnway’s transformation will take longer than expected to break ground.

Environmental Affairs Secretary Matthew Beaton asked in a letter to  Minco Development from North Andover, to detail how it plans to avoid, minimize and mitigate the environmental, traffic and parking impacts of the $80 million project that will turn the former Beacon Chevrolet site into an oceanfront apartment community.

Since the proposal requires a Chapter 91 license, a state law that protects the public’s access to waterways, and the development will receive $1.2 million in infrastructure assistance, the Commonwealth has broad jurisdiction over the project, he wrote.  

Before being issued a permit, the developer must provide an Environmental Impact Report (EIR) that will demonstrate how plans for the 9-acre site will avoid damage to the environment, identify impacts to the wetlands, analyze the site’s vulnerability to climate change, avoid or fix any damage to the landscape and mitigate traffic impacts, Beaton wrote.

FROM SEPTEMBER: Beacon development pressured from two sides

Eric Loth, Minco’s managing director, said the EIR will take up to 90 days to complete and push the project’s start date closer to Labor Day.

“Sometimes we look at these things and think, gosh, it looks like there’s some overreach because the state wants answers on this, that and the other,” he said. “But I think we can work through all of the issues they’ve raised. Obviously, this project is important to the city and the state, so I hope they will work with cooperatively.”

Beaton also noted that the project fails to meet the goals of the city’s Municipal Harbor Plan which calls for a mix of housing, retail, hotels, a marina, parks and light industry on the 300-acre site from the General Edwards Bridge to the intersection of the Lynnway and Market Street.

In October,  Loth met with the New Lynn Coalition, a nonprofit group of housing advocates and union members who are lobbying for affordable units as part of the development and union construction.  While each side agreed the talk was useful, the developer did not make any promises.

If approved, the project will include 348 apartments in two buildings across from the North Shore Community College. The site has been vacant for more than three decades. When completed, it is expected to turn an eyesore into a world-class neighborhood with apartments offering sweeping ocean views, a nearby commuter rail station and a dock for a potential ferry to Boston. The development team also plans to connect the walkway from the Lynn Heritage State Park to the Clocktower Business Center on the Lynnway.

James Cowdell, executive director of the Lynn Economic Development and Industrial Corp., the city’s development bank, said he was not surprised that the state has asked Minco for more details about the project’s impacts.

This is simply how the permitting process goes on the state level,” he said. “It’s a sign that progress is being made.”


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

Market Basket rise could lower food prices

ITEM PHOTO BY OWEN O’ROURKE
The new Market Basket at the corner of Federal Street and Western Avenue is seen in Lynn.

By THOMAS GRILLO

LYNN — When Market Basket opens next summer at Western Avenue and Federal Street, it will do more than transform the vacant General Electric Factory of the Future site.

The grand opening will be the first salvo in a fight for your food dollar and your pocketbook could be a lot fuller when the dust settles.

“There’s going to be a price war, no doubt about it,” said Michael Berger, senior editor at the Griffin Report of Food Marketing, a Duxbury-based trade publication.  

“This is not the first time it’s happened when Market Basket opens in a community with competitors,” Berger said. “Market Basket is not afraid of anyone. They will go up against all the major supermarkets.”

ALSO: Lynn addition kicks off NSCC growth plan

Market Basket will join Shaw’s, Stop & Shop and PriceRite in the city providing more competition and driving down the cost of food, he added.

Last month, in a presentation to the city council, James Cowdell, executive director of the city’s Economic Development and Industrial Corp., said no matter where consumers shop for food in the city, they will benefit from lower prices on the first day Market Basket opens.

Frustrated by the lack of construction on the 16-acre property that had been abandoned since 1988, Mayor Judith Flanagan Kennedy met with GE executives to discuss steering the site toward redevelopment four years ago.

Following those negotiations, Charles Patsios, the Swampscott developer, bought the property in 2013 for $4 million. Market Basket CEO Arthur T. DeMoulas joined officials last year to celebrate $2.5 million in state money for road improvements around the site.

Foundation for the 84,000-square-foot store was poured on the $25 million project last summer and steel has been rising since September.

“It’s a very exciting thing for the city and its residents who are getting a raise in pay by cutting their grocery bills and getting high quality products,” said James Moore, the attorney representing Patsios.

The store will employ 75 full-time employees and 325 part timers, he added.

Shaw’s and PriceRite did not respond to a request for comment.

In a statement Phil Tracey, a Stop & Shop spokesman, said “As it has for almost 20 years, the Stop & Shop store on Washington Street will continue to serve the Lynn community as a good neighbor and help our customers save money, save time and eat well.”


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

City Clerk capping 45-year career

ITEM PHOTO BY OWEN O’ROURKE
City Clerk Mary Audley will be leaving her 15-year position in January.

LYNNWhen City Clerk Mary Audley got her first job at City Hall, Richard Nixon was in the White House and gasoline was 55 cents a gallon.

The Lynn native, 19 and just out of high school, took temporary jobs in the building and assessors department. After proving her worth, she later landed a permanent gig in the city solicitor’s office.

After nearly 45 years as a city employee, 15 as city clerk, Audley is planning to call it quits in January.

ALSO: Tillies Farm gets budget approval

The clerk’s job is a high profile position appointed by the city council. A handful of names have been floated as a possible replacements including state Rep. Brendan Crighton’s wife, Andrea, a clerk in state Senate on Beacon Hill, former City Councilor Timothy Phelan, who failed in a bid to defeat Kennedy for mayor in 2013, assistant clerk Janet Rowe and Theresa Young, the city council’s executive assistant.

At 63, Audley earns $144,000 and is expected to collect about $114,000 annually in retirement benefits. But she is not going quietly.

Audley is angry at Mayor Judith Flanagan Kennedy who declined to fund a $100,000 deputy election commissioner. Audley argued that the clerk’s office, which took over the duties of the Election Department in 2003, needed the new hire to manage elections that have become increasingly complex.

“I would not be leaving if the mayor had funded the election commissioner job,” she said. “I think this job is too much for one person and I’m not enjoying it anymore.”

In the past year, Audley said she handled 11 days of early voting and elections in March, April, May, September and November.

“That kind of election schedule makes it very tough to deal with work on the city clerk’s side,” she said

In response, Kennedy said the cash-strapped city is in no position to add another six-figure job to the budget.

“Mary has been an exemplary city employee,” she said. “I wish her well in retirement.”

City Council President Daniel Cahill said he’s known Audley for a long time and she will be missed.

“It’s a big loss for the city and I wish her the best of luck moving forward,” he said. “She’s been an amazing person for the council to rely on and she’s become a friend of my family. There are lots of folks in Lynn who care deeply about her. I’m hopeful that she will have a great time in retirement.”

James Cowdell, Economic Development and Industrial Corp. executive director, who was city council president when she was selected city clerk in 2001, had high praise for Audley.

“She’s a success story who started in City Hall and worked her way up,” he said. “Mary earned a college degree attending night school while working full-time. She will be hard to replace and will be missed.”

For Audley, retirement means more time with her grandchildren and at her vacation home at Point Sebago in Casco, Maine.

“I didn’t get to spend much time there this year, but next year will be a different story,” she said.


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

Positive developments in Lynn

 

By THOMAS GRILLO

LYNN — There’s lots of commercial development going on in the city.

That was James Cowdell’s message to the city council’s Economic and Workforce Committee on Tuesday night.

But before the presentation began, City Councilor-at-Large Buzzy Barton had these words for the executive director of the Lynn Economic Development & Industrial Corp., (EDIC) the city’s development bank, “We don’t want to hear any bull, we just want to find out when you’re going to put a shovel in the ground.”  

After some laughter, Cowdell outlined a handful of projects totaling more than $200 million that are expected to break ground, one already underway and some to launch as early as next spring.

He started with the transformation of the former Arnold Stationery Building at 33 Central Square into eight condominiums for artists. The 10,896-square-foot condemned building had been vacant for years until the nonprofit redevelopment agency and the Lynn Housing Authority & Neighborhood Development invested $1.8 million to turn the five-story building into loft-style condominiums.

Seven of the units have sold in the $150,000 to $170,000 range with the last unit expected to close next month. The first floor will feature an art gallery and is expected to fuel an economic spin-off.

“We are really proud of this and it was a big investment for us,” Cowdell said.

The former Beacon Chevrolet site on the North Harbor is an $80 million investment which will feature 348 apartments with sweeping water and city views. The EDIC is working with the state Department of Conservation and Recreation to build a boardwalk to the nearby ferry. The project needs just two permits before they put a shovel in the ground next June, Cowdell said.

In the downtown, work is underway at 23 Central St., known better as the Flatiron Building. Quincy-based MG2, formerly the Mayo Group, is converting the former office building in the downtown into 49 market rate apartments. That $12 million project is expected to be completed by next spring.

Two leases have been signed for the first floor. The commercial space will include The Brew, an upscale coffee shop, and a build-your-own pizza shop dubbed Pie & Pint that will also offer as many as two dozen micro-brewed beers.

“These really fit in perfectly with the downtown,” he said. Cowdell then turned his attention to the South Harbor site owned by Joseph O’Donnell. The founder of Boston Culinary Group and Belmont Capital in Cambridge is investing $69 million to develop a 17-acre waterfront site that will include a four-story wood frame apartment building that will house 248 units in the first phase of the project.

“This property has problems associated with it, but the Lynn Economic Advancement and Development (LEAD) Team has been working to solve them,” he said. “There are designated federal wetlands on the parcel so there are restrictions on where you can place the building. There are a few big hurdles, but we are getting to the point where it is doable.”

Construction of the new Market Basket at the General Electric Factory of the Future site is underway. Steel can be seen rising at the 84,000-square-foot store that will also house the West Lynn Post Office. The $25 million project will offer 400 jobs to Lynn residents, 75 will be full time. It is expected to open in August.

In addition, there will be $2.5 million in MassWorks money that will be spent for infrastructure and traffic improvements around the supermarket. Bids have been issued and work could begin soon.

“It’s all being coordinated and we’d like to see the infrastructure down by the time the store opens next year,” Cowdell said. “We have been working on this for three years and we are almost there.”

Across from North Shore Community College and two blocks from the commuter rail station, the 70-unit Gateway Residences housing complex is expected to break ground next year on lower Washington Street. The project will include 53 affordable units and represent a $27 million investment in the lower Washington Street area.

“This is changing an entire block in a blighted area,” Cowdell said. “We feel this will be a great project and a lot of affordable units. It was a collaborative effort. The council and city should be very proud.”

Ward 2 Councilor William Trahant and Ward 6 Councilor Peter Capano raised questions about the future of the Lynn ferry that did not sail last summer due to a lack of funding.

In response, Cowdell said the Massachusetts Department of Transportation is putting the finishing touches on a sustainability study.

“When that comes back in the next few weeks, it will tell us how the ferry in Lynn can and should operate,” Cowdell said.


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

Moulton shares vision for Lynn development

U.S. Rep. Seth Moulton answers questions and discusses his goals during a Wednesday morning meeting with Lynn business owners at  Land of a Thousand Hills Coffee. Photo by Paula Muller.

By Adam Swift

LYNN — Improved public transportation and mixed-use development along the waterfront are among the keys to economic development in Lynn, according to U.S. Rep Seth Moulton (D-Mass).

Moulton was the featured speaker during a roundtable discussion with the Lynn Area Chamber of Commerce’s Government Affairs Committee at Land of a Thousand Hills Coffee on Munroe Street Wednesday morning.

The congressman told local business and political leaders that Lynn has been a priority in the district since day one.

“We recognize the potential in the city,” Moulton said. “The fundamentals are so strong in Lynn.”

Moulton ticked off several of the points that make Lynn desirable for development and business, including waterfront property and its proximity to Boston. As he has mentioned in the past, Moulton noted that Lynn is the same distance from Boston as Brooklyn is to Manhattan.

Leslie Gould, the chamber’s president and CEO, got the ball rolling with a question about the deteriorating condition of the MBTA garage in Central Square. Moulton took the ball and ran with his desire to see public transportation improvements that would help economic and residential development in Lynn and on the North Shore.

“I recently met with (state transportation secretary) Stephanie Pollack, and learned that we can build on top of the garage, it is able to support construction above it,” said Moulton. “New housing should be on the table; it’s an interesting opportunity.”

One of the biggest steps to increase opportunities for Lynn residents and businesses is the improvement of the public transportation infrastructure. Moulton said he’s a huge advocate of the north-south rail link that would connect North and South stations as well as the extension of the Blue Line to Lynn.

With those steps, access to the airport and to Boston from the North Shore would be drastically improved, Moulton said.

“The South Boston market is the fastest growing job market, but you can’t get there from Lynn,” said Moulton. He added that the new General Electric corporate headquarters in the Seaport district will bring in 800 employees, but that very few of them are likely to look for affordable housing in Lynn because of difficulties getting from that area of the city to the North Shore.

Asked about the development of Lynn’s waterfront, Moulton said he’s in favor of mixed-use development combining residential and commercial properties.

“It’s unbelievable the amount of undeveloped land on the waterfront, there’s tremendous potential,” said Moulton. “I strongly believe in mixed-use development. I don’t want it to be all condos focused on Boston, people ought to be able to walk out their front doors and walk to restaurants and other businesses.”

James Cowdell, executive director of the Lynn Economic Development & Industrial Corp., said Moulton is more than talk when it comes to supporting Lynn.

“He’s the only congressman in my lifetime who has had a full-time person dedicated to Lynn and economic development,” said Cowdell.

Moulton said he will continue to make Lynn a priority, and praised the city and business leaders who have helped start a real turnaround in the city.

“The perception is changing about Lynn,” said Moulton. “In the commercial real estate community, there is a growing buzz.”


Adam Swift can be reached at aswift@itemlive.com.

LEAD checks into Lynn hotel

Lynn City Hall (Item file photo).

By Thomas Grillo

LYNN — A global real estate team is expected to examine the need for hotel rooms as part of the city’s $650 million waterfront rebirth.

Scott Hutchinson, vice president at CBRE/New England, a commercial real estate firm in Boston, and Julie Surago, senior consultant at CBRE Hotels in New York, spoke to the Lynn Economic Advancement and Development (LEAD), the high-powered team that was formed to cut through the bureaucracy and jumpstart development.

“It’s odd when you’re this close to an urban center and not have a hotel,” said Surago about Lynn’s lack of a hotel. “Construction of a hotel is usually a component of an overall redevelopment approach that Lynn is trying to accomplish on the waterfront.”

So far, at least three major apartment projects are planned on the waterfront including redevelopment of the former Beacon Chevrolet site that will include 348 apartments in two buildings, the 65-acre former General Electric Co. Gear Works property that will feature 1,200 apartments adjacent to the train stop, and Joseph O’Donnell’s 17-acre site on the water side of the Lynnway adjacent to the General Edwards Bridge that will include 250 units in a wood-frame, three-story building.

Among the things to be studied will be so-called demand generators, such as the potential for corporate and leisure business.

James Cowdell, executive director of the Lynn Economic Development & Industrial Corp., the city’s development agency and member of the LEAD team, acknowledged that a hotel operator floated a plan to build on the Lynnway two years ago, but it fell through.

“There has been an effort to bring a hotel to Lynn, but there has never been this level of conversation that’s taking place with CBRE,” he said. “Getting data, that would be helpful to bring hotel operators to the city because a city the size of Lynn should have hotel rooms.”

Despite the fact that there is lots of hotel construction underway and in the pipeline in Greater Boston, more rooms are needed, Hutchinson said.

Still, given land and construction costs, it can be an expensive proposition for a developer to open a new hotel. Developers typically look at a profitability metric that is calculated by occupancy times average daily rate which equals revenue per available room.

“Among the factors to be considered is demand, how many business tourists and sporting events would attract the spillover from Boston and places like Revere,” said Hutchinson.

He cited construction of a hotel at University Station in Westwood where hotel operators want to be close to transit, retail and restaurants.

“You can’t just plop a hotel down, typically, hotels are part of a mixed-use project,” Surago said. “Developers prefer to be near high-end condo and apartment development, new office space and other things to support it.”

There are other challenges in bringing a hotel or two to Lynn. The city is isolated when it comes to transportation, and demand may not have reached Lynn, Surago said.

“There’s one way in and one way out on Route 1A,” she said. Still, while there are lots of hotels in the pipeline in Greater Boston, the region is not overdeveloped and there is still surplus demand given Boston is such a difficult place to build.

“The new rooms will be pretty much absorbed at least in the next couple of years,” said Surago. “One of the things that would spur construction of a hotel is if the city is successful in developing luxury housing along the waterfront as well as mixed-use. There is an opportunity for Lynn to capitalize on all the growth in downtown Boston.”

Cowdell asked if there were any incentives the city could offer to attract hotel developers. He was told tax incentives are one way to attract developers.

Jason Denoncourt, economic development director for U.S. Rep. Seth Moulton (D-Mass.) and a member of the LEAD team, was responsible for bringing Hutchinson and Surago to the session in an effort to expand the number of out-of-town commercial real estate entities to explore opportunities in the city.   


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

Lynn poised to go upscale downtown

The historic flatiron building on Central Avenue will be home to an upscale pizzeria and cafe on the ground floor and 49 market-rate units on the upper six floors by 2017. (Item Photo by Owen O’Rourke)

By Bridget Turcotte

LYNN — Plans for the historic flatiron building on Central Avenue were unveiled on Friday.

As part of the $11 million investment, James Cowdell, executive director of Lynn Economic Development and Industrial Corp., said the ground floor will be transformed into two new businesses: an upscale pizzeria and a cafe.

The six upper floors will be used for residential space. Plans include 49 market-rate units.

Cowdell said Pie and Pint will offer about 25 craft beers and seating for 105 people. The coffee shop, called The Brew, will be comparable to a Starbucks with high-end coffee and free wifi.

“This is exactly what we want,” Cowdell said. “The first floor is going to be something that draws people into the downtown. And we’ll have people living in the downtown that have disposable income.”

The property was sold to Union One Thirty Eight, LLC, managed by John McGrail, for $2 million in 2014.

The project is expected to be completed by April of 2017, with residents moving in and the businesses opening their doors at that time, Cowdell said.

It fits with the revitalized city that Mayor Judith Flanagan Kennedy described in her address to the Lynn Area Chamber of Commerce on Friday morning. She said Lynn in a constant state of transformation.

From the recently completed work at Wyoma Square, which improved the northwestern gateway to the city, to the facelift for the Small Common, and the new Thurgood Marshall Middle School, she listed numerous improvements to infrastructure that were completed in the past year, and several that are in the works.

High-end eateries like Rossetti’s Restaurant, D’Amici’s Bakery and the Blue Ox reside in the same neighborhood. Bent Water Brewing Company has been so successful, it recently underwent a $2 million expansion, Kennedy said.

North Shore Community College has plans to open a free-standing book store on Broad Street, which the city currently lacks, she said.

“We have every reason to feel good about what we’ve done,” the mayor said. “Even more so for what’s to come.”


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

Mayor: Lynn can’t afford more affordable housing

Mayor Judith Flanagan Kennedy (Item file photo)

By Thomas Grillo

LYNN — City officials say Lynn has a sufficient amount of affordable housing and what the city needs is an infusion of market-rate homes and new residents with deep pockets to occupy them.

In its most recent report, the state Department of Housing and Community Development (DHCD) said of the nearly 35,701 housing units in the city, 12.5 percent meet the affordability  criteria. That count includes deed-restricted units that remain affordable in perpetuity.

Only 14 Bay State cities and towns have a larger percentage of low-income housing: Aquinnah on Martha’s Vineyard, Bedford, Boston, Cambridge, Chelsea, Gardner, Greenfield, Hadley, Holyoke, Lawrence, Lowell, North Adams, Springfield and Worcester, according to the DHCD.

James Cowdell, executive director of the Lynn Economic Development & Industrial Corp. (EDIC/Lynn), said the numbers reported by the state fail to include about 4,000 Section 8 vouchers, the federal program that assists low-income families, elders and the disabled afford housing in the private market, and perhaps as many as another 1,000 federal vouchers that are not tracked and the number of people living in shelters — bringing the total to more than 25 percent.

Cowdell objected to a protest that was held earlier this month before a developer’s tour of the city when two dozen members of Lynn United for Change, a community organization that supports affordable housing, used a bullhorn to advocate for more low- and moderate-income units. They held signs that said “Lynn Says No To Gentrification” and “Lynn Families Before Developer’s Profits.”  

“To tell a developer ‘If you don’t do what we say, we will shut you down,’ there’s no place for that,” he said. “Take your bullhorn and go to Lynnfield, go to Swampscott, go to Marblehead; how can you make that argument in Lynn?”

It’s not an accident that upscale eateries like the Blue Ox and Rossetti Restaurant have located downtown, Cowdell said.

“I was the author of the rezoning in 2003 to bring market-rate housing to the city and look at the impact on the downtown,” he said. “Those restaurants came because we’ve put people in the area with disposable income. We are trying to raise the bar.”

But Karen Wiener, interim executive director at the Citizens’ Housing and Planning Association, a statewide affordable- housing advocacy group, said while Lynn should be praised for meeting the state’s 10 percent threshold, that figure is the minimum of affordable units communities must have to avoid Chapter 40B projects. The controversial measure allows developers to bypass local zoning on density if the percentage of affordable units is below 10 percent.

“Twelve percent is a great start and congratulations to Lynn for meeting and exceeding the minimum, but what about three or five years from now as gentrification sets in?” Wiener asked.  “Lynn has a lot, but I’m not certain there isn’t a need for more deed-restricted affordable in perpetuity.”

Thomas Callahan, executive director of the Massachusetts Affordable Housing Alliance, said he’s not sure what percentage of affordable housing is right for each community.

“It’s a moving target,” he said. “It depends on how many people are paying more than 30, 40 or 50 percent of their income for rent.”

In its most recent report, Lynn Housing Authority & Neighborhood Development (LHAND) said 66 percent of all Lynn households meet the Department of Housing & Urban Development’s definition of low- or moderate-income.

In addition, 5,285 people are on LHAND’s waiting list for apartments.

“In Lynn, a substantial number of residents are paying a huge percent of their pay on rent and that’s evidence that more affordable housing is needed,” Callahan said.

Still, Cowdell suggested protestors should compare Lynn’s affordable housing numbers to surrounding communities.

“For anyone to say that Lynn is not doing its fair share, there’s no proof of that,” he said.

Less than 4 percent of the units in Marblehead, Nahant and Swampscott are considered affordable, according to the state.

Cowdell said he is opposed to any so-called inclusionary zoning law, which requires that 10 to 20 percent of units in a development be set aside as affordable. Boston, Cambridge, Somerville and Quincy have such measures.

“Once the city sets its vision, specifies zoning and how sites should be developed, I don’t think we should then tell developers ‘Now that you’re going to build it, make 20 percent of the units affordable,’” Cowdell added.

Mayor Judith Flanagan Kennedy said the city has more than enough affordable housing. She also disputed the state’s number and said by her count about a third of the city’s housing stock is considered affordable.

“Lynn has more than its share of affordable housing right now,” she said. “We have exceeded the goal and one of the things that Lynn needs to succeed in is its long-term economic development is to have people with disposable income in the mix of the housing that we offer.”


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

Mayor: Lynn can’t afford more affordable housing

Mayor Judith Flanagan Kennedy (Item file photo)

By Thomas Grillo

LYNN — City officials say Lynn has a sufficient amount of affordable housing and what the city needs is an infusion of market-rate homes and new residents with deep pockets to occupy them.

In its most recent report, the state Department of Housing and Community Development (DHCD) said of the nearly 35,701 housing units in the city, 12.5 percent meet the affordability  criteria. That count includes deed-restricted units that remain affordable in perpetuity.

Only 14 Bay State cities and towns have a larger percentage of low-income housing: Aquinnah on Martha’s Vineyard, Bedford, Boston, Cambridge, Chelsea, Gardner, Greenfield, Hadley, Holyoke, Lawrence, Lowell, North Adams, Springfield and Worcester, according to the DHCD.

James Cowdell, executive director of the Lynn Economic Development & Industrial Corp. (EDIC/Lynn), said the numbers reported by the state fail to include about 4,000 Section 8 vouchers, the federal program that assists low-income families, elders and the disabled afford housing in the private market, and perhaps as many as another 1,000 federal vouchers that are not tracked and the number of people living in shelters — bringing the total to more than 25 percent.

Cowdell objected to a protest that was held earlier this month before a developer’s tour of the city when two dozen members of Lynn United for Change, a community organization that supports affordable housing, used a bullhorn to advocate for more low- and moderate-income units. They held signs that said “Lynn Says No To Gentrification” and “Lynn Families Before Developer’s Profits.”  

“To tell a developer ‘If you don’t do what we say, we will shut you down,’ there’s no place for that,” he said. “Take your bullhorn and go to Lynnfield, go to Swampscott, go to Marblehead; how can you make that argument in Lynn?”

It’s not an accident that upscale eateries like the Blue Ox and Rossetti Restaurant have located downtown, Cowdell said.

“I was the author of the rezoning in 2003 to bring market-rate housing to the city and look at the impact on the downtown,” he said. “Those restaurants came because we’ve put people in the area with disposable income. We are trying to raise the bar.”

But Karen Wiener, interim executive director at the Citizens’ Housing and Planning Association, a statewide affordable- housing advocacy group, said while Lynn should be praised for meeting the state’s 10 percent threshold, that figure is the minimum of affordable units communities must have to avoid Chapter 40B projects. The controversial measure allows developers to bypass local zoning on density if the percentage of affordable units is below 10 percent.

“Twelve percent is a great start and congratulations to Lynn for meeting and exceeding the minimum, but what about three or five years from now as gentrification sets in?” Wiener asked.  “Lynn has a lot, but I’m not certain there isn’t a need for more deed-restricted affordable in perpetuity.”

Thomas Callahan, executive director of the Massachusetts Affordable Housing Alliance, said he’s not sure what percentage of affordable housing is right for each community.

“It’s a moving target,” he said. “It depends on how many people are paying more than 30, 40 or 50 percent of their income for rent.”

In its most recent report, Lynn Housing Authority & Neighborhood Development (LHAND) said 66 percent of all Lynn households meet the Department of Housing & Urban Development’s definition of low- or moderate-income.

In addition, 5,285 people are on LHAND’s waiting list for apartments.

“In Lynn, a substantial number of residents are paying a huge percent of their pay on rent and that’s evidence that more affordable housing is needed,” Callahan said.

“Compare our affordable housing numbers to surrounding communities,” he said. “For anyone to say that Lynn is not doing its fair share, there’s no proof of that.”

Less than 4 percent of the units in Marblehead, Nahant and Swampscott are considered affordable, according to the state.

Cowdell said he is opposed to any so-called inclusionary zoning law, which requires that 10 to 20 percent of units in a development be set aside as affordable. Boston, Cambridge, Somerville and Quincy have such measures.

“Once the city sets its vision, specifies zoning and how sites should be developed, I don’t think we should then tell developers ‘Now that you’re going to build it, make 20 percent of the units affordable,’” Cowdell added.

Mayor Judith Flanagan Kennedy said the city has more than enough affordable housing. She also disputed the state’s number and said by her count about a third of the city’s housing stock is considered affordable.

“Lynn has more than its share of affordable housing right now,” she said. “We have exceeded the goal and one of the things that Lynn needs to succeed in is its long-term economic development is to have people with disposable income in the mix of the housing that we offer.”


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

For sale: one armory

The Lynn Armory is up for sale by the state. Item Photo by Owen O’Rourke

By Thomas Grillo

LYNN — The state offered to sell the 123-year-old Lynn Armory to the city, but the mayor said no thanks.

In a letter to Mayor Judith Flanagan Kennedy, the Division of Capital Asset Management and Maintenance (DCAMM), the agency that handles the state’s real estate, gave the city the right of first refusal on the three-story, brick landmark.

But the mayor, through a spokeswoman, said between the paying market rate for the building, as DCAMM requires, and the renovation, it would be too costly for the city to take on.

As a result, the state will auction the property on South Common Street. It is assessed at $1.7 million, according to city records.

James Cowdell, executive director of the Lynn Economic Development & Industrial Corp., said if the city could have purchased the property at the right price, it’s possible the Lynn Housing Authority & Neighborhood Development, whose  mission is to assist low- and moderate-income families with safe and affordable housing, would convert it to housing.

The armory is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and included in the Lynn Common Historic District.

For now, the 37,602-square-foot Romanesque Revival style building is used by the Registry of Motor Vehicles to meet license applicants for their drivers’ test.

The Legislature has determined the state’s armories are no longer viable and should be sold. If Lynn decides not to purchase it, the building will be sold to the highest bidder at auction.


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

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.

Lynn will take LEAD with investors

Joseph Mulligan, from MassDevelopment, during his tour of downtown Lynn in June. Item File Photo

By Thomas Grillo

LYNN — For the first time in anyone’s memory, more than 100 developers, lenders and investors will tour the city next week to learn about its investment and development opportunities.

“It’s getting the stars to align,” said Jason Denoncourt, economic development director for U.S. Rep. Seth Moulton (D-Mass.), one of the tour’s hosts. “There’s so much opportunity here. The city just needs the right mix of strategy, experience and capital to make something happen.”

Sponsored by the Economic Development & Industrial Corporation of Lynn (EDIC), the nonprofit development arm of the city, MassDevelopment, the state’s economic development and finance agency, Moulton’s office and the Lynn Economic Advancement and Development (LEAD) team, the four-hour tour scheduled for Tuesday will showcase acres of waterfront land and more than a dozen properties that are poised to be revitalized as apartments or mixed-use commercial development.  

“This represents the coordination of federal, state and local resources to bring awareness to a location that has been overlooked by the industry for many years,” said Joseph Mulligan, a MassDevelopment fellow who is working to transform the downtown. “It’s a good chance to get people to look beyond their comfort level for opportunities.”

Among the registered attendees is HYM Investment Group, the Boston developer of the $1.5 billion Bulfinch Crossing project that promises to transform the Government Center Garage into a 3 million-square-foot mixed-use project.

“We are excited to see what Lynn has to offer,” said Thomas O’Brien, founding partner.

Also on the list are Cruz Development, the Roxbury-based developer that has built more than 1,500 apartments and Boston-based Trinity Financial that has constructed several large residential development projects on the Rose Kennedy Greenway.

The tour guides include Denoncourt, Mulligan and the EDIC’s Bill Bochnak. There will be 20 stops along the way to examine 14 properties and more than 100 acres of available land on the waterfront. Some of the properties include the former Lynnway Auto Auction, the Mass Merchandise site on the Lynnway, Anthony’s Hawthorne, the former General Electric Co.’s gear plant property and the former Daily Item building.

“I’ve been with the city for 30 years, we’ve never had a developer’s tour,” said James Cowdell, EDIC’s executive director. “Lynn’s time is now. There are people with very deep pockets who are looking to invest in Lynn. This is awesome. To get these types of investors here is proof that Lynn is on the radar and that it’s a great place to invest.”

Denoncourt said the idea of the tour is to invite new people to look at Lynn differently or bring new ideas.

Scott Kelley, vice president of development at New England Development, the Boston firm founded by Stephen Karp that boasts more than 50 million square feet of retail, commercial, and hospitality space, got a sneak peek this week when Denoncourt gave him a private tour of the city.

“Lynn has lots of raw potential,” he said. “It’s got the critical components of a compelling story: adjacency to transit, proximity to Boston, it’s amazing location on the water and the backdrop of a historic downtown New England city. As an organization, we are always looking at opportunities.”

Among the elected and appointed officials who intend to be on the tour include Moulton, Mayor Judith Flanagan Kennedy, Sen. Thomas McGee (D-Lynn), State representatives Daniel Cahill (D-Lynn), Brendan Crighton, (D-Lynn), Donald Wong (R-Saugus), Lori Ehrlich (D-Marblehead) and Secretary of Housing and Economic Development Jay Ash.

“We want to show the investment world that everybody is working together to move Lynn forward,” said Cowdell.


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

Former Item building for sale, again

The old Item building on Exchange Street in Lynn. Item File Photo

By Thomas Grillo

LYNN — Owners of the former Daily Item building have hired an international commercial brokerage to sell the landmark property for $1.5 million.

Christine Diarbakerly, founder of US-1 Ventures, who bought the  35,000-square-foot property at auction last fall for $880,000, has signed a listing agreement with CBRE/New England. The five-story building at 38 Exchange St. is assessed at $1 million.

“This is one of the key buildings in the downtown,”  said James Cowdell, executive director of the city’s Economic Development & Industrial Corp. “The EDIC, MassDevelopment and Congressman Seth Moulton’s office are helping her sell the building. We are collectively working together to make that happen and to make sure the new owner sees the vision of what we’re trying to do.”

The property, across the street from the MBTA Commuter Rail Station in Central Square, is zoned for commercial use on the first floor and housing above.

“It’s a half-minute walk from that building to the train stop and we believe it’s ideal for condos or market rate housing,” Cowdell added.

Taidgh McClory, a CBRE managing director, said the biggest challenge his brokerage faces is getting developers and investors to pay attention to Lynn.

“Lynn is on the frontier of a burgeoning arts and cultural district that is on the upswing in the midst of renaissance,” he said. “But unless you’re from the North Shore or Lynn, it’s hard to believe that.”

Built in 1900, the iconic flatiron structure served as the headquarters for The Daily Item, housing the newspaper’s printing production, executive suites, sales and operations, according to the CBRE listing. Today, the building is vacant and offers investors, owners, and developers a myriad of exciting restoration, adaptive reuse and development options, it said.

Originally, Diarbakerly planned to invest $12 million to transform the property into 24 luxury apartments with ground floor commercial space. But the Winchester-based developer said she became frustrated by the inability to lease the 5,000 square feet of commercial space on the first floor to defray costs and decided to sell.

McClory, a Lynn native, said the property offers an opportunity for  transit-oriented development, just 10 miles from Boston.

“We want to make sure that we communicate Lynn’s story with facts and real testimonials about what’s happening here and what we believe will happen.” he said. “The future investor of this building is someone who believes in Lynn and understands the vision of what the building is today and what it can be.”


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

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.

HUD, EPA say no to Lynn

The Department of Housing and Urban Development building.

By Thomas Grillo

Lynn has been dealt a setback by two federal agencies that would have provided momentum for the city’s rebirth, but officials say they are not discouraged.

The Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) rejected a proposal to designate Lynn a “Promise Zone” that would have given the city a leg up on competitive grants to accelerate its revitalization efforts. In addition, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) said no to a $150,000 award to assess the cleanup of the Whyte’s Laundry contaminated site in the downtown.

“Those EPA grants are like chasing gold and every community in America is competing for them,” said Joseph Mulligan, a fellow at MassDevelopment, the state’s economic development agency, who is working to improve the downtown. “Not getting the Promise Zone designation was a tough break, but the upside is it got all the city’s constituencies together and they’re moving forward.”

The bad news comes as the Lynn Economic Advancement and Development (LEAD) team is working to bring local, state and federal resources to the city. The panel includes U.S. Rep. Seth Moulton (D-Mass.), Transportation Secretary Stephanie Pollack, James Cowdell of Lynn’s Economic Development & Industrial Corp., Mayor Judith Flanagan Kennedy and for now, Secretary of Housing and Economic Development Jay Ash, who is being considered for the city manager job in Cambridge.

“Lynn wasn’t even applying for most of these grants a few years ago and many communities apply five, 10 years in a row before they see anything come through,” said Moulton. “It’s important to realize that early rejections are a normal part of the process.”

Whyte’s, owned by Elaine Goldsmith of Salem, was demolished in 2000 to make way for an expanded post office on Willow Street. But that plan was derailed when Congress froze construction of new postal facilities in 2001. Since then, the overgrown lot has been vacant. EPA estimates that it will cost about $350,000 to remove contaminants from the 15,000-square-foot parcel.

Kennedy said she does not spend time being dismayed by rejection. She is already planning to reapply.

“The Whyte’s Laundry property is one of the lynchpins of developing an entire block of the downtown,” the mayor said.  “Once that site is cleaned up, we can move onto the Anthony’s Hawthorne, next door, and that’s nearly an acre that has been vacant since 2000.”

While the EPA gave the application a grade of A, Kennedy said given the competition, it needed an A+. The city plans to tweak the proposal and apply for the next round of funding, she added.

On the Promise Zone, Kennedy said she met with the HUD’s regional director on Monday to discuss the application.

“He was impressed with all of the good that is going on here,” she said. “We have caught their attention and while we were not chosen, there might still be some benefit for having submitted the application.”

State Rep. Brendan Crighton (D-Lynn) said while he was disappointed in not getting the green light for both, the good thing about these grants is that there’s always another opportunity.

“We are constantly looking at the state and federal opportunities and we will just keep applying,” he said.

On the EPA grant, the New England office said they distributed $600,000 to provide technical service grants to perform site assessment under the brownfields program. EPA said Whyte’s Laundry was not selected, primarily because the scope of the assessment work is beyond what the agency could afford.

An initiative of the Obama administration, the Promise Zone designation links the federal government with local leaders who are addressing multiple community revitalization challenges. While Promise Zone designees do not receive cash, they get five AmeriCorps VISTA members, a federal liaison to help designees navigate federal programs, preferences for competitive federal grant programs and technical assistance from federal agencies and possible tax incentives.

Kathleen McDonald, development director at the Lynn Economic Opportunity Inc. and one of the authors of the Promise Zone application, said more than five dozen cities competed and just a handful were selected.

“We knew going in that getting this designation was way against the odds,” she said. “But we were willing to do it because we saw so much value in convening all the city’s organizations and perspectives.”

As a result, she said, the Lynn-based Gerondelis Foundation has provided $90,000 over the next three years to manage the process of keeping the stakeholders together.

“We had a very good proposal,” she said. “HUD told us that while we did not win, they were impressed with our collaborative and want to provide us with technical assistance which was a nice piece of praise and a great gesture.”


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

Ash pursuing top job in Cambridge

Jay Ash.

By Matt Murphy

One of the key players in an effort to revitalize Lynn could be headed to a new job.

Jay Ash, Gov. Charlie Baker’s Secretary of Housing and Economic Development, has applied to become city manager of Cambridge, potentially making him the first major exit from the senior leadership team assembled by the governor after his 2014 election.

Since last fall, Ash has served as a member of the Lynn Economic Advancement and Development (LEAD), the high-powered panel that also includes U.S. Rep. Seth Moulton (D-Mass.), Transportation Secretary Stephanie Pollack, James Cowdell of Lynn’s Economic Development & Industrial Corp., and Mayor Judith Flanagan Kennedy, Ash, a Democrat who ran his home city of Chelsea for 14 years before joining the Baker administration as secretary of the Executive Office of Housing and Economic Development, has been a prolific traveler on behalf of the administration, visiting cities and towns across the state and playing a role in helping to lure General Electric’s headquarters to Boston.

His interest in the Cambridge job was first reported by the Boston Globe on Wednesday, and was confirmed by his office. He was not immediately available for comment.

“Every time I go into a community, I hear what the community’s wants and needs are. I want to stay there and help them solve those wants and needs — and I have to get to my next appointment,” Ash told the Globe. “So the ability to focus more intensively on one place than a little bit of attention on a lot of places is something that is appealing to me.”

In March, Richard Rossi announced his intention to resign after three years as Cambridge’s city manager. The City Council posted for the job on July 12, and plans to fill the role in late September after a round of public interviews on Sept. 11 with three finalists, according to the city’s website. It’s not known how many people Ash might be competing against for the job.

Ash, who is in his mid-50s, began his government career as an aide on Beacon Hill to former Democratic House Majority Leader Richard Voke before going to work for the city of Chelsea.

His selection by Baker to lead the economic development secretariat was part of a concerted effort by the newly elected Republican governor to fill his Cabinet with a mixture of Democrats and Republicans.

Positive developments are seen in Lynn

ITEM FILE  PHOTO
Seth Moulton.

BY THOMAS GRILLO

LYNN — Picture this: A gleaming apartment or office building atop the underused MBTA Garage in the downtown with restaurants, boutiques and shops on the ground floor.

The idea was floated by MassDevelopment, the state’s economic development and finance agency, at a private meeting of the Lynn Economic Advancement and Development (LEAD) team on Thursday.

“I never imagined it and I think it’s a great idea,” said U.S. Rep. Seth Moulton (D-Mass.) a LEAD team member, following the two-hour session at the Lynn Museum. “That’s the kind of thing that can happen when you bring local, state and federal resources together. No one was talking about this before.”

While the MBTA owns the facility, the city was encouraged to seek developers who would be willing to build on top of the garage.

Moulton was in town with members of the high-powered panel that in addition to Moulton includes Transportation Secretary Stephanie Pollack, James Cowdell of Lynn’s Economic Development & Industrial Corp., Mayor Judith Flanagan Kennedy, Secretary of Housing and Economic Development Jay Ash and others who can cut through the bureaucracy and jumpstart development.

Kennedy said her vision of the city includes lodging.

“When I talk about a hotel, I am really talking about changing a decade’s-long perception of visiting and staying in our city,” the mayor said in prepared remarks. “I am looking to provide a meeting place for both business and other groups, a central location which is missing … and something all gateway cities should have or already have.”

Ash rejected any suggestion that the sinking of the Lynn Ferry this summer has slowed the momentum of development along the Lynnway.

“The ferry would be a nice add on, but the development we are talking about is not reliant on the ferry,” Ash told The Item following the meeting .

In June, the Baker administration rejected Lynn’s request for $700,000 in operating expenses for the ferry to sail for a third summer.

Ash, who barred a reporter from attending the session, said that LEAD is not a formal board that requires open meetings.

“There are times when we do things in public and other times when we want to get everyone together and make sure they are on the same page,” he said.


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

Construction set for Lynn Market Basket site

PHOTO BY PAULA MULLER
The Site Planning Review Committee meets regarding the Market Basket site on Federal Street at Lynn City Hall. James Moore of Bradley Moore Primason Cuffe & Weber LLP, describes the site plan to Robert Stilian, James Cowdell, Clint Muche and Jamie Marsh.

BY THOMAS GRILLO

LYNN — Construction of the new Market Basket at the General Electric Factory of the Future site is set to commence this week.

On Tuesday, the Site Plan Review Committee unanimously approved the project, clearing the way for building permits to be issued. The foundation for the 84,000-square-foot store will be poured this week on the $25 million project.

“It’s a very exciting thing for the city and its residents who are getting a raise in pay by cutting their grocery bills and getting high quality products,” said James Moore, the attorney representing Charles Patsios, the site’s owner and Swampscott developer.

Market Basket, which will join Shaws, Stop & Shop and PriceRite in the city, is scheduled to open next summer at Federal Street and Western Avenue

“This is the culmination of a few years of effort so we’re very excited,” said James Cowdell, executive director of the city’s Economic Development and Industrial Corp.

He praised Jamie Marsh, the Department of Community Development director, for securing $2.5 million in MassWorks money for infrastructure improvements around the supermarket.

“It’s interesting when you think of the scope of this project how the neighborhood almost universally supported it,” Cowdell said.  

The store will employ 75 full-time employees and 325 part timers, he added.

Shuttered since 1988, the once state-of-the-art factory sat empty until Mayor Judith Flanagan Kennedy met with high-level GE executives to discuss steering the site toward redevelopment. Patsios bought the 16-acre property from GE in 2013 for $4 million. Market Basket CEO Arthur T. DeMoulas joined city and state officials last year to announce $2.5 million in state money for road improvements around the site.


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

City Council approves Leahy on Lynnway

BY THOMAS GRILLO

LYNN — The City Council ended months of debate and approved a controversial contractor’s yard for the Lynnway.

In an 8-3 vote on Tuesday night, the council gave the green light for Leahy Landscaping LLC to move its operation to the Lynnway from Sanderson Avenue. The company, owned by Matthew Leahy, will lease the land from owner Kenneth Carpi.

Before the vote, Councilor Peter Capano, whose Ward 6 district includes the proposed site, encouraged the council to support the plan.

“It’s not my vision for the waterfront, but it will do until something better comes along,” he said. “It’s way back from the street and not visible from the Lynnway.”

Carpi testified that the company will operate a clean facility and not have mountains of loam on the property.

But Councilor Wayne Lozzi urged the members to vote no.

“This is not what we want on the waterfront,” he said. “This is not a good idea.”

At-Large councilors Brian LaPierre and Buzzy Barton joined Lozzi in opposition.

Last month, the Zoning Board of Appeals voted 4-1 to approve a variance to make the move possible.

James Cowdell, executive director of the Economic Development & Industrial Corp. of Lynn, has opposed the yard, calling it a “horrible use.”

Mayor Judith Flanagan Kennedy echoed those sentiments in a letter to the ZBA opposing the contractor’s yard. She said the city invested $4 million to relocate power lines, which hugged the coast and precluded development. She also cited the Beacon site, dormant for nearly 30 years, as moving forward with a project that will create 355 apartments. She wrote that the city is working with the state on a $79 million project at a nearby lot owned by Joseph O’Donnell.

“All of these projects have one thing in common,” Kennedy wrote. “They fit into the master waterfront plan and our vision. Allowing a landscaping company to locate in that area with 50 large vehicles and piles of loam does not fit into our vision and will hurt our efforts of encouraging millions of dollars to be invested.”


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

Lynnway car-lot plan hits red light

ITEM FILE PHOTO
The Lynnway.

BY THOMAS GRILLO

LYNN — The owner of the shuttered Logan Furniture store on the Lynnway is facing a stop sign for plans to turn the facility into a used car dealership.

On Monday, workmen were painting the interior of the 44,824-square-foot closed store when they were visited by the city’s Inspectional Services Department, according to Michael Donovan, building commissioner. Workers told the inspector  that Everett-based Inman Motor Sales was planning to open a used car lot on the property.

But the city’s new waterfront zoning prohibits car dealerships on the Lynnway.

“Our inspector informed them they can’t open a dealership there and told them to tell their boss to have him call the landlord because they do not have permission,” Donovan said.

In order to get approval, the property owner needs a variance from the Zoning Board of Appeals. If they start to move walls, create offices or install electrical outlets, they need a building permit.

The Logan Furniture store at 730 Lynnway, which closed last spring, is owned by Car Realty LLC, an entity managed by Kenneth Carpi, according to state records. Carpi and his attorney, Thomas Demakis, did not return calls seeking comment.

This is not Carpi’s first controversial project. Despite zoning that prohibits a contractor’s yard, Carpi has sought approval to move Leahy Landscaping to his property at 732 Lynnway. The ZBA approved the petition while the matter is pending before the City Council.

James Cowdell, executive director of the Economic Development & Industrial Corp. of Lynn, said he opposes the contractor’s yard and the car dealership.

“We moved the power lines so that we could have real development along the waterfront,” he said.

Cowdell met with Carpi last week to talk about long-term plans because he is one of the city’s largest waterfront landowners.

“We had a very good conversation, but the car dealership was not mentioned,” he said.


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

Baker won’t move on ferry

ITEM FILE PHOTO

BY THOMAS GRILLO

In his first public comments on the stranded Lynn to Boston ferry, Gov. Charlie Baker defended his administration’s decision not to fund it.  

“At this point, it didn’t generate the ridership that people had hoped it would generate, and the price tag associated per rider is extraordinary,” Baker told The Item.

Baker made the remarks following his appearance at “The Future of Transportation: Paving a Path to Progress” in Boston on Thursday with Transportation Secretary Stephanie Pollack and other experts.

The governor said Lynn’s two-year demonstration project to launch the ferry on the state’s dime was an opportunity to examine whether the service made sense.

“We agreed to work with folks and support it for a couple of years to see what happens,” Baker said. “Our message to people is: let’s look at what happened over the short, two-year demo period… see what’s possible with respect to how it might be organized going forward and paid for. And let’s come back and have a conversation again, after people do some homework on that review. I personally think that’s a reasonable approach.”

Earlier this month, the Baker administration rejected Lynn’s request for about $700,000 in operating expenses for the ferry to sail for a third summer. As result, former ferry riders are back on the commuter rail, taking the bus to the Blue Line or driving to Boston.

Pollack said the comparisons of the Lynn ferry to the MBTA’s ferry services in other Bay State coastal communities is unfair.

“The MBTA ferries cost half as much, and riders cover 70 percent of the cost,” she told The Item. “The Lynn ferry costs twice as much per passenger and riders cover less than 10 percent. There has to be subsidy in Lynn, like there is subsidy at the T, but the question is: what level of subsidy?”  

But Sen. Thomas McGee (D-Lynn) said he disagrees with Baker that Lynn failed to attract enough riders to prove the service makes economic sense.

“Even the provider of the ferry service anticipated many fewer riders,” he said. “For us to have 15,000 riders last year in a three month period was a message that viable ferry service from Lynn is legitimately a real opportunity for the North Shore to have an important transportation option.”

State Rep. Brendan Crighton (D-Lynn) said the state has already invested $8.5 million to build the pier and a parking lot and without the ferry it’s going to waste.

James Cowdell, executive director of the Economic Development & Industrial Corp. of Lynn, said he hopes that when the governor reviews the two-year pilot program that he don’t look at it as a Lynn ferry, rather as a  regional ferry.

Cowdell insisted that none of the commuter ferries make money. But given time, ridership on the Lynn ferry would increase while the cost would drop. In 2014, the service attracted 13,136 riders and 15,230 last year.

“We are just starting out building ridership,” he said. “The best marketing is our passengers. You can’t compare us to Hingham. They have been in operation for a decade. If the ferry ran this summer, we would have exceeded 15,000 passengers.”

Mayor Judith Flanagan Kennedy said she was disappointed with the governor’s decision not to fund the ferry, but declined to criticize him.

“I can’t think of a time when I’ve ever reached out to state government to reverse a decision they’ve made,” she said. “That would be stepping over a boundary. If I want to have a say in how the state budget gets spent, maybe I should run for governor. I do understand his decision. It’s disappointing. People enjoyed the ferry and maybe the allocation will be available sometime in the future.”

On Tuesday, the City Council voted 7 to 0 to ask Baker to reconsider his decision not to fund the ferry service.


Thomas Grillo can be reached at tgrillo@itemlive.com

City OKs new landscape along the waterfront

ITEM PHOTO BY OWEN O’ROURKE
Leahy Landscaping Inc. has outgrown its current location at 56 Sanderson Ave. in Lynn. 

BY GAYLA CAWLEY

LYNN — Despite resistance from officials, the city is one step closer to approving a contractor’s yard for the Lynnway.

The Zoning Board of Appeals voted 4 to 1 last week to approve the latest proposal of Leahy Landscaping LLC to move its contractor’s yard from their Sanderson Avenue location to the Lynnway. The company, owned by Matthew Leahy, would lease the land from owner Kenneth Carpi.

Before the vote, the board had to support the withdrawal of the previous petition from the company they approved in March. The ZBA had given the green light for the contractor’s yard with a stipulation that its use by limited to Leahy Landscaping.

In response, the Planning Board unanimously voted to file a lawsuit in April, challenging the ZBA variance, naming the panel and landlords as defendants in that lawsuit.

James Cowdell, executive director of the Economic Development & Industrial Corp. of Lynn said ZBA vote was to allow a contractor’s yard on the site. The matter is scheduled to be heard by the City Council today. The petition that was granted by the ZBA two months ago was incorrectly worded, so Leahy withdrew it and resubmitted the application, he added.

Cowdell said the lawsuit will now be dropped by both parties because of the withdrawal. Despite the approval, he is against the yard.

“We moved the power lines so that we could have real development along the waterfront and to put a contractor’s yard there, it’s such a horrible use,” he said. “We need to raise the bar. The Beacon site, $80 million, is the type of development we should be pursuing. There’s no other city that would allow a contractor’s yard along the waterfront.”

Mayor Judith Flanagan Kennedy echoed those sentiments in a letter to the ZBA in opposition to the contractor’s yard. She said the city invested $4 million to relocate power lines, which hugged the coast and precluded development. She also cited the Beacon site, dormant for nearly 30 years, as moving forward with a project that will create 355 apartments. She wrote that the city is working with the Executive Office of Housing and Economic Development on a $79 million project at a nearby lot owned by Joe O’Donnell.

“All of these projects have one thing in common,” Kennedy wrote. “They fit into the master waterfront plan and our vision. Allowing a landscaping company to locate in that area with 50 large vehicles and piles of loam does not fit into our vision and will hurt our efforts of encouraging millions of dollars to be invested.”

Patrick Calnan was the lone dissenting vote for the ZBA. He acknowledged that contractors have a difficult time finding areas they can operate in the city, but said everything needs to be considered with the decision.

“What’s in the best interest for the city of Lynn?” Calnan asked.

Not all officials oppose the contractor’s yard.

City Councilor Peter Capano said he favors Leahy Landscaping’s move to the Lynnway site temporarily with the contingency that they would have to leave on a year’s notice if there is proposed development there. He said the owner has agreed to that stipulation. It’s not his vision for the Lynnway to have a landscaping yard, but the site is vacant and the company can use it until something better comes along, he added.

City Council President and state Rep. Daniel Cahill declined to say how he will vote.

“I understand that the city and petitioner are negotiating a number of stipulations to the special permit that I look forward to reviewing prior to voting either to approve or deny,” he said.

Carpi’s lawyer, Thomas Demakis said Leahy’s business has outgrown its location and needs to expand, according to minutes of the March ZBA meeting. He told the board in March that the property is barely visible on the Lynnway. He noted that Leahy would display plants, trees and shrubs in front of the property for people to see driving by looking to purchase.

Demakis declined comment on the ZBA approval.

Matthew Leahy, Kathryn Brown, ZBA chairwoman, and Michael Donovan, Inspectional Services Chief and Building Commissioner, did not return calls seeking comment.


Gayla Cawley can be reached at gcawley@itemlive.com. Follow her on Twitter @GaylaCawley

City officials: State sunk ferry

ITEM PHOTO BY OWEN O’ROURKE
Sen. Thomas M. McGee and Economic Development and Industrial Corporation Director James M. Cowdell talk about the loss of ferry service in Lynn.

BY THOMAS GRILLO

LYNN — Sen. Thomas M. McGee and EDIC/Lynn Executive Director James M. Cowdell fired back Wednesday at a Baker administration official who said a city request for $700,000 to operate a commuter ferry this summer came too late.

The money would have paid for a ferry to run from the Blossom Street extension dock for a third summer season..

Cowdell said the funding request was submitted on March 16 and placed on the state Seaport Economic Council’s June agenda for certain approval. A week later, EDIC received an email from the council requesting a sustainability study to explain how the operating expenses would be paid for going forward. But the city was given six months to complete it, he added.

Of Seaport Economic Council member Carolyn Kirk, Cowdell said, “For Ms. Kirk to say that we didn’t get the application in on time is a blatant falsehood. The rejection letter said the project cannot be funded, but never mentioned that we missed any deadline. For whatever reason somebody made a determination that it shouldn’t be funded.”

Kirk’s claim is one of several examples Cowdell and McGee underscored to amplify their objections to the Baker administration’s response to city efforts to sustain the popular ferry.

McGee said now the state is asking the city to come up with the cash to support the ferry’s operation. But he insists Lynn should not be required to make such a payment, emphasizing that about 80 percent of the riders come from Swampscott, Marblehead and Nahant.

The MBTA subsidizes three ferry services that serve Hingham-Boston, Hingham-Hull-Logan and the Charlestown Navy Yard-Long Wharf. For fiscal year 2015 the subsidy totaled about $3.7 million, according to the Massachusetts Department of Transportation (MassDOT).

“It’s unfair to say the city somehow dropped the ball on this,” McGee said. “The reality is, MassDOT could be finding an opportunity to pay for the service out of dollars available within the agency. The state can’t say to Lynn: ‘If you want a ferry, then you have to pay for it.’ We are not at fault, this is a transportation issue. This is not an amenity, this about us having transportation access in this region.”

Under former Gov. Deval Patrick, the Seaport Economic Council, provided $8.5 million to build the Blossom Street extension pier, where passengers board the boat, and operating expenses for the ferry for two years.

It’s clear that there are people at the MBTA who don’t want to be in the ferry business and don’t want to expand it because they don’t see it as a core business, McGee said.

“Are we supposed to lay off teachers, police officers, firefighters to fund a ferry?” Cowdell asked.

The pair noted how in March MassDOT suggested the city apply for $769,000 operating funds from the Congestion Mitigation and Air Quality Committee, a federal program that provided $30 billion to fund more than 30,000 transportation related environmental projects.

The money was approved unanimously, but the grant was later withdrawn because it did not meet environmental requirements.

“The people involved in this were running us around for a year until the clock ran out,” said a frustrated McGee.

McGee and Cowdell stressed the Lynn ferry’s value as a component in a water transportation network that could ring Boston and help handle future regional transportation challenges.

Barry Bluestone, professor of public policy at Northeastern University, said his research shows that if nothing changes, the state’s highways will be clogged so badly by 2030 to be unpassable with 117,000 more commuters.

“We have to figure out how to get people into alternative transportation,” he said. “Other communities have very active water transportation that works and we need to add more ferries to our transportation matrix. The state picks up the tab for much of our transportation costs already. What’s the difference between the highway and ferry if it reduces the pressure on the highway?”

A spokesman for the Executive Office of Housing and Economic Development declined comment and no one was made available from MassDOT.

In a statement, Transportation Secretary and CEO Stephanie Pollack said “MassDOT supports the city of Lynn’s efforts to establish regular ferry service to Boston.  But the Lynn Ferry is not an MBTA service.  To be fiscally responsible to the entire MBTA system, we must be cautious when expanding MBTA services.  However, MassDOT has offered to pay for the development of a sustainable business plan which would allow this ferry to run in the future.”


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

Lynn delegation launches into Baker

FILE PHOTO
Lynn Ferry.

BY THOMAS GRILLO

BOSTON — Lynn lawmakers chastised the Baker administration at a Beacon Hill hearing Monday for stranding the city’s ferry riders.

“One of the top priorities for the LEAD (Lynn Economic Advancement and Development) group was the ferry service for very short money,” said State Rep. Brendan Crighton (D-Lynn), referring to Gov. Charlie Baker’s high-powered team that includes U.S. Rep. Seth Moulton, Secretary of Housing and Economic Development Jay Ash, Transportation Secretary Stephanie Pollack, James Cowdell of Lynn’s Economic Development & Industrial Corp. and others who can cut through the bureaucracy.

We have been working on it for more than a decade, and this ferry extension for more than a year, only to find out now that the ferry is dead,” Crighton said.
Carolyn Kirk, deputy secretary of the state’s Executive Office of Housing & Economic Development, who also serves on the Seaport Economic Council, delivered the bad news to lawmakers at the hearing before the Metropolitan Beaches Commission.

She said that the state denied Lynn’s request for about $700,000 in operating expenses for the ferry to sail for a third summer. She said the application came too late, and the funds were exhausted for this fiscal year. The state originally had about $14.5 million available.

Sen. Thomas McGee was visibly angry and scolded Kirk and Astrid Glynn, the Massachusetts Department of Transportation’s rail and transit administrator.

“We are missing the boat on an unlimited potential for access to this region,” the Lynn Democrat said. “I would argue that ferry service from Lynn is a critical piece of public transportation, it’s not fluff. It’s very frustrating that we are not running a ferry service this year because it is contingent on it being sustainable.

Communities are not paying for the Green Line to get service that’s being expanded. They are not paying for commuter rail service, so I don’t understand why public transit, in terms of ferry operation, should be any different.”

Baker’s decision not to fund the ferry service comes on the heels of a $4.5-million federal grant in April for a new 149-passenger ferry with help from Moulton. The vessel is under construction, but could be lost to another community if Lynn cannot raise the cash to operate the boat.

More than two years ago, the EDIC rebuilt the Blossom Street Extension pier, where ferry passengers board, with $7.65 million in taxpayer funding. The bulk of the money, $5 million, came from the Seaport Economic Council, and another $2 million from the U.S. Department of Transportation. The EDIC invested $650,000.

Proponents say the ferry was a success for the last two summers,  attracting about 15,000 riders each season.  

McGee said if the money isn’t available, then there should be a conversation about finding a way to make it happen. “Why aren’t we having a discussion about what services we should be providing in the region to grow our economy?” he asked.

Kirk and Glynn did not respond to McGee’s comments.

But, in an interview with The Item following the hearing, Kirk, the former mayor of Gloucester, put the blame on Lynn.

“I think the administration has to get our arms around how this service can be sustainable and paid for … without relying on the state subsidy every year,” she said.

The original premise of the ferry service, Kirk said, was that the first year would be a pilot and subject to the city of Lynn putting together a marketing, ridership and outreach plan. But that was never done, she added.

“Some responsibility belongs to the city of Lynn. They are a very important partner in this, and they didn’t offer up a business plan.”

But, the EDIC’s Cowdell said he received the request for a business plan in March, and said he was told it would take at least six months to complete.
“That’s just an excuse,” he said. “Our responsibility was to show ridership and we’ve done that. We had two successful years and asked the state to fund the operation. All of a sudden, the state is running for cover and has decided not to help out at all. There’s not a commuter ferry in the state that does not receive some form of financial assistance.”


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

Lt. governor sees initiative in lynn

PHOTO BY PAULA MULLER
From left, Mayor Judith Flanagan Kennedy, Lt Gov. Karyn Polito and EDIC Director James Cowdell look over the downtown area from the train tracks.

BY GAYLA CAWLEY

LYNN — Lt. Gov. Karyn Polito toured buildings and places in need of rejuvenation in the downtown Tuesday.

Polito was in Lynn to witness the Transformative Development Initiative (TDI), a redevelopment initiative for gateway cities designed to enhance public-private partnerships, improve the quality of life for residents and spur investment and economic activity.

The partnership, comprised of City Hall, the Economic Development & Industrial Corp. (EDIC), Lynn Housing Authority and Neighborhood Development and the Hall Co., has been studying how to remake the downtown.

Joseph Mulligan, a MassDevelopment fellow, who is coordinating the effort on behalf of the Commonwealth’s economic development and finance agency, conducted the tour. Included in the excursion was the shuttered former Lynn Item building on Exchange Street, the Grand Army of the Republic Museum on Andrew Street and other vacant properties with potential near the MBTA’s Central Square station.

James Cowdell, EDIC’s executive director, said the buildings included in the initiative are those that need help to be developed, including major renovations and tenants.

“What we want is market rate housing in most of these buildings,” Cowdell said.

Polito said Mulligan has been asked to plan for the transformation of the district into a more lively place. She said the initiatives are important in transforming places like Lynn, especially given the high costs of living in Boston. It will help make Lynn an attractive alternative to the Hub, by improving the quality of life, the arts and cultural district, she added.

“Lynn is ready for that opportunity,” Polito said.

State Rep. Brendan Crighton (D-Lynn) called the TDI another tool in the city’s toolbox.

“It really takes a lot of work to put together the pieces to make a successful downtown,” he said.

Mayor Judith Flanagan Kennedy said city officials were excited to show Polito some of the buildings that needed to be renovated.

Also on hand for the tour was Sen. Thomas McGee (D-Lynn), a strong advocate to extend the MBTA’s Blue Line into the city.

“It’s a very exciting time for the city of Lynn,” he said.  


Gayla Cawley can be reached at gcawley@itemlive.com. Follow her on Twitter @GaylaCawley.

Thinking big is right up Demakes’ Alley

ITEM PHOTO BY OWEN O’ROURKE
The chimney at 175 Alley St. in Lynn is being taken down one small section at a time.

BY THOMAS GRILLO

A wrecking ball is demolishing the former Atlantic Coast Seafood Market behind the Lynnway to make way for the city’s latest business or apartment complex.

Two years ago, the 175-189 Alley Street LLC, an entity managed by Thomas Demakes paid $1 million for the 2-acre parcel that included a one-story brick building.

Demakes, president of Old Neighborhood Quality Foods, a family-owned company that started in 1914, said he is still studying the market to determine what will work best for the site.

“I’m trying to clean up that section of the neighborhood,” he said.

Originally, he thought it was a good location for a warehouse, but Alley Street is too narrow to accommodate tractor trailers.

Now, Demakes is considering business condominiums similar to the project at the nearby former Lynn Lumber site on Commercial Street.

Lynn Business Park RT and the Nicholas Mennino Trust bought the 84,000-square-foot Commercial Street lot in 2014 for $1.4 million. They used a portion of the land for a series of business storefronts including the Beantown Barbell Club and Safe & Secure Limousine across from Bent Water Brewing Co.

“Nick did a good job over there,” he said. “But I’m not 100 percent sure what I’ll do because I have real estate people checking out the market to see what will work and what the City Council wants.”

One possibility is apartments, he said.

“Market rate housing is also something we’re considering,” Demakes said. “My kids have been critical of me because I get involved in these projects more to help the city than to make money on the project. I’m trying to do both.”

James Cowdell, executive director of the Economic Development & Industrial Corp., said the 53,034-square-foot facility had been mostly vacant for years. Given the property’s uniqueness, Cowdell said the best alternative was to demolish it and start anew.  

Peter Capano, the Ward 6 City Councilor, said he likes the idea of a handsome one-story structure for business condominiums. He said it would be a good fit for the neighborhood
“The people in this neighborhood would favor it,” he said. “Tom will do it right with landscaping and make it look really nice.”


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

Lynnway should be Lynn’s road to success

“There has to be the political will…”

Those words spoken by a former Framingham Planning Board member summarize the 1,500-word story on the Lynnway published in Wednesday’s Item.

With all its problems and promises, the Lynnway could not be better positioned to benefit from the political will if for no better reason than the fact that Monday marked the six-month anniversary of the formation of a joint city, state and federal effort aimed at bringing an economic renaissance to Lynn.

Some of the development opportunities underscored by the Lynn Economic Development and Advancement (LEAD) team are becoming realities, most notably, the $80 million residential redevelopment of the Lynnway’s northern end. But most of the road, from its gateway entrance to the city at the General Edwards Bridge to the Clock Tower Business Center, is buried beneath, to quote city Economic Development and Industrial Corporation (EDIC) Director James Cowdell, “every mistake that has been made over the last 75 years.”

How does Lynn dig its way out of those mistakes and transform the promises of the future into reality?

The work begins, as Framingham’s Susan Bernstein pointed out, with appointed officials on municipal boards demonstrating the will to make the Lynnway fertile ground for future development. That work begins by asking what developers want and need on the Lynnway before they put shovels in the ground.

The next step after those questions are asked and answered is articulating a vision for the Lynnway. Mayor Judith Flanagan Kennedy in her 2010 inaugural address set her sights on the Lynnway and the city’s waterfront. Now is the time for her to say the Lynnway will only host major development projects if the city begins changing the way the Lynnway looks. She must add: “I have the will and I will map out the way this transformation will take place.”

If Kennedy shares a vision and illustrates how it will unfold, then city appointed officials serving on the Zoning Board of Appeals, Planning Board and Site Plan Review Committee can make transformative changes.

They might borrow from Framingham’s experience and take a hard line on reducing sign sizes and adding more landscaping, specifically trees, to the Lynnway. This approach will require working with every business seeking to update a sign, rebuild or complete an addition or open a new business.

It will be slow work and it may encounter resistance. But it is work worth doing if local officials truly want to prime the Lynnway for promise.

Jay Ash, state Secretary of Housing and Economic Development, declared on June 16, 2015, “This is Lynn’s time.” He told his audience, including high-ranking local officials, that city leaders must be unified in their effort to push the city forward or face the prospect of another municipality grabbing his attention. He warned them: “The first sign of real difficulty and I’ll have to make a tough decision. Sometimes, you have to say no.”

Decision time is now in Lynn. With the Lynnway as their focus, city leaders must demonstrate the political will to articulate a clear way forward to turn past mistakes into fertile ground for a bright future.

Home sweet home in Central Square

ITEM PHOTO BY OWEN O’ROURKE
From left, James Marsh, Brian LaPierre, Jeff Weeden, A.J. Saing, Peter Olsen, Dianna Chakoutis, James Cowdell, Tim Leonard, Jennifer Lawless, Mayor Judith Flanagan Kennedy, John Olson, Teresa Sarno, Sean McCarthy, Eileen Jonah-Daly, MaryJane Smalley, Leslie Gould and Carol Curley celebrate the grand reopening of 33 Central Square.

BY DILLON DURST

LYNN — It took Jennifer Lawless a year to find a home.

But the 36-year-old photographer said she was thrilled to find an affordable condominium in the downtown.

“I was really attracted to the outside,” she said. “It’s a really cool looking building.”

Lawless was among the first occupants of the former Arnold Stationery Building at 33 Central Square that has been converted into eight condos for artists..

The 10,896-square-foot building had been vacant for years and was purchased by the Economic Development and Industrial Corp. in 2011 for $140,000. The nonprofit redevelopment agency and the Lynn Housing Authority & Neighborhood Development transformed the five-story building into loft-style condos.

Previously an office supply building, the developers gutted the interior and turned the 113-year-old building into housing. The property’s exterior was also renovated.

Lawless said her monthly mortgage payment is about $850. Not bad, considering a comparable apartment would cost more than $1,000.

In addition to Lawless’ unit, two others have sold and three more buyers are expected to move in next month.

The remaining units are listed on the MLS Property Information Network for $125,000. They include fully equipped stainless steel and granite kitchens, soaring ceilings, exposed brick, hardwood floors and expansive windows.

James Cowdell, EDIC’s director, said the agency invested $1.5 million into the project and turned the condemned eyesore into what he called a “beautiful building.”

It’s a lot of money,” Cowdell previously said. “But it’s an investment. We’re taking a blighted building and we’re turning it into something everybody’s going to be proud of.”

The Lynn Area Chamber of Commerce, Mayor Judith Flanagan Kennedy and Councilor at-large Brian LaPierre, among others, opened the building Thursday with a ribbon-cutting.

Kennedy said the units were “absolutely beautiful” and will be sold very quickly.

The listing agent, Eileen Jonah-Daly said it’s a great feeling when she can put someone in a previously unoccupied building who will invest in the neighborhood. She said it also helps the city’s efforts to revitalize downtown.

“The fact that EDIC stuck with us and stayed dedicated to transforming this building means everything,” she said.

LaPierre said he’s excited to see the building being put to good use, and noted that having new properties on the tax roll will be good for the city.


Dillon Durst can be reached at ddurst@itemlive.com.

A Beacon of hope on the Lynnway

Photo by Paula Muller
From left, developers Arthur Pappathanasi and Louis Minicucci Jr., talk to James Cowdell about their plans for the former Beacon Chevrolet site.

By THOMAS GRILLO

LYNN — Today, it’s a 14-acre wasteland of concrete, grass and weeds with spectacular ocean views at the start of the Carroll Parkway on the Lynnway.

But soon, the desolate site will be filled with three, five-story wood-frame waterfront apartment buildings that the developers hope will attract young renters to Lynn.

“We are hoping Millennials and the younger generation between the ages of 22- and 40-years-old who are priced out of Boston will want to live in Lynn,” said Louis Minicucci Jr.

On Monday, Minicucci and partner Arthur Pappathanasi who manage Lynn Development LLC, bought the former Beacon Chevrolet site for $2.5 million. The sale cleared the way for an $80 million waterfront residential project that will feature 355 apartments and a seven-story garage with two floors underground.

Minicucci acknowledged there’s a certain amount of uncertainty about any new residential development given not many new apartments have been built in Lynn recently. But he said there’s plenty of demand for housing in Greater Boston where rents are a lot cheaper than in Boston’s downtown neighborhoods.

“When Boston’s Seaport District was built, rents were $2.50 per square foot or $2,500 for a 1,000-square-foot apartment,” he said. “Today, rents there are $4 to as high as $7 per square foot, so that same unit can cost $6,000 a month. In Lynn, we hope to get $2.25 a square foot for the same size apartment or $2,200.”

The first phase, which could break ground as early as next spring, will include two buildings with 125 units in each. A final phase that will offer another 100 apartments or so, he added.

Pappathanasi said when people visit the Beacon site, that has been dubbed “North Harbor,” in a few years, they will see well-designed, contemporary buildings with lots of green space and walking access to the ferry.

“We know the city, we have real estate and investments here and we are looking for the city to rebound and prosper,” he said.

Pappathanasi noted that the city has made permitting the project a breeze and he has received assurances from Jay Ash, the state’s Secretary of Housing and Economic Development, for similar swift action for state permits.

“We’re talking months, not years as far as state permits are concerned,” said Ash, who was in Lynn on Wednesday to tout a $100 million MassHousing fund for workforce housing. “We have all of our state partners at the table prioritizing Lynn development.  As a result, we are finding ways to achieve our goals to protect the environment and create open space access, but do it in a way that’s affordable and convenient for the developer.”   

Ash is part of the Lynn Economic Advancement and Development Team, a panel that 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 promised to cut through the bureaucracy and make things happen.

Cowdell said Minicucci and Pappathanasi are the real deal.

“This is a big investment by this group and it transforms this area that has been in this condition for 30 years,” he said. “They have lots of experience and the expertise to make it happen.”


Thomas Grillo can be reached at tgrillo@itemlive.com

Beacon shines on Lynn waterfront

ITEM FILE PHOTO
James Cowdell

BY THOMAS GRILLO

LYNN — The Beacon Chevrolet site on the Lynnway has been sold for $2.5 million, clearing the way for an $80 million waterfront residential project.

Lynn Development LLC, a North Andover-based entity managed by Louis Minicucci Jr. and Arthur Pappathanasi, closed the deal on Monday. The seller was John Granese Jr., trustee of Beacon-Bel Realty Trust in Marblehead.

Officials say the sale represents a giant step to jump start one of the waterfront’s major developments. It promises to begin the transformation of an underdeveloped city section into a world-class neighborhood complete with apartments offering sweeping ocean views, and nearby ferry service and a commuter rail station.

“We are very excited,” said James Cowdell, executive director of the Lynn Economic Development & Industrial Corp. “This project will have a shovel in the ground next spring.”

Plans for the 14-acre site include 355 apartments with rents expected to be in the $2,000 range.

“The people who will live there will primarily work in Boston, but can’t afford to live in Boston,” he said. “It offers a one-minute walk to the ferry with a 30-minute ride to Boston or a trip on the commuter rail, two minutes away. It will transform the area, but it’s only one piece of the puzzle.”

There are several projects on the drawing board for the Lynnway. Charles Patsios plans to construct a $500 million development that would offer 1,200 apartments on the former General Electric Co. Gear Works site. Joseph O’Donnell, founder of Boston Culinary Group and Belmont Capital in Cambridge, is investing $69 million to develop a 17-acre waterfront site that would include 250 units in a wood frame, three-story building.

Still, Cowdell admits there’s a healthy skepticism in Lynn where residents have heard promises of revitalization for years. “People are critical because they haven’t seen any progress yet,” he said. “But the Beacon site will transform that area, 40,000 cars drive by daily and they will look at the waterfront differently.”

Minicucci and Pappathanasi were unavailable for comment.


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

Tremendous amount of progress in Lynn

ITEM PHOTO BY OWEN O’ROURKE
State Secretary of Housing and Economic Development Jay Ash, Executive Director of the Economic Development and Industrial Corp. James Cowdell and Mayor Judith Flanagan Kennedy look at potential projects at an LEAD team meeting at the Lynn Museum.

BY THOR JOURGENSEN

LYNN — Top officials, including state Secretary of Housing and Economic Development Jay Ash, on Friday said they are going full steam ahead gathering the resources to spark Lynn’s resurgence.

A 355-apartment project on the Lynnway, a residential development on lower Washington Street and the Market Basket supermarket on Federal Street have advanced since last November, when Ash, U.S. Rep. Seth Moulton and Mayor Judith Flanagan Kennedy stood on City Hall’s steps with Gov. Charlie Baker to launch the Lynn Economic Advancement and Development team.

Ash said Lynn is the envy of 25 other Gateway cities in the Bay State where incomes and education levels are below state averages.

“There is not another Gateway city where there is so much development actively that is ready to pop,” he said. “Tremendous progress has been made since we announced Lynn is a priority for us.”

LEAD’s goal is to focus city, state and federal expertise on a dozen projects scattered across downtown and the waterfront. Since November, that effort has included Ash’s meetings with National Grid representatives. The utility is the leading owner of oceanside land in the city, said James Cowdell, executive director of the Economic Development and Industrial Corp.

Citywide development, including the former General Electric River Works, the Whyte’s Laundry site on Willow Street and the former Beacon Chevrolet land, where an $80 million Lynnway apartment complex is planned, offer “similarities and their own unique challenges,” said Ash.

“We’re tackling them one at a time. With each, we are getting closer to development,” Kennedy said.

One of the challenges has been linking the 1,100-unit proposed gear plant project to commuter rail service. State Transportation Secretary Stephanie Pollack said she is optimistic that scheduled train stops can be arranged at the River Works stop, now reserved exclusively for GE employees.

An overarching goal in the LEAD discussions is increasing the city’s market-rate housing. State Rep. Brendan Crighton said the city and state can combine forces to lure developers with tax credits.

“The only way to attract market housing to Gateway cities is through creative financing,” he said.

Crighton and Moulton said talks are underway with GE representatives about opportunities to repurpose River Works land for residences or innovative businesses.

“We have a lot of good ideas,” said Moulton. “We need to see them come to fruition.”

But not all the news coming out of Friday’s session was good. Don’t expect to sail on the commuter ferry this summer. Pollack said the search continues for money to help the city buy a ferry and to cover operating costs.


Thor Jourgensen can be reached at tjourgensen@itemlive.com.

The sky’s the limit in Lynn

PHOTO BY OWEN O’ROURKE

By THOMAS GRILLO

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.

Board planning to uphold city’s Lynnway vision

ITEM FILE PHOTO
City Inspectional Services Director Michael Donovan

By Gayla Cawley

Item Staff

LYNN —A battle between two city boards is the first salvo over the future of the city’s waterfront.

On Tuesday night, the Planning Board voted to appeal the Zoning Board of Appeals’ (ZBA) approval for a contractor’s yard on the Lynnway because the project fails to meet the city’s vision for the district.

“A contractor’s yard is definitely not what we want on the water side of the Lynnway,” said James Cowdell, executive director of the Lynn Economic Development and Industrial Corp. “We’re trying to attract multi-million dollar investments and this would hurt our efforts.”

Last month, the ZBA granted the petition for the contractor’s yard with a stipulation that its use be limited to Leahy Landscaping LLC. The company, owned by Matthew Leahy, would lease the land at 732R Lynnway from owner Kenneth Carpi.

In response, the Planning Board unanimously voted to file a lawsuit.

“This just flies in the face of what the city has done since 2007 in regards to the waterfront,” said Michael Donovan, the city’s Inspectional Services director.

James Lamanna, the city’s attorney, said the Planning Board vote authorizes the city to file a lawsuit challenging the ZBA variance and names the panel and the landlords as defendants in that lawsuit.

The deadline to appeal the ZBA decision is April 13. Lamanna said municipal lawsuits can take up to two years to resolve.

“While this litigation is pending, another tenant could be found that would be allowed to go there that would be acceptable to the city,” Lamanna said.

The ZBA’s stipulation to limit the use of the yard to Leahy was unlawful, Lamanna noted. He said the variance for the contractor’s yard is good for any business that wants to operate there, and cannot be limited to one business.

Cowdell at the EDIC said he would like to negotiate with Carpi and convince him to support the city’s concept for the waterfront that would include a mix of apartments, hotels and retail. He also plans work with Leahy to find him another location for the  contractor’s yard.

Carpi’s lawyer, Thomas Demakis, said Leahy’s business has outgrown its current location and needs to expand. He told the board that the property is barely visible on the Lynnway, that Leahy would display plants, trees and shrubs in front of the property for people to see driving by looking to purchase, according to minutes from the ZBA meeting

Demakis declined comment on the Planning Board’s action.

Ward 6 Councilor Peter Capano sent a letter to Kathryn Brown, chairperson of the ZBA, in favor of moving the petition to the Lynn City Council for approval.

“I realize there are concerns about the use of this property because it is right in the middle of the Waterfront Master Plan and we all have high expectations for its use down the road,” Capano wrote. “My concern is that Mr. Carpi is paying $200,000 worth of taxes each year on the property and is one of the biggest investors in the city. I think he should be able to offset some of his expenses by leasing his property until something bigger and better and more suited to the vision of the waterfront master plan comes along.”

In order to have a contractor’s yard, Lamanna said a variance was needed from the ZBA. But Carpi and Leahy also must obtain a special permit from the City Council. At Tuesday’s meeting, the council voted to set a public hearing for Leahy Landscaping, but a date was not determined.

But by filing the lawsuit before next Wednesday, Lamanna said the variance from the ZBA is on hold until the court rules and the contractor’s yard cannot operate during that time.


 

Gayla Cawley can be reached at gcawley@itemlive.com. Follow her on Twitter @GaylaCawley.

Will PILOTs fly in Lynn?

ITEM PHOTO BY OWEN O’ROURKE
A sweeping view of Lynn.

By THOMAS GRILLO

LYNN — When it comes to the contentious issue of whether nonprofits should contribute cash in lieu of taxes, many of the city’s power brokers are silent.

“The issue is not on our front burner,” said Leslie Gould, president and CEO of the Lynn Area Chamber of Commerce, before she announced the interview “off the record.”

Lori Abrams Berry, executive director of the Lynn Community Health Center, a nonprofit that operates five facilities in the city, also shut down the conversation.

“I do not want to participate in that story,” she said. “It’s controversial, and I don’t particularly want to comment on it.

Deb Ansourlian, executive director of Girls Incorporated, was also reluctant to talk, saying she didn’t want to be quoted in a story about that issue.

Robert Norton, president and CEO of North Shore Medical Center, which includes Union Hospital, was unavailable for comment.

Mayor Judith Flanagan Kennedy did not return calls and through a spokeswoman referred questions to Peter Caron, the city’s chief financial officer.

Taso Nikolakopoulos, owner of John’s Roast Beef and a former chairman of the Lynn Area Chamber of Commerce, said he’s not surprised that no one wants to talk about it. “That issue is like the third rail in Lynn,” he said. “On one hand, nonprofits are struggling financially and it would be a hardship for them to come up with a payment to the city and any contribution would reduce services for residents.”

But others say Lynn has a limited amount of commercial real estate and some of it is being occupied by nonprofits who pay nothing in real estate taxes.

“If a PILOT is implemented, that’s a big chunk of revenue the city can receive, ”Nikolakopoulos said.

At issue is legislation on Beacon Hill that would give cities and towns the option to negotiate Payment in Lieu of Taxes (PILOT) agreements with landowning tax-exempt organizations. Under the terms of the bill, charities can make cash or in-kind contributions to communities instead of property taxes. Typically, communities like Boston, who have used PILOTs since 2012, ask for about 25 percent of what the tax bill would be.

In Lynn, the total assessed value of all real estate is $6.39 billion. Of that number, charities – excluding city and state buildings, schools and churches – comprise $108.7 million of it. If the charities were taxed at the commercial rate, it would provide $3.5 million in tax dollars. Should Lynn adopt a PILOT that asks for 25 percent of the assessed value, it would add $864,000 to the city’s $290 million budget.

The revenue-raising plan is based on the estimated cost of providing city services, including police and fire protection, snow removal, and emergency medical treatment, which account for about 25 percent of the city’s budget.

For example, Union Hospital’s property on Lynnfield Street is assessed at $18 million and would be taxed at $577,656 annually if it was a for-profit business. Under an agreement to pay 25 percent of that, the hospital’s contribution would be $144,414.

Boston, one of the first cities to launch a PILOT, has raised nearly $100 million since 2012. The initiative was launched by former City Councilor Stephen Murphy, who insisted that nonprofits pay their fair share. Former Mayor Thomas M. Menino convinced 49 nonprofits, which own property valued at $15 million or more, to contribute. 

“I certainly think it warrants a conversation,” said James Cowdell, executive director of the Economic Development & Industrial Corp. of Lynn. “A model with nonprofits of a certain size, that own their buildings, volunteering a sum that reflects the police, fire, and DPW portion of a standard commercial rate, at least merits consideration

 

But Lynn City Council President Dan Cahill said unlike Boston, Lynn lacks giant institutions with billion-dollar endowments such as Harvard University, Boston College and Boston University.

Cahill said targeted PILOTs work, such as the agreement that was struck with the Visiting Nurse Association when it built a new facility at 210 Market St. that is assessed at $4.4 million. In addition, deals were made with the Abbott House Nursing Home, which owns the property at 28 Essex St. that is assessed at $1.2 million; and the Raw Arts Works building in Central Square that is valued at $642,000. In total, they donate about $50,000 annually.

As far as implementing a broader program that would impact some or all of the city’s five dozen nonprofits, Cahill said that’s part a very large discussion that has not yet happened in the city.

“It makes sense for Boston’s nonprofits to pay because they have massive colleges and universities with billion-dollar endowments,” he said. “But in Lynn, our charities are considerably smaller and run on a shoestring budget.”

Mark Kennard, executive director of Project Cope, an affiliate of Bridgewell, a nonprofit that provides assistance to individuals with developmental and psychiatric disabilities at 22 Lynn locations, said the nonprofits are a vibrant sector of the city and make a huge contribution to the economy. But he is ambivalent about whether charities should be required to make payments.

“I have operated a nonprofit for many years and we certainly use city services, and in that respect paying some kind of PILOT makes absolute sense,” said Kennard, a founding member of the Lynn Nonprofit Business Association.

“But some nonprofits are vehemently opposed to it and fear it opens a can of worms because it would take money away from core services of their mission. And if some groups contribute, then there will be pressure on others to do the same.”

When asked if any nonprofits have stepped forward to pay, he said “no.”

Geoffrey Beckwith, executive director of the Massachusetts Municipal Association, an advocacy group on behalf of cities and towns, said PILOTs are a matter of fairness.

“The basic premise behind PILOTs is equity, especially for communities that have a concentration of nonprofits,” he said. “Communities provide police, fire, public works and emergency response. Many communities lose a substantial portion of their tax base because of the nonprofits and that burdens all taxpayers.”

Caron, the city’s CFO, said he lacks the statutory authority to make any nonprofit pay.

“It’s really a question of the political will from the council and the mayor to put pressure on these entities,” he said. “I’ve heard talk about this issue, but there’s been no follow up. No one wants to jump on it.”

There’s at least one elected official who thinks it’s a good idea.

City Councilor Wayne Lozzi said he supports the concept, but wants to make sure the threshold is set high enough so that smaller nonprofits are not hit with a big bill.

“Whoever drafted the tax-exempt rules years ago missed the fact that the city provides police and fire safety services,” he said. “They should kick in something.”


Thomas Grillo can be reached at tgrillo@itemlive.com

KIPP provides new transfusion for Blood building

ITEM PHOTO BY OWEN O’ROURKE
Wayne Terminello, the owner of Fleetwood Media Productions in the Blood building in Lynn, says he has a good relationship with Lynn EDIC.

BY THOR JOURGENSEN

LYNN — The Economic Development and Industrial Corp. is reviewing plans to renovate the J.B. Blood building even as the Knowledge Is Power Program (KIPP) Charter School adds classrooms in the Wheeler Street building.

KIPP houses 121 kindergarten students and offices in the Blood building and plans to add a first grade, pushing its enrollment to 240 students in September.

“We’ll be on two floors and adding to that,” said Caleb Dolan, KIPP’s Massachusetts executive director. “We love being in the heart of the city.”

EDIC owns the Blood building two blocks away from the Lynnway and Market Street and leases space in it. KIPP searched for classroom space last year after getting state approval to add an elementary school program to the middle school and high school the charter school operates in the Highlands.

Dolan said the Blood building is a temporary academic and administrative location while KIPP seeks a building to lease or purchase. He said the school wants to acquire long-term or permanent space to educate 600 kindergarten through fourth-grade students.

“We’d look at fall 2018 or 2019,” Dolan said.

James Cowdell, EDIC director, called the charter school “a good tenant and a good fit” for the Blood building, and said no other tenants will be relocated in the facility as a result of KIPP’s expansion.

Fleetwood Media Productions has been in the Blood building for eight years and owner Wayne Terminello said he has a good relationship with EDIC.

“Ideally, cost-wise, to stay here is my best bet,” he said.

Repair plans for the Blood building include extensive masonry and window replacement work. An estimate provided to EDIC lists 48,000-square-feet of masonry work, including repointing brick walls, washing exterior walls and repairing concrete surfaces.

The building has 146 windows with repairs and replacement costing $636,000. Masonry work cost estimates total $520,000 with staging, planning and work preparation costing $320,000 and interior work in the building estimated to cost $200,000.

No specific starting date for the renovation work has been set.


Thor Jourgensen can be reached at tjourgensen@itemlive.com.

New future for Factory of Future

PHOTO BY PAULA MULLER
Building owner Charlie Patsios and Mayor Judith Kennedy watch as the demolition of the Old GE building on Federal Street in Lynn begins.

BY THOR JOURGENSEN

LYNN — An excavator started demolishing the long-empty General Electric Factory of the Future building on Federal Street Monday to make way for a supermarket.

Mayor Judith Flanagan Kennedy smiled and clapped as the big machine took its first bite out of the building’s loading dock before proceeding to rip down part of a wall.

“This building has been vacant for so long,” Kennedy said. “It’s coming down for something new.”

Market Basket is scheduled to open a store at Federal Street and Western Avenue next spring, she added. New Hampshire-based Kidder Building & Wrecking Inc. crews will strip the 84,000-square-foot building to its foundation and steel frame.

“This is the day we begin to bring 400 jobs to this site,” said James M. Cowdell, executive director of the city’s Economic Development and Industrial Corporation.

The partial demolition will take 10 days — weather permitting — and sets the stage for a construction of the store to build the store and add 20,000 additional square footage.

“GE built a very solid foundation and we are adding to it,” said Charles Patsios, the site’s  owner and Swampscott developer.

Shuttered since 1988, the once state-of-the-art factory sat empty until the mayor met with high-level GE executives to discuss steering the site toward redevelopment. Patsios bought the 16-acre property from GE in 2013 for $4 million. Market Basket CEO Arthur T. DeMoulas joined city and state officials last year to announce $2.5 million in state money for road improvements around the site.

The work will start this summer with contractors creating turning lanes on Spencer Street. Additional road repair working and street lighting installation will be done on streets surrounding the site, including Marion and Waterhill streets.

Kennedy said the new Market Basket will attract Lynn shoppers and customers from Nahant, Saugus and other communities.

Lou St. Onge, Kidder’s project manager, praised City Hall for working with the demolition firm to prepare the site for excavation.

“You’re very good,” he said.


Thor Jourgensen can be reached at tjourgensen@itemlive.com.

 

City officials: Senior-center expansion is news to us

ITEM FILE PHOTO BY OWEN O’ROURKE
Mayor Judith Flanagan Kennedy would not comment on Council on Aging Chairman Al DiVirgilio’s proposal to expand the Lynn senior center.

BY THOR JOURGENSEN

LYNN — Expanding the Silsbee Street senior center is a concern city officials said has not been discussed with them.

“No one has brought that to my attention. It’s a surprise to me,” said Ward 5 City Councilor Dianna Chakoutis.

Mayor Judith Flanagan Kennedy offered a similar reaction and would not elaborate on her views concerning Council on Aging Chairman Al DiVirgilio’s proposal last Thursday to expand the center.

“I’m not going to comment on it,” said Kennedy.

Senior Center Director Stacy Minchello said the center is “maxxed out” of available space for activities and DiVirgilio last Thursday said the facility is 40 years old. Economic Development and Industrial Corporation Director James Cowdell said he has spoken with Greater Lynn Senior Services representatives  but only about parking needs.

“Outside of that, there has been no discussion with EDIC about GLSS expanding downtown,” Cowdell said.

The senior center is located across Ellis Street from a city-owned downtown parking lot. The city Parking Department, beginning in 2015, set stricter permit parking and “transient” parking rules for the Ellis Street lot and the lot on Buffum Street.

Department revenue records underscore how city lots are becoming increasingly popular for drivers seeking to park downtown.

The Andrew Street lot in the fiscal year that started July 1, 2012, generated $53,000 in parking revenue compared to $92,000 in the fiscal year that ended on June 30, 2015. The Buffum Street lot generated $140,000 in 2015 compared to $132,000 in 2014 and Ellis Street generated $61,000 in 2013 compared to $69,000 in late 2014 and the first half of 2015.

The department has taken a number of steps to enforce parking rates and make payment easier.

Parking scofflaws who ignore the dollar an hour or five dollars a day parking rate risk receiving a $20 violation ticket. Mechanical kiosks like the one installed in the city lot between Andrew and Liberty streets are also slated to be installed in other lots.

Employees working in 50 downtown businesses and organizations park in the 200-space Buffum Street lot and demand for monthly parking permits for the lot prompted the Parking Department to post the lot for permit parking only.

The department in 2015 also mapped out a plan to direct “transient” lot users  drivers who pay by the hour or day to park  to the Ellis Street lot located a block and a half off of Union Street and about three blocks from Buffum Street.


Thor Jourgensen can be reached at tjourgensen@itemlive.com.