Jay Ash

Revere puts a ribbon on progress

ITEM PHOTO BY OWEN O’ROURKE
State Secretary of Housing and Economic Development Jay Ash, left, helps Budge Upton, partner at Upton & Partners, Mayor Brian Arrigo, and Xander Dyer, V.P. T.A. Associates Realty cut the ribbon at Ocean 650 Apartments.

By GAYLA CAWLEY

REVERE — Ocean 650 Apartments, a new luxury apartment complex on Revere Beach, was christened by city and state officials on Wednesday, who hailed it as setting the standard for future development in Revere.

Jay Ash, state secretary of housing and economic development, joined Mayor Brian Arrigo and other city officials for a ribbon cutting on the rooftop of the apartment complex on Ocean Avenue, which holds 230 market-rate units, ranging from $1,750 to more than $4,000, according to the developer, Budge Upton, partner with Dedham-based Upton & Partners.

“This is awesome,” Ash said. “To the city council, congratulations on what you’ve been able to accomplish here. This is really something that you should take a great deal of credit for. Lots of communities (would) be very happy to have what you have here and are very envious here today. To be able to deliver such quality development to the community and a community that very much wants to have development … take place is really something you should be proud of.”

Upton said the building opened about five months ago, on a budget of $50 million, and is 61 percent leased. He declined to say how much he paid for the property, which he acquired from the master developer, Joseph DiGangi in late 2014. Online records show the sale price was $2.47 million, and the property value is $31.4 million. Upton said construction began 26 months ago.

Upton said he liked the location for the complex because of the public transportation, the beach, proximity to downtown Boston and a supportive government. Amenities include a fitness center, roof deck views of the Boston skyline, garage parking, and its location adjacent to the MBTA Wonderland Station.

“I think it’s a great place setter for future development in Revere,” Upton said.

Boston-based Arrowstreet was the architecture firm for the project. David Bois, principal of Arrowstreet, said the design was trying to be a modern interpretation of the New England beach house. He said 70 percent of the units have water views.

Medford sends off its seniors

Ash said he was very impressed and that the project is important to the entire Commonwealth. He said there’s a housing crunch in Massachusetts and each of the state’s 351 municipalities are needed to solve that problem.

He said housing in the Greater Boston area is critically important “to all of our economies,” and there is a need for developments such as Ocean 650 to take place in places such as Revere to continue to attract talent and income. Municipalities such as Revere and Chelsea also need to be creating the housing necessary to support all of the jobs that want to come to Massachusetts, added Ash.

“The good news for all of us right now is that Massachusetts is in a great place,” Ash said. “The great place is that we actually have more jobs than we have people. We have jobs that are chasing after people instead of people that are chasing after jobs. In order to make sure that we continue to retain those people that are here and attract others, we need to have quality housing and what you have here is quality housing.”

Arrigo said the building and the oceanfront view, are beautiful, but “at the end of the day, this sets a new standard (for) the city of Revere and that’s what’s so exciting about tonight.” He said there is a new standard in terms of development and the developer’s interest and the project is really a testament to the city’s vision, a vision that has been going on for a number of years.

Arrigo said there had been 15 to 30 years of work that went into making the project a reality. He credited former Revere mayor and current city manager in Chelsea, Thomas Ambrosino, for having the vision of a waterfront square.

Arrigo said it was exciting to hear Upton say the project was only the beginning for the city, because it couldn’t be more true, as there are “great things” happening in terms of developments at Wonderland and Suffolk Downs.

“Those are all part of the further vision, the bigger vision, and the bigger things that are going to be happening in the city of Revere,” he said.


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

$300,000 LEADs to a cleaner Lynn

The city will be little cleaner thanks to a $300,000 Brownfields grant from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

U.S. Rep Seth Moulton (D-Salem) and the Lynn Economic Advancement and Development (LEAD) team worked to secure the cash.

“This grant is yet another testament to the strength of the LEAD team,” said Moulton in a statement. “These sites, saddled by years of oil and chemical contamination, are an albatross around the neck of Lynn, and pose a serious threat to the city’s environmental and economic health.”

Brownfields funds help transform dirty, dormant properties into new businesses and homes, stimulating much needed jobs and tax revenue for Lynn, he said.

These competitive awards will be used for assessment and partial clean up. A $200,000 grant will determine what hazardous substances are located on six sites across Lynn, and prepare a cleanup plan.

Among the sites included is the former Whyte’s Laundry. The EPA estimates that it will cost about $350,000 to remove contaminants from the 15,000-square-foot parcel.

In addition, there’s a $100,000 remediation grant to clean 870 Western Avenue, a former gas station and automotive service facility.

Initial testing by the Economic Development and Industrial Corp., the city’s development bank, found soil and groundwater at the site are contaminated with petroleum hydrocarbons.

James Cowdell, EDIC’s executive director, worked with Moulton’s office in applying for these two EPA grants.

“We are very appreciative to receive these critical grants,” said Cowdell in a statement.

In addition to Moulton, members of the LEAD team include Gov. Charlie Baker, Secretary of Housing and Economic Development Jay Ash, Secretary of Energy and Environmental Affairs Matthew Beaton, Secretary of Transportation Stephanie Pollack, Mayor Judith Flanagan Kennedy, state Sen. Thomas M. McGee, and state representatives Daniel Cahill, Brendan Crighton, Lori Ehrlich, and Donald Wong.

Killing a beast in Malden

ITEM FILE PHOTO
A plan for a new development in Malden.

Malden has launched a sweeping downtown renovation project that is bold in its scope and redefining in its ability to shape the city’s downtown.

At the center of of the $100 million-plus project is the demolition of the “Beast That Ate Pleasant Street.” That is the name local wits gave City Hall with the nickname referring to the unfortunate decision 40 years ago to have the seat of city government straddle one of Malden’s most vibrant streets.

The six-story municipal building and the former police station will be replaced with a transit-oriented, mixed use development that will reopen Malden Square’s primary retail street — Pleasant Street — and reconnect it with the Malden Center MBTA Station at Malden Center.

Dubbed “Jefferson at Malden Center,” the massive project will rise not only on the former City Hall and police station lots but also on the site of First Church. Construction plans call for constructing

320 residential units in two buildings, a 45,000 square foot office condominium shell (to be built out by the city for a new city hall), more than 22,500 square feet of ground floor retail, and approximately 330 parking spaces.  

The two buildings will be connected by a sky bridge. The development will have 30,000 square feet of amenities for its residential tenants including a pool, three-season deck and a yoga lawn. City officials are touting the project as the new “front door” to Pleasant Street.”

State Housing and Economic Development Secretary Jay Ash called the development “the definition of a bold move.” Finding a comparison to Malden’s vision for its downtown requires traveling to neighboring Revere where the city’s beachfront, with help from the state, is being transformed into new residential towers with a parking garage nearby and skyway connecting the beach to the Wonderland Blue Line station.

Harmony on display in Swampscott

Always one to shy away from mundane language, Ash credited Malden officials for “knocking the knock” in addition to walking the walk when it comes to making a bold urban development decision.

The Jefferson project is also a study in political will with Mayor Gary Christenson carrying on the legacy of former Mayor Richard Howard who, in Ash’s words, fought the “good fights” to get his city focused on downtown redevelopment.

“Malden is doing something here that every other community wants to do or should be doing in their downtown,” Ash said.

It is not surprising to hear Ash so excited about Malden’s transformation. After all, he helped guide the city of Chelsea’s resurgence with state help and the same progressive approach to working with developers that Christenson has demonstrated.

One of those developers, Jefferson Apartment Group Vice President Sandi Silk, called his firm’s plans for Malden, working in partnership with the city and state, “a first — anywhere.”

“Reconnecting Pleasant Street will dramatically change how residents and visitors perceive and use Malden, how they shop and dine in this community,” Silk said.

That is strong language and it underscores the transformative power of political will and community cooperation when it is focused on change and harnessed to the goal of making life in a community better.

Goodbye to ‘The Beast that Ate Pleasant Street’

PHOTO BY STEVE FREKER
Officials watch the start of demolition of the 40-year-old building.

By STEVE FREKER

MALDEN — With a resounding crash of a cherry picker demolition truck knocking the first bricks down from one of its most well-known fixtures, the city bade goodbye to “The Beast that Ate Pleasant Street.”

Malden Mayor Gary Christenson on Friday joined a group of city staff and officials, local state legislators, developers and financiers and Mass. Secretary of Housing and Development Jay Ash for a historic ceremony commemorating the start of the demolition process of the 40-year-old former Malden Government Center building,

“When we began this project with an idea years ago, it was perhaps a situation where you  could not see the forest because of the trees. Today we are going to see some bricks come down and it will be very clear we have reached our goal,” Christenson said. “We are so grateful to each and every person and official at the state and local level who has contributed to this project, which will transform and revitalize our community  for years to come.”

The six-story edifice, built in 1977, will be razed, along with the former police station to its west side, and replaced with a $100 million-plus transit-oriented, mixed-use  development that will reopen Malden Square’s primary retail street — Pleasant Street — and reconnect it with the Malden Center MBTA Station.

The “Jefferson at Malden Center” will encompass the property which served as Malden City Hall and the Malden Police Station at 200 Pleasant St. Jefferson Apartment Group (JAG) purchased the city-owned properties and also the First Church in Malden at 184 Pleasant St.

According to the Malden Redevelopment Authority (MRA) officials, the project is a “ground up development planned for 320 residential units in two buildings, a 45,000 square foot office condominium shell (to be built out by the city for a new City Hall), more than 22,500 square feet of ground floor retail and approximately 330 parking spaces. The buildings will be connected by a sky bridge. The development will have 30,000 square feet of amenities for its residential tenants including a pool, three-season deck and a yoga lawn.  It will be the new “front door” to Pleasant Street.”

Ash, who has been instrumental in shepherding the last steps of state grant assistance to help fund the project through Gov. Charlie Baker’s administration, called the project, “the definition of a bold move to create revitalization in the downtown area.

Gunshots in Peabody

“I was just with Gov. Baker today and we were talking about this project today and we agreed that other communities in the Commonwealth should be bold and follow the example Malden has set and be bold,” Ash said. “Malden and Mayor Christenson must be congratulated for having the vision initially, and then having the courage to see it through.

“This is a perfect example of how a community can truly make a difference in downtown revitalization,” Ash said. “It is no small task or decision to knock down and replace your City Hall and creating such a historic mixed-use development in its place. Not only is Malden walking the walk, they are literally ‘knocking the knock’ by tearing this building down.”

Ash also praised the efforts of former Mayor Richard Howard, who also attended Friday and current Mayor Christenson in their work on this project, which essentially began eight years ago when Christenson sat on the City Council.

“Mayor Howard fought the first fights — good fights — to get this project started and laid the groundwork for finding the resources to see it through. Then it was Gary Christenson’s vision about making Malden what you all want it to be,” Ash said. “Malden is doing something here that every other community wants to do or should be doing in their downtown. Trust me, other cities are in awe of what Mayor Howard and Mayor Christenson have accomplished here.”

Malden City Council President Peg Crowe spoke on behalf of the present and former City Council members, whom the mayor lauded for their diligence. “By taking down this leaky, drafty, outdated building, we will be replacing it with a truly mixed-development and breathe fresh, new air into our downtown. We on the Council look forward to helping write the next chapter in Malden city history.”

Sandi Silk, vice president for development at Jefferson Apartment Group, said it is “the beginning and the future of Malden Center.”  

“The mix of uses here is a first — anywhere,” Silk said. “It’s taken a long time to get here, but the short 3½ years since we finalized the deal, we are very pleased with the benefits that have already begun. Reconnecting Pleasant Street will dramatically change how residents and visitors perceive and use Malden, how they shop and dine in this community. Reinvigorating and creating  diversified retail mix will pay dividends long into the future for Malden.”

 

Bringing a good thing to Lynn

General Electric is bringing good things to life by breaking ground on its new headquarters in the former warehouse district near Boston’s South Station. Gov. Baker, quoted by the State House News Service on Monday, called the groundbreaking “one more step forward in the continuing evolution of Massachusetts as a global player.” What does GE’s big plans for Boston mean to the North Shore, specifically, Lynn?

A GE executive on Monday said the firm is looking forward to forging collaborations with area community colleges. Thinking about that comment in the context of North Shore Community College and Salem State University spurs excitement and inspiration.

General Electric’s aviation manufacturing presence in Lynn helped write the city’s history and the River Works plant is still a major city employer. Imagine if GE’s 21st century commitment to evolving technologies takes on life in Boston and expands outward, swamping the North Shore and Lynn with brilliant minds and the economic ramifications of their inventions?

GE Vice President Ann Klee employed high-tech jargon Monday when she was quoted by the News Service praising Boston’s “great innovation ecosystem.” She used that phrase to explain why it made sense for GE to move its headquarters.

That explanation can be interpreted in different ways. The most obvious interpretation is that GE finds Boston to be an attractive location because of the large number of universities and associated research facilities in the city.

GE + NSCC = A bright future

By extension, Cambridge and Route 128 for decades have attracted research and development manufacturers tapping into Boston’s academic brainpower to fuel their production. Lynn’s River Works, at first glance, conjures up images of skilled factory workers making jet engines. But a deeper look at the West Lynn plant reveals engineers designing next-generation engines and facilities potentially becoming future sites for the “innovation ecosystem” highlighted by Klee.

U.S. Rep. Seth Moulton has talked about the River Work’s value as a possible location for technology-oriented businesses incubated in Boston and searching for affordable space where they can grow and prosper.Congress

Moulton is an imaginative thinker but his ideas are rooted in a business background; before winning a seat in Congress, the Marine veteran focused his boundless energy on the high-speed rail industry. Rail transportation is an industry GE has helped to expand and it is an important component of the type of transportation-driven economy Moulton and state Sen. Thomas M. McGee frequently highlight.

The News Service on Monday reported how state Housing and Economic Development Secretary Jay Ash, worked with other top officials under the codename “Project Plum” in 2015 to woo GE to Boston.

Ash is well aware of Lynn’s economic potential and it is not a stretch to imagine him pointing GE in Lynn’s direction once company executives decide how communities around Boston can benefit from the headquarters relocation.

With North Shore Community College stepping onto the technological cutting edge by expanding its Lynn campus and Lynn schools working for years with River Works volunteers, Lynn is poised to benefit from GE’s decision to make Boston the center of its corporate universe.

 

A city of two tales

PHOTO BY PAULA MULLER
Hoana Cortez and Robert Miller stand April 17 at a vigil for the two men shot on Exchange Street.

To paraphrase Dickens, it was the best of times and the worst of times in Lynn this week.

The worst was first. An Easter Sunday shooting in Central Square that left one dead and another hospitalized.

Then came the best. Bookended by a Monday night vigil at the shooting site and Thursday night’s gathering at Zion Baptist Church to show solidarity for Prince Belin and remember the late Leonardo Clement, four unrelated events took place simultaneously Tuesday:

Friends of the late Wendy Meninno Hayes gathered to remember a woman who defined her life with charity and friendship; the city Humans Rights Commission hosted a City Hall forum entitled, “Focus on Asian Americans;” the committee behind the successful April 6 kickoff of “Beyond Walls” met to plan the next steps for a downtown revitalization effort that envisions murals and classic neon signs lighting up the city’s center by July; while experts who make a living out of reimagining cities converged on the Lynn Museum and let their imaginations roam free in the “Visions for Lynn” discussion.

One night in Lynn.

Perhaps the most startling was the Visions discussion. Designers and academics let their minds wander on a long leash and imagined the city’s waterfront becoming a sort of futuristic Venice with canals. They conceived a pedestrian-friendly wastewater treatment plant, the Lynnway Learning Lab — a futuristic high school with rooftop gardens — and a public safety facility doubling as a community gathering place.

Visions and Beyond Walls demonstrate the imagination that is the fuel propelling a new vision for downtown.

Beyond Walls hits $50K goal at fundraiser

All of this might sound like so much idle speculation by academics and hopeful residents — until state Housing and Economic Development Secretary Jay Ash’s perspective is factored into the equation.

Commenting in the Boston Globe’s Sunday Magazine on April 16, Ash called Lynn one of those “gritty blue-collar North Shore communities that are poised to move up a notch or two or three.”

Ash’s comments merit close examination, especially when they are spotlighted against the backdrop of Beyond Walls and Visions.

Lynn could be one of the ‘top spots to live’

The former Chelsea city manager knows what it takes to revive a city. As the state’s top development chief, Ash joined Gov. Charlie Baker, U.S. Rep. Seth Moulton, Mayor Judy Flanagan Kennedy, Lynn’s state delegation and city development officials in creating the LEAD (Lynn Economic Advancement Development) team in November, 2015, to bring federal, state, and local resources to bear on revitalizing Lynn.

His remarks to the Globe are proof positive he feels that commitment is ready to pay off.

By accenting all that is positive about their city, Lynn residents are drawing a map for success and they are narrowing the focus on the city’s problems. Lighting downtown and adorning it with murals and sculpture offers an opportunity to step back and ask, “OK, what needs to get fixed downtown?”

The answer may come in the form of public safety proposals, revamped zoning ideas or other innovations rivaling the ideas offered by the academics who gathered on Tuesday at the Lynn Museum.

During her life, Wendy Hayes helped provide the answer through the selfless charity she showed Lynn residents. A Saugus native with a brilliant smile who died last August, her legacy and memory lives on with friends who knew her as the co-owner with her husband, Rolly, of Rolly’s Tavern on the Square.  

Lynn’s diversity can also provide the answer. More than 10 percent of people who live in the city are of Vietnamese, Khmer and Laotian descent. They built businesses, bought homes and Tuesday’s commission meeting is a first step to giving them the chance to contribute positive ideas.

The great news about positive ideas is that they spur imaginations and generate additional ideas. The energy that filled downtown and the city this week is proof that only imagination defines the realm of possibility for Lynn.

Lynn could be one of the ‘top spots to live’

By THOMAS GRILLO

LYNN — It took a while, but The Boston Globe has discovered Lynn’s real estate boomlet.

In a Sunday Magazine feature on Easter, the city was listed in its “Top Spots to Live: 12 Communities with Soaring Home Prices.”

The piece, under a photo of the former Daily Item building, cited data from The Warren Group. It showed the median price for a single-family home in Lynn has swelled by 59 percent since 2011 to $287,000. Condominium prices climbed to $180,00, up 67 percent during the same period.

There’s a quote from “Johnny, ” a potential buyer who said what brings him to Lynn is price, value, affordability and space.

“We’ve broadened from potentially a condo in East Boston,” he told the Globe. “I’d rather drive farther to have a single-family home and have more space and a yard.”

Also quoted is Jay Ash, the state’s Secretary of Housing and Economic Development, who said Lynn is one of those “gritty blue-collar North Shore communities that are poised to move up a notch or two or three.”

He should know. Ash, a Chelsea native who served as its city manager for years, has been credited with revitalizing the city just outside of Boston.

“Snap up a single-family for less than $300,000 and start brushing up on your do-it-yourself skills,” the Globe implores.

Yeah, we know.  

Do Lynn & Revere suffer from a grocery-gap?


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

Big names at fundraiser for Northeast Arc

COURTESY PHOTO
Tom Gould, owner of Treadwell’s Ice Cream and Peabody city councilor-at-large, and Gabriella Foley of Swampscott are just two of the participants in Northeast Arc’s fashion show fundraiser.

Swampscott’s Kim Carrigan, host of the Boston.com Morning Show on WRKO-AM,  will host Northeast Arc’s “An Evening of Changing Lives” fundraiser on April 29 at the Danversport Yacht Club in Danvers.

For the first time, the event will feature more than a dozen local celebrities, dignitaries, and business leaders in a fashion show.

Each of these volunteers will be paired with individuals whose lives are changed as a result of the community’s support of the Northeast Arc’s services. They will walk the runway in clothes supplied by Brooks Brothers and the Gap at the Northshore Mall; J. Mode in Salem; Infinity Boutique in Swampscott; and lululemon.

Northeast Arc is a Danvers-based nonprofit that helps children and adults with disabilities become full participants in the community.

The event will also serve to honor Jeffrey Musman of Nahant, a partner at Seyfarth Shaw LLP.

“Jeffrey has been a longtime supporter of the Arc, serving as an instrumental member and past president of our board,” said Jo Ann Simons, CEO. “Jeff’s firm has been at the forefront of employing individuals with disabilities.”

Here comes the sun in Malden

The evening will include a wine tasting by Kappy’s Fine Wine & Spirits, dinner, and an auction. Hank Morse of the Loren & Wally Show on 105.7 WROR will serve as auctioneer.

Fashion show participants include Jay Ash, Massachusetts secretary of housing and economic development; Lauren Beckham-Falcone of the Loren & Wally Show; RoAnn Costin, president of Reservoir Capital Management; Jim Ellard, CEO of New England BioLabs; Tom Gould, owner of Treadwell’s Ice Cream and Peabody city councilor-at-large; Elisa Holt, 2015 Mrs. Massachusetts; Mitch Holt of Liberty Mutual; Steve Immerman, president of Montserrat College of Art; Chris MacKenzie, office managing partner at RSM Boston; Daniel Miller, anchor and reporter at FOX 25; Quincy Miller, president of Eastern Bank; Kendra Petrone of Magic 106.7; Marty Willis, chief marketing officer of TIAA; and Mikki Wilson, director of marketing and business development at Cabot Wealth Management.

Sponsorship opportunities and tickets to the event are available.  For more information, contact Susan Ring Brown at srbrown@ne-arc.org or (978) 624-2487.

Jay Ash drops out of race for Cambridge City Manager post

Jay Ash

By Thomas Grillo

LYNN — Jay Ash, the state Secretary of Housing and Economic Development and a member of the Lynn Economic Advancement Team, has dropped out of the race to become the next Cambridge City Manager.

Ash, 54, one of three candidates for the post, was expected to find out Thursday who was selected for the $330,000 job at a City Council meeting.

In addition to Ash, the other two finalists for the position include Louis DePasquale, Cambridge’s assistant city manager for fiscal affairs and Paul Fetherston, the assistant city manager in Asheville, North Carolina.

Staying on in the Baker administration is good news for Lynn. As a member of the LEAD team, Ash, who spent years working on Chelsea’s rebirth as city manager, will remain a key part of the group whose mission is to revitalize Lynn. The team also includes U.S. Rep. Seth Moulton, Transportation Secretary Stephanie Pollack, James Cowdell, executive director of the Economic Development and Industrial Corp., Environmental Secretary Matthew Beaton, Mayor Judith Flanagan Kennedy and others who can cut through the bureaucracy and make things happen.

James Cowdell, executive director of the Lynn Economic Development & Industrial Corp., said Cambridge’s loss is Lynn’s gain.
“Jay has been so helpful to the city of Lynn through the LEAD team,” he said. “He is always here trying to help us.”

Ash could not be reached for comment, but in a statement said “Months ago, I was asked to get involved in Cambridge’s search. for a new city manager. As a former municipal leader, the opportunity was intriguing, and the way to explore the opportunity was to apply. I’m glad I did so. I met a lot of great people, and enjoyed the opportunity to get to know the community better. More importantly, I learned a lot about what’s important to me, professionally and personally. I now believe that the opportunity to serve as Cambridge’s next city manager is not the right fit for me. I have chosen to withdraw my name from further consideration.

“In my heart, I believe that being part of the Baker Administration is more important to me than being part of any other administration. I remain committed to the mission of this administration: Growing jobs, helping communities realize their economic development priorities, connecting citizens to new economic opportunities, and building prosperity across Massachusetts.”


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.

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.

If Ash leaves, who leads LEAD?

Jay Ash.

Jay Ash, the towering tough-talker with the big personality, is expected to leave state government to become Cambridge’s city manager. Let’s hope Lynn’s dreams of an economic resurgence and revitalized waterfront don’t go with him.

When elected officials gathered on City Hall’s steps last fall to unveil the Lynn Economic Advancement and Development (LEAD) team, Ash, like Moses, proclaimed himself ready to lead Lynn out of the wilderness.

He stood before business leaders and elected officials gathered at the Lynn Museum in 2015 and said, “This is Lynn’s time.” Ash made good on his promise to play a major role in reviving the city’s development prospects and a prominent part of LEAD’s work.

The high-powered panel’s combined force of local, state and federal officials has helped shepherd projects on opposite ends of the Lynnway. People who know Ash say his reputation as Chelsea’s former city manager and his power position as state Secretary of Housing and Economic Development allowed him to urge developers to take a closer look at Lynn.

In characteristically blunt terms, Ash made it clear from the start of his relationship with Lynn that he could help sketch out the city’s vision for success. But he warned that he could not be the architect of its resurgence.

He urged the audience that summer to “get on the same page” and take “one step forward.” Will that sort of pragmatic vision for reviving the city’s economic fortunes remain intact if Ash leaves state government?

The answer is “yes” if there is someone who steps up and takes Ash’s place. Ideally, a city leader well-versed in LEAD’s efforts to spur local development can grab the reins when Ash drops them. U.S. Rep. Seth Moulton (D-Mass.) and Lynn’s legislative delegation have leadership track records. But are they comfortable with stepping into the void left by Ash?

LEAD can still succeed on Lynn’s behalf even if a new leader does not emerge to take Ash’s place. The participants only need to follow Ash’s simple rules to begin to change the city’s landscape for the better.

They need to adopt a bold but realistic development vision founded on one step at a time. They need to be proactive and not wait around for a Knight In Shining Armor developer to ride into town. Most important, they need to remember Ash’s reminder: “it’s OK to say no sometimes.”

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.

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.

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.

Is the Lynnway the ugliest street in America?

ITEM PHOTO BY OWEN O’ROURKE
One sign that may impact the perception of the Lynnway is the Starbucks sign. Good luck finding it in the photo above.

BY THOMAS GRILLO

LYNN — For as long as anyone can remember, the Lynnway has been packed with car dealerships, fast-food restaurants, discount shops, billboards and hundreds of garish signs.

“When you drive up the Lynnway, you see every mistake that has been made over the last 75 years,” said James M. Cowdell, executive director of the Economic Development & Industrial Corp. (EDIC/Lynn).  

“Why is it ugly? It happened. A place opened and an ugly sign went up. Another place opened, another ugly sign went up. Now it’s a splattering of ugly signs that blend … and the one sign that should stand out, Starbucks, gets blended in with the ugliness. What message does that send as we are trying to change our image?”

As developers propose to transform portions of the Lynnway into a neighborhood for waterfront apartments and amenities that rival Boston’s Seaport District, some say it’s the right time for Lynn.

“It will change, someone will go first,” said Charles Morneau, who along with Joseph O’Donnell, founder of Boston Culinary Group and Belmont Capital in Cambridge, could be among the first when they break ground on a 17-acre site on the water side of the Lynnway adjacent to the General Edwards Bridge. They expect to start construction next spring on a $69 million luxury-apartment project that would include 250 units in a wood-frame, three-story building.

“The timing is right because the key political people have lined up behind it and are pushing to get things done,” Morneau said. He is referring to the Lynn Economic Advancement and Development (LEAD) Team, a panel that includes U.S. Rep. Seth Moulton, Secretary of Housing and Economic Development Jay Ash, Transportation Secretary Stephanie Pollack, Environmental Secretary Matthew Beaton, Cowdell and others who can cut through the bureaucracy and make things happen.

“That whole corridor in Lynn can really turn around and be an attraction,” Morneau said. “It’s in the right location, just miles from Boston and there’s ocean, nothing better.”

Change is coming to the Lynnway. A pair of residential developments will bookend the Lynnway. Earlier this month, Louis Minicucci Jr. and Arthur Pappathanasi closed a $2.5 million purchase of the former Beacon Chevrolet site. When completed, the $80 million waterfront residential project will include 355 apartments on the 14-acre site on the northern end of the stretch with rents expected to be in the $2,000 range. At the other end of the stretch is O’Donnell’s $69 million project on a 17-acre waterfront site that would include 250 units in a wood frame, three-story building.

City Council President and state Rep. Daniel F. Cahill said the Lynnway is slowly changing and the transformation will take time. A decade ago, $6 million was spent to move the power lines off the ocean side as the first major step to spur development.

“We are still in the infrastructure phase,” he said. “The only reason we are talking about massive residential projects is because the path has been cleared for large scale development on the waterfront side. You won’t see much change to the Lynnway’s facade until a few developments break ground in the next few years.”

On signs, Cahill said it’s an issue that ignites controversy. Some say signs should be whatever businesses want. Others insist that the only way to clean up the city’s gateway is for a strict ordinance to control the size, height, color and lettering of signs.

While the City Council amended sign rules in 1993 to limit their size and height and ban flashing ones, any business can seek permission to override the regulation and nearly all have been successful in doing so. The rest have been grandfathered.

One marquee that may impact the perception of the city is Starbucks. Ironically, it’s easily missed because, while it’s so small compared to others, it’s larger than sign rules allow.

But there’s more than meets the eye when it comes to a Starbucks sign.

The arrival of a Starbucks has benefits beyond easy access to an espresso macchiato, decaf cappuccino or caffe latte. Between 1997 and 2014, homes within a quarter-mile of a Starbucks increased in value by 96 percent, on average, compared with 65 percent for all U.S. homes, based on a comparison by Zillow, the Seattle-based online real estate company.

When Starbucks arrived in Chelsea when Ash was city manager, he called it the Good Housekeeping Seal of Approval.

“Starbucks came to us for a special permit to erect the sign because there are restrictions in that section of the Lynnway,” Cahill said. “It was a symbolic event because for years Starbucks said they were not interested in locating in Lynn and they finally came so we approved it.”

Peter Capano, the Ward 6 city councilor whose district includes the Lynnway, said everyone agrees the highway’s aesthetics need to be improved.

“We are looking at a proposal for changes on the Lynnway,” he said.

A study is being done by the state’s Department of Conservation and Recreation (DCR) and the Department of Transportation that will offer ideas to improve it, he said. Public hearings will be held and a report is expected to be issued later this year.

Patrick McGrath, who owns the Lynnway Mart Indoor Mall & Flea Market that attracts thousands of buyers and sellers, has been seeking a developer to build on his 8.5-acre prime waterfront parcel.

“I don’t know what to say, the Lynnway is what it is,” he said. “I hope to have my site developed and it starts there. Hopefully, Joe O’Donnell’s site next door gets developed. Unfortunately,  we’ll always have the Creamery, the car wash and car lots. They’re not going anywhere, at least in my lifetime. I would like to see it all developed.”

One reason why the Lynnway looks the way it does is that officials have been reluctant to implement firm regulations because it is a major source of real estate taxes for the city. Peter Caron, the city’s assessing director, reports that 183 Lynnway businesses that employ hundreds of Lynn residents contribute $6,017,000 to the city’s coffers annually.  

Not every Lynnway business is a blight. Consider the handsome Solomon Metals Corp. property. Once the home of Harrison Dispatch, a former trucking terminal for General Electric Co., Steven Solomon has maintained the grass, shrubs, trees and added chains from the U.S.S. Wasp and later purchased a pair of bells to add to the front display.

“Even though we are in the scrap metal business, we take seriously the idea that we should put a positive face out front and be good neighbors,” said Solomon, whose family has owned the building since 1974.

The other good looking commercial site is the Clock Tower Business Center. The 305,000-square-foot office building is surrounded by a wrought iron fence, and its grounds are covered with green and trees.

One community, Framingham, has tackled the issue of landscaping and signs with success.

Susan Bernstein, a former Framingham Planning Board member, was part of the effort in the 1990s to remake Route 9. Her goal, along with fellow members, was to turn the road filled with unattractive signs and too little green space into a tree-lined boulevard. Twenty years later there’s been enormous improvements made, say planners.

The panel started with landscaping and implemented strict regulations on the number of trees and shrubs that must be planted on commercial lots.

“There was a great sensitivity towards changing the ambiance of Route 9,” she said. “When businesses came before us, we required lots of trees, and over time, as you can see, they mature and you start to get an improvement.”

Framingham required one tree for every three parking spaces,  or one every 27 feet. The rules called for trees with a two- to three-inch truck.

“We were specific about the type of trees, and it’s tedious work,” she said. “But developers prefer to spend as little as possible.”

As a result, hundreds of trees have been planted in the last two decades along the road, in parking lots and in front of buildings.

Later, the panel devised a bylaw to reduce the size of signs. At one time, there were few limits and signs rose to 35 feet. Today, the limit in most parts of the road is 20 feet.

“If you look at communities that have good signs, that says more about them than almost anything as you enter,” she said. “When you drive through communities with 40-foot signs you see that it demonstrates an image of a schlocky town.”

Bernstein, a real estate agent, said a community’s image greatly influences property values.

But how to get it done is another matter, she said.

“There has to be the political will on the various boards to do it,” she said. “It’s not easy.”


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

The Blue Line’s a no-brainer

ITEM FILE PHOTO
City Council President Dan Cahill says that Lynn is way overdue to benefit from the Blue Line rapid transit extension.

City Council President and soon-to-be state Rep. Dan Cahill didn’t need to say the words, “Hey, what about us?” during a Wednesday state transportation spending discussion. He made his point much more forcefully by telling a state transportation planner that Lynn is way overdue to benefit from the Blue Line rapid transit extension.

Cahill joined state Rep. Brendan Crighton and state Sen. Thomas M. McGee in pointing out the obvious during the North Shore Community College hearing: “I feel very bad for the folks in Somerville who won’t get a third subway line. We want just one.”

Cahill’s sarcasm is well founded. State transportation officials seem to be wearing blinders when it comes to improving transit service to Lynn and the North Shore. They talk about South Coast Rail and Green Line extension as if everything north of Boston did not exist.

McGee, Crighton, Cahill and Lynn Business Partnership representatives made it clear why the Blue Line matters.

The extension in one form or another has been discussed for 70 years and the reports and news stories written about it could fill a freight train with useless paper. Wonderland Station in Revere is the end of the line for Blue Line trains. Allowing the cars to roll down commuter rail tracks to Lynn would forge, McGee said, an ironclad bond with Boston spelling economic opportunity for Lynn.

“That project is imperative,” he said, summing up a point that Cahill expanded on when he pointed out how he drives to Revere to take a train to Boston when he could easily join other commuters in riding a train from Lynn to Boston.

Commuter rail, as the mega winter of 2015 proved, is great for casual “Geez, I think I’ll take the train to town today” commuters. But someone who has to get to work on time, every day, is ill served by it.

Now could not be a better time to prioritize the Blue Line and find the money to translate the plan McGee touted into an extension.

Gov. Charlie Baker and his top economic lieutenant Jay Ash came to Lynn last November with U.S. Rep. Seth Moulton and vowed to help spur Lynn’s economic resurgence from the drawing board into reality.

The three men can appreciate the importance of hitching the Blue Line extension to a full-court economic push on Lynn’s behalf. Baker commutes from his Swampscott home through Lynn daily to work. Ash in his previous job presided over urban Chelsea’s economic renaissance and Moulton has worked on high-speed rail projects.

The trio have sat in a room with McGee and listened to the veteran senator warn about the economic and safety implications of continually underfunding transportation in Massachusetts. McGee said $20 billion, not the $14.4 billion outlined by state planners, needs to be spent over by 2020 with the Blue Line ranked as a priority.

In describing his work commute, Cahill offered the most convincing reason on Wednesday why the Blue Line makes sense from an economic, environmental and life quality point of view: “I would love to not have to drive to Revere,” he said.

Council to plant marijuana rules

BY GAYLA CAWLEY

LYNN — Medical marijuana clinics could be coming to the city.

Officials are considering amending Lynn’s zoning bylaws that would clear the way for the controversial dispensaries.

If approved by City Hall, the treatment center district would include portions of 453-543 Lynnway — across from the ocean — two sites on Commercial Street and all properties on Route 107 from the Belden Bly Bridge to the intersection of Western and Murphy avenues, according to city documents.

The proposal comes as a group of local, state and federal officials led by Jay Ash, the governor’s Secretary of Housing and Economic Development, have committed to finding resources that can revitalize the city and spur development on vacant and underused parcels, including the city’s waterfront on the Lynnway.

At least one councilor is uncomfortable with the idea of locating the centers on the city’s gateway.

“It’s not a good idea to have it on the Lynnway because of all the stuff that’s going on,” said City Councilor Richard Colucci

Among the projects in the pipeline include a proposed $90 million mixed-use development by Minco Development Corp. that will include 348 one- and two-bedroom apartments at the former Beacon Chevrolet site. Joseph O’Donnell, founder of Boston Culinary Group and Belmont Capital in Cambridge, is developing the 17-acre former hotel site on the Lynnway into apartments.

“I don’t know why they’re all restricted to one area,” said City Councilor Peter Capano, whose ward includes the proposed district. “I would prefer that if we had to do it, that there would be more options than just the ones that are right there.”

Darren Cyr, City Council vice-president, said the locations were selected because they are not in a neighborhood. While he is opposed to making medicinal marijuana legal, he said by establishing areas where it can be sold, it provides the city with control.

Several proposals are being floated for potential treatment centers on the Lynnway. But no one has filed an application for a dispensary with the Inspectional Services Department (ISD).

City Council President Dan Cahill said the current medical marijuana ordinance is unenforceable because it bans dispensaries.

Former Attorney General Martha Coakley issued an advisory opinion that municipalities were not allowed to restrict medical marijuana clinics because they were approved by voters in 2012.

“If we don’t try to create some type of overlay district somewhere, a potential dispensary lease agreement could be for anywhere in the city,” Cahill said.

Without the new district, companies seeking to open a clinic could ask for a variance from the Zoning Board of Appeals, be denied, challenge it in court and win, Cahill said.

“If we don’t site these things properly, they’ll go anywhere, and we’ll see infinite amounts of them.”

Any proposed medical marijuana treatment center would also have to obtain an annual operating permit from ISD.

While the zoning change will be discussed at a public hearing next month, Cahill said the process is just starting.

“This is going to take weeks and months,” he said. “At the end of the day, either we zone this in a way we can control this. Or, they will be everywhere and we will not be able to control them.”


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

 

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.

Tough-talker may be what city needs

State Transportation Secretary Stephanie Pollack

It wasn’t hard to compare state Transportation Secretary Stephanie Pollack on Thursday to another hard-nosed, high state official working to help Lynn take another step forward.

Like state Housing and Economic Development Secretary Jay Ash, Pollack is a tough talker who, on Thursday, bluntly assessed transportation projects near and dear to Lynn’s leaders.

Pollack did not sprinkle any sugar on her words when she pointed out how late-night public transit service, which was cancelled this week, cost $13 per rider to subsidize. She offered that comparison by way of noting the price tag for subsidizing the Lynn-to-Boston operation is $40 per rider.

Pollack did not say the ferry is unaffordable; in fact, she said her aides are working to help local officials find money to subsidize the ferry operation for a third season.

Like Ash, Pollack is a Democrat who answered Gov. Charlie Baker’s call to join his administration. Like the former Chelsea city manager, Pollack talks a different language than her state predecessors.

State commissioners and secretaries once visited Lynn and said, “We will pay for local projects as long as we can line up some federal money.” Ash and Pollack sing a different tune that sounds like this: “Step up and show us you are unified around viable projects and we will help turn them into realities.”

If Lynn wants to turn the ferry into a long-term operation, then city officials are going to have to help come up with a business plan mapping out long-term strategies for ensuring the water shuttle succeeds.

If the city wants to grow waterfront development by turning the GE-only River Works stop into a commuter station, then — said Pollack — it is going to have to lean heavily on public-private partnerships to make the project work.

Sounding very much like Ash, Pollack urged city officials and business leaders to “strike while the iron is hot” and find ways to accelerate prioritized local transportation initiatives. Her blunt assessments also extended to the Blue Line extension project. Pollack did not declare the extension down for the count, but said it will be included in a transportation planning process looking out to 2040.

To her credit, she concluded her Thursday speech at the Porthole Restaurant with these promising words, “It does seem Lynn is poised to succeed.”

15 from ’15

Item Photo By OWEN O’ROURKE
Above, Arthur DeMoulas, left, had the attention of Secretary Jay Ash, Rep. Lori Ehrlich, Sen. Tom McGee and Reps. Brendan Crighton and Donald Wong as they focused on economic development in Lynn. At right, Governor and Lauren Baker were the center of attention at his inauguration.

By STEVE KRAUSE

This being New England, the weather played a big part in the story of 2015. From the excessively harsh February to an exceptionally mild December, it was never far from being the dominating topic of conversation.

But Mother Nature was not the only leading conversation topic yanked from the headlines this year. Other top topics included the recall of four of the five selectmen in Saugus; the announcement by Partners HealthCare that it would shift all of its in-patient facilities to Salem — closing, for all intents and purposes, Union Hospital; the unveiling of plans for a new Market Basket store in Lynn; a federal-state-municipal partnership on behalf of the city’s growth; news that Marian Court College in Swampscott is closing; plans in Saugus to radically alter the landscape on Route One; an attempt to add an extra hour before last call at Lynn drinking establishments (defeated); the discovery of the body of missing Swampscott woman Jaimee Mendez and the capture of Jason Fleury, who is charged in her murder.

Also, a fire on Bruce Place in Lynn killed four members of the same family, including a pregnant woman. Other news headlines included the forfeiture of a football game in Swampscott and allegations of hazing (as well as the subsequent resignation, on an unrelated issue, of the high school principal); the continued opioid problem on the North Shore, including the March deaths of three people in 48 hours in Lynn; the end of an era in Lynn politics with Ward 7 Councilor Rick Ford bowing out and state Rep. Robert Fennell taking a new job; and the release, after 19 years in jail, of Angel Echavarria, who had been convicted of murder in the death of Daniel Rodriguez in January of 1994.

After a cold, but relatively dry month, snow hit with a vengeance Jan. 26 and dumped more than two feet on the region. Every successive weekend through Valentine’s Day saw blizzards. By the first week of March, a total of 110.6 inches of snow had fallen during the winter, 64.8 in February alone. Both are records.
The winter had far-ranging ramifications, from problems with the MBTA subway and commuter rail, to unnavigable streets, to figuring out just where to put all the snow. Terms we became familiar with in 2015 included “bombogenesis,” which is the explosion of a low-pressure weather system into a major storm and “snow farm,” which is a designated area for dumping snow.

The difficulties prompted the City of Lynn to come up with a new plan to battle future harsh winters, including paying more per hour to heavy-equipment plow drivers.

As unusual as February was, even in terms of winter weather, that’s how unusual December was, but the other way. Records were set for warmth on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, as temperatures climbed close to 70 degrees. The reason given for the unprecedented warmth was a strong El Nino weather pattern, which generally spares the Northeast from the worst of the winter chill.

The problems with the MBTA, which included days when the service was shut down altogether and days when commuter trains were running hopelessly behind, presented a challenge for newly-inaugurated Gov. Charlie Baker of Swampscott.

Baker defeated Martha Coakley in November 2014, and the issues with public transportation forced the new governor to hit the deck running. With the help of State Sen. Thomas M. McGee, who is the chairman of the joint transportation committee, Baker came up with an $82.7 million plan to improve the T’s service, including better equipment to handle winter weather.

Also sworn in last January was Congressman Seth Moulton of Marblehead, the new representative of the 6th District. Moulton made his presence felt right away, taking several noticeable stands — none of them more controversial than his support for the Iran nuclear deal. On Aug. 14, Moulton spoke before a congregation at Temple Emanu-El in Marblehead about his support for the deal.

Two days after the Jan. 26 blizzard, a body was found washed up on King’s Beach at the Lynn-Swampscott line. It was identified as that of Jaimee Mendez, a Swampscott woman who had gone missing in November of 2014. Subsequently, Jason Fleury of Lynn was arrested and charged with her murder.

Fleury pleaded innocent in court on Aug. 6. In an exclusive interview with The Item last Nov. 13, Fleury said he was with Mendez on the night of her disappearance, but denied that he killed her. He told The Item that Mendez was a go-between for drug deals.

Fleury’s defense team has filed three discovery motions — to obtain the notes of former Item reporter Cyrus Moulton, who interviewed the defendant in November, the preservation of any tissue from Mendez and other evidence gathered by the medical examiner, and a request of any and all conversations recorded or otherwise that Crystal Brown, a friend of Mendez, had with another witness and the defendant. The third motion was also a request for any photographs Brown took of the beach area or related to the case.

The motion pertaining to tissue preservation has already been acted on and the other two discovery motions will be acted upon when Fleury next appears in Salem Superior Court on Jan. 5. He is currently being held without bail at the Middleton House of Correction and last appeared in court on Nov. 30.
Opioids continued to be a major story, and a major killer, on the North Shore in 2015. According to the Essex District Attorney’s office, as of Nov. 30, there were 148 deaths this year due to heroin overdoses, with December’s figures yet to be figured in. Last year, there were 145.

Lynn Police report that there were 32 overdose fatalities through November of this year, and 305 overdoses in all. Already, the overdose figure is up from last year.

In one 48-hour period in Lynn in March, there were six overdoses and three of them were fatal.

On March 17, the voters in Saugus went to the polls with the task of either keeping the five-member Board of Selectmen as it was, or recalling up to four members over a dispute that culminated in the firing of Town Manager Scott Crabtree in 2014.

By the end of the day, the results were overwhelming, with Maureen Dever, Stephen Castinetti, Paul Allen, and chair Ellen Faiella all voted out. Debra Panetta, the fifth member, was not included in the recall.

Elected were Scott Brazis, Jeffrey Cicolini, Mark Mitchell and Jennifer D’Eon. Panetta was named the new chair.

The recall negated the appointment, made just a week earlier, of Sean Fitzgerald as the new Town Manager, and the new board quickly reinstated Crabtree.
At the beginning of May, Marian Court held its annual gala to thank supporters and benefactors. A little over a month later, the college announced it was closing due to declining enrollment.

The closure was a bitter pill to swallow for an institution that had just celebrated its 50th anniversary and graduated its first four-year class. Gov. Baker, speaking at that gala, had praised the school for its hope and optimism. But in the end, Marian Court’s projected enrollment for the fall was weak, and it could not find funding to keep it going.

Also in May, 48-year-old Echavarria of Lynn was freed after spending 20 years in prison for the murder of Daniel Rodriguez in January of 1994.

Echavarria was found guilty of the murder in 1996, but the verdict was overturned due to questions about one of the main witnesses for the prosecution. Essex District Attorney Jonathan Blodgett said a lapse in time led to his office not pursuing the case any further.

Echavarria was released from prison on May 21.

June 30 brought devastating news to the Lynn medical community. Partners HealthCare, which runs both Salem and Union Hospitals, announced a plan that would move all in-patient care to Salem, effectively closing Union Hospital, save for the medical buildings there. Partners’ plan didn’t even leave hope that the emergency room would be kept in the same location.

The plan, which would leave a city of close to 90,000 without a hospital, triggered outrage throughout Lynn. Initially, this process was to take 18 months, but Partners announced in the fall that it had reassessed the situation and it would take three years to complete.

Meanwhile, a public hearing with the Massachusetts Department of Public Health on the issue will take place Jan. 7 at 4 p.m. at the Lynn City Hall auditorium.
Owners of Lynn’s eating and drinking establishments tried again this summer to extend the closing hour from 1 to 2 a.m. The original rollback occurred in 2010.
Over a two-night public hearing on the issue, and spurred by statistics from Lynn Police Chief Kevin Coppinger on what a difference just that one extra hour can make on law enforcement and public safety, the city’s licensing commission voted in August to stick with the 1 a.m. closing time.

In late September, police responded to a call about a bonfire at Phillips Park in Swampscott. When they got there, they reportedly found a group of youths performing calisthenics while naked.

As a result, Swampscott School Superintendent Pamela Angelakis decided to cancel the next game on the Big Blue schedule, which was against Saugus, and a forfeit was declared.

Earlier this month, it was learned that Swampscott High School Principal Edward Rozmiarek was placed on administrative leave after an investigation led Beverly police to his home. He resigned a week later.

2015 saw the fall of Route 1 icons including the demolition of Weylu’s Restaurant in September – 17 years after the once-famous restaurant closed. The pagoda-style structure was not the only highway landmark to fall to the wrecking ball. The Hilltop Steakhouse, which opened in 1961, was also demolished in 2015.

The new year will see Route One Miniature Golf’s orange dinosaur and other figurines replaced with the first mixed-use development proposed under the new zoning bylaws passed by Town Meeting this year.

The Collins Avenue Development will be a combined commercial and residential space with six buildings; two hotels, three apartment buildings, restaurants, a cafe, spa, and retail space.

Also in the works are plans for a WoodSpring Suites Extended-Stay Hotel. Developers are looking to build the facility on the three-acre piece of land currently occupied by Cap World.

Late fall saw the economy and politics make news in Lynn, beginning with the Nov. 6 announcement that $2 million in state money would pay for sidewalk, roadway and other improvements around the Federal Street site where a new Market Basket store is proposed for construction.

State Housing and Economic Development Director Jay Ash and Market Basket CEO Arthur DeMoulas headlined the MassWorks grant announcement and planners are aiming for a spring, 2016 start for the new store.

On Nov. 24, Ash came to Lynn again — this time with Baker and Moulton — to announce formation of a local, state and federal collaboration to support city development efforts, in part by helping to prepare waterfront and downtown land for construction.

December brought tragedy to Lynn. In the early-morning hours of Dec. 4, fire broke out and quickly spread at a three-family house on 24 Bruce Place in Lynn. While residents of the first and third floors were able to evacuate safely, four members of a second-floor family perished. They were Yasmin Cruz, 19, a 2014 graduate of Lynn English and a student at North Shore Community College; her mother, Maritza Cruz, 39, a home caregiver; Sonia Cruz, 36, Maritza’s sister, who was pregnant; and Rodolfo Cruz, 28.

The building was destroyed. As of yet, the cause of the fire has not been determined.

Two veteran Lynn politicians ended the year by setting the stage for their departures from elected office. Ward 7 City Councilor Rick Ford decided not to seek reelection and capped off an 18-year council career at the council’s Dec. 15 meeting. State Rep. Robert Fennell was hired to be Water and Sewer Commission deputy director on Dec. 14. As of Dec. 30, the 20-year East Lynn legislator had not set a date for departing the Massachusetts House.