MassDevelopment

Residents will have their say in Malden

By STEVE FREKER

MALDEN — From a development perspective, the lower end of Commercial Street at the city line with Medford and Everett has been the subject of discussion and speculation for decades.

Other sections of Malden have undergone sweeping transformation, from the major changes in Malden Square to residential construction in many places around the city.

But this area has remained largely unchanged, although long eyed as one with untapped potential.

That is all changing soon as the newly-renamed section of Malden, the Commercial Street Corridor, is targeted for a major focus on its redevelopment potential. The plan is to both preserve and create jobs, and create and maintain open space along the Malden River.

A comprehensive study funded by a $75,000 grant from MassDevelopment, the state’s economic development agency, is now underway. Part of the overall focus of the Commercial Street Framework Plan study is to seek public input on improvements that would promote job creation and overall economic development.

To that end a public meeting is scheduled for Wednesday, July 19 at 6 p.m. at the John and Christina Markey Senior Center auditorium, 7 Washington St.  This is the first of two public meetings where residents are encouraged to share knowledge of the area; provide feedback on potential framework strategies; and help shape the future of the Commercial Street Corridor.

The Malden Redevelopment Authority (MRA) and the city of Malden are conducting the Commercial Street Framework Plan study, with assistance from consultants from Harriman Architecture, Engineering & Planning and a nonprofit agency, the Initiative for a Competitive Inner City (ICIC), which specializes in urban economic development.

“The study will identify strategies to enhance access to the Malden River, improve open space and implement appropriate zoning and land use regulations,” said MRA Director Deborah Burke at the last Malden City Council meeting before summer recess. “It will define how these strategies support diversified job retention and creation along the corridor that reflect Malden’s competitive edge in the region.”

Jobs, both creating new ones for now and the future as well as retaining ones that exist, are keys for the study, said Amanda Maher of MassDevelopment, which is funding Malden’s Commercial Street study.

“We want to look at how we preserve jobs and create a more robust set of uses,” said Maher, adding that this includes identifying which businesses would be best suited for that part of the city.   

Another part of the study will be to determine how best to address the future of the Malden DPW building and yard on Commercial Street, long the subject of speculation. With few locations in Malden lacking the size to accommodate a relocation, this has been a dilemma.

The new focus on Malden’s end of the Commercial Street/Corporation Way corridor comes at a time when the RiversEdge development, a quarter-mile south from the Malden side, has been flourishing, and the nearby Wynn Casino development project is well on its way.  

MRA Director Burke said she hopes Malden residents come out to the meeting July 19 to share their ideas and get informed on plans for the Commercial Street Corridor.

“We want to solicit ideas, answer questions and get feedback from Malden residents, business owners as well as community groups and others who want to participate,” said Burke.

Beyond Walls neon art lighting on Wednesday

ITEM PHOTO BY JIM WILSON 
Lighting technician Brian Bourgeois completes wiring on one of the many neon art pieces that will be lit downtown.

LYNN — Wednesday night will be bright.

Outside the Prime Manufacturing Co. building, 545 Washington St., pieces of neon art will be lit as part of the Beyond Walls project.

Beyond Walls founder and executive director Al Wilson, speaking Tuesday with The Item, said this is an important step in the fundraising efforts.

Wednesday’s lighting will show that this is not just vision and a plan; it will show the vision is being implemented, he said.

“We are excited for this aspect of the project to be seen,” Wilson said “The vintage neon will illuminate the neighborhood at night, increase the walkability of downtown Lynn and help improve downtown for residents, businesses and visitors.”

Since March, the project has raised about $181,000 of its $255,000 goal. Reaching $50,000 on April 6 put Beyond Walls on track to receive a matching grant from Commonwealth Places, an effort between MassDevelopment and Patronicity.

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This leaves about $74,000. Wilson wants to see that amount raised by June 15; “Timing-wise, now’s the time (to donate),” he said.

Three pieces of neon art are already placed. It has yet to be determined where nine others will go.

The lighting on Washington Street will be attended by Mayor Judith Flanagan Kennedy and state Sen. Thomas M. McGee. The art will be lit at 8 p.m., Wilson said.

Other elements of the Beyond Walls project include LED underpass lighting connecting Central Square and Washington Street; 10 murals reflecting the cultural makeup of Lynn; and a sculpture paying homage to the city’s industrial history.

On Saturday, Bent Water Brewery will host its second annual “Bent Water Blast Off.” It’s a free event, but a $5 donation is suggested to benefit the “totally awesome” project, their Facebook page says.

The Bent Water Blast Off will take place from 3-10 p.m. at its location, 180 Commercial St.

Visit https://www.beyond-walls.org/ to learn more about the project. Visit https://www.patronicity.com/lynn to donate.

Meals tax could set table for a Planner

We wholeheartedly endorse the Lynn City Council’s decision to approve a .0075 percent local option meal tax.

The 10-1 vote on May 9 for the tax adds 75 cents to a $100 meal, and about 19 cents to a $25 meal. It would generate an annual estimated $700,000 in new revenue for the city.

Those additional tax dollars, in our view, should be dedicated and directed to supporting a new city Planning Department. Lynn desperately needs a creative, autonomous city planner who identifies opportunities to enhance the city and who can set a vision for the city.

Success stories in Salem and Somerville and, more recently, Saugus, where Town Manager Scott Crabtree spurred the creation of a two-person planning department, point to the need for independent planning in Lynn.

Dedicating meal tax revenue to the Planning Department will ensure the individual hired to serve as planner can act independently and hire competent assistants.

To their credit, City Councilors used common sense in discussing the meal tax against the backdrop of city financial problems. Councilor and state Rep. Dan Cahill pointed out Lynn residents already pay a meal tax when they dine in communities surrounding Lynn. Buzzy Barton and Peter Capano called the meals tax a way to avoid city layoffs and ensure public safety is funded. We invite them and Ward 1 Councilor Wayne Lozzi, the only councilor to vote against the meals tax, to evaluate the merits of using money generated by the tax to pay for a Planning Department.

Lynn’s time is now. The city has the tools and opportunities to help make development a reality downtown and on the city’s waterfront. Those tools include the local, state and federal resources making up the Lynn Economic Advancement Development Team and the expertise of MassDevelopment Fellow Joe Mulligan and downtown visionary Al Wilson, whose project is Beyond Walls.

Not having a planner doesn’t simply leave the city without a vision, it also leaves Lynn shortchanged when it comes to assigning a city point person who can engage residents in discussions on the direction Lynn should be going in.

Civic engagement is important. But a planner can also help the city stay the course as it sets planning priorities and takes stock periodically to assess progress in achieving those goals.

To her credit, Mayor Judith Flanagan Kennedy has acknowledged the need for a planner. But Kennedy has structured a job under the title of planner that is defined within the city’s existing economic development structure. That structure denies a planner the critical ingredient of  independence with a budget on par with other city departments.

We encourage Kennedy to not veto the council vote on the meals tax. She is quoted as saying a new tax is a bad idea in the wake of the voters’ March rejection of a debt exclusion to pay for new schools.

“To approve it is being tone deaf and not listening to what the voters clearly told us,” Kennedy said.

It is important, the mayor added, to show residents the city can live within its means. That is a sound and sober viewpoint and no one can fault the mayor for prudently managing the city. But we urge Kennedy to act boldly on hiring a planner. She should state in no uncertain terms that a planner can set a course for the city.

Kennedy will deserve applause if she declares her support for an autonomous planner and backs that support by dedicating the meals tax to a new Lynn Planning Department.

 

Lynn has designs on its future

ITEM PHOTO BY OWEN O’ROURKE
Arlen Stawasz explains the re-imagining of Lynn urban design.

By THOMAS GRILLO

LYNN – It might be one of the region’s best known ditties: “Lynn, Lynn the city of sin, You never come out the way you came in.”

That phrase inspired a team of students and faculty from two architectural schools to reimagine the city’s waterfront from gritty retail to world class destination.

“Our students who came to Lynn from around the globe were changed,” said Edward Mitchell, a Yale School of Architecture professor. “For the better.”  

The Lynn Museum and MassDevelopment’s TDI Partnership hosted the exhibit Tuesday titled “Visions of Lynn,” a display of urban design concepts proposed for Lynn and the surrounding region.

The 10 students who worked on the project were asked to redesign the waterfront given that experts expect the waterfront will be vulnerable to 6-foot higher swells by 2066.

In response, the students devised a series of designs that  replaced stores with canals, green spaces that could be flooded but used when they dry, a high school, a water treatment plant, and a public safety facility.

“Rather than fighting to keep the water out,  the students propose that we let it in and learn to thrive with it,” said Arlen Stawasz, a Lynn native, architect, and teacher at Perkins + Will,  the Boston-based architectural company.

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Noah Geupel, a 26-year-old student at the Boston Architectural College, who helped create some of the designs, said while some of the proposals differ from a master plan done by the city a decade ago that calls for a mix of housing and small retail, they work.

A wastewater treatment plant may not be conventional and super exciting and there’s opposition because people think it will stink,” he said. “But there’s technology to deal with that and we see it as a public amenity.”

Bill Mosakowski, a former Lynn resident, said he came to exhibition to see what the city is up to.

“This was inspirational,” he said.


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

Symposium brings big ideas to Lynn Museum

By LEAH DEARBORN

LYNN – A vision for the city’s future is coming to the Lynn Museum in the form of a symposium next week.

The museum and MassDevelopment’s TDI Partnership is hosting a gallery exhibit entitled “Visions of Lynn,” a display of urban design concepts proposed for Lynn and the surrounding region. A number of speakers will host a conversation about the work on April 18, following a gallery viewing at 5:30 p.m.

The work, which went on display at the beginning of the month, includes plans, renderings, and models prepared by professional design firms and student work from the Yale School of Architecture and the Boston Architectural College, according to a release about the exhibit.

MassDevelopment Lynn TDI fellow Joe Mulligan said the seeds for the project were sown a couple of years ago, when the urban planning department at Yale began a study on New England gateway cities.

Mulligan called the symposium a germane opportunity to think outside of the box about the city’s future. He said that although the designs are students’ work, many are achievable.

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Drew Russo, executive director of the museum, said he was blown away by some of the concepts, some of which were done by students from around the world.

Arlen Stawasz and Tyler Hinckley of architect firm Perkins+Will characterized the designs on display as big ideas that look at the opportunities the city has to enliven its waterfront space.

The exhibit extends through the month of April with presentations scheduled throughout and a closing event on May 2.

Beyond Walls hits $50K goal at fundraiser

ITEM PHOTO BY JIM WILSON
Al Wilson, founder and executive director of Beyond Walls, stands with photos of the proposals.

By BILL BROTHERTON

LYNN — It appears the neon lights will be shining brightly in Central Square.

At a jam-packed, lively fundraising party Thursday night at Lynn Museum attended by an energetic, diverse crowd of more than 150 Lynners, Al Wilson, the “Beyond Walls” project’s founder and executive director, announced that $50,000 in donations had been reached.

“That means we will receive a matching $50,000 grant from MassDevelopment’s Commonwealth Places program,” said Wilson to loud cheers.

“This is an incredible outpouring of community support and investment in the future of downtown Lynn,” said Wilson. “While our campaign goal has been reached, we still need to raise more funding to support our stretch goal; and all donations over our goal will go directly to Beyond Walls.”

“Beyond Walls” raised more than $38,000 through the event, bringing the total funds raised to $56,000.

Partygoers enjoyed beer, including the special Beyond Walls Wheat, by Lynn-based Bent Water Brewing, and adult beverages from Short Path Distillery of Everett. Several area restaurants including The Blue Ox, Eastern Harvest Foods/Lynn Meatland, Old Tyme Italian Cuisine, Brother’s Deli and Tacos Lupita provided food. DJ extraordinaire Seth Albaum of upsidemedia provided music for dancing.

Beyond Walls bringing electricity downtown

The fundraising campaign ends on May 22. But not before another attempt to raise the next goal of $80,000, which will leave them at $130,000 raised through Commonwealth Places, said Wilson. If an additional $30,000 is donated, it will expand the project to include the lighting of the full Washington Street underpasses. The project also received licensing from the MBTA to light the underpasses on Market Street.

A Bentwater Blastoff at Bent Water Brewing Company will feature lively bands, food trucks, a beer tent and live installations of street art. Wilson is asking attendees to make a donation on the day of the event.

“If we can continue to bring in more funds, we can continue to light areas of the city that right now are shrouded in darkness,” Wilson said.

“Beyond Walls” will provide multi-colored LED lights under the railroad tracks, vibrant vintage neon art and murals that will cover sides of buildings.

To donate, go to www.Patronicity.com/Lynn.

Beyond Walls bringing electricity downtown

ITEM PHOTO BY OWEN O’ROURKE
A crowd attends the “Beyond Walls” fundraiser at the Lynn Museum.

By LEAH DEARBORN

LYNN — It was a party Thursday night at the Lynn Museum, with a colorful kickoff to fundraising efforts for downtown art project “Beyond Walls.”

“All aspects of the project are advancing,” said Al Wilson, founder and executive director of Beyond Walls.

The project will use funds raised from the campaign to install lighting in train underpasses and 12 vintage neon artworks in the city’s business district, as well as a sculpture that pays homage to Lynn’s industrial roots and 10 murals in the heart of Lynn’s Transformative Development Initiative District.

Wilson said they’re looking to raise $50-80,000 of the $255,000 minimum total needed for the project.

If the campaign reaches its crowdfunding goal of $50,000 by May 22 at midnight, the project will win a matching grant with funds from MassDevelopment’s Commonwealth Places program.

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Wilson said his inspiration for the project came from the Wynwood Art District of Miami, Fla., a warehousing area that was transformed through the presence of art. It was a success story that made him think more about the possibilities in Lynn.

“I think it will the give the area a real spark,” said state Sen. Thomas McGee (D-Lynn), who called the project an opportunity to take the arts and culture scene in Lynn up a notch.

“I love it. If I work late I get to walk that way,” said Wendolyn Gonzalez, an employee of Lynn Community Health Center.  

There are plans for future fundraising efforts at the Bent Water Brewing Company May 20 from 3-10 p.m. Wilson said another event will likely take place at the Blue Ox Restaurant sometime in May.

MassDevelopment and Lynn’s Neighborhood Development Associates announced the campaign through the civic crowdfunding platform Patronicity and the Commonwealth Places initiative.

Interested parties can learn more at www.patronicity.com/lynn or www.beyond-walls.org.

KIPP signs agreement for $20M high school

PHOTO COURTESY OF ARROWSTREET
Pictured is KIPP Academy on High Rock Street.

By THOMAS GRILLO

LYNN — Two weeks after voters said no to a tax hike for two middle schools, the city’s only charter school is planning to build a $20 million high school, The Item has learned.

KIPP Massachusetts, which operates the Academy Lynn Public Charter School, has signed an agreement to purchase a former parking lot on Munroe Street that has been used as a community garden.

Assessed at $211,000, the parcel is owned by Munroe Partners LLC, operated by Gordon Hall, president of The Hall Co. The new school would include grades 9 through 12 and house 450 students.

“With a new YMCA being built nearby and St. Mary’s building the STEM School, having a new high school on Munroe Street would create a little campus in the downtown,” said Joel Abramson, a KIPP board member. “We are looking to share whatever assets we have with the community and the Lynn Public Schools.”

Hall said his company has agreed in principle to sell the 29,000-square-foot parcel to KIPP. The school is in the due diligence period and a closing date has not been set, he said.  “This is an opportunity to fill one of the missing teeth in downtown Lynn with a civic building that’s needed,” Hall said.

The new school would be paid for by a fundraising effort, tax credits, a possible bond from MassDevelopment, the state’s economic development and finance agency and a portion of the $12,000 per student tuition payments paid by Lynn Public Schools.

Caleb Dolan, the school’s executive director, said with a waiting list of more than 1,000 students, there’s lots of demand for space.

“We are certainly thinking about our future in Lynn,” he said. “We just had a lottery and had a tremendous turnout. There were 800 elementary school applicants for 120 slots. We are certainly thinking about how to hopefully serve more kids and how to be part of the solution in Lynn.”

Earlier this year, MassDevelopment issued KIPP a $5.7 million tax-exempt bond. The school plans to use the proceeds to build a 12,000-square-foot addition to its High Rock Street campus to accommodate 600 students in kindergarten through fourth grade.

MassDevelopment provided the school with a $26 million financing package in 2011, including a tax-exempt bond and New Market Tax Credits to build its existing building.


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

A bright future for Central Square

COURTESY PHOTO
The proposed lighted Central Square underpass.

By BILL BROTHERTON

LYNN — The future of the downtown may soon get brighter. A lot brighter, thanks to multi-colored LED lights under the railroad tracks, vibrant vintage neon art and murals that will cover entire windowless sides of buildings.

“Beyond Walls” is the name of a project adopted by a volunteer group of Lynn residents, business owners and public art enthusiasts working together to reinvigorate the city’s downtown. U.S. Rep. Seth Moulton, Mayor Judith Flanagan Kennedy, city leaders and Lynn’s State House delegation support the project.

MassDevelopment and Lynn’s Neighborhood Development Associates will announce today a new campaign through the civic crowdfunding platform Patronicity and the Commonwealth Places initiative. Beyond Walls will use funds raised from the campaign to install lighting in train underpasses and 12 neon artworks in the city’s business district, a sculpture that pays homage to Lynn’s industrial roots and 10 murals in the heart of Lynn’s Transformative Development Initiative District.

If the campaign reaches its crowdfunding goal of $50,000 by May 22 at midnight, the project will win a matching grant with funds from MassDevelopment’s Commonwealth Places program.

“This campaign to change the public perception of Lynn through colorful lighting, murals and public art will illuminate the city’s rich cultural history and spur new business and economic activities,” said MassDevelopment President and CEO Marty Jones.

Courtesy photo

Proposed neon artwork near Capitol Diner.

“Investing in this revitalization of Lynn’s Central Square is really the first step in bringing the city back to a position as a leader,” said Al Wilson, founder and executive director of Beyond Walls.

Wilson and Amanda Hill of RAW Art Works, associate director of the “Placemaking” group, said the mission is twofold: to use culture and art to improve the quality of life for the benefit of those who work or live in the city; and to have millennials view Lynn as a viable alternative to living in South Boston, Allston, Cambridge or other traditionally attractive neighborhoods for young professionals.

“Placemaking” is a multi-faceted approach to the planning, design and management of public spaces. It capitalizes on a local community’s assets, inspiration and potential, with the intention of creating public spaces that cater to and attract people.

“The goal is to increase the walkability of downtown Lynn,” said Wilson. “Placemaking uses arts and culture to put a place on the map. Right now, three underpasses (Central Square, Washington Street, Market Street) in downtown Lynn are not lit, and with darkness comes a fear of danger. The 189 bays under the Central Square underpass would be illuminated by LED lights.”

“This brings the community together. This project will make Lynn a destination,” added Hill.

A local benefactor has donated 12 neon artworks. Street artists will be selected to create 10 murals and the GE I-A, the first jet engine manufactured in Lynn, has been donated to the project and will likely be displayed in front of the viaducts on Mount Vernon Street, across from the LynnArts building.

Some of the world’s top mural artists, including Shepard Fairey, who created the Barack Obama “Hope Poster,” have expressed interest in using Lynn’s architecturally-exciting buildings as blank canvases, said Wilson. Fairey has his eye on 545 Washington St., which he saw during a visit to Lynn two years ago.

Wilson said he was inspired by Wynwood Walls in greater Miami that was once a run-down, neglected industrial section of the city and is now an arts and cultural mecca. “It is filled with cool cafes, restaurants and market-rate housing for millennials and empty-nesters,” he said.

Boston-based Payette architects sent its senior managers to tour the city, and, Wilson said, “They were blown away. They saw beauty in the architecture and tall buildings.” He called Payette’s Parke MacDowell an unsung hero to “Beyond Walls.” Payette and Cambridge-based lighting design firm LAM Partners have offered their services at no charge.

Wilson and Hill praised the enthusiasm and work of Charles Gaeta, the Neighborhood Development Associates executive director, who has been a receptive, supportive, mentoring partner.

“This will help change the perception of Lynn,” said Wilson. “I look at Lynn and it’s half-a-cup of coffee away from Boston, but it’s not on (millennials’) radar … yet.”

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The group, registered as a 501(c) 3 nonprofit, has 60 days to raise $50,000 in order to secure a match from the state agency MassDevelopment. The total cost of the project will be approximately $255,000, and Wilson is confident that amount will be reached. “For now, the focus is in raising the $50,000 in 60 days so we can get the state match,” he said. “I’m a believer in the Bernie (Sanders) method, where everyone gives $20, $30, or what they can … and it’s tax deductible.”

If an additional $30,000 can be raised above the $50,000 goal, the project will be expanded to include the installation of three more murals, five more vintage neon artworks and the potential lighting of the Washington Street underpass.

Installations would occur in June and July.

Learn more and donate at www.patronicity.com/ynn.


A “Beyond Walls” fundraising party will be held at Lynn Museum, 590 Washington St., Lynn, the evening of April 6, 6-10 p.m. Lynn-based Bent Water Brewing and Short Path Distillery of Everett will provide adult beverages, and several area restaurants (The Blue Ox, Eastern Harvest Foods/Lynn Meatland, Old Tyme Italian Cuisine, Brother’s Deli, Tacos Lupita) will provide food. There will be music and celebrity bartenders. A video of the project will be shown at 8 p.m.

Al Wilson, founder and executive director of “Beyond Walls,” said there is no admission charge to attend the party, but a tax-deductible donation of $20 or more is suggested. One hundred percent of donations will go toward project costs.


Bill Brotherton is the Item’s Features editor. He can be reached at bbrotherton@itemlive.com.

 

Former Lynn Item building up for auction

ITEM FILE PHOTO
The former Daily Item building is pictured in this file photo.

By THOMAS GRILLO

LYNN Months after a global real estate company tried to sell the former Daily Item building without success, the property is up for auction.

CBRE/New England has scheduled an online sale for the five-story downtown building on March 27. The starting bid is $300,000.

This is the second time in two years that the 35,000-square-foot property has been on the auction block.

US-1 Ventures bought the flatiron-style building at auction in 2015 for $880,000 with plans to invest $12 million to transform the property into 24 luxury apartments with ground floor commercial space. The property is assessed at $835,600, according to city records.

But last fall, after the Winchester-based firm was unable to secure a tenant for the 5,000-square-foot first floor space, they abandoned the project and listed the property with CBRE for $1.5 million. Today, the landmark building remains unsold.

“Built in 1900, this iconic flatiron-styled structure served as the headquarters for The Daily Item, housing the newspaper’s printing production, executive suites, sales and operations,” according to the listing sheet. “Today the building is vacant and offers investors, owners and developers a myriad of exciting restoration, adaptive reuse and development options. Located across the street from the MBTA Commuter Rail’s Central Square Station, the property presents tremendous transit-oriented redevelopment potential.”

Ten-X, a California-based online auction house, is conducting the transaction. The seller has an undisclosed reserve price and the transaction fee is 5 percent of the winning bid with a minimum of $40,000.

Christine Diarbakerly, founder of US-1 Ventures, did not return a call seeking comment.

Taidgh McClory, a CBRE managing director, said the firm ran a marketing campaign last fall that generated multiple offers of in excess of $1 million.

“Based on that activity, we decided to launch the auction and our expectation is that it will net increased interest and higher offers,” he said.

Joseph Mulligan, a fellow at MassDevelopment, the state’s economic development and finance agency, who has been working to improve Lynn’s downtown, said it appears the owners were unable to achieve their desired sale price and are pursuing an auction strategy.

“We look forward to working with whomever might be interested in buying the property and repurposing it,” he said.

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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.

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.

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.

Downtown Lynn gets a Mulligan

ITEM PHOTO BY OWEN O’ROURKE
Joseph Mulligan, from MassDevelopment, during his tour of downtown Lynn.

By THOMAS GRILLO

LYNNJoseph Mulligan is betting on the transformation of the city’s central business district.

On a recent weekday morning tour of an empty downtown, he easily rattled off data including the city’s population of about 100,000.

“Where is everybody?” he asked. “The real issue is why would anyone come downtown? A lot of people come for medical or social services, but what are the things to do while they are here?”

Getting that question answered is one of the reasons why Mulligan will devote the next three years to working in the city. He is one of three transformative development initiative (TDI) fellows hired by MassDevelopment, the state’s economic development and finance agency, who are working in Lynn, Haverhill and Springfield to improve their downtowns.  The fellows, who are experienced in city planning, community partnership building, real estate and economic development, will work in collaboration with local partnerships.

In Lynn, Mulligan’s mission is to turn the downtown into an attractive residential, retail, arts and diverse restaurant scene for the region.

“You go to places and they are bombed out shells of their former selves that have been further humiliated by traffic engineers who have driven six-lane roads through the middle of them,” he said. “But Lynn has a remarkable amount of beauty and one of its greatest assets, though we would never know it, the Atlantic Ocean, is right there.”

Mulligan, who spearheaded Boston’s $100 million revitalization efforts in Roxbury’s Dudley Square under former Mayor Thomas M. Menino, is the right person for the job, according to Jason Denoncourt, U.S. Rep. Seth Moulton’s economic development director who is also focusing his energies in Lynn.

“He brings a wealth of knowledge of experience and all of his recommendations are founded in best practices from cities all over the country.” he said.

Among Mulligan’s downtown recommendations, so far, include improved access to the MBTA’s parking garage, adding retail to the vacant space at the base of the garage, constructing market rate housing, and creating a mix of retail, arts and restaurants that make it the place to be.

At least one of the suggestions has already happened. Last weekend, the first ever “Rock the Block” party drew crowds to the downtown. As part of its mission to enliven the city’s cultural community, the Lynn Cultural District organized the celebration of local art, entertainment and business. The festivities included live entertainment by Crystal Pan Jammers, students at the School of Rock and dancers from Cultura Latina Dance and displayed work of local artists.

“That kind of event enlivens the place,” he said. “If we can attract people who have never been to Lynn before who say they’ve been told to be careful walking around Lynn because there are perception issues, they are likely to come away asking what is everyone talking about? It’s a beautiful place.”

But there are lots of other issues that won’t be so easily fixed.

He doesn’t understand why Lynn is not filled with Millennials who are priced out of the Cambridge or Boston real estate markets.

“Lynn is not on their radar,” he said. “The fun stuff, the things that they live to do­ like bars, restaurants, nightclubs­, they’re in Somerville.”

The MBTA garage is one of the lowest occupied of all the T’s properties with less than 25 percent filled. The reason? He said there’s no sign on how to enter or a giant universal “P sign” with an arrow. The entire first floor of the facility that was made for retail and could enliven the area is empty.

“I would argue a private operator would be incentivized to fill the garage and to do repairs,” he said.

On pedestrian safety, there are no lines painted anywhere on the streets. Markings for pedestrian crossing are rare and there’s no indication that bikes are welcomed.

“I’m focused on the downtown district,” he said. “What you need is more expendable income in this downtown district to support retail, restaurants, nightlife and entertainment.”


Thomas Grillo can be reached at tgrillo@itemlive.com

Lt. governor sees initiative in lynn

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

BY GAYLA CAWLEY

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

Another chance to reimagine Lynn’s downtown

They were called Lynn City Summits and, when they were held in the 1990s, five forums focused on suggestions for reimagining downtown proved wildly successful in attracting local residents and new ideas.

City leaders and MassDevelopment are giving residents another chance next Tuesday to apply energy and imagination to downtown, and discuss the potential it offers people who live, work and play there.

Billed as a community meeting, the invitation to the discussion — scheduled from 6-8 p.m. in the Lynn Museum, at the corner of Washington and Union streets — reminds residents “your thoughts and ideas are important to us.”

The summits — a collaboration between the Lynn Department of Community Development and the Lynn Business Partnership — won a federal Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Award for Citizen Participation. MassDevelopment has set the bar high for next Tuesday’s discussion by billing the hearing as the work of a Transformative Development Initiative Partnership.

Renewal of the Central Business District has been on the radar screens of local business and city leaders, as well as artists, residents and entrepreneurs. New restaurants occupy once-vacant storefronts. Downtown residents now call Munroe and Willow streets home, and City Hall’s Veterans Memorial Auditorium is no longer exclusively reserved for dance recitals and graduation ceremonies.

All of these success stories represent accomplishments encompassing parts of downtown but not the entire area spanning the city’s core. The Lynn City Summits were successful because they gave a broad spectrum of people who think about downtown in different ways an opportunity to offer visions for its future.

Flash forward 20 years and the same opportunity exists next Tuesday night when everyone who takes a seat in the museum will have an equal chance to weigh in on the health and future wellbeing of the city’s heart and soul. We hope the downtown action strategy community meeting is well attended.

City of Lynn wants your advice

PHOTO BY BOB ROCHE
Joseph Mulligan, a Transformative Development Fellow at MassDevelopment, stands at the confluence of three different types of architecture in Lynn’s Central Square.

BY GAYLA CAWLEY

LYNN — The City of Lynn and MassDevelopment want the public’s take on how to best realize downtown Lynn’s full potential.

The Transformative Development Initiative partnership, comprised of: the city, The Hall Co., Lynn Economic Development & Industrial Corp., and Lynn Housing Authority and Neighborhood Development, are conducting a study of potential streetscapes, placemaking, land use and development opportunities to attract new investors.

Public input will be sought at the Downtown Action Strategy Community Meeting on Tuesday, March 15 from 6 to 8 p.m., at the Lynn Museum, located at 590 Washington St.

Joseph Mulligan, a MassDevelopment fellow, said he hopes 60 to 80 people will come to the meeting. He said a previous meeting with local stakeholders drew about 60 people.

“We hope people who are interested in the success of downtown Lynn will come out to participate and let their voices be heard,” Mulligan said.  

The TDI is a redevelopment program for gateway cities designed to enhance local public/private engagement and community identity, stimulate an improved quality of life for local residents and spur increased investment and economic activity, according to Mulligan.

The TDI effort is a community partnership with representation from at least three sectors – the city, private investors and nonprofit investors. Mulligan said the vision of the partnership and program is to realize the full potential of the downtown Lynn district as a vibrant work/live neighborhood for entrepreneurship, arts, culture, entertainment and dining.

He also said the community will be engaged in a focused discussion around six strategies at the meeting. Those areas will include growing existing and attracting new small businesses, activating and improving public spaces, and engaging and partnering with local residents, community organizations, businesses and municipal agencies. Other focus areas include connecting with anchor institutions, filling vacant storefronts and developing underutilized properties, particularly for market-rate housing.

In its first year, Mulligan said he thinks the initiative is a great opportunity to help Lynn realize its potential.

“It folds in well with the governor’s Lynn Economic Advancement Development Team and with the mayor and the city’s desire to take advantage of a good economy and leverage Lynn’s enviable assets,” he said.


 

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