matthew picarsic

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.

Varsity wrestling to return to Lynn

ITEM PHOTO: OWEN O’ROURKE
From left, assistant coach Samantha Nelson, Jared Nicholson, coach Frank Vieira, standing, and athletes Sidney Cocchia Jose Lagares, Dayris Cleto-Galo and Rohni Silveria during warm ups.

By MICHELE DURGIN

 

LYNN — It didn’t take long for freshman School Committee member Jared Nicholson to enhance the lives of student athletes in the city.

Nicholson, who was a champion wrestler at Lincoln-Sudbury Regional High School and lettered in varsity wrestling at Princeton University, has introduced the first wrestling program to the city’s public schools since the 70’s.

”This is wonderful,” he said. “I am truly grateful to so many people who have stepped up and helped me bring this program to the students of Lynn.”

The program has started with 20 boys and girls from the Thurgood Marshall Middle School. Most of the team members are eighth graders. The hope is that next season the program moves up to the high school level. The plan is for Classical, English, and Tech to combine as one team, with Lynn Tech as the host school.

Joe Skeadas, Tech’s athletic director, said he is excited about wrestling becoming part of the high school team sports offerings. He is anxious for the season to begin and relieved,too.

“I have been trying to get this going for six years,” he said. “My brother, Jackie, was a member of the English Wrestling Team in the early 70’s and then it just disappeared. It’s another  option for kids, and I believe the more options we give them, the better off we all are.”

The middle school team is preparing for its first exhibition match next Thursday against the Josiah Quincy Upper School in Boston.

“Some of these kids are naturals,” Nicholson said. “It’s great that they are getting involved in this sport at such a young age. The big goal is to also offer a high school program in Lynn. Wrestling is a unique sport because it offers athletes a chance to be part of a team, yet challenge themselves individually while competing on a mat against another wrestler.”

Coach Frank Vieira, an eighth grade history teacher, is looking forward to the upcoming season of wrestling in Lynn.

“This is a dream come true,” he said. “The kids love it and often ask if practice can go longer. I am hoping for a squad twice this size next year.”

Assistant coach Samantha Nelson said she too is excited about the upcoming season.

“The kids are really enjoying the program,” she said. “There is a great bonding experience happening across the grade levels and that carries over into the classrooms and the hallways of the school.”

Nicholson raised $15,150 for the program from sponsors Matthew Picarsic, principal of RCG LLC, Biondolillo Associates, the Gilberg family, Edison Realty LLC, Seabay Realty LLC, and Eastern Bank.

“There is no better feeling than going the full six minutes and then the referee raises your arm in victory, and you know that you’ve just defeated someone who is working just as hard as you,” Vieira said. “I am so happy that wrestling has come to Lynn.”