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MassInc think tank presentation discusses transit-oriented development in Lynn

The audience in attendance at the Lynn-Transit-oriented develoment presentation at the Lynn Museum. (Owen O'Rourke)

LYNN — Demand for a ferry and worries over pricing out long time residents were the hot topics at Monday’s presentation on transit-oriented development.

“The good thing about Lynn is there is a lot of room to grow, which means no one would be displaced by future development,” said Ben Forman, executive director of MassINC, a Boston-based think tank.

A number of local officials sat through a four-minute video presentation and one-hour discussion forum at the Lynn Museum held by Forman. In attendance was Mayor Thomas M. McGee, state Rep. Daniel Cahill (D-Lynn), state Sen. Brendan Crighton (D-Lynn), and representatives from U.S. Rep. Seth Moulton’s office who appeared intrigued by the data.

“I’m excited about this report and I think some of the others in the room are as well,” said McGee.

MassINC has spent the last year researching how commuters get from their homes to their jobs by transit. The think tank has created a vision of 13 gateway cities outside of Boston that are targeted for economic development based on their MBTA stations. Data from the presentation said there are 20 million square feet of occupiable space in downtown Lynn, 15 million of it residential and the remaining five million commercial.

“The goal is to make use of the transit in these communities and build around it,” said Forman.

Michael Procopio, co-owner of Procopio Enterprises Inc. in Saugus who plans to build an $80 million luxury apartment complex in downtown, asked Forman if the five million square feet of occupiable commercial space was broken up further in terms of office or retail usage, or it was a blanketed statement of everything outside of residential.

Procopio’s question led into a discussion about low-income residents in the city and the almost non-existent commuter rail ridership, about three percent, in downtown. With the desire for market-rate value businesses as a concurring discussion throughout the city, Forman acknowledged that pushing out long-time residents is not something they want to happen.

“If you want to see the office market blossom, the residential market needs to grow,” said Forman.

Marven Hyppolite, a representative from Moulton’s office, asked the executive director if transit-oriented development would create gentrification pressures in Lynn. Forman replied by acknowledging MassINC’s goal of wanting to consider developing market-rate housing without displacing residents who have lived in the city for decades and made the community what it is. An attendee from the crowd yelled out and mentioned the high price for a Lynn commuter rail ride.

“Low-income residents need to be able to make use of the transit that exists today,” said Forman. “It’s an injustice not to allow that. Low-income fair discount on commuter rails is ideal and we’d be the first around here to offer it, and they do it all over Europe so there’s a precedent for it.”

Multiple attendees asked whether the ferry was included within the data of a transit-oriented development plan for the city. Forman said they enlarged the boundary a little bit in the data because there was the assumption that at some point Lynn would have a ferry again.

Cahill acknowledged his frustrations about the presentation lie mostly with the nonexistent ferry. He asked why the MBTA can’t just start investing in the transportation services now instead of having the city and local taxpayers putting up the money only to be waiting around.

“Why can’t the MBTA figure that out?” he asked.

Forman mentioned the large amounts of space that would be available for waterfront units would make Lynn a good choice for a ferry. McGee chimed in after an attendee asked about working with private sectors and said Lynn has to be partnering with private sectors in Boston that are looking for those open access areas.

“Hopefully with videos like this we can start these conversations and keep them going forward,” said Forman.

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