Editorial: Prosperity’s gateway

Snowball effect is one of those overused phrases writers lean on to explain how a seemingly isolated event exerts significant influence or casts a big shadow on the world around it.

With apologies to critics of overused phrases, let us state here and now that the newly-christened Gateway North housing on lower Washington Street will have a huge snowball effect on Lynn.

Ten years in the making with a $31 million price tag, the 71-unit housing development is a major step forward in transforming a run-down corner of Lynn into a vibrant extension of downtown. Gateway is located two blocks from the Market-Broad streets bus stop and commuter rail platform and it sits at the edge of the Sagamore Hill neighborhood.

Once home to a row of bars, lower Washington Street — thanks to Gateway North — is about to become an extension of downtown five minutes away from public transportation and entertainment and places to eat.

And that is just the start: The people who live in Gateway North are going to want more amenities that meet their needs, including additional places to eat and places where they can have fun.

Transforming a once-neglected stretch of street in Lynn is just one of the potential changes Gateway North brings to Lynn. The building is, in the truest sense, a mixed-income project. Its apartments are scaled to traditional affordable as well as market-rate rents. But Gateway North is also the flagship for providing workforce housing.

Defined as rental housing that is affordable to working families whose incomes are too high for subsidized housing, but not enough to afford market-rate rents, workforce housing represents an approach to development that embraces the realities of the housing market.

It’s safe to say that Lynn Housing Authority & Neighborhood Development (LHAND), through its development arm, Neighborhood Development Associates, Inc., is uniquely positioned to bring the workforce housing concept to fruition.

LHAND has a history of turning neglected sections of Lynn ranging from the Highlands, to Sagamore Hill to corners of West Lynn, into attractive and safe places to live. Gateway North, a partnership between Neighborhood Development Associates, Inc., and Boston-based Hub Holdings LLC, is proof that innovative, even risky, development ideas are doable.

It’s fair to say only LHAND Executive Director Charles J. Gaeta and Director of Planning and Development Peggy Phelps could have brought to bear the planning experience, vision, and wealth of contacts required to get Gateway North off the drawing board and see it through a 10-year planning and construction process.

Critics, and Lynn has its share, will do their best to downplay Gateway North’s impact on the city’s and the region’s unmet housing needs. But they will not be able to deny Gateway North’s ability to turn lower Washington Street into an extension of Lynn’s walkable downtown. They won’t be able to deny, as Mayor Thomas M. McGee pointed out, the development’s 100 percent-union employment track record.

They will have to admit Gateway North’s is yet another Lynn-first effort to meet local and regional housing challenges head on.

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