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Staking out a future for Lynn’s Union Hospital property

Lynn, Ma. 8-27-18. There was a good turnout for the first meeting about the future of Union Hospital held at the Knights of Columbus Hall on Lynnfield Street. (Owen O'Rourke)

LYNN — Senior housing, including assisted living, and single-family homes were potential future use suggestions for the Union Hospital site offered by neighbors and other residents during a Monday night meeting.

About 70 people joined Mayor Thomas M. McGee and several City Councilors at the Knights of Columbus to discuss the future use of the Lynnfield Street hospital site once it closes in late 2019. Another discussion session is scheduled at the Knights, 177 Lynnfield St., on Sept. 17, at 6 p.m.

“We’re looking at the repurpose of Union Hospital,” Ward 1 City Councilor Wayne Lozzi told those in attendance.

Monday’s discussion centered around a 27-question survey meeting attendees could fill out on paper or answer almost instantaneously by text message using interactive technology. The survey, Monday’s meeting and the September meeting are part of a city effort to gauge community opinion on the Union Hospital’s site future use.

Partners HealthCare owns the 20-acre hospital site and plans to open a “medical village” on roughly one-quarter of the site in 2019 with urgent care, outpatient psychiatry, and other services in the village, along with primary and specialty care.

The village will occupy hospital land along Lynnfield Street now mostly used for a parking lot. Partners plans to sell the land that includes the main hospital building and the parking and wooded area off Woodland Avenue North.

Partners in a statement released earlier this month said it will incorporate priority use preferences identified by city officials and residents for the land slated for sale into requests for proposal to be sent to developers this fall.

“We can’t dictate what will happen on the site,” Metropolitan Area Planning Council (MAPC) Senior Regional Planner Josh Fiala told people attending Monday’s meeting. “We can set parameters.”

Roughly 15 attendees responded to the survey by text and stated a strong preference for single-family development and senior living uses on the hospital land. Text users weighed in strongly against multi-family residential construction but split over constructing buildings with a variety of uses on the site.

Other attendees offered their views during interviews after the meeting.

Michelle Guzman described herself as a community activist and said she would like to see the medical emphasis on the hospital land’s reuse extend beyond the medical village.

“I know we need housing, but Lynn has a lot of potential in the health industry,” Guzman said.

Joe Beaton said he would like to see a mix of single-family and senior housing.

MAPC is shepherding the study process contributing to a master plan that will outline future uses for the hospital land not being used for the medical village.

One of the ways the city can influence the hospital site’s reuse is through zoning. Union Hospital was built in 1953 and it’s been zoned for single-family or hospital use since then. Zoning requires a multi-step city review and approval process. Some use categories, including educational, religious, agricultural or nonprofit proposals, are more protected under the so-called Dover Amendment from local zoning restrictions than other uses.

Fiala provided a glimpse into the way developers may view the hospital property when he said the land not dedicated to the medical village could potentially provide room for 42 single-family homes. However, he doubted a developer would incur the expense of demolishing the main hospital complex to build 18 homes off Lynnfield Street near Dartmouth Street.

Anchor Road resident Susan Corbett is still smarting over the realization that the hospital is closing. She would like to see assisted living built on the site but said no matter what gets built, her little corner of Lynn is going to be significantly transformed.

“It’s all going to change when that hospital closes,” she said.

 

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