Local Government and Politics, News

Lynn and Peabody Mayors speak about city revitalization at State of the Region

Lynn Mayor Thomas McGee delivers his state of the region speech during the North Shore Chamber of Commerce breakfast on Wednesday. (Spenser R. Hasak)

DANVERS — Lynn Mayor Thomas M. McGee and Peabody Mayor Ted Bettencourt outlined plans to revitalize their cities at the North Shore Chamber of Commerce State of the Region Address Wednesday morning at DoubleTree by Hilton Boston North Shore.

McGee said at the event that city officials are in the process of revamping Lynn and highlighted strategic efforts to focus on waterfront development in Lynn, the downtown area and the Lynnway.

Last week, he attended the Mayors’ Institute on City Design and presented a case study on those areas.

“How do we reimagine the Lynnway to ensure that there’s a real connection between our waterfront and our really growing and thriving arts and cultural district in the downtown,” McGee said.

The mayor said when he took office in January, he knew “it was critical to put Lynn in the best position to attract both residential and commercial development.”

He mentioned the city’s work on updating its Waterfront Master Plan. A consultant has been enlisted to work with the city and public as officials are reimagining the waterfront.

“I’ve been meeting regularly with my economic development team to redefine our pitch to companies and developers so we’re prepared to show investors why Lynn is the right place to set roots and invest,” McGee said.

The mayor highlighted for the chamber major development projects planned for or completed in Lynn, including Gateway North, a $31 million, 71-unit mixed-income and mixed-use development on Washington Street that opened over the summer; the former Beacon Chevrolet site, which has been dubbed “North Harbor” with officials hopeful a groundbreaking will take place on the $90 million 348-apartment waterfront development; and the $90 million 10-story mixed-use development planned on Munroe Street, which is expected to create 261 market-rate units and retail space in the downtown.

McGee said Lynn is poised to attract more investors through its federal opportunity zone designation from the federal government. Since the designation, he said the city has seen interest from developers and investors.

According to the Internal Revenue Service, an opportunity zone is an economically distressed community where new investments, under certain conditions, may be eligible for preferential tax treatment. McGee said four tracks in Lynn were approved by the U.S. Department of Treasury for consideration.

McGee highlighted efforts to make the downtown a destination for visitors, pointing out the recent underpass lighting and the second Beyond Walls mural festival.

Another ongoing effort, he said, is creating a community bike path that will connect to the waterfront, the city’s portion of the planned expansion of the Northern Strand Trail into Lynn. Northern Strand currently starts at Everett and ends at the Lynn/Saugus border.

The mayor said an important factor in economic development is public transportation — he’s for looking at a regional rail and bringing ferry service back to Lynn, along with an expanded water transportation system for the region.

“All of these things make our city more attractive to visitors, residents and developers,” McGee said. “It’s simple economics. The more attractive it is for people to be downtown, the more money they will spend in our local businesses and the more we’ll get people looking to invest in the city of Lynn.”

Bettencourt said downtown Peabody is in the midst of a historic revitalization. He said an event planned for Thursday at City Hall called “Peabody’s Next Chapter,” which will feature a virtual tour of the downtown and overview of the progress officials have made to revitalize the area, signifies that the city has moved beyond the initial stages of revitalization and are ready for what comes next.

Bettencourt said the past five years, the city has landed two MassWorks grants to redesign Main Street and Peabody Square to create additional parking, pedestrian safety and make the area more attractive to business and residential development.

In all, he said the city has invested nearly $6 million in state and local funds to improve its downtown infrastructure.

Using those funds to attract private investment has resulted in the development of 1 Main St., a building that had been vacant for decades, Bettencourt said. Developer Pat Todisco is building 20 units of apartment housing on the upper three floors and preparing the first floor for a commercial use.

“One Main St. is exactly the type of combination residential and commercial development that helped revitalize downtown Beverly, Salem and Danvers in recent decades and will likewise help downtown Peabody to thrive in years to come,” Bettencourt said.

He also highlighted work with state legislature to secure additional liquor licenses, which was aimed at attracting smaller, family-run restaurants to downtown Peabody. That resulted in the opening this summer of La Siesta at 3 Main St., another property that had been vacant for decades and also features a residential component on its upper floors.

New food establishments have helped establish Peabody’s restaurant row on Main Street, the mayor said, along with creating new jobs, additional revenue to the city and an improved appearance to the Main Street landscape.

He mentioned arts and cultural efforts, including pop-up events, the opening of the Black Box Theater and expanding its performing arts program at City Hall.

But he said the future success of the downtown relies on getting people in and out of the area more quickly and efficiently. The mayor said Peabody has been deemed eligible to receive nearly $11 million in state and federal funds to rebuild the Central Street corridor from Wilson Square to the downtown, which is aimed at improving traffic, accessibility, safety and quality of life for residents.
“Although some in our community cautioned against any attempt to revitalize downtown Peabody — there were always excuses not to do it — others demonstrated the courage and vision to challenge conventional wisdom,” Bettencourt said. “Although much work lies ahead, downtown Peabody is in the midst of a historic revitalization.”

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