LYNN — The framework of the city’s future updated Waterfront Master Plan was laid out for the public for the first time on Monday night at the Lynn Museum.
The design team, Utile Inc., a Boston-based urban design and architecture firm, outlined a plan to transform the city’s 300-acre waterfront site with residential, commercial, and industrial development while also creating open space and making it accessible to all residents.
Today, most of the site contains giant retailers, and almost a quarter of it remains undeveloped, or contains parking lots.
The revised Waterfront Master Plan will build off of the 2007 Waterfront Master Plan, the city’s ongoing Waterfront Open Space Master Plan and recent development and public realm improvement proposals, according to a presentation of the plan.
“(We’re) trying to create a plan that is flexible, but firm enough to ensure that really important assets like open space are implemented, but other pieces are flexible enough to permit growth and encourage and attract growth,” said Matthew Littell, principal at Utile Inc., which was selected to compile the plan by the Economic Development & Industrial Corporation of Lynn (EDIC/Lynn) earlier this year.
On Monday night, the public raised concerns about a plan that showed affordable housing was not feasible under current market conditions on the waterfront, and whether development would affect rents, which are already anxiety-inducing for residents paying a lot for housing.
Concerns from the first public session on the plan, held in September, included whether open spaces would really be for the public, what impact development would have on surrounding low-income areas, and what job-creating uses could be brought to the waterfront.
Littell’s presented plan would maintain the active industrial uses at the core of the district, while encouraging flexible mixed development that incrementally adds public benefits, open space and connectivity.
He said the plan for enhanced connectivity on the waterfront would build off of development slated to take place on the Lynnway, including the $90 million redevelopment of the former Beacon Chevrolet site, dubbed North Harbor, which will transform the parcel into 332 market-rate apartments in multiple buildings.
Littell said there’s an opportunity to create a waterfront loop from the North Harbor site to the Clocktower site to the Lynn Ferry terminal and back around. The North Harbor development team plans to connect the walkway from Lynn Heritage State Park to the Clocktower Business Center on the Lynnway.
Strategies to improve connectivity on the waterfront include proper streets and activated edges that would enable engaging and safe connections to the waterfront and ensure new development is accessible to surrounding neighborhoods.
“Even with one development, (the city) can begin to accrue open space development greater than the sum of its parts,” Littell said. “It’s important to think about how sequenced development can occur and how the public can get benefit along the way … If we begin to connect the dots, we begin to have nice destinations.”
Littell said the city needs to find ways to integrate the existing viable industrial uses that occupy the middle of the site into newer job-friendly uses. He cited Garelick Farms, which closed its plant and laid off 300 workers earlier this year, as something that might transition into another industrial site.
One of the visions of the city’s Open Space Master Plan, which underlies the Waterfront Master Plan, is for the city’s landfill to be transformed into a publicly accessible park. Work is set to begin on repairing the landfill’s existing cap next year to bring the site into compliance with state solid waste regulations.
A Municipal Harbor Plan (MHP) Amendment will be folded into the plan, which can help coordinate local, state and federal regulations along the waterfront and ensure the implementation of the Open Space Master Plan and goals of the revised Waterfront Master Plan, according to the presentation.
A Municipal Harbor Plan, which has to be approved by the state, states a municipality’s goals, standards and policies to guide public and private land use among harbors and will be incorporated, according to the presentation.
Key tools needed to implement the plan include the MHP Amendment, which is subject to approval by the Massachusetts Office of Coastal Zone Management and the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection, and is necessary to manage and enforce waterfront accessibility and zoning changes which are subject to City Council approval.
Another tool is coordination with efforts already underway, including the private redevelopment of the South Harbor site, transportation plans and landfill capping, according to the presentation.
The study, which is costing the city more than $90,000, is scheduled to be completed next year. The next public meeting, where the MHP amendment will be discussed, is to be held either next month or in February.