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Study shows senior housing a preference at Union Hospital site

LYNN — The results of a study looking at potential reuse of the Union Hospital site show a strong preference for senior housing.

Construction began in December on a $23 million medical village that will replace Union Hospital. The 41,000 square-foot medical village will encompass a quarter of the 20-acre Union Hospital campus with construction scheduled to be completed in April 2020 and coincide with the hospital’s closure.

For the remainder of the site, the city tasked the Metropolitan Area Planning Council (MAPC) to prepare a $30,000 Master Plan, or re-use study, funded by North Shore Medical Center, to propose future uses and recommend zoning for the rest of the site.

The study was meant to provide recommendations for reuse, as it’s ultimately up to a potential developer what to build on the site. Partners Healthcare, or North Shore Medical Center, ultimately decides who buys the property and what’s done with it.

Results of the study show an assisted living facility and senior care community as an option with the most potential for financial feasibility, as the type of facility allows for a higher number of units to be created in a compact building.

The approach would provide a senior care community that would offer single-family homes in a clustered layout at the Woodland Avenue North property and an assisted living facility on the Lynnfield Street portion of the site.

The facilities could be linked together under the same senior community, with the option of 24 single-family homes and about 114 units in the assisted living facility, according to the study.

When considering the primarily residential neighborhood around the hospital and the desire for less impact on existing overcrowding at the city’s schools, senior living shows as a promising use, according to Josh Fiala, principal planner at MAPC, who presented the results of the study to the City Council on Tuesday night.

Also taken into consideration in terms of feasibility were demographic projections that showed the senior population and need for assisted living facilities will be increasing in the years to come.

“We tried to find what the community would find advantageous and what the property owner would find viable as well,” said Fiala.

Fiala said defining potential uses through rezoning the property would give the city the most control and protection. He said it might be best to be proactive, in terms of the City Council rezoning the property before potential developers emerge.

Zoning currently allows for single-family housing and a hospital. The City Council issued a special permit in the 1950s to allow for the hospital.

In addition, the City Council approved rezoning the property to allow for a medical village when the facility was proposed.

Recommended zoning changes included the medical village zoning and an affordable housing requirement that would require residential projects with more than 20 units to include 10 percent of those units as affordable.

“I was glad to see the larger portion at the rear of the existing site was mainly elderly/single-family preference by the community, and I think that would be a good use of the property,” said Ward 1 Councilor Wayne Lozzi.

Fiala said hospital redevelopment processes are difficult because of the scale of the facility and cost of demolition. He said MAPC came up with a minimum cost of $3 million to demolish the building and prepare the site for redevelopment.

Similar projects involving former hospitals in Medfield and Arlington took a decade or so to redevelop, he said.  

The Department of Public Health approved a $180 million expansion of North Shore Medical Center (NSMC) in 2016 that will close Union and move the beds to a new Salem campus. The medical facilities in Lynn and Salem are part of Partners Healthcare.


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