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From parking lots to apartments in Lynn

The City of Lynn is planning on selling the Andrew Street Public Parking Lot as well as two other lots for the development of apartment buildings. (Spenser R. Hasak)

LYNN — One year before a $90 million luxury apartment complex is set to open downtown, the builder is ready to put another shovel in the ground.

“The demand for housing is huge,” said Michael Procopio, co-owner of Procopio Enterprises. “I would not hesitate to start another 300-unit project in Lynn tomorrow.”

The Saugus developer might get his wish.

On Tuesday night, the Off-Street Parking Commission is expected to approve a plan by Mayor Thomas M. McGee and City Council President Darren Cyr to issue a request for proposal (RFP) for three municipal parking lots.

The city-owned lots on Buffum, School and Andrew streets would be sold or leased to a developer for construction of high rise apartment buildings with plenty of parking for tenants and the public.

While the RFP has not been written, the city would likely sell the parcels to a developer in exchange for construction of housing and double the number of parking spaces that exist on the lots today.

In a statement, three commission members including Jamie Cerulli, Jane Kelly, and Bernice Brooks, said they recognize the desperate need for more parking downtown.

“A public-private partnership is an innovative solution to the parking issues facing residents and businesses downtown,” the statement said. “We applaud Council President Cyr for the formulation of this plan and Mayor McGee along with the city’s economic team for moving this forward.”

Earlier this year, the Commission asked developers to provide their vision for city-owned lots. Cyr led a tour of five developers. But Procopio was the only builder to submit a concept to the city.

“We think housing is the best play for those sites and maybe a mix of office,” he said. “We envision a parking structure, whether in the core or underground, with apartments or offices above.”

Given the requirement to double the parking, Procopio said the zoning, which limits buildings to 10 stories, would have to be higher.

Robert Stilian, the city’s acting parking director, said the idea is not new. The concept of leasing or selling the parking lots was floated nearly a decade ago, but went nowhere.

Cyr said the idea resurfaced after McGee was elected saying it could do two things. It would raise tax revenues for the cash-strapped city and solve the lack of parking downtown.

In addition to the mayor, Cyr credited Ward 5 City Councilor Dianna Chakoutis, James Cowdell, Economic Development & Industrial Corp. of Lynn executive director, first assistant city solicitor attorney James Lamanna, and Councilor-at-Large Buzzy Barton for jump-starting the plan.

“We agreed to start working on this,” Cyr said.

McGee did not respond to multiple requests for comment. Procopio said his family-owned company has a track record in Lynn.

“We have proven we deliver,” he said. “The city has confidence in us and we’ve proven we can attract institutional money. We are safe bet for Lynn, we are a known quantity.”

The development team is building a 10-story building with 259 apartments and 20,000 square feet of ground-floor commercial space on Munroe Street in downtown, which will include a restaurant and shops. It is expected to open next year.

John Fish, CEO of Suffolk Construction Co. whose Boston firm has built some of Boston’s biggest towers, said he is not surprised builders and developers are looking at Lynn.

“Everything is migrating out of the city because it’s so expensive in Boston,” he said. “People are looking for an alternative and Lynn, Everett, and Saugus are worth getting excited about.”

On Lynn’s prospects for the future, Fish said it’s bright.

“Lynn will be the next Brookline or Cambridge,” he said. “I’m not kidding.”

 

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