MassDevelopment

Development Opportunities Enormous

September 17, 2009 : The Lowell Sun, by Prudence Brighton


LOWELL – Nearly 100 developers, brokers, architects, planners and business representatives yesterday learned, “There’s a lot to like about Lowell.”

That message was imprinted on the T-shirts each received as they were welcomed to the Lowell Developers Conference, and it was a message reinforced throughout a morning of touring the city’s top sites for business and mixed-used development.

“Lowell is well planned, ready to do business and wants to have you here,” said Robert Culver of MassDevelopment, which co-sponsored the conference along with the city of Lowell.

For City Manager Bernie Lynch, the conference was an opportunity “to showcase all that is happening and has happened in the city of Lowell.”

With a 30-year history of positive changes, Lynch told the participants, “We are strong in our ability to take advantage of opportunities.”

One such opportunity is the demographic change that has drawn new residents to the nearly 1,700 units of condominium and apartment housing in the downtown area over the last decade.

Assistant City Manager and DPD Director Adam Baacke said Lowell’s “real and proven track record” makes it different from other cities.

“We want to work with you to eliminate hurdles,” Baacke added.

Yesterday’s event was one of several that have been held throughout the state at other gateway cities, including Worcester and Springfield.

After a welcoming ceremony at the National Park Visitors’ Center, participants boarded trolleys for a ride behind Boott Mills, emerging at Arthur’s Paradise Diner to the aroma of fried food, and crossing to Middlesex Community College. From MCC, the tour moved to the UMass Lowell Inn and Conference Center, formerly the DoubleTree Hotel. At the Inn and Conference Center, Deborah Poodry of UMass Lowell, described the “terrific working partnership” between the university and the city.

“The university is committed to a substantial effort in the area of work-force development and continuing education,” she said.

Boarding buses at the Inn and Conference Center, participants were given a glimpse of recent developments in the city before disembarking at the site of the Hamilton Canal project on Jackson Street.

Looking up at the massive edifice of the Appleton Mills, Eric Khoury of Gateway Strategies in North Andover said, “These (projects) are the ones you live for. It’s easy to take a piece of open land and develop it, but these are the challenging ones.”

The opportunities for Lowell and the surrounding area are “enormous,” Khoury said. He added that while these are challenging economic times, “Lowell has done a good job of positioning itself for the turnaround.”

“This is right up our alley,” said Rich Relich of Arch Street Development in Boston, whose firm specializes in historic adaptive reuse.

Colin O’Keefe, also of Arch Street Development, called the Hamilton Canal district a “great opportunity.”

© Copyright 2009 The Lowell Sun.