Strengthening The Fabric Of The Community
March 27, 2016 : Banker & Tradesman, by Steve Adams
|Joseph Mulligan III|
Title: Transformative Development Initiative Fellow, City of Lynn
Industry experience: 29 years
Joseph Mulligan, MassDevelopment’s Transformative Development Initiative fellow in Lynn, is responsible for promoting the growth of Lynn’s downtown area by attracting new entrepreneurs and artists. He previously served as Boston’s deputy director for capital construction, overseeing planning and construction of such projects as the new school department offices in Roxbury’s Dudley Square. Since being named the TDI fellow in Lynn, Mulligan has hosted several community meetings and interviewed hundreds of residents, business owners and nonprofit groups on ideas to increase the vibrancy and economic vitality of the central business district.
Q: How was the location of the OneLynn District determined?
A: Right now we’re simply calling it “downtown.” The district is a five- to 10-minute walking radius in its most dense core, and the radius extends from the MBTA commuter rail station and encompasses most of what people call the downtown district. There are a couple of fortunate coincidences occurring. The city has rezoned not only the downtown, but most of the city of Lynn. It’s a very pro-development revision. The governor’s administration has designated Lynn as one of their top economic development priorities. There was the creation of the Lynn economic advancement development team, which is a cohort of state and local and federal officials who are focusing on designating resources to Lynn and assisting with permitting.
Q: What are the big changes in zoning?
A: There is, particularly in the downtown, a reduction of required parking, and a shift toward a housing and retail-commercial mix, as well as a loosening of height restrictions.
Q: What are the top initiatives and priorities of the Lynn TDI?
A: The city of Lynn has partnered with MassDevelopment and private partners to advance an enhancement of the downtown district, which includes placemaking, improved wayfinding, design strategies and public safety. And furthering the work of the arts and cultural district, filling vacant storefronts and engaging existing businesses and institutions to play a greater role in the life of the downtown district. There is an existing cultural district, and we are leveraging that to advance placemaking strategies with special events, artist housing and other cultural activities. They are quite an active and productive group.
Q: What’s the vacancy rate in the downtown area?
A: Around 10 percent. Businesses are always in transition, but our biggest challenge is addressing vacant parcels and a parking allotment, so that we might be able to develop vacant parcels.
Q: What sort of incentives is Lynn offering developers?
A: The city has enacted district improvement financing. Lynn has always been good on permitting and approvals, and then there are other opportunities, such as storefront signage improvement funding. Lynn has a very active Chamber of Commerce that does a lot of work on promotion and advocacy. It’s a very engaged business community and a welcoming municipality.
Q: What are the takeaways from the community meetings you’ve hosted?
A: A lot of the feedback has been on improving perceptions of safety, improvements to the streetscape, enhanced pedestrian accommodations and a desire for more activities for the community to participate in. We’re looking at the potential location for a co-working facility and artist makerspace and strengthening a business cluster, specifically focusing on furnishings and home improvements. Zimmin’s (a Lynn fabrics and decor company) is a great anchor that is a regional draw, as well as many consignment and antique furnishing retailers.
Those who don’t know Lynn will be surprised by its welcoming people, its proximity to natural resources such as the ocean and Lynn Woods, its affordability and its proactive city and business community.
Mulligan’s Top Lynn Attractions:
- Grand Army of the Republic Building
- The Lynn Museum
- View from High Rock Tower
- Lynn Auditorium concerts
- Local band Tigerman WHOA
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