Issuu on Google+

STATUS AND DEVELOPMENT PLANS FOR CENTRAL BUSINESS DISTRICT (PURSUANT TO SECTION 13 OF CHAPTER 844 OF THE MASS. ACTS OF 1975) Since the establishment of the Lowell Development and Financial Corporation (LDFC) in the mid-1970s, Downtown Lowell has enjoyed an ongoing renaissance that has proven to be a national model for the revitalization of post-industrial cities. Over 5 million square feet of vacant mill buildings have been restored and reoccupied with new uses, thousands of new residents have moved into market-rate housing in the Downtown, dozens of new businesses have opened, and Downtown Lowell continues to be envied by other Gateway Cities in Massachusetts and across the country. The Great Recession has had significant consequences on real estate development and property values throughout the region and Downtown Lowell has not avoided this trend. As a result the pace of major development projects has slowed but hardly stopped. Since the recession began, Downtown Lowell has seen the opening of the Lofts at Perkins Park in the Lawrence Mills, the new Jeanne D’Arc Credit Union corporate offices at the Tremont Yards, the Appleton Mills artist live/work community, the Western Avenue Lofts, and the UMass Lowell Inn and Conference Center, among other projects. Construction is currently underway on the Lowell Community Health Center, the 110 Canal Street office building, the Boott Mills West Mill apartments and offices, and the Gates Block, along with several smaller projects. The businesses that have opened new or expanded their facilities in Downtown recently include: Fuse Bistro, the Flower Mill, Gallagher & Cavanaugh, Major’s Pub, Nexenta Systems, and Meerkat Technology, among others. Despite these successes, challenges persist as well. The City, the LDFC, and our partner agency, the Lowell Plan, have worked hard to implement measures that help to strengthen the climate for continued development of the Downtown. These include planning efforts like the Downtown Evolution Plan that was prepared by Jeff Speck and Associates, which identified sites for potential additional development and infrastructure investments and policy strategies that should be pursued to help facilitate that development. They also include: • active investments in infrastructure to promote accessibility and prepare sites like the Hamilton Canal District for additional construction; • continued promotion of historic preservation to reinforce the strong sense of place that is one of the signature attributes of Downtown Lowell; • active partnerships with cultural and arts organizations as well as the City’s institutions of higher education to help strengthen the vibrancy of the Downtown area; and • nurturing strong relationships with organizations that help to promote the innovation and entrepreneurship that will help grow the next generation of businesses who will continue Downtown Lowell’s regeneration.

November 9, 2012 Status of Downtown Development

1


I.

Development Activity

The past decade has seen the City of Lowell successfully attract 2.6 million square feet of high quality redevelopment projects, adding new life to formerly vacant and derelict buildings. Much of this development activity has occurred in Lowell’s most historically significant mill complexes is attributable to the City’s unparalleled spirit of cooperation among developers, the City, and the National Park Service in providing critical technical assistance and access to historic and new market tax credits. Key mill redevelopment projects such as the Lawrence Mills, Boott Mills, and Appleton Mills resulted in approximately 2 million square feet of rehabbed mill space, a combined private investment of $150 million dollars, and the creation of over 1,500 new housing units in Downtown. While the recent economic downturn has presented some challenges, the City continues to build on its success. Figure 1’s comparison of commercial vacancy rates in Lowell and the region reveals Lowell’s trends towards recovery which generally parallel the region. Consistent with planning efforts in many Gateway Cities, the economic health and vitality of Lowell’s Downtown has been greatly enhanced by Figure 1: Commercial Vacancy Rate in Lowell and the Region the presence of households with incomes above the area median. Unfortunately, the real estate market does not yet support the unsubsidized development of market-rate housing in most Gateway Cities. As market conditions have shifted in recent years, the gap between the cost of development and the potential revenues realizable from market pricing for condominium unit sales or apartment leases have grown. Additional subsidy beyond the available historic rehabilitation tax credits is typically required in order to facilitate housing development. In response the City of Lowell became only the second municipality to receive approval from the Massachusetts Department of Housing and Community Development of its Housing Development and Incentive Zone and Plan. This program enables developers of market rate housing projects in and near Downtown Lowell to seek tax incentives. The City of Lowell Department of Planning and Development has been working very closely with these developers and these projects have already been reviewed and received Planning and Zoning Board approvals. In 2011, the City of Lowell received a $5 million federal stimulus grant from the Department of Energy. This grant enables owners of properties located within the Downtown Historic District to rehabilitate their properties to become energy-efficient. In addition, a newly established public-private partnership, committed nearly $8 million into a loan pool to provide low-interest loans to eligible energy-efficient retrofit projects. To date, the Department of Planning and Development is in the process of assisting more than two dozen buildings.

November 9, 2012 Status of Downtown Development

2


A. Jackson-Appleton-Middlesex (JAM) Urban Revitalization and Development District / Hamilton Canal District (HCD) The most significant ongoing development/redevelopment activities in Downtown Lowell are located in the Jackson-Appleton-Middlesex Urban Revitalization and Development District (JAM Plan), particularly in the Hamilton Canal District. Following decades of disinvestment and recognizing the need for substantial and direct public sector involvement, the Lowell City Council adopted the JAM Plan in early 2000. The plan was created in order to inject life into the redevelopment of the neighborhood that is located adjacent to the heart of Downtown Lowell. Since the creation of the state approved and locally adopted urban renewal district, a wave of public and private improvements and investments have materialized in the JAM Plan neighborhood, which continues to be an area ripe with redevelopment opportunities. The implementation of the JAM Plan has included the City’s initiatives to develop a 900 space parking structure with ground floor retail space, the conversion of Middlesex Street to two-way traffic supporting the businesses in the neighborhood, and the targeted redevelopment or rehabilitation of a number of smaller targeted properties along Middlesex, Appleton, Summer and Gorham Streets. To date, private investments have included the development of over 480 new housing units and 170 new jobs, leveraging over $140 million in private investments to date to realize over $550,000 in new tax revenue annually. The most exciting and comprehensive initiative in the JAM Plan is the redevelopment of the Hamilton Canal District. This project will result in the creation of a new mixed-use transitorientated neighborhood reconnecting Downtown Lowell with the City’s transportation infrastructure at the Gallagher Intermodal Transit Center and the Lowell Connector highway. In August 2007, the City selected Trinity Hamilton Canal Limited Partnership (Trinity) of Boston as the Master Developer for this exciting project. Trinity and the City completed a highly inclusive public planning process which resulted in a fully entitled master plan for the Hamilton Canal District redevelopment. Figure 2: Rendering of the proposed development along the Hamilton Canal (Icon Architecture, Inc.)

As outlined in the Hamilton Canal District Master Plan, the redevelopment effort represents a $700-$800 million investment that will create nearly 2 million square feet of new building space, leading to the creation of up to 1,800 new permanent jobs in the City. The project will include the development of over 700 new units of housing, up to 55,000 square feet of retail, and up to 450,000 square feet of commercial/office space. Additionally, the Massachusetts Division of Capital Asset Management (DCAM) will construct the new 225,000+ square foot, $175 million Lowell Trial Court on a portion of the site. The City Council voted

November 9, 2012 Status of Downtown Development

3


unanimously to approve the Hamilton Canal District Master Plan that outlines the redevelopment vision for the site, as well as the Land Disposition Agreement with Trinity that outlines and ensures the sale and development of the property by Trinity over the next 10years. In June 2009, the City completed the transfer of ownership of both the Lowell Trial Court portion of the site to DCAM as well as the Phase I portion to Trinity for the construction of the Appleton Mills property. In spring 2011, Trinity completed the redevelopment of the Appleton Mills into 130 units of artist housing. This project is now a fully-occupied creative community. Trinity is currently in construction of the existing historic building at 110 Canal Street into a 54,000 square feet commercial office and recently retained CB Richard Ellis as its leasing agent. Infrastructure construction has been completed on site to provide access and utility services for the next 6 development parcels. B.

Hamilton Crossing (AHF/ Banc of America)

Located within the Hamilton Mills Complex, The Hamilton

Figure 3: Bridges along the Hamilton Canal

Crossing project will deliver a three-phased, mixed use development to the City of Lowell's Jackson-AppletonMiddlesex Urban Revitalization and Development Area (the JAM Area). The project is a joint venture between the Architectural Heritage Foundation’s (AHF) and the Banc of America CDC to rehabilitate two buildings, separated by the Hamilton Canal, that were formerly part of the Hamilton Manufacturing Company's textile mill complex. These elegant brick buildings are connected by a series of historic bridges that will be restored as part of the project, providing efficient pathways for the residents and unobstructed views of the canal. The first phase of the Hamilton Crossing project will be the redevelopment of 165 Jackson Street, formerly the Hamilton Manufacturing Company's Counting House and Storehouse, into the Counting House Lofts apartments (52 units of mixed income housing to be developed by WinnDevelopment). The narrow layout of this building creates unique units, each with numerous windows that front either onto the street or the canal. The project has received significant public and private support. Notably, the project was awarded a $250,000 “Save America's Treasures” grant, which is remarkable because the grant program does not often recognize industrial, urban-fabric buildings. Figure 4: Hamilton Crossing November 9, 2012 Status of Downtown Development

4


The second phase of the Hamilton Crossing project involves the rehabilitation of the larger of the two buildings, 161 Jackson Street. The westernmost third of the six-story, 290,000 square foot building is being redeveloped into the new headquarters of the Lowell Community Health Center and 161 Jackson Street will also feature many amenities that will be available to tenants of both buildings and will reactivate several historic bridges that once connected the two mills (see Figures 3 and 4). The balance of this building is expected to contain housing, including market-rate residential units which may benefit from the HDIP program, and additional leasable commercial space. The units and the building will offer innumerous amenities to residents such as oversize windows; high ceilings; energy-efficient appliance; in-unit washer& dryer; Wi-Fi in common areas, historic canalwalk and stunning views of the canal and city. AHF’s has a long track record of historic rehabilitations of significant properties/ sites within the Boston area, including Old City Hall in Boston and the Washington Mills in Lawrence. The City of Lowell Department of Planning and Development as well as the Lowell National Historical Park have been working with AHF for several years and have established a positive working relationship. C.

Lawrence Mills Complex/ Perkins Development

Built along the banks of the Merrimack River and advantageously located between the Tsongas Arena and LeLacheur Ballpark, this mill complex is one of the most significant and successful redevelopment projects in Lowell. Fish & Associates acquired two mill buildings within this complex from the Commonwealth of Massachusetts and redeveloped these structures into 152 waterfront loft-style condominiums in 2007. This project represents a total investment of $25 million dollars. In addition, the Commonwealth undertook major site landscaping and infrastructure improvements, creating a beautiful public park that connects with the existing Merrimack Riverwalk. Most recently, in May of 2012, the Planning Board gave approval for the rehabilitation of the last piece of this mill complex, located at 39-65 Perkins Street. The existing parcel at 39 Perkins Street contains four single and multi-story masonry structures located on 35,401 square feet of land. The existing parcel at 65 Perkins Street contains a 6,000 square feet single-story brick building located on 12,751 square feet of land. The proposal includes the redevelopment of the structures on 39 Perkins Street and creation of two new structures to create thirty (30) dwelling units and one 3,400 square foot retail space. There are also six (6) dwelling units proposed for 65 Perkins Street. The Developer on this project is Mira Development. With over 25 years of experience, and with a rich portfolio, Mira has extensive experience in bringing at risk projects, such as complicated historic structures, into successful completion. The redevelopment of the former Hub Hosiery and McQuade buildings, also part of this mill complex, is the prime example of successful historic mill rehabilitation by Mira (see Figures 5 and 6). These two building have been transformed into 183 market-rate apartments, representing a $40.7 million investment. In addition, a multi-level parking garage (Perkins Ames garage), with capacity for 320 vehicles was built on site and completed in 2009. These residential units offer great amenities such as: stainless steel appliances, in-house washer and

November 9, 2012 Status of Downtown Development

5


dryer, fitness center, wifi access in lounge area, on-site storage, 24- hour security, and stunning river views. The proposed development at 39-65 Perkins will offer the same type of amenities and will aim for the same high-quality of living offered to future residents. Site-plan approval and a special permit were granted for 39 and 65 Perkins St. (see Figure 7), which are currently under construction. The nearby 1 Perkins Street Site also received plan approval and rehabilitation is underway to convert the structure into retail space. This project also received the “green light� from both the Planning Board and the Historic Board. The parking demand has been also met, when the Planning Board allowed this project to utilize the Perkins Ames Garage to meet their parking requirements. Figure 5: Perkins Place (before)

Figure 6: Perkins Place (after)

Figure 6: Proposed Development at 39-65 Perkins Place

Ganek Architects Inc.

D.

Boott Mills (West)

This stunning mill complex is situated also along the Merrimack River, to the east of Lawrence Mills. Aside from the one building owned and operated by the National Park Service, the

November 9, 2012 Status of Downtown Development

6


remainder of the complex is privately owned and is in final stages of renovation. The South Mill is completely renovated, with all 95,000 square feet being used as commercial office and R&D space. The East Mill was redeveloped in 2007 by Winn Properties into 154 loft-style apartments. The West Mill (Phase I) was redeveloped in 2008 into 23 waterfront loft condominiums by the former owner, Boott Mills II LLC. Unfortunately, shortly after redeveloping Phase I, the principals of Boott Mills II LLC fell into financial turmoil and lost this property through foreclosure. In 2011, the property was purchased by Consigli Construction, who have partnered with WinnDevelopment, the same developer who successfully rehabbed the East Mill and Lofts 27 in Downtown Lowell. WinnDevelopment completed a financial closing on this property in September and has begun rehabbing this final phase, approximately 200,000 square feet, into new market- rate rental units and 42,749 square feet of office space. This project represents over $80 million in private investment. With over 30-plus years of experience, WinnDevelopment has been very successful in the acquisition and rehabilitation of troubled and historic properties across the Commonwealth. Fig 7: Boott Mills Complex

November 9, 2012 Status of Downtown Development

7


E.

Holdings of the Saab Estate

Until his recent passing, local attorney Louis Saab owned a large number of properties in Downtown Lowell, including several prominent buildings. These properties have been actively marketed for sale by his estate recently. The following is a summary of the status of some of the more significant of these buildings: Address

Bld Total S.F. 66,764

Sold

4/06/2012

$200,000

61 Merrimack St / 53 John St

20,000

Sold

5/31/2012

$530,000

Lifang Zhuo

147 Central St

19,136

Sold

08/31/2012

$700,000

Kevin Ahern175 Central St LLC.

24 Merrimack St

Status

Date of Sale

November 9, 2012 Status of Downtown Development

Price Sold

New Owner’s Name 24 Merrimack St LLC.

Status Fully occupancy on the ground floor (retail) Upper floors to be redeveloped into 47 market-rate residential units. DPD currently working w/ developer on the HDIP program. Partially occupied on the ground floor (Cravings & M/A COM Federal Credit Union). Upper floors vacant and in need of extensive repair. New owner working with Mr. Jay Mason, principal at Architectural Consulting Serv. (ACS) on a feasibility study to convert the “Union Bank”( approx.7,500 SF) building into a future restaurant or retail space. Owner also working with Moore Real Estate to lease the upper floors for office use. Upper floor are being rehabbed into new office space. Currently working with the Historic Board obtaining permits to replace windows and doors. More substantial façade and storefront repairs are planned for Spring of 2013.

8


F.

Other Short-Term and Mid-Term Residential Projects

Below is a list of existing vacant or underutilized commercial buildings that have great potential for redevelopment within the next five (5) years and will be most likely converted into residential use: Table 1: Smaller short and mid-term residential projects

Building Name

Address

Colonial Building

24- 26 Merrimack St.

Lowell Sun Offices

15 Kearney Sq

Central Bank Building Phase 2 of Hamilton Canal District Various transitoriented projects in JAM Area

166 Central St

Status Fully occupied retail on ground floor; 100% vacancy on the upper floors. Recently purchased by 24 Merrimack St. LLC. Proposing 47 market-rate housing units. Project currently going through permitting process. Former Lowell Sun offices. 100% vacant. Purchased recently by a developer with experience in residential development. Former Bank/ Office building. 100 % vacant.

Potential 47 Market-rate residential units.

Market-rate/ mixedincome residential. Market-rate/ mixedincome residential. Ground floor retail/office.

HCD (Parcels 8 &9)

Market-rate/ mixedincome residential.

JAM Urban Renewal Area

Market-rate/ mixedincome residential.

The new projects pipeline builds on the City’s development successes in the past 10 years. As illustrated on table 2 below, this influx in units has resulted in approximately 2,000 new residents living in downtown Lowell since 1999. A total of 1,491 new market-rate units have been built since 2000. These projects represent a total investment of approximately $300 million dollars. Based on 2010 census data, we estimate that 2,684 new residents live in Downtown Lowell.

November 9, 2012 Status of Downtown Development

9


Table 2: Most recent and completed market-rate residential projects in Downtown Lowell Avg. Total # Total Avg. Sale Sale Project Name Address of Type Invest. Price/ Rent Price/ (in millions) Units S.F.

Status

200 Market St 158-172 Middle St 165 Market St

$6.5

175

Condos

$183,000

$153

Completed

$4.6

51

Condos

$246,000

$249

Completed

$3.5

27

Condos

$367,000

$265

Completed

$14.0 $25.0 $4

135 152 24

Rentals Condos Condos

$1200/ mo. $225,000 $209,120

--$202 $219

Completed Completed Completed

$1.5

12

Condos

$128,750

$326

Completed

$3.5

25

Condos

$250,000

$250

Completed

Lull & Hartford

305 Dutton St Aiken/ Perkins 23 Middle St 16 Merrimack St 10 Kearney Square 78 Prescott St

$2.5

14

$395,000

$330

Competed

Dutton St Lofts

Dutton St

$3.2

7

$183,770

$172

Completed

Birke’s Lofts Boott Mills- East Waterfront Lofts (Phase I) Canal Place III Lofts 27 Cotton House Lofts

59 Market St Foot of John St

$2.0 $25

14 154

Condos Condos/ rentals Condos Rentals

$250,000 $1225/ mo.

$250 ---

Completed Completed

130 John St

$25

23

Condos

$263,000

$188

Completed

200 Market St 27 Jackson St 240 Jackson St

$11 $35 $11

124 173 31

Condos Rentals Condos

$157,000 $1500/ mo. $180,000

$212 --$112

Completed Completed Completed

Trio Development

26 Market St

$4.0

14

Condos

$366,416

$325

Completed

Marston Building

155 Middlesex

$1.7

7

Condos

$185,000

$168

Completed

$1.8

25

Condos

$350,000

$190

Completed

$2

4

Condos

$350,000

$250

Completed

$40.7

193

Rentals

$1350/mo.

---

Completed

Canal Place I & II Ayer Lofts McCartin Build. 305 Dutton St Lawrence Mills Moller’s Lofts D.L.Page Building Fairburn Building

Residences at the 491 Dutton St American Textile Museum One City Square 98 Central St Perkins St 40 Perkin St Apartments Data Source: DPD survey, March 2012

II.

Recent and Ongoing Improvement to Downtown’s Infrastructure

To support and facilitate the private investment the City of Lowell has spent $1.6 million in downtown improvements including street resurfacing, updating crosswalks (ADA compliant), brick sidewalks, tree planting, hanging planters, City Hall landscaping, Victorian gaslights, benches and directional kiosks. Additionally, the City has undertaken a $17 million project in canal, river walkway and roadway improvements and other aesthetic improvements in the downtown area that have made significant improvements to the vehicular and pedestrian access within the Downtown area. Recently, a private philanthropic foundation undertook a major construction project in the downtown area on behalf of the City, including the November 9, 2012 Status of Downtown Development

10


installation of ADA compliant crosswalks and resetting of granite cobblestones. The City DPW continued this work by repaving Central Street and installing similar crosswalks on that artery. A. Lowell Riverwalk This $3.5 million walkway runs along the historic “Mile of Mills” on the Merrimack River and connects the University of Massachusetts at Lowell, the minor league baseball at LeLacheur Park, and the Paul E. Tsongas Center with the City’s Central Business District. An extension of the Riverwalk project is currently in the design phase. This project will design and construct the extension to the “Mile of Mills” Riverwalk from its current terminus at the historic Boott Mills complex to the Lowell Memorial Auditorium. The extended Riverwalk will complete the system and will provide connections to historic and cultural resources located within the Lowell National Historical Park. The initial phase of this extension has been designed and provides accessible pedestrian access from Bridge Street to the Merrimack River. The construction of this Bridge Street node is anticipated to begin in the Spring, provided that land acquisition from National Grid proceeds as expected in the near future. Figure 8: Riverwalk along the Merrimack B.

Vehicular and Pedestrian Traffic-Flow Improvements

Throughout the downtown area, the availability of parking as well as vehicular and pedestrian access are top priorities. Improving access to the area is a key component to the success of these projects. With the projected increase of vehicular and foot traffic within downtown, the following ongoing/short and long-term improvements will address vehicular and pedestrian accessibility issues: Dutton Street signal work: This project consisted of upgrading the signal equipment at the intersection of Dutton Street and Market Street, and improving the coordination of the traffic signals along Dutton Street from Market Street to Fletcher Street. A portion of Market Street has already been modified to allow two-way traffic flow between Dutton Street and Shattuck Street. The left lane on Dutton Street at Market Street heading outbound has been converted to an exclusive left-turn lane. The three signals along Dutton Street are now coordinated by installing GPS time reference units at each intersection which keeps the clocks synchronized on all three signal controllers. The new signals and lane use at Market and Dutton also allows for more efficient use of the intersection, as traffic travel in each direction on Dutton simultaneously, rather than having to wait for their separate phase. Restoration of Two-Way Traffic: The restoration of two-way traffic patterns to several downtown streets has been identified as a priority to simplify way-finding and reduce turning movements and idling times as well as the associated congestion and pollution, while simultaneously improving the coordination of the traffic signal infrastructure in the area to

November 9, 2012 Status of Downtown Development

11


eliminate excessive vehicle delays and associated fuel consumption and emissions. This project was a strong recommendation of the Downtown Evolution Plan and was embraced by many Downtown stakeholders during that planning process. The City has contracted with engineers from Nelson Nygaard and TEC to complete the design analysis and construction documents necessary to implement the restoration of two-way traffic patterns on Market, Central, Shattuck, and some or all of Merrimack Street potentially as early as 2013, provided construction funding is secured. The City currently has a grant request to the Massworks program pending, which if funded will allow this work to proceed. State road projects: The Hunts Falls Rotary and Lowell Connector bridge replacement projects are essentially complete. Work on the University Avenue Bridge and adjacent traffic improvements are slated for completion in 2014. MassDOT remains optimistic that the existing bridge can be kept open during construction of the new bridge. The city’s engineering staff continues to monitor progress on these and other projects that directly impact or have the potential to impact traffic flow within the downtown area. Enel Bridges: A number of bridges spanning Lowell’s canals in Downtown are privately owned by Enel Corporation. Several of these have either been repaired, are under reconstruction or in design. Enel is currently meeting with stakeholders to finalize their traffic management plans for a project to repair the bridge that carries Merrimack Street over the Eastern Canal at Kearney Square. Bridge Street/VFW Highway: Bridge Street is a main point of entry into Downtown and its intersection with VFW Highway is one of the state’s most dangerous. MassDOT is redesigning this intersection to include additional turning lanes, as well as drainage improvements, new striping, new signals and timing. These improvements will significantly improve the traffic flow in and out of the Downtown. Other short-term roadways and traffic flow improvements to the Downtown: Where possible, reallocate the signal green time to more efficiently service the existing traffic demands, based on current traffic volume counts. To address safety concerns at signalized intersections, several short-term measures will be implemented depending on the specific conditions at each intersection. Among the short-term measures is pavement striping, installing missing regulation signs, fixing pedestrian buttons, proper placement of wayfinding signs, repairing broken vehicle detectors, cleaning catch basins to reduce ponding, installing backplates on overhead signal heads, removing private signs to reduce clutter, trimming trees to ensure visibility, installing emergency preemption equipment and enforcing parking regulations. Long –term potential roadways and traffic flow improvements to the Downtown and surrounding area: • Redesign of Lowell Connector terminus at Thorndike Street and Gorham Street, together with improvements to signalized intersections along Thorndike Street to provide better access to the Connector for outbound traffic.

November 9, 2012 Status of Downtown Development

12


The reconstruction of the Lord Overpass, including the proposed Jackson Street Extension as proposed and necessary to support the redevelopment of the HCD. C.

Public- Transit

The Downtown is currently well served by the Lowell Regional Transit Authority (LRTA) providing 18 bus routes throughout the greater Lowell area. The “Downtown Circulator” runs every 15 minutes between the Downtown and the intermodal transportation center located at the Gallagher Terminal, where commuters access the MBTA rail line into Boston. As a way to promote LRTA ridership, the Department of Planning and Development (DPD), has recently undertaken a bus shelter study for the city of Lowell. The map below displays LRTA routes, current shelter locations, and proposed locations along inbound and outbound routes (figure 9). Stops were proposed based on the ridership counts along each route and at each stop, proximity to major city and regional destinations (hospitals, schools, malls, etc), and the existing lack of space for a shelter. An effort was made to accommodate all neighborhoods and routes. LRTA continues to improve its operations to increase ridership and fuel efficiency. Extended evening and weekend hours; accommodation for strollers, shopping carts, and luggage; WiFi access; increased use of smaller buses could be some of the improvement to be made within the next few years. Trolley Expansion The City of Lowell and Lowell National Historical Park have been awarded recently more than $3 million in federal grants for a year-round trolley system carrying passengers from the Gallagher Intermodal Terminal to downtown Lowell and beyond. A $1.5 million grant to the city will fund design of new tracks stretching from Dutton Street, through the Hamilton Canal District, over Appleton Figure 9: The NPS Trolley (Photo courtesy of Higgins and Street and through the South Common, as well as Ross) an expansion of tracks to the UMass Lowell East Campus. A separate $1.5 million grant to the park will fund upgrades to existing tracks and the construction of a second track along Dutton Street heading toward the Gallagher Terminal.

The Lowell Trolley Study projected about 800,000 riders each year and estimated the total construction cost would be about $66 million, with annual operation and maintenance costs of about $3.3 million. The project would expand the trolley system from 1.5 miles to 6.9 miles of track, with trains leaving 20 stops around the city every 10 minutes.

November 9, 2012 Status of Downtown Development

13


The new trolley system will physically connect the Hamilton Canal District, the National Park, and UMass Lowell to the Gallagher intermodal transportation terminal, therefore, increasing circulation options in the downtown. Figure 10: Proposed Trolley Line

Bicycle and Pedestrian Travel: The city recently used Energy Efficiency and Conservation Block Grant (EECBG) money to create bike lanes and marked sharrow routes on major streets in the city. Other items that are being explored to increase bicycle and pedestrian usage and connections to the Downtown include: • • • • • • • • •

Implementing a bike lane network throughout the City that facilitates bicycle and pedestrian travel Creating bike paths in parks and along the rivers and canals; developing bike routes and maps Installing bike racks and creating bike stations at major destinations (downtown, Gallagher, UML) Creating a bike share program similar to the Hubway system in Boston Establishing bike safety and maintenance outreach programs Improving pedestrian safety by establishing signage and warning signs to drivers Creating defined crosswalks with pedestrian signal buttons Providing defined pathways along parks, rivers and canals Enforcing ice and snow removal on sidewalks by landowners

November 9, 2012 Status of Downtown Development

14


Figure 11: Lowell’s Bicycle Network

III.

Supporting Businesses

The City of Lowell’s 2003 Comprehensive Master Plan Lowell sets forth a goal statement for a vibrant and diverse downtown that “be it weekdays, weekends, daytime or nighttime, Downtown Lowell will be a vibrant community that provides an attractive, safe, and welcoming environment for people to work, shop, visit, and live. In order to meet that goal, the City, in conjunction with the Lowell Development and Financial Corporation (LDFC) and several other banking institutions in the City, formed the Downtown Venture Fund in 2000. The fund offers low interest loans to business seeking to locate or expand in the downtown area, and offers loans with flexible repayment options that include no payments in the first year. To date the project has been a tremendous success, financing 35 new businesses in Downtown Lowell resulting in the creation of over 80 new jobs and a total investment of $4 million dollars. The total leveraged private investment is estimated at $1,600,000. The City is currently working with LDFC and other partnering financial institutions on recapitalizing this fund. The City of Lowell and the LDFC continues to support these existing businesses as well as recruit new retailers and restaurants to the area. The increase of foot-traffic within the Downtown area is critical to the viability of these Downtown businesses.

November 9, 2012 Status of Downtown Development

15


Launched in 2008, the Best Retail Practices Grant Program was introduced by the Department of Planning and Development (DPD) to assist small retailers, restaurants, and storefront service businesses in Lowell with professional advice and grant money in the areas of store and restaurant design, window and merchandise displays, signage, and cost-effective marketing tips. Since the program was introduced, approximately 200 retail and restaurant businesses have participated in the workshop, and 45 have proceeded to Parts II and III of the program, receiving a $2,500 grant each for store improvements. Eight more businesses have been selected from the Fall 2012 round to benefit from the in-store consultation and grant support. The Downtown area has seen an increase in recent years of small and minority owned startups. DPD provides technical assistance to these businesses in collaboration with the Merrimack Valley Small Business Center, the Greater Lowell Workforce Investment Board (WIB), the Small Business Administration (SBA)/ SCORE; the Merrimack Valley Venture Forum (MVVF), Interise, MassChallenge, Merrimack Valley Sandbox, among others. As a collaborating partner with the Merrimack Valley Small Business Center, DPD’s Economic Development Office has assisted in the opening of and assistance to approximately 254 new businesses in the past five years, over half of which are minority owned businesses. While many of these businesses are not located in the Downtown, the economic growth associated with them has positive impacts on the entire City, including Downtown. To continue to develop a business-friendly environment in the Downtown, one conducive to the live-work-play lifestyle, the City is supportive of an initiative being promoted by several private property owners to explore the potential of establishing a Business Improvement Districts (BID). BIDs are special assessment districts in which property owners vote to initiate, manage and finance supplemental services or enhancements above and beyond the baseline of services already provided by their local city or town governments. A special assessment, or common area fee, is levied only on property within the district and then expended within the district for a range of services and/or programs, including marketing and public relations, improving the downtown marketplace or city/town center, capital improvements, public safety enhancements, and special events. IV.

Bolstering the Creative Economy

The creative economy plays a fundamental in the economic health of Downtown Lowell. From the creation of an Arts and Cultural District in 1998 through the recent designation of the Canalway Cultural District by the state, promoting the creative community is a key driver of investment. Downtown Lowell currently is home to: • • •

190 Active Live/Work Artist Studios >250 Active Working Artist Studios 10 Theaters and Performance Spaces

November 9, 2012 Status of Downtown Development

16


• • • • •

16 Museums, Galleries, and Cultural Centers 5 Rehearsal and Recording Studios Lowell Summer Music Series Lowell Folk Festival Dozens of Creative Economy Businesses

The City of Lowell Cultural Affairs and Special Events office (CASE) and the Cultural Organization of Lowell (COOL) work hand-in-hand to stimulate a vibrant cultural environment, create engaging programs and champion those who make, present, and preserve Lowell's diverse cultures. Their shared mission, to help create a high quality cultural environment that offers appealing experiences to the city’s diverse population, translates to collaborative efforts that works towards stimulating economic development, the cultural economy and creative entrepreneurs in the City, and supporting and encourage people to participate in the culture of the community. The Lowell Plan funded a study in 2007 titled “On the Cultural Road…City of World Culture” which identified five goals integral to the growth and support of the City's creative economy. The City-Council endorsed creative economy plan, through a bi-annual report, outlines the following accomplishments leading towards accomplishing these goals. GOAL 1: Strengthen Lowell’s Cultural Organizations and Artists - Strengthen and broaden the role of the Cultural Organization of Lowell with increased cultural collaboration and a streamlined approach in to festivals and events. Programs • Discover Lowell – A program to extend and strengthen the cultural renaissance in historic Lowell, particularly as a means of enriching the quality of the City’s cultural life by strengthening the downtown economy and celebrating the City’s diverse population. Each year thousands of people enjoy film poetry, music, dance food and family activities through Discover Lowell programming. Started in 2005 (under the moniker Destination World) Discover Lowell’s 2010 programming attracted thousands of residents and visitors to dynamic events and helped support marking over 50 City attractions. • COOL & CASE assisted in developing the citywide Riverfest event to a whole new audience. Their expertise has grown the event exponentially, while still keeping its original focus, and enabling its marketing to a broader audience. • Buy Art. Buy Lowell - Launched in November 2009, “Buy Art. Buy Lowell.” is a program and booklet that can help the process of buying art at local studios and venues • Mekong to Merrimack Fund - In 2007, Lowell was host the National debut performance of the Cambodian Rock Opera, Where Elephants Weep. This opera generated over $24,000 in revenue, which has in turn funded ten projects that preserve and celebrate Cambodian cultural heritage.

November 9, 2012 Status of Downtown Development

17


Advocacy • Creative Economy Census - In October 2010 COOL kicked off the City of Lowell’s first ever Creative Economy Census to develop benchmarks on Lowell's creative industries. The Census results support findings that Lowell's creative sector provides immeasurable value to the City. • Lowell Cultural Council Grants - COOL facilitates the administration of the Lowell Cultural Council grants which are available to individual artists, arts organizations, community organizations and municipal agencies within the City. Each year over 25 artists and and organizations receive funding for dynamic programs that stimulate and showcase Lowell's creative talents. GOAL 2 & 3: Enhance the Cultural Product and Promote Creative Business Development Support creative entrepreneurial activity and create a Merrimack Valley corridor that will increase the visibility of Lowell in the national and international cultural world. •

Building Capacity - COOL is dedicated to building capacity and creative incubation in the cultural sector by supporting local projects, programs and artists by serving as a fiscal agent. COOL offices are open for consultation, brainstorming and new project ideas. In the last two years, COOL has served as a fiscal agent for, the On the Road in Lowell, the 2007 Jack Kerouac 50th anniversary exhibit and program series; Cambodian Rock Opera, Where Elephants Weep; New England Orchestra; Lowell Sprouts; Lowell Music Education Fund; MassMouth Story Slam; and the statewide Massachusetts Poetry Festival.

Technical Assistance - Technical assistance is offered through workshops, panelists, and most recently the state-wide Assets for Artist program directly serving over 100 people annually. o Assets for Artists - A partnership with MASS MoCA, Assets for Artists offers financial training and grant funding for Lowell artists, performers, writers, and artisans. COOL and the City's Economic Development Department co-sponsored ten Lowell artists for the 2011 program. o Technical Assistance Workshops - During 2009 and 2010 COOL organized six technical assistance workshops on grant writing, fundraising, volunteer recruitment, social media, and marketing and publicity. o unPanel - A fun night of networking and idea-sharing for the Greater Lowell Creatives, this unique event will host a series of informal roundtable workshops providing professional development advice and strategies for any artist. Panel topics include press kit development, professional branding, social media, ecommerce, and project space development.

Creative Products - To celebrate Lowell’s diverse creative and cultural offerings, COOL partnered with local artists and businesses to produce an emerging artists anthology, Young Angel Midnight, offering a snapshot to the dynamic and hip arts scene in Lowell created by emerging talent in music, poetry, photography, design, and performance.

November 9, 2012 Status of Downtown Development

18


Public amenities - The City is committed to supporting public amenities that make it more inviting and attractive. Over the past two years the City has designed, fabricated and installed a number of banners, kiosk, and pedestrian way-finding signage including Discover Lowell Banner program to promote the city’s Arts & Culture District, Discover Lowell pedestrian way-finding signage, and updated Discover Lowell Kiosk System. Other infrastructure improvements include the maintenance of public art benches and planting improvements at Kerouac Park as well as decorative LED winter and holiday lighting throughout downtown and at City Hall.

Goal 4: Build New Leadership and Civic Engagement - Build new relationships, engage students in Lowell's cultural life and involve all communities in Lowell in a creative and collaborative process. Events - Each year the offices of CASE and COOL join forces to support and organize dozens of events and festivals. Special events and festivals make the City an attractive regional and national tourist destination, attractive over a quarter million people. Some of these festival include: Discover Lowell Series Lowell Folk Festival Lowell Film Festival Doors Open Lowell Riverfest African Festival

Latin American Festival Doors Open Lowell Puerto Rican Festival One Lowell World Cup Lowell Quilt Festival

Southeast Asian Water Festival Lowell Open Studios Lowell Celebrates Kerouac City of Lights Parade Winterfest

Engagement - Based on the recommendation to “engage students in Lowell’s Cultural Life,” from the 2007 Creative Economy Plan, COOL and CASE have engaged hundreds of high school and Middlesex and UMass Lowell students as volunteers, performers, and artists in all the events. Goal 5: Shape the Image and Improve Marketing - Improve the effectiveness and efficiency of current marking activities being undertaken. Create one very high quality cultural newsletter and calendar for Lowell. CASE and COOL use a wide range of methods to promote marketing events and programs, including radio, print, web, social media, banners, signage and brochures to enhance its efforts of disseminating information and publicizing events to encourage greater participation. •

Website - Cultureiscool.org is the cultural and creative information hub for the City of Lowell, providing regular updates on happenings and events, creative economy news, programs and initiatives, professional resources, and much more.

November 9, 2012 Status of Downtown Development

19


E-blast - The Cultural Organization of Lowell’s weekly e-blast keeps busy people connected with important cultural and creative news and happenings within Lowell. Over NUMBER receive the e-blast each week. Social networking including Facebook and Twitter.

The City adopted several marketing initiatives to highlight the City’s abundant amenities for business and residential growth and expansion, committed to a three-year, one-million dollar multi-media marketing campaign to further promote Lowell, centered around the theme, “Alive. Unique. Inspiring.” while continuing to utilize the tag line “There’s a lot to like about Lowell.” A branding exercise with key stakeholder groups (Lowell Plan, National Park Service, Greater Merrimack Convention and Visitors Bureau, University of Massachusetts-Lowell, etc.) resulted in a long-term, coordinated media strategy that leverages each dollar spent. This focused media campaign includes a comprehensive website (Lowell.org), social media, marketing collateral, and advertising and promotion in major media outlets such as the Boston Globe, the Lowell Sun, and key radio stations in the New England region. The City also supports the Merrimack Valley Convention & Visitors Bureau. The Bureau promotes the Lowell National Historical Park, Merrimack Repertory Theater, Lowell Memorial Auditorium, the New England Quilt Museum, the Revolving Museum, Whistler House Museum of Art, American Textile History Museum, the Trolley Museum, Western Avenue Studios, the Arts League of Lowell, the Lowell Folk Festival, Lowell Quilt Festival, Southeast Asian Water Festival, and other special events. The City of Lowell is able to provide residents with top-notch entertainment venues typical of larger cities such as Boston. The 2007 Cultural Plan builds on past successes, particularly the cultural infrastructure put in place over the past decades. Continued investment has allowed these facilities to flourish and attract new visitors to attend entertainment, cultural and sporting event. Examples include: Lowell Memorial Auditorium: Following a nearly $8 million renovation to the Lowell Memorial Auditorium in 1985, the City was awarded a grant from the Cultural Facilities Funds in 2008 in the amount of $564,00 for selective renovations. The City matched this grant with over $2 million in funds to replace the roof, HVAC systems, decorative masonry repair, interior painting and plastering, and electrical and gas piping associated with new systems. In addition, a total of 273 solar panels were installed on the roof and other energy efficiency upgrades. A second Cultural Facilities Fund grant was awarded in 2009 in the amount of $310,000 that has been matched by the City and used for the replacement of the fire alarm system and flooring. Using a full building assessment, completed in late 2005, the City intends to seek additional funds to steadily and strategically address building maintenance and upgrades. This construction project is underway. Paul E. Tsongas Center: Lowell was awarded a state grant for $20 million in 1994 for construction of a 3,600 seat multi-purpose arena, which is the home of the UMass Lowell Division 1 Hockey Team. The City and the University committed $4 million each to the construction of the facility. This facility makes Lowell a destination point for northern

November 9, 2012 Status of Downtown Development

20


Massachusetts, New Hampshire, and Southern Maine for sports, recreation, and concerts. In 2010 the ownership of the $24 million, 3,600 seat arena, was transferred to UMass Lowell. The university also acquired an adjacent lot, for $800,000 from the city. An advisory commission has been recently created to oversee the redevelopment of the 3 acre riverfront parcel to ensure that the development of this site will be compatible with the Tsongas Center, the downtown’s continuous revitalization efforts, and the City’s Master Plan. LeLacheur Park: A 4,700 seat, $10.4 million baseball stadium was opened in 1998 and is home to the Lowell Spinners, a Single-A Minor League franchise of the Boston Red Sox, and the UMass Lowell baseball team. Eight million dollars came from state sources and $2.4 million from the City. The Spinner’s commissioned a Condition Assessment Report that is the basis for a series of maintenance and enhancement efforts in the years ahead. The capital account under the lease allowed the City to fund the repair of the outfield wall which includes replacing 137 boards and painting the entire steel frame in fiscal year 2011. The City Council authorized funding for immediate, short, and long term repairs at the Stadium in July of 2010. A “Request For Proposals” (RFP) for architectural and engineering services has been executed for services to take the City through the next steps of repairs and upgrades. The majority of the immediate and short term repairs have been completed. A new HVAC system will be installed during FY 2013. As funding allows, and with the Lowell Spinners continued maintenance of the facility these improvements will maintain the facility in good overall condition. V.

Growing University Presence

The growth and expansion of UMass Lowell and Middlesex Community College is a key catalyst for continued economic development in the Downtown. During the school year of 2011-2012, over 15,000 students were enrolled at UMass Lowell, a 37 percent increase from 2007-2008; Middlesex Community College, similarly, has seen an increase in enrollment over the past several years. UMass Lowell expects to further increase enrollment to 18,000 in the next few years and has an aggressive plan to increase student housing, with hundreds of student dorms being built at the present time to reach of goal of 50 percent residential student population versus its current ~34 percent. In addition to the acquisition and reuse of the former Doubletree Hotel to the Inn and Conference Center, which represents a direct investment in the Downtown, the University will be adding seven new building in the next three years including: • North Campus o $80M 84K SF Emerging Technology and Innovation Center o Manning School of Business, a 65,000 SF building on the corner University and Riverside o Parking garage with net impact of +500 spaces o University Crossing in the former St. Joseph’s Hospital to house a new student center, bookstore, dining, back office function in rear of building o Additional multi-year renovation plan of its existing lab spaces to offset need for 110K SF of new space in the future

November 9, 2012 Status of Downtown Development

21


•

•

South Campus o Health & Social Science building - open early 2013 to support nursing/psychology/criminal justice programs o A 700 space parking garage scheduled to open 2013 o Undertake a broader needs study in conjunction with DCAM East Campus o A new 472 suite-style dorm rooms to open in Fall 2013 o Fox Hall dining upgraded and opened in Fall 2012

Both UMass Lowell and Middlesex Community College have consistently affirmed their commitment to encouraging their students, faculty, and staff to connect with and contribute to Downtown Lowell.

November 9, 2012 Status of Downtown Development

22


Lowell CBD Report