Lowell Revival ‘Genesis’ Story

Thanks to Dick for his report on planning guru Frank Keefe’s nutshell version of the Lowell revitalization story and success recipe. Bill Lipchitz’s comment about the Center City Committee being formed in 1972 added a key benchmark. Since he was there, maybe Bill can clarify the connection between the CCC (still active) and the now-dissolved Human Services Corporation (HSC), established by Pat Mogan and friends in 1971. Frank Keefe credited the CCC with getting everyone around a big table for the first time. I assume, though, that CCC was not incorporated as a nonprofit organization until later. This may explain why the Human Services Corporation was the recipient of crucial early funding from the New England Regional Commission and Community Development Block Grant program between 1972 and 1979 that paid for so much of the planning work that went into the early development of the “urban cultural park” and later “historical park” project.

The Human Services Corporation, which disbanded around the time that the Greater Lowell Community Foundation was established, evolved from the work of Pat Mogan and company in the Lowell Model Cities Education Component and its community outreach group, the Acre Model Neighborhood Organization (AMNO). HSC’s purpose was to create and support “concrete economic and social programs that would instill a sense of hope and determination in area residents.”  Anyone who is interested can read more about the history of HSC in an essay I wrote for an exhibit at the Mogan Cultural Center in 1991. The exhibit brochure is on the UMass Lowell Center for Lowell History website. Read it here.

3 Responses to Lowell Revival ‘Genesis’ Story

  1. Bill says:

    In answer to Paul’s question about the genesis of the Center City Committee and its relationship with the Human Services Corporation, below is information from the lowellcentercity.org History page. The HSC was set up by Pat Mogan to receive grants that would further his “the City as an educational laboratory” idea and was the recipient of a grant from the CCC in its first year of funding. The Center City Committee program began in 1972 with a $400,000 grant from the New England Regional Commission to the City of Lowell. Then City Manager James Sullivan appointed a Blue-Ribbon committee which was chaired by City Councilor Robert Kennedy and included representatives from city government, business, labor, and other agencies in the city dealing with economic development in one way or another. A subcommittee consisting of city planner Bruce Hahl, Model Cities Director Jack Tavares, Assistant Director of NMAC Frank Keefe, Director of Planning at CTI Bill Lipchitz, and Model Cities Education Director Pat Mogan was convened to develop and recommend goals, plans and programs. The first year, the money was spent on a tax title program, a planning grant for the Urban National Park, studies on unemployment and the needs of industry in the city, a transportation program to get people to job sites on route 128, and the first downtown beautification program which included brick sidewalks, trees and benches.

    The program was refunded in 1973 and 1974 with money going to an Industrial Renewal Program, the tax title program, a brochure aimed at attracting industry, more downtown beautification, and a blueprint for economic development called the Economic Development Strategy. In all, over $1,200,000 was spent on activities to increase the viability of the city.

    Most of these programs were successful in terms of their own goals but more importantly, the greatest impact the Committee had was in bringing together the Public and Private sectors for regular meetings and discussions of the city’s needs, goals, problems and objectives. It has been stated by Frank Keefe and others that the attitude of cooperation fostered by the Committee was the impetus that helped make the Urban National Park and other efforts that followed so successful.

    By 1975, the New England Regional Commission was being phased out and money was no longer available. The Committee had $50,000 left and wanted to give it to the newly formed Lowell Development and Financial Corporation by buying stock in that organization. Since the City could not own the stock, it was determined that the most feasible solution was for the Center City Committee to incorporate. However, the incorporation resulted in the Committee changing its status from a city sponsored entity to a private, non-profit corporation.

    Today, the CCC is made up of 23 Stakeholder Organizations representing every aspect of downtown life from residents to business owners (including retailers, restaurant owners and commercial businesses) to city officials, building owners, educational institutions, cultural organizations, social service agencies, and visitor-oriented organizations like the National Park and the CVB. It provides a forum for networking and information exchange and meets regularly to help promote the downtown.

  2. PaulM says:

    Thanks, Bill. For those interested, this “back story” helps explain how the city got to where it is today. So the HSC funds originated with the Center City Committee, which was managing the NE Regional Commission grant to the City.

  3. Mike McDonough says:

    Bill’s knowledge of Lowell’s history is unsurpassed. I could (and have) sit and listen to Bill speak on this topic for hours.

    Thanks Bill. And thanks for sheparding the CCC for over 30 years.

    A Fan