The Lowell Connection: Reclaiming the Center of the Midsize City

In today’s edition – the Boston Globe continues its series on the reviatlization of mid-sized cities in the Commonwealth. The focus of today’s article is  “reclaiming the center –  midsize cities rediscover the allure of downtowns, attracting millions to transform them into 24-hour neighborhoods of businesses and homes.” It’s no surprise that Lowell and its current and on-going development and redevelopment activities are an important part of the tale.


“Downtown remains the one part of the city that belongs to everybody,’’ said Adam Baacke, director of planning and development in Lowell. “The success of a downtown reflects positively on the city as a whole, and we think the project here will have a transformative impact.’’

Lowell’s revitalization efforts stretch back more than 30 years, to the creation of the Lowell National Historical Park. Over the decades, they have included everything from a corporate training center to an arts district to loan programs for retailers and restaurants. The latest redevelopment effort, along a canal once used to power textile mills, involves construction of up to 725 homes, 424,000 square feet of commercial space, and 55,000 square feet of stores and restaurants.

It will remake about 15 acres of the city’s downtown, with many of the new structures reflecting the style of the historic mill buildings that still dominate the area.

Developer Trinity Financial Inc. of Boston is nearing completion of its first new building, a 130-unit apartment complex marketed as affordable live-work space for artists. Next is a 50,000-square-foot office complex, plus two more residential buildings. As with any development, however, the pace of the work will be dictated by the economy, which in recent years has made it difficult for developers to find businesses to fill new offices, and people to buy homes.

The cities of Worcester, Quincy, Springfield and New Bedford all have “center city” projects in the works. Read the rest of the Globe article here.

One Response to The Lowell Connection: Reclaiming the Center of the Midsize City

  1. Bob Forrant says:

    This is an interesting piece in the Globe and follows after a quite good series of editorials on successive Sundays discussing ways to revitalize the Commonwealth’s older industrial cities. Would be great to see a serious ‘urban’ policy thrust for the state and hope the Globe keeps on with such stories. Key organization, I think, has been MassInc which has been pushing a serious look at places like, Lowell, Lawrence, Lynn, Fall River, New Bedford, Holyoke, Springfield, etc. for many years.

    Now, if we can get the housing market moving in the right direction and the state’s once vaunted jobs engine to fire up once again, Lowell Hamilton Canal development will put the city in a good position to capture even more private sector dollars. At the same time, if UMass Lowell can move in some of the directions Jeff Speck suggested in his report this past fall, to develop the emptiness in front of the Tsongas Arena we would have important bookends on the Dutton Street into the downtown, with the National Park well-placed too as gateways into the city.

    Worcester Polytechnic has done a good job in spreading its research presence into an older part of the city, somewhat away from its traditional campus and presents a useful model for the planning mavens at the University, if they’ve not yet checked it out. And at the same time the UMass Medical Center in Worcester has also added significant employment and investment around its campus.

    Be great if the Lowell Plan, the National Park, Trinity. Middlesex CC, and the University could convene a few meetings to think about the private sector investment and job creation capabilities along the Dutton Street Corridor. With this lift, combined with the economic potential created by the downtown’s ever growing educational/student complex and the jobs, investment, and research capabilities of having Lowell General and Saint’s in the city, there are three quite powerful economic engines there, which contain a variety of entry level all the way up to research-intensive employment possibilities long term.

    Back in June, when the city hosted an Innovative Cities conference, many successful places had one or two of these significant clusters of opportunity, we do have all three – science and technology, medicine, education – of these and as well a rich creative economy sector as well and all on a transportation line in and out of Boston.