Today’s Globe has a story about businesses abandoning suburbia and flocking to the city, overlooking significantly higher rents to accommodate the strong desire of employees to live, work and relax in an urban environment. To those who believe in the path Lowell embarked upon years ago of downtown revival and emphasis on developing the city’s cultural economy, stories like this help validate that strategy. But the story also raises some concerns since it is entirely Boston-centric. No one mentions Lowell for good or bad, but among the communities mentioned as places that businesses are moving away from are Waltham and Watertown. While neither of them is Lowell, they both have active, interesting downtowns.
For much of its early existence, Lowell was clearly the number two city in Massachusetts. Political and cultural leaders who came to the Commonwealth visited Boston and Lowell. There’s no reason why that can’t be the case once again. With the UMass Lowell, MCC, the National Park, canals, mill buildings and all of the activities going on downtown, Lowell has what it takes to be a magnet for urban-seeking businesses. The challenge is one of perception, not resources.