Dismantle the South Common? Hands Off.
April 15, 2014 by PaulM Posted in Culture, History, Lowell 11 Comments
The South Common was created for the enjoyment of all the residents of the city. The South Common is not an empty lot waiting for a better use. The South Common is functioning well for its designated purpose, thank you. The South Common is scheduled for a major renovation, based on a thoughtful plan put together for the City of Lowell by a well respected landscape architecture firm—and with significant community input. We have been waiting for years for a major investment in this park. The South Common is part of the South Common Historic District, and the Lowell Historic Board has a say in the razing of existing structures and design of new structures in the district. The South Common is not a good location for a new high school. I live on Highland Street. No secret. The idea of injecting many hundreds of additional cars of teachers and students into already highly congested Thorndike, Gorham, and Highland streets is not a good idea. In addition to contributing to the quality of life of current neighbors and recreational users, as a marvelous and active green space the South Common can be an asset for Sal Lupoli’s planned innovation-commercial-residential development at the former Comfort Furniture/Hood Co. complex and for the future Judicial Center, not to mention the whole Hamilton Canal District. Who speaks for open space in the city? Who speaks for Nature? Who speaks for the current users of the South Common? Who speaks for this important part of Lowell’s heritage?
11 Responses to Dismantle the South Common? Hands Off.
Lots of thoughts and mine are not thought out any better than whose ever idea it is to put the High School on the South Common. I did not live in Lowell when the schools were built on the South Common and North Common, but as I understand it, that those buildings were in appropriate uses of the space. Someone is looking at city owned property for a short-term solution, without thinking out what it will cost the neighboring neighborhoods and the city as a whole. One of the attractions for the Hamilton Canal District and ultimately the full JAM Plan is the proximity to the South Common. In addition Back Central, which is a very densely settled area, should have open space within walkable distance. Since I work close to the High School, I would love to see the the insanity that is associated with drop-off and pick-up of students go elsewhere, but moving that traffic so close to Gallagher terminal is not well thought out. I can see several hundred students, strolling across Thorndike Street from Gallagher, because they could sleep an extra 15 minutes, taking the regular bus on their route rather than the bus that goes to the high school. I would also think that between teachers, guidance counselors, administrators, secretaries, and maintenance staff, there must be at least 750 employees at the high school. Where will they be parking?
A great city would never consider for more than two seconds the idea of defiling the south common for a new high school. Green space is at a premium and needs to be preserved not built upon. And, btw, the traffic nightmare this idea would cause around the train/bus station should make folks wonder at how well thought out this idea ever was. Seems a smoke screen to delay decision making on the School Committee’s work on what to do. If this is the best idea the folks behind it can come up with, one wonders about their future economic development ideas.
This is one of those proposals whose proper place is in the dustbin of history. Not only may it jeopardize the high school building project, but it may also further delay the Gateway Cities park project that would renew the South Common.
I also attended the public forums to discuss the planned renovations of the South Common. I agree that the South Common is not the appropriate place for a high school. And there’s no way to justify tearing down the much needed Rogers Middle School.
City Councilor Ted Kennedy stated before the the infamous vote to prioritize the downtown renovation and expansion of LHS, that the middle schools are the priority. He’s right.
Plans for the South Common show promise, and it could be a wonderful park once the process of re-invigoration is completed. The City and the Landscape Architect need to complete the public forums and close the loop with answers to questions previously posed as promised prior to moving forward.
Regardless of C.Kennedy’s druthers, he supported the recommendation by the education experts to make the LHS the priority with HIS VOTE.
I find it odd that anyone can go to the Speck Plan and read a list of prominent Lowellians associated to it’s recommendations. Recommendations that were re-articulated by the lengthy public process involved with the development of Lowell’s current Master Plan.
Yet, the disclosed list of the ‘anywhere, but the downtown’ crew is quite short.
On almost a daily cycle, we hear a breathy Ted Panos stand by the courage of his convictions. Then, there is George DeLuca. Who, if anything is consistent. And, lately, there is C. Belanger. Add in the “rentable” opinion of AM radio infomercials, and we have the public face of this sudden blip in the public discourse.
They don’t agree on anything, except that the DT is the wrong place for the LHS. Well, to be fair, they all prescribed to a hazy promise of economic boom, should the corner of Arcand and Fr. Morissette get turned over to an undisclosed developer with an undisclosed plan.
The alliance is shaky, as even C.Belanger is hedging his political bets, opting to defer to the outcome, should the existing public process finish based on the trajectory developed over years of effort.
“Who speaks for open space in the city? Who speaks for Nature? Who speaks for the current users of the South Common? Who speaks for this important part of Lowell’s heritage?
Excellent questions Paul Marion and thank you for asking them and speaking so, well yourself on the subject at hand. The School Committee, in my estimation, did their work and did it well. We need to now, let the MSBA review this matter and have their say. We need their funding folks and should be mindful of having our students have to suffer any further delay in this process. Uncertainty is not what the MSBA needs to see from us. They need to see our commitment. After all, we have been working on this problem for over 5 years already, due diligence has been done. We need to ask what is best for our students versus what may be best for some unknown developers with what undisclosed plan?
Beware the cheap trick of undisclosed plans by unknown developers – fool’s gold at the very best. Folks interested in downtown development need to take a good hard look at how Merrimack Street ground floor businesses are moving out and do some work figuring out why this is taking place. Folks coming in to the city with ideas for new businesses will get scared off by the ’empties’; and, if they still want to come in they are going to ask what happened? Does anyone know – does the city council care? Stop chasing new high school rainbows on green spaces in places where the traffic is already worse than it is around the existing high school; stop looking for a unicorn; do some serious thinking and investigation. For example, are there any cities in New England where a downtown high school moved out of its building to a new, less central place? And, if so, what happened to the old building? Its called research, as opposed to smoke-blowing!
I’m not sure there is any real need for more space downtown (like the current high school site) for redevelopment. Correct me if I’m wrong but isn’t there a massive open space on Dutton Street we are still waiting to fill with buildings? How about all the big parking lots next to the arena? I haven’t seen any big money knocking down the doors of UML there. I may not be convinced downtown is the perfect place for a high school, but I think it is a lot better where it is, than speculative promises of redevelopment. We can’t fill what we have already.
Great points Jason! There has been a ton of rehabbing of old buildings in downtown, which is great, but ZERO new developments besides Jeanne D’arc. Kudos to them.
If the Tsongas arena and Hamilton Canal District are having a hard time attracting new development then it’s reasonable to think the LHS site could sit vacant for years as well.
I don’t think there is a correlation between the high school and recent closings of downtown businesses. Small retail shops are under attack by Target and Amazon.
I cringe when people attack Jeff Speck. The guy is a sought- after expert in helping cities compete and thrive in a time when most post-industrial cities have been underappreciated and neglected by most politicians and/or wall street. He put together a 178 page plan for us to follow to make downtown better. The ONLY thing that has been enacted is the bike lanes and parking on Fr Morr Blvd. The demand for parking isn’t there yet because none of his other ideas have been implemented. Don’t blame Speck. Blame us!!!
One easy way to help downtown businesses is to optimize the parking rates at meters and in the garages, of which I’ve commented in great length in previous posts.
Does anyone know what has become of the Lawrence High School downtown building when the new Lawrence High was built out by their stadium on 495?
It is now the School for Exceptional Studies(SES) – “a highly structured alternative educational program located in Lawrence, MA. The school is licensed annually by the Massachusetts Department of Education as a public run therapeutic day school and is part of the Lawrence Public School system. SES is one of the largest and most successful therapeutic day schools in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. SES provides a holistic educational and therapeutic environment for students in grades 1st grade through 12th grade. SES is designed to meet the academic and therapeutic needs of students who are diagnosed with Mental Health Disorders, Behavior Disorders, and Pervasive Developmental Disorder. ”