Lowell City Walk Sketch:
By George Chigas
My favorite city walk these days is to leave my apartment on Middle Street, walk up Central, turn right on Jackson and cut through the Justice Center to see the current progress on the Lord Overpass project. During the last few weeks, it’s reached the final phase, and they’ve started to pave. The transformation is amazing and will surely change the way visitors perceive the city. With the days getting shorter, I usually arrive after dark, but I still cross the street and walk around the construction site to get a closer look. They have put in the curbs, so you can see how traffic will merge from Chelmsford Street onto Thorndike going towards the train station and the Connector. And you can make out the way the meridian will be used as a dedicated bus lane. The tall posts for lights and signage are now standing like branchless trees in the middle of it all. (There will be rows of living trees and grass lined walkways added when it’s all done. The city has a Web site (www.lowellma.gov/771/LordOverpass-Gateway-to-Lowell) to give people a better idea of what it will all finally look like. There’s a video simulating the flow of traffic up Thorndike, and you can get a good sense of the beautiful landscaping and crosswalks that will replace the war zone that’s there now and has been the eyesore people have had to endure for years.)
On the way back to my apartment, I took the walkway that crosses the Pawtucket Canal then followed the Merrimack Canal along the LNHP trolley tracks back to downtown. I looked over at the Appleton Mill apartments, the Justice Center, the UML Innovation Hub, the new parking garage (also nearing completion), and it reminded me of MIT/Kendall Square. I know that’s a bit of a stretch, and I probably won’t see it get to that point in my lifetime, but it does seem to be moving in that direction. In fact, a realtor friend has told me she’s seeing a lot of buyers from Cambridge and Somerville. Does that help explain the buying boom in Lowell and the overpriced houses? Are buyers already pricing in these transformations to the city’s landscape and economy? Whatever the reasons, I’m excited to see this latest phase of the city’s renaissance. The fact that it’s happening in the middle of a pandemic and economic downturn says something about the momentum behind this change. As these projects are wrapped up over the next few months, they will bring some welcome cheer at a time we could all use something to feel good about.