A Lowell Walk: The Lord Overpass

Ongoing construction of Lord Overpass seen from Dutton Street. Justice Center to the left.

Lowell City Walk Sketch:
Lord Overpass

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.

10 Responses to A Lowell Walk: The Lord Overpass

  1. Brian says:

    The downside to rising home values is our children can’t afford to buy a home to live in Lowell. The story we like to tell ourselves is Lowell has fared better than other gateway cities because we’ve been able to retain our middle class families. This is unravelling.

    Cash strapped young families are competing with cash rich boomers, in addition to the Somerville/Cambridge diaspora, for scarce housing in many cases. UML growth is also putting pressure on middle class housing options.

    NIBMY residents and neighborhood groups, the absentee Sun owners, and the anti-density-boomer-majority-council and CM don’t seem to fathom the shift that is happening. Birth rates are falling and Lowell natives are settling in southern NH and and elsewhere at high rates. The negative implications for public school, private school, and youth org enrollment and participation are on the horizon.

    What is the point of high home prices if only the few can afford them? Why are we building a new high school if we can’t fill it with kids?

    One way to fight back is through zoning changes. If we build more housing across every neighborhood we can slow displacement and help retain our middle class.

    In order to create a broad coalition of support the zoning changes need to be incremental. Each neighborhood should only have to allow the next level of intensity of development.

    Single family neighborhoods would have to allow accessory dwelling units and duplexes by right, two family neighborhoods would allow multi-family development by right, and so on. This is the fairest and most conservative way to move forward.

    The benefits of more housing are many. Seniors would have legitimate options to cash out of big homes and age in place in the neighborhood they love – retaining decades-old neighbors and living near grandkids. Local developers would build the homes. City tax revenue would soar.

    Housing growth can’t just be limited to downtown or along the highways. We can’t count on the feds to save us or wait for a market correction.

    Updating zoning is a big lift for risk-averse politicians and an understaffed DPD but must be done if we care enough that our children will be able to start families here and our seniors be able to finish here.

  2. Billy Self says:

    Absolutely no more new housing developments in Lowell. Learn from the Pandemic. The city has enough people. Move to Dracut.

  3. Jim says:

    Isee condos downtown now that they are asking half million forbut they don’t seem to be selling.we will never be Cambridge or Somerville and that is fine with me.i love lowell have been here about 20 years now and would not call anywhere else home.

  4. Alice says:

    Lowell is so focused on the Lord overpass project now that the rest of the city looks like hell trash lining the streets crumbling sidewalks and streets. Maybe those things will get taken care of when those Cambridge and Somerville residents relocate here. Maybe we’ll get our own methadone mile too.

  5. George Chigas says:

    I agree the housing prices in Lowell are… crazy.
    I’m currently shopping around for a house, and realtors send me new listings from Lowell and surrounding towns. When I see the prices people are asking (and getting with interest!) in Lowell, there can only be one response:”You gotta be sh-n me!” Hence, my weak attempt at an explanation in the post above to find some kind of logic to what seems, again… crazy.

  6. Delia arce says:

    I love Lowell mass I never out I been here 52 years and had 3 kids and them had there kids we love it here ❤ Jets fix and make Lowell beautiful God bless us all

  7. Jason says:

    Brian makes the important point. Our zoning isn’t allowing for the increased density that’s needed. Our planning and engineering reflects that also; with 30mph thru streets, no curbs, undefined parking. With narrow tree lined streets Lowell’s neighborhoods would be a very different place.