Lowell2020 Endorses Charlie Baker for Governor

Charlie_Baker_350

Charlie Baker

Lowell2020 is pleased to endorse Republican Charlie Baker for Governor of Massachusetts. The primary is September 9.

Charlie Baker, former CEO of Harvard Pilgrim Health Care, wants to increase local aid, doesn’t support in-state tuition for illegal immigrants, and wants to develop a more significant relationship with Canadian Hydro who makes renewable energy products including the Francis Turbine (named after the turbine developed by James B. Francis in Lowell!).

He’s against the Kinder Morgan Keystone XL pipeline as proposed, but will consider bringing natural gas into Massachusetts to supplement the state’s energy needs along routes already existing, and not through people’s yards.

Baker’s priority is growing the economy by developing a strategy of jobs creation. At last weeks debate at Middlesex Community College in Lowell, he said that this is the most important issue in the race. He’s right. Baker outlined a strategy that includes government deregulation and tax reductions.

But the meat of his proposed jobs creation initiative is in the “how”, not the “what”. Baker proposes that the state tap the intellectual capital of the colleges and universities, citing Northeastern University’s coop program as a means to that end. Baker considers Northeastern’s work-study program a viable model for other colleges in the Commonwealth to emulate.

He also recommends that the state’s community colleges become workforce training centers. His support of collegiate “on the job training” would add structural foundation to plans already being implemented by UMass Lowell and Middlesex Community College. Baker’s support would add synergy to current & future collaborations and initiatives in Lowell.

With Charlie Baker as Governor, Lowell can come to the forefront as a model enterprise zone and gateway city in Massachusetts, while building on the city’s potential towards becoming a credible global city. But for this to happen in earnest, the City must decide on its vision for downtown Lowell, and, deliver the best setting for the education and recreation of its high school students (Cawley Campus).

George DeLuca
ComeToLowell.com

The Raytheon-UMass Lowell Research Institute (RURI)

ETIC_750

Mark & Elisia Saab Emerging Technologies and Innovation Center (ETIC)

On August 12, Raytheon Company and the University of Massachusetts Lowell (UML) “announced an agreement to establish a joint research facility focused on the advancement of innovative technologies in a collaborative, state-of-the-art institute.” Raytheon is committing up to $5 million over the next 10 years to establish the new research facility dubbed The Raytheon-UMass Lowell Research Institute (RURI).

The new research center will occupy the top floor of the new Mark & Elisia Saab Emerging Technologies and Innovation Center (ETIC) at UML’s North Campus. The ETIC is the $80 million, 84,000 SF, research facility which opened on October 11, 2012. Two top Raytheon officials attended the grand opening, a testament to the depth of UMass Chancellor Marty Meehan’s vision and laser focus.

“We look forward to bringing the expertise of our top-notch faculty together with researchers from Raytheon. This new partnership is just one example of how UMass Lowell is leading the way in collaborating with industry to power innovation and the economy in Massachusetts and beyond,” said Chancellor Meehan. “This institute will also provide our students with the kind of real-world experience that is one of the hallmarks of a UMass Lowell education.”

“As a co-directed, co-located research environment, the RURI signifies a unique opportunity for Raytheon’s university partnerships,” said Mark E. Russell, Raytheon vice president of Engineering, Technology and Mission Assurance. “The RURI will serve as an extension of our current research capabilities and represents a resource across the Raytheon enterprise for the study of advanced materials and flexible circuit technologies, such as printable electronics and nanotechnology.”

UML continues to roll out a credible workforce development strategy after announcing expansion plans for their M2D2 program and leasing prime additional space at 110 Canal St. The M2D2 program is incubating medical device companies, some of which expect to reach their funding goals of anywhere between $10 million and $50 million a year by 2017-2022. Middlesex Community College (MCC) is right in sync with its own STEM Career Exploration initiative. In March, MCC announced a $3 million capital grant from the Massachusetts Life Sciences Center (MLSC) to build a new biotechnology facility on Middle Street.

MCC's Talbot Building on Middle Street in Lowell, MA

MCC’s Talbot Building on Middle Street in Lowell, MA

MCC’s new facility will be located on the fifth floor of the Talbot Science Building on Middle Street. The 10k SF space will include a lecture room, laboratory, clean room, gowning area, and prep room. The facility “will significantly expand the capacity of MCC to prepare its students in the best possible way to meet the workforce needs of the life-sciences industry.”

And that’s not all. The City Council approved a tax-increment financing agreement (TIF) to make way for Metigraphics move to 1001 Pawtucket Blvd. Metigraphics specializes in designing, prototyping, and mass production of micron-scale components. Sounds a little like nano-technology. As noted in an Aug. 18 Lowell Sun editorial, Metigraphics is excited to be near UMass Lowell and its innovations initiatives.

John Power, CEO of Farley-White, the company that owns 1001 Pawtucket Blvd. and, Wannalancit MIlls (the current M2D2 site), noted last October that 500,000 SF of business expansion space is needed in downtown Lowell. Hopefully, the City is listening. The dynamic synergy of these partnerships and the spirit of collaboration that continues to build signifies Lowell’s steady emergence as a Global City.

George DeLuca
ComeToLowell.com

The Future of Lowell High School AND the City of Lowell – an analysis

IMG_1258

Lowell Downtown Crossing Residences connect to businesses on the Arcand Drive side of the canal.

Moving Lowell High School to the Cawley Site: “This proposal … involves the construction of a complete new facility located (2 miles) from the center of the city, where land is ample and few site constraints exist. Such a facility could correct all of the perceived shortfalls of the current facility, including the need to bus students to sports practice.” Jeff Speck, Downtown Lowell Evolution Plan, October 2010

Reasons for moving Lowell High School to the Cawley site:

  1. Building a new high school at the Cawley site allows for a customized and a state-of-the-art approach to design, and, a modern campus for the students with recreational grounds onsite and at nearby parks.
  2. Lowell builds credibility in its pursuit of Global City status.
  3. The property will fuel the City’s economic development strategy.
  4. The High School site is the most valuable piece of real estate in Lowell.
  5. The property would be a tremendous boon for the tax base, perhaps paying off much of the debt service for a new high school.
  6. As Downtown Lowell begins to flourish, property values rise throughout the City.
  7. Larger businesses will not relocate to downtown Lowell because of gridlock in the morning and between 2-4pm in the afternoon.
  8. It’s extremely difficult to educate students while tearing down adjacent buildings and conducting major construction projects during school session.
  9. Designing a renovated high school to the logistics of the existing site and buildings is equivalent to trying to fit a square peg in a round hole. The costs associated with this inefficient process would be astronomical, resulting in “less bang for the buck.”
  10. The associated traffic congestion, loitering, vandalism and theft will continue for years to come unabated. The 8am and 2pm clogs continue disrupting everything else going on in downtown Lowell.

Reasons for renovating the High School

  1. Proximity to UML and MCC
  2. Tradition and history
  3. It’s the desire of the Lowell Plan.

The good news is that this issue brings the City of Lowell to a tipping point.

The future of Lowell High School is the biggest issue facing Lowell since East Chelmsford was developed into a mill town beginning in the 1820s, during the time period before Lowell was incorporated as a City.

Currently, downtown Lowell is trying to be too many things. Unfortunately, the High School’s current physical plant is not only in a period of gross functional and physical obsolescence, it also stands in the way of progress as the City of Lowell continues its quest to move forward in a constantly changing world.

The City of Lowell should take care to not squander this opportunity to assert its potential as a Global City.

Consider the impact:

  1. Move LHS to the Cawley site, and reprogram the current property as the hub of downtown Lowell. I’m using the working title Downtown Crossing in Lowell because the property literally connects Downtown Lowell as it currently exists with:
  • UMass Lowell’s North & East Campuses,
  • the UML Tsongas Center,
  • the future development adjacent to the UML Tsongas Center,
  • Middlesex Community College,
  • LNHP including Boott Cotton Mills Museum & Boarding House Park
  • The Riverwalk along the Merrimack which leads to Lelacheur Baseball Park.
  • Parking Garages at John St. & UML Tsongas Arena

Potential Uses of LHS property:

  1. UML business incubation
  2. UML business startups
  3. Next level for UML Innovations Center development and start-ups, inclusive of the M2D2, Robotics, Nano technology and Plastics Engineering divisions
  4. UML & MCC administrative offices
  5. UML Tsongas Center support
  6. UML Tsongas Center hotel/conference center support
  7. LNHP programs
  8. MCC programs
  9. Arts College (Mass. College for the Arts satellite school)
  10. UML, MCC, and Arts College community resources space
  11. Theaters (both LHS and Freshman Academy)
  12. Wegmans, Trader Joes, or simply an expanded Market Basket
  13. Residences: Market Rate units; for artists, local employees and business owners (existing Kirk Street buildings)

Study potential site amenities like:

  1. Retain the tube walks
  2. Potential for roof top gardens and common space
  3. Overhead connection to parking garage
  4. Facilitation of access to the Riverwalk
  5. Trolley drop off and pickup

Accessibility:

  1. By train from Boston (future concept from Concord NH)
  2. By Trolley from Gallagher Terminal
  3. By bicycle
  4. Pedestrians
  5. Destination to the Riverwalk
  6. On-site residents

Who will come to Lowell:

  1. Businesses will vie for space anywhere in Downtown Lowell
  2. Students & faculty
  3. Workers
  4. Residents
  5. Families
  6. More tourists

How will the City benefit:

  1. Expansion of the tax base.
  2. Establishes Lowell as a global city.
  3. Local jobs creation strategy becomes realistic.

Marketing:

  1. A marketing campaign starts once the decision is made to move forward.
  2. Global multi-media – full press with the assistance of partners like UML and MCC.
  3. Lowell becomes a  participant on the world stage drawing interest from every continent.

Lowell can become a credible participant in the global economy, while forging a reputation for true sustainability.

How will the City benefit:

  1. M2D2 companies are projecting growth to $500 million in 5-10 years.
  2. Mr. Power of Farley & White has recommended that we need 500k of space with uses similar to Wannalancit Mills in downtown.
  3. New concept, full to capacity (24/7)
  4. Expansion of the tax base.
  5. Lowell establishes itself as a global city.

Next Steps:

  1. Open discussion with educators, parents and potential partners
  2. Bring Chancellor Meehan and the delegation into the discussion.
  3. Hold community wide consensus building sessions
  4. Pursue a feasibility study of the Cawley site to study traffic and logistics
  5. Invite Jim Cook of the Lowell Plan to a City Council meeting to explain his reasoning for insisting the high school remain downtown.

TO BE CONTINUED …

“changes in the wind” in Lowell, MA …

Recently, I’ve been working on a documentary film that I plan to have finished by next spring. So, I’ve decided to take a step back from writing about Lowell politics, which sometimes presents toxic grounds for artists to wade into. Recently, much of my writing has focused on the welfare of Lowell’s future high school students and their families. My conclusion is that it’s in the best interest of the City to build a new high school at Cawley Campus.

If you click on this POST and read it all the way through, you’ll better understand my point of view last Fall from the floors of both the Lowell School Committee Facilities Subcommittee AND the Lowell School Committee.

The commitments made by Lowell School Committee members at these meetings were disregarded. To date, I’ve received no acknowledgment or explanation for why there was an about face, except that one member (in essence) said that I should have been paying better attention to changes in the wind. I guess that means, it’s my fault for giving our “leaders” the benefit of the doubt and believing in them.

I have one more piece to write, which I hope to get out by mid-week. It’ll be positive, I promise.

In the future, this blog will likely cover features more along the lines of this post or this one. Hope to see you then!

George DeLuca

Lowell not ready for a downtown hotel

Image

UML Inn and Conference Center

Planning for a hotel in downtown Lowell should be placed on hold until the high school “dilemma” is sorted out.

Currently, the Mass. School Building Authority (MSBA) has a Statement of Interest from the City stipulating that members of the Lowell City Council and School Committee prefer the high school to remain downtown. If the MSBA ultimately agrees to fund 80% of the renovation and expansion in place project, then the outlook is dim for a hotel to be built in the downtown area anytime soon. And expect the dominoes of anti-growth to fall from there.

The primary reason is that the high school is a major physical and perceptual obstruction separating the UML Tsongas Arena, the Lelacheur Baseball Park and the Riverwalk from the heart of Downtown Lowell. If a hotel was built on Lot B next to the Tsongas Arena, visitors to the City would find themselves virtually trapped each week during the school year from September through June.

Consider a new hotel near the Lowell Memorial Auditorium and you have the same problem. Visitors would be isolated from the downtown during the morning and mid-afternoon hours as students pour into the downtown area. The result would be very unpleasant for tourists, business people and others who come to the City. Highly reputable business leaders in Lowell have already advised city officials about this reality.

And what would happen during the summer months? UMass Lowell Chancellor Marty Meehan has stated that the UML Inn and Conference Center’s 252 rooms are only 50% full this time of year. This leaves a glut of about 126 unfilled downtown hotel rooms for most of the summer. How do you reconcile supply vs. demand with this looming reality?

If the MSBA allows the feasibility study for Lowell High School’s renovation and expansion on its current site, and the project is ultimately approved, a hotel will never be a viable option for the downtown. This has already been proven.

However, if it’s decided to design and build a new state-of-the-art high school at Cawley Campus, plans for a new hotel in downtown Lowell can then proceed immediately, along with plans for the new global enterprise zone at the high school property.

Furthermore, as M2D2 and businesses associated with other UML Innovations Programs mature and consider expansion, they could occupy the high school property. If and when this happens, businesses from all over the world will want to ComeToLowell. Having a hotel within a block of Lowell’s new global enterprise area will become a huge advantage and the current barrier to and from the heart of downtown will be gone. In fact, this very heart will shift and beat with a new vitality!

If it’s decided to build a new state-of-the-art high school to go with the recreational facilities offered at Cawley Campus, the synergy resulting from development spinning off Lowell’s new global enterprise zone would be phenomenal! Not only will a hotel be feasible, but Jeff Speck’s proposed Tsongas Arena Circle development and JFK Plaza reconstruction will suddenly make sense.

Once the decision to go forward is made, opportunities will become more evident, and ultimately, Lowell’s tax base will flourish. And if Lowell continues to play its cards right in the aftermath of the success of making such a decision, Lower Locks recreational park and other Jeff Speck proposed initiatives may not be far behind.

Editor’s Note: This post is in response to Item 9.2 on Tuesday night’s City Council Agenda: C. Mercier – Req. City Council and the administration set the goal and meet the challenge to start the process of establishing a hotel in the City of Lowell downtown area.

George DeLuca
ComeToLowell.com

Jeff Speck to Lowell: “Don’t change Father Morissette Blvd.”

Image

Important to UMass Lowell and Wannalancit Mills …

I’ve been asked by urban planner Jeff Speck to pass this on:

April 26, 2014

George,

As someone who advocates for alternative transportation, perhaps you will do your best to shed some light on the Morrissette bike lanes, which have been deemed by some a failure before even seeing a single summer, and also in the absence of the more comprehensive bike network that would cause them to be truly useful.

It also appears that, in eight months, the “underused” parking meters have already earned back almost a full fifth of the cost of the entire re-striping.  Last I checked, 3.5 years was not so bad a payback time for infrastructure investment!

JBS

Editor’s note: See Item 9.7 on Tuesday Night’s City Council Agenda. City Councilor Mercier and Mayor Elliott have filed a joint motion “to revert Fr. Morissette Blvd. back to a four-lane traffic through-way and remove bike lanes.”

Editor’s note: Last night the City Council voted to have the City Manager review the bike lanes and parking along Father Morissette Blvd. and forward his report to the Transportation Subcommittee.

George DeLuca
ComeToLowell.com

updated: April 30, 2014