MCC President Carole Cowan Announces Her Retirement

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Middlesex Community College President Carole A. Cowan has announced her retirement.

Contact: Kathy Register 781-280-3558
Email: registerk@middlesex.mass.edu

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Middlesex Community College President Carole A. Cowan announced to the MCC Board of Trustees today that she will be retiring as president of the college at the end of the calendar year.

“I came to Middlesex in 1976 as a business professor and almost didn’t take the job,” Cowan said Tuesday at a joint board meeting of the MCC Trustees and the MCC Foundation. “Thankfully, I was a tough negotiator and ended up signing on – a decision I’ve never regretted. I’ve been here 38 years, 24 of them as the third president of this institution.

“I feel as though I have helped lead this college from its infancy to adulthood, and helped establish it as a flagship in the community college system,” continued Cowan. “We have strong campuses in our suburban (Bedford) and urban (Lowell) settings. Middlesex Community College has become a nationally recognized leader in higher education.

“I am proud to be president of this institution, proud to be your colleague, and proud of the milestones we have reached as a team here at Middlesex. I’m excited to see where the college goes next.”

Cowan notified Commissioner of Higher Education Richard Freeland of her decision the previous evening. Tuesday morning, she made her announcement alongside Board of Trustees Chairman Royall M. Mack Sr., of Andover. Mack also spoke with Commissioner Freeland and will be leading the search for Cowan’s replacement.

The search committee is expected to be in place over the course of the summer, with work underway throughout the fall semester to name Cowan’s successor by the beginning of 2015.

In addition to her commitment to workforce development and global initiatives, Cowan’s tenure has also focused on Service-Learning and saving historic properties.

Lazarus House a Model for other Agencies

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Outgoing President Steven Joncas speaks at GLCF Annual Meeting.

The highlights of the week involved two special events. One was the initial screening of a series of films about the United Teen Equality Center (UTEC), and the other was the Greater Lowell Community Foundation (GLCF) Annual Meeting. Both events were outstanding. They were informative, while offering opportunities to establish contact with individuals representing several agencies, groups and businesses.

The mutual theme of each meeting involved working with high risk teens and young adults. This topic will be covered in detail in a future post.

Spotlight on Lazarus House in Lawrence, MA

At the GLCF Annual meeting, I met a representative from Lazarus House in Lawrence, MA, an organization that I worked with about 15 years ago. Lazarus House offers a soup kitchen, food pantry, an emergency shelter, a transitional housing facility, HIV/AIDS housing, advocacy & work preparation programs, and thrift stores.

In FY 2014, Lazarus House provided more than 247,570 support services including: 98,235 meals, 29,011 bed nights at their emergency shelter, 59,985 clothing transactions, 4,043 advocacy services and workforce training for 67 students.

Lazarus House is well established, having been around for over 20 years. They’re an inspirational agency with a model that others here in Lowell can emulate and aspire to.

George DeLuca
ComeToLowell.com

Hunger and Homelessness in Lowell, MA

My series on the future of Lowell High School is now completed. The focus of the blog now turns to presenting the problems and potential remedies of issues associated with hunger and homelessness in the City of Lowell.

This past Tuesday I was appointed by City Manager Kevin Murphy to the Lowell Hunger/Homeless Commission. As many of you may know, I’ve been producing a documentary with working title “Homeless in Lowell, MA” since 2012, so I’m fairly informed on the subject. The film’s expected release is Spring of 2015. I understand the complexities of the issues, and study various remedies and solutions on a daily basis.

As noted on the City’s website, “The Hunger and Homeless Commission advises the City Manager on issues pertaining to Homelessness and Hunger in the City.” So that’s the starting point for the series. Exactly how are we, as a Commission, going to go about executing our duties? My first activities as a Commissioner have centered on organization. Obviously, this means that changes in the way the Commission conducts its business are imminent.

Currently, there are 3 official members of the Commission out of a possible 12. The first priority is to fill the other 9 positions ASAP. Recently, we learned that one member is appointed by the City Council. We appreciate Lowell City Councilor Bill Martin’s enlightenment on this issue, and now there are 8 open positions currently to be filled by the City Manager’s office.

While we’re waiting for a full complement of Commission members to be on board, there’s much to do in setting up communications so that the right channels are used in the dispensation and receipt of information. Anyone who’s interested in an appointment to the Commission should forward a letter of interest with your resume to the City Manager’s office.

Anyone who wishes to communicate with me regarding the subject of Hunger and Homelessness are welcome to do so. I can be reached at george@cometolowell.com. If you’re not interested in being a member of the Commission, but wish to be involved in other ways, please feel free to contact any of the current commissioners: John Corrigan, Paul Belley or myself with inquiries.

Please bear with us as we engage in the tedious process of setting up a communications structure. I assure you it’ll be worth it. It’s our hope to dispense useful information about available resources and networks that will help anyone who’s homeless, hungry or interested in helping people faced with similar circumstances. Anyone who offers such services are welcome to contact me directly with web links, contact info, services offered, etc.

Until an official communications structure is established, I’ll be posting our progress here. I’ll also be presenting related topics for discussion, so please feel free to participate. And of course, your feedback is always welcome.

George DeLuca

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

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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.

END OF SERIES

“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

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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