Could this property better serve the City?
Jim Cook’s buddy finally comes to the rescue wearing a white hat and riding his trusty Palomino. The two were seen arm in arm cooing and wooing Cookie’s protege Derek Mitchell at the Owl Diner last fall just before the City Council election. No happy ending there.
Lowell Sun Chairman of the Board Kendall Wallace now feels its time to retaliate, stepping into the fray in total opposition to his President and Publisher Mark O’Neil. For those who don’t remember, Mr. O’Neil came out in favor of moving the high school out of downtown during the recent economic development forum on 980WCAP (engineered by Morning Show host Teddy Panos).
Let’s start with this quote from Kendall’s column: Nearly 600 people were in the Lowell Memorial Auditorium on Oct. 2, 2009, when famed urban- planner Jeff Speck made a very exciting presentation about what downtown Lowell could be if it undertook a few minor and major projects.
That’s odd … since Jeff Speck didn’t arrive in Lowell, family in tow, until April 2010. His report wasn’t completed until October 2010, so how much could he have known about Lowell in October 2009? And by the way, when the report was completed, the City Council never voted on it. That explains why the residents and stakeholders of Lowell still haven’t been allowed an opportunity to express their opinions about it in a public forum.
The meeting I attended in April, 2010 was held at the MCC Federal Building, where about 100 people packed a room while Speck talked about his methodology, i.e., to make sure he landed on the right side of the fence with his bosses at the Lowell Plan.
Is that why Speck was given the plum $75k contract … to hang out in Lowell on a family vacation while also working on his book “Walkable City”? The book was released a short time after Speck left Lowell. As I understand it, book sales are great!
What I remember most about the April meeting was Speck testing the waters of public opinion, with one woman rising to ask why Lowell’s diversity wasn’t represented in the room. Interesting question.
Didn’t the Lowell School Committee follow Cook’s example, subsequently use a similar tactic with OMR Architects? The resulting Statement of Interest to the MSBA suggests this scenario: “We’ll pay you $350k to come up with a 3,000 page report that says in essence, ‘The High School must remain downtown.’ If you can do that, you’re hired.”
Here’s the thing: Any professional can advocate for either side of an issue. BUT … neither Jeff Speck nor OMR Architects have been able to effectively argue (in good conscience) for keeping the High School in Downtown Lowell.
Both Speck and OMR know that a city consists of it’s residents and stakeholders. Both are community conscious and oriented. In fact, most urban planners and architects consider these the most important focus groups. They learn about the needs of user agencies, taxpayers concerns, economic development strategies and similar concepts in Urban Planning 101 & Architecture 101. But with the School Committee and City Council in lockstep with the Lowell Plan follies, what’s a professional firm to do?
Here’s a gem by Jeff Speck regarding the High School issue: This renovation would be focused primarily on the replacement of the school’s newer 1980 wing which, unlike the older school buildings, has been plagued with problems since its construction. These problems include leaks, toxic carpets, code violations, and a notoriously under sized cafeteria separated from its kitchen. Without getting into details, it is important to insist that any new high school in Lowell be subject to a much improved procurement and design process than was in place in the late 1970s.
That’s not exactly an endorsement of the City of Lowell’s project management capability. It would seem we’re back to square one after that dismal failure. That debacle’s just going to remain Lowell’s dirty little secret, isn’t it?
The process is now proceeding in exactly the same fashion, so apparently Lowell’s condemned to repeat it’s previous mistakes. No measure twice, cut once for Lowell. No … Let’s do it right the first time … for this City. Better not let the taxpayers in on this, they’ll never buy in, so let’s try the old end around … AGAIN.
Memo to Kendall: Councilor Belanger hasn’t yet come out in support of moving the high school to Cawley Stadium, so you can stop threatening to ruin his political career in retaliation for your Belvy NIMBY friends. Isn’t that what your column was about? Councilor Belanger’s concerned about a ravaged economy in Downtown Lowell. He knows the City can do better. Shame on him, right?
Teddy, keep the fire under this one … it’s going to be a long HOT summer!
Not in my neighborhood, neighbor! Courtesy Lowell Shallot
By the way Teddy, those kiosks on Father Morrissette Blvd. you keep mentioning … yep, Cookie Ball again. You see, (and this is TOP SECRET) City Manager Lynch had to put the kiosks in to lock in the funding for the trolley to nowhere.
The only way to acquire the funding for the expansion of Lowell’s trolley system, is by eliminating parking spaces … in this case the fake ones. When the plans are finally unveiled and the trolley is shown going down the center of Father Morissette, those spaces will be needed for the median widening project.
The key to getting these things done is SECRECY, right Jim? Otherwise, someone may start questioning the legalities of all these shenanigans. In the meantime, the residents and stakeholders await an opportunity to input. Oh right, the Statement of Interest has already been filed with the MSBA.
updated April 15, 2014 at 10:08am