Wednesday, March 30, 2011

The Future of Lynn - Guest Post by Jim Cowdell of Lynn's EDIC

Jim Cowdell is the Executive Director of the Economic Development and Industrial Corporation of Lynn (EDIC). He wanted to share this message with our readers.

As we look towards Lynn’s future let’s take one second and look back. The year was 2003 and, to be honest, Downtown Lynn was stuck. The city had tried one initiative after another to jump start the downtown. In addition to the vacant store fronts, crimes, and bad reputation, Downtown Lynn really didn’t have an identity.

2004 brought a major positive step forward. The city rezoned the downtown which would allow for residential conversion to the existing industrial buildings located throughout the central business district. This was a complete 180 in strategic thinking. The old philosophy of downtown revival was to come up with a key business and then have that key business attract other businesses and so on and so on…. It is clear now, that was backwards thinking. The key to downtown revival is bodies. We need people living and working in the central business district. Keep in mind that in 2003 there were no lofts and this way of thinking was not exactly received with open arms. I can remember when I proposed the idea a very vocal (pre blog days!) group told me in no uncertain terms that I was crazy and who the heck would want to live in Downtown Lynn!

Now, I can say the answer to that question is many people! Since 2004 over $35,000,000 in development has occurred. Additionally, $3,000,000 in city funds were invested in infrastructure improvements. Today, 250 people have moved in and now call downtown Lynn their home.

Where do we go from here?

First, we are still in the infant stage of this renaissance. The identity is now being formed. A group of new residents has declared the downtown as their neighborhood and have a loud voice that demands to be heard.

Recently, I’m sure you read about my efforts to go after the owners of the Hawthorne. Whether you agree or not with this drastic step, here’s something I want you to think about. There was a time when an abandoned building in downtown didn’t get the attention of city officials. Today, because of the residents living there and the new businesses opening there, the message is clear… this is unacceptable.

As I look forward I see that the future is bright. We have two commercial expansions that will bring more people into downtown. A key building, 14 Central Street has just been bought and when fully occupied will bring a mixture of residents and businesses into the Central Square area. We are now developing an arts and cultural district. We have put aside $250,000 for start up loan funds to encourage and entice businesses with an Arts and Cultural focus to open up shop in downtown. We have an additional $500,000 for other businesses to locate here.

We are living in the worse recession of our lifetime and are still making progress. I could talk about the commuter Ferry which will be coming to Lynn in a few years. I could talk about the power lines being relocated which will allow for 150 acres of ocean front development. I could talk about a lot of things but today I wanted to talk about downtown. Today more than ever, the future is bright. More people are going to be moving into downtown which will mean more businesses will be opening up. I see a theatre, new restaurants, new art galleries, new businesses and new residents. And if you are reading this and you are one of the ‘new’ residents that are living in downtown, you should be proud. You were one of the pioneers that saw what we see, the potential.

Today, I am telling you to keep believing. That potential that you saw and that you invested in will come to fruition. Good things are around the corner. There will be people that will disagree and say these things will never happen. I know these people… I heard them saying people wouldn’t live in downtown back in 2004. They were wrong then and they are wrong now.

Keep speaking, keep pushing and above all else keep believing. All engines forward!

Jim Cowdell,
Executive Director


  1. Great post, glad to see the city reaching out to other outlets.

  2. Thank you Jim, a healthy dose of optimism is exactly what this city needs. Great job with the tv spot too... Will be in touch!

  3. Fantastic post! I can not say enough how awesome it is for city employees and elected officials to communicate with the residents. Jim Cowdell, thanks for taking the opportunity and the time to use the blogs that are helping pull the Lynn community together.

    I am one of the pioneers and while being such isn't always easy I believe it will pay off. The progress Lynn is making, despite the economy and the nay sayers is proof the future is bright.

  4. This is exactly the kind of positive, innovative leadership we move Lynn toward it's rightful place as one of the up and coming gateway cities, like Quincy, Lowell, or Somerville. What we also need is a desire and commitment from long-time Lynn residents to dine, shop, and attend events Downtown. It's awesome to have transplants supporting the Downtown, but we need the support of all of our city's residents.

  5. We need more of this type of interaction, less canned responses from the city leaders. I hope more understand that we are not children we can handle all the info not just what they send out in press releases.

  6. Huzzah! I couldn't agree more. Thank you, Jim, for sharing your thoughts and for your infectious enthusiasm. There really are so many exciting things happening to pave the way for more revitalization in Lynn.

  7. Hey,
    Thank you very much for your comments!
    What do you think of our efforts to create an arts and cultural district?

  8. WOW! You might be the first City Leader to comment publicly on this blog. This is unprecedented!!!!!!

    Love the effort aimed at labeling a section of our city to be arts and culture based. There's too much random development downtown. We need mixed use development. Having the identity and label of an arts and cultural district, will hopefully get our politicians to think twice before permitting something in the area that has no right being there in the first place. If the goal is BODIES, than everything we do has to fit in with that mission.

    We've been screaming it from the rooftops. Audience development!!!! More residents, more destinations, more experiences. Everything we build here should have this as a goal.


  9. Thanks for your positive comments and perspective! I too believe that Lynn is on its way up. Keep up the good work!

  10. I also love the idea of an arts district. In fact, I had moved here already under the assumption that there was one. It was one of the things that brought me here.

    While planning it, please keep in mind that most young artists can't afford to live in Downtown Lynn, so some housing that they can afford will go a long way. That doesn't mean subsidized housing, necessarily, just reasonable live/work space. Perhaps, something along the lines of RCG's Lydia Pinkham Building, but with residences as well as studios, would be the way to go. It should also have storefront gallery and venue spaces.

    And I'd also like to thank you, Jim, for the excellent job you did on WGBH, your support for Downtown and for reaching out to us through Corey's blog.

  11. The Blue Ox has benefited from the events held by Lynn Arts, Arts After Hour and the Auditorium. The restaurant always gets really busy when there are people coming into the downtown. I am all for more art/culture in the city.

  12. Great post Jim. Having arts in downtown would be fantastic, and having residential is great. The food in Lynn in general is great :)

    one wish... still believe and not give up on seeing more storefront businesses on ground levels, so even if one doesn't live or work in downtown, there is something for all who live outside the district to see.
    I love the architecture of Downtown Lynn. I wish there were more reasons to see it :)

  13. Katerina,
    The zoning for downtown Lynn calls for storefront on the first floor and residential on the floors above...... so don't give up on your wish!

  14. Love it! Thanks Jim for helping downtown revive!

  15. It all sounds good, but so doesn't The Red Sox Lineup before opening day. If it all comes together, it would be great for the City. Jim let me ask, why is the ferry taking so long. I sat at a breakfast meeting in May 2008, and you were talking about that then. You had pictures of the Salem Ferry, with the name changed to Lynn Ferry. They are now building for larger ships in Salem, we are still 3 years away from just a ferry. The power lines have been moved, can you give us a hint of anything else going on over there at this time. I understand the economic downturn, but the time to build is now. When the economy comes back....Lynn will be ready. Do not wait, then you will miss the boat, again. I am not trying to sound negative here, I love the progress the city is making, but it just seems as if the city is moving at a snails pace. I see other cities opening new restaurants, and Jim's main concern is trying to take a building by force. There are plenty of other vacant store fronts and open areas that could be built up. This city can and will be the place to be some day, the question is when!............PD

  16. Jim ,A art and cultural district is a great plan..There is ALOT of talent in this town I have seen wasted or negitivly expressed...Kids today are destructing ,deface,and make our city look more like slums by vandalizing personal and public property!for bover 25 years I have watched ALOT of promising talent wasted..and SOME of the youth that do graffiti HAVE ALOT of talent and NOWHERE to express themselfs in a POSITIVE manner..Maybe if there was a youth out reach program and a LEGAL designated wall for these kids it would help with LESS vandalism (TAGGING) and encourage them to EARN the wall with cleanups of old tagging and AWARENESS and pride in our city!! I would volenteer my time if needed!! J.F.

  17. PD all good points. Sounds like a lot to answer in a post. I am all for the city taking the property. I know people do not like it. Your to look at the other vacant storefronts misses why I believe this is a good idea. The property sits next to another acre vacant lot on Andrew Street which is for sale next to 45,000 square feet of commercial/residential (hopefully) just purchased.

    This is exactly how developers looking at development projects. The more properties that you can get under one development plan the better.

    Ferry questions should be left for Jim to answer? Jim? But, these funds are coming from the state and they have been held up because of the economy.

  18. PD- Thank you very much for your comments and your obvious concern and love for the downtown/city!
    The ferry project started in 2007 when we received $750,000 from the State. In two shorts we will receive $1,200,000 from the State. We are applying for $2,100,000 for July of 2012 which will complete the project. Salem completed their Ferry project in 7 years and we are right now on track for 5 years.
    I share your frustration though and wish we could move quicker. There are people that say the Ferry is a bad idea. Offering people an alternative to get in and out of Boston is a good thing. And unlike our friends in Salem, we will be able to operate year round.
    As far as the Hawthorne site goes... The owners are going to leave the property as it stands. The people who live in downtown deserve better. I forwarded to the owners a buyer who had financing in hand and wanted to put a restaurant there.... they NEVER responded. Leave it as is or take a drastic step. THose were my choices and I took the drastic step.
    RCG bought 14 Central Ave right across the street. When that building is filled it will add another 100 people to the downtown. We can't allow the Hawthorne to sit there as is...
    We can respectfully disagree on that one.
    And as far as the Red Sox lineup.... I absolutely love it! 2011 will be a good year for the Sox and the City of Lynn.
    Thank you again PD for being concerned and vocal,

  19. typo in my post....
    Regarding the ferry...
    Should have said, "In two short months we will receive $1,200,000 ....."
    Sorry about that!


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