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