Saturday, January 18, 2014

Thank you MAPC, Now Time for Action!

MAPC did an incredible job of looking into the barriers to growth in our Downtown area. They admit much positive change over the past several years but share our frustration at the pace of it all. Advocates for smart equitable growth, if we follow their recommendations, we might get there a bit faster and in an equitable way for all the existing and future neighbors. During a well attended session at Lynn Auditorium several members of the community were able to voice opinions on MAPC's recent project and recommendations for the future of Downtown Lynn. They began by having all 40-50 members of the audience introduce themselves and share one word to describe their vision for Downtown Lynn.

I urge you all to take a look at the website, There are some great tidbits of research and an incredible set of recommendations. To share a quick summary, see below, but on the website they go into much more detail on each point:

MAPC recommendations are the following:
  • Improve coordination and communications of municipal planning and land use development efforts
  • Amend the City of Lynn Zone Ordinance to promote a live-work-play-learn environment       
  • Strengthen existing businesses and attract new ones to encourage downtown development activity and progress
  • Support efforts to make Downtown an arts, culture, and dining destination
  • Make Downtown Lynn more welcoming and improve its appearance
  • Continue to invest in infrastructure improvements that promote redevelopment and improve sustainability
  • Promote community stewardship of Downtown Lynn
  • Detailed action steps and ideas to help achieve these recommendations are as follows.

While nothing is necessarily new, it is validation by our regional planning agency that we're thinking about all the right things.  I would also argue that while the points above are not new, many of the in depth points they make on the "how" are new and a bit more progressive than we typically think.

It's time for action on some of these pressing needs. Reform of the zoning downtown and less usage of our special permitting procedure. City Council should only be necessary in extreme circumstances if zoning is done right.

More housing. More housing. More housing. MAPC estimates the Greater Boston region is going to need 435,000 new units by 2040 in order to remain competitive. Lynn will be responsible for 5-7 thousand of those units. These units need to be the kind that attract young professionals. If we fail to do this, our economy will slug further in to a wasteland. They urge us to grow equitably with a percentage set aside for affordable housing, knowing full well that the existing housing stock downtown is incredibly skewed towards low income. This is a good thing, but the community will also need lots more disposable income in order to thrive. In order for ALL OF IT to thrive together.

One of the best sentiments from MAPC's Executive Director was that the most successful cities across the region are those where mixed income individuals and families are coexisting successfully.

In response to removal of the Lynn Shelter, MAPC was quick to jump all over that. Does a city of 90,000 need a homeless shelter at the urban core. YES. Can any issues be solved by attention from management. YES.

I would also add, did Rossetti's and D'Amici's just open up one block away? YES!  (In full disclosure, I am the Executive Director of two family shelters in Peabody, so I do get a bit enraged when people fail to understand the needs of our neighbors).

In a shining moment, LynnCAM's Cassie Vitali reminded the audience that while we do have a lot of nonprofits and affordable units, we also have a lot of need. The audience applauded that sentiment and we all have to realize, this isn't about leaving anyone behind. This is about success for all of our neighbors.

I look forward to seeing the City take the next step.


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