LCHC plans downtown expansion

February 25, 2012
By Sarah Mupo/The Daily Item

The Lynn Community Health Center is expanding into the former School Administration Building on Central Avenue, which has been vacant for the past 10 years.

In a deal finalized late last fall but announced this week, LCHC will rent three and a half floors of the six-story building at 12-30 Central Ave. from the building's owner, RCG, a Somerville-based real estate investment firm.

Renovations are under way to accommodate LCHC administrative offices, according to Lori Berry, the center's executive director. She said May 1 is the anticipated move-in date.

View a photo gallery of this week's Black History Month celebration at the health center.

The new space will house operations that will be shifted from LCHC's 23 Central Ave. site, a place Berry said the health center has outgrown. Those operations are administrative offices, behavioral health services, an optometry clinic and the WIC program, which provides nutritional counseling and food vouchers to women, infants and children.

Berry said when she was approached by RCG about moving into 12-30 Central Ave., it was an "attractive" offer because the rent was affordable and it would allow for necessary expansion that did not fit in the three-floor, 35,000-square-foot addition at LCHC's main building at 269 Union St.

"This is part of our overall strategic plan to provide services that people in this community need. The kinds of services that we provide at the health center are the kinds that end up saving money in the long run for the health care system, because if you address people's needs in a community-based setting, it reduces the need to go to institutional-based health care," Berry said.

The added room for the behavioral health and eye care services in the new space will allow 5,000 to 6,000 more patient visits per year in those areas, Berry said. LCHC had 190,000 patient visits last year among all of its different services, she said.

Berry said she has been closely observing the renovation and the space is shaping up nicely.

"It will convey respect to our patients and I think that's really important," she said.

Mayor Judith Flanagan Kennedy said LCHC is an integral part of delivering health care to Lynn residents and the extra space will help with that effort.

"We need them here in the city. They service about one-third of the population in Lynn and about half of the children in Lynn. So they're really a vital part of the community," she said. "With that amount of patients, they need a lot of room to serve that clientele."

RCG Managing Principal Matthew Picarsic said the company is looking for a tenant for the rest of the building, particularly a small company in the life science or biotechnology fields. However, Picarsic said it is hard to find willing tenants in those fields because downtown Lynn does not have many similar companies.

"It's not easy to attract new types of businesses to a location they haven't been in the past," he said.

Jim Cowdell, executive director of the Economic Development and Industrial Corporation of Lynn, said the EDIC is looking to have biotechnology companies come to Lynn because it is a leading growth industry.

"We're trying to change the way people in that industry look at Lynn," he said. "We're trying really hard to break our way into that market. We're aggressively courting that industry."

Picarsic said that RCG had one biotechnology firm seriously interested in the building last summer after the city Zoning Board of Appeals approved that type of industry to move into the downtown business district. However, those talks fell apart, he said.

Cowdell said the EDIC had been working with RCG to identify potential tenants for the former school administration building. He also said that LCHC's pending move-in could bode well for getting the rest of the building occupied.

"It's a lot easier to market that building with an anchor tenant such as Lynn Community Health Center there," he said.

For the other half of the first floor that LCHC will not be using, Picarsic said he would ideally like a café owner or similar businessperson to rent the space, which is visible from the street.

Cowdell said that as more businesses come into the downtown area, it will create a domino effect of more activity in the city and increased patronage of local businesses. LCHC's expansion is also a positive development, he said, because the EDIC had its eye on getting the building up and running again.

"It was one of two or three key buildings that we identified as targeting," Cowdell said, "so we're really happy it's being occupied."



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