EDIC wants to seize Lynn restaurant property
by eminent domain

March 9, 2011
By Chris Stevens/The Daily Item

James Cowdell, the executive director of the Economic Development and Industrial Corporation, said he will present a plan to the EDIC Board next Tuesday to take the long defunct Anthony's Hawthorne Restaurant and parking lot by eminent domain.

"It's a step that we have to take," Cowdell said Tuesday during an editorial board interview with The Daily Item. "I take that very seriously (the taking of a building by eminent domain) but we don't have a choice."

The Athanas family opened what would be the first of four Anthony's Hawthorne restaurants in 1937 at 380 Washington St., with a parking lot down the road at 37-45 Central Ave. Cowdell said the family closed the doors in 2003, "and nothing has happened since."

The building which once housed the Anthony’s Hawthorne on Washington Street in Lynn, as seen Tuesday. (Item Photo / Owen O'Rourke)

Wig Zamore, an attorney and advisor to the Athanas family, said the family feels it has been quite cooperative with the EDIC and has put a lot of work into developing plans for the property.

"And it would be their intention to move ahead when it's economically viable," he said.

Cowdell said he's been waiting eight years for the family to move ahead. When the restaurant closed, he noted, the family didn't hire a real estate broker or an engineer to clean up the parking lot, which is thought to be contaminated.
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"They essentially just walked away," Cowdell said.

The family has, however, paid the taxes on the 32,000 square-foot former restaurant in the middle of downtown, Cowdell said.

City officials rezoned the downtown area between 2004-07, allowing developers the opportunity for mixed use, which could include housing, in what is predominantly the Central Business District. The result, Cowdell said, is that 250 people moved into the downtown area, along with $35 million in new development.

Cowdell said he is confident the EDIC Board will support his plan and Mayor Judith Flanagan Kennedy has also pledged her support.

"It has sat vacant for years with no progress, no development on site," Flanagan said. "It really is the cornerstone of the revitalization of the Olympia Square area."

Kennedy said, with another developer starting the redevelopment of nearby 14 Central Ave., it is the perfect time to get aggressive in taking the Athanas property.

If the board approves the move, the proposal will head to the City Council for a public hearing.

Cowdell said he understands not everyone supports the idea of government taking private land for other private use, but he reiterates that he feels he has no choice.

Cowdell said he has sent buyers with legitimate offers to the Athanas family, but they've been turned down flat with no counter offer.

"What's our option?" he said. "It's been eight years and nothing has happened. I'm confident that eight more years will go by and still nothing will happen."

He pointed to another Athanas-owned property, the General Glover Restaurant in Swampscott, to make his point. The General Glover has been closed for 20 years and Cowdell said like the Anthony's Hawthorne property, it has sat unused, the family has made no move to sell or develop the land.

Cowdell said he expects that Athanas family will put up a fight, but he feels secure that the EDIC will prevail.

The EDIC will have to put up the money to purchase the property, which will be the appraised cost plus 10 percent, it will also have to pay legal fees and foot the bill to have the parking lot cleaned up.

"I don't take this lightly," Cowdell said. "It's a big step."

The EDIC Board will take up the issue Tuesday at 6 p.m. in the EDIC conference room number 302 in City Hall.

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