Lynn officials unveil waterfront plans

March 14, 2013
By Thor Jourgensen/The Daily Item

Big projects and big visions are dominating city leaders’ agendas this week, with not fewer than six major developments moving a step closer to construction or taking shape on drawing boards.

City Council members approved zoning changes designed to bring a major pharmacy chain to Boston Street and a Market Basket store to Federal Street; Lynn’s top development officials unveiled plans on Wednesday for the city waterfront, including:

• Turning the 60-acre former General Electric gear plant site off the Lynnway into a 20-story development site;

• A meeting between city officials and National Grid Friday to discuss future uses for 100 acres the utility owns on the waterfront;

• Plans for constructing 20 to 40 condominiums at the 50 Lynnway site of the Ocean Shores residential complex;

• Bringing a casino boat to the Economic Development and Industrial Corporation pier off the Lynnway, employing 100 workers.

These projects and others could transform the Lynnway and the city’s waterfront from retail and fast-food businesses into high-rise residences and other developments, said Economic Development and Industrial Commission Director James Cowdell.

“Behind Merchandise Mart is the Atlantic Ocean: That is our waterfront,” Cowdell told 44 people gathered Wednesday at the Lynn Business Partnership’s meeting in Eastern Bank’s operations building.

The clock is already ticking on two of the proposed projects. Lynn attorney James Moore told councilors that a realty holding firm will decide by month’s end if it makes business sense to open a 90,000 square foot Market Basket store in GE’s Factory of the Future building on Federal.

Moore is optimistic about the prospect of 40 Federal Street Realty Holding, a firm headed by Swampscott resident Charles Patsios, and General Electric striking a deal to lease the GE land to the grocery chain.

Councilors voted 11-0 to change zoning for the Federal Street land from heavy industry to business to help bring Market Basket to the city’s center. Walden Street resident George Essery praised the project, but urged city officials to take steps to reduce Western Avenue traffic congestion.

The Council also unanimously approved Boston Street zoning changes aimed at allowing a New Hampshire developer to build a retail chain pharmacy on the current site of three longtime businesses. Although Tropic Star built CVS stores in Amesbury and Salisbury, company principal Scott Mitchell did not identify the pharmacy chain interested in building on Boston Street.

“We don’t have a deal right now,” he said.

Thomas Demakis, Tropic’s Lynn attorney, told councilors the developer plans to upgrade malfunctioning traffic signals on Boston Street and add a light at Boston and Ford streets. Councilors set landscaping and lighting requirements in their vote approving the project.

Mitchell said the pharmacy’s workforce would probably total 15 to 20 employees.

Although most of the tentative projects unveiled or advanced this week focus on job creation, the Ocean Shores proposal bear similarities to developer Paul Gallo’s plan to build 45 residential units at 133 Eastern Ave. The council approved Gallo’s project Tuesday, applauding his plan to provide housing for seniors. Cowdell said the Ocean Shore’s condominiums will represent an addition onto a residential complex currently centered around seniors but be sold at market rates and not exclusively to seniors..

He said the gear plant proposal centers on a residential tower with ground-floor retail space with a Boston skyline, ocean views and a commuter rail stop.

“The goal is to get this property marketable by the end of the year,” Cowdell said.

Cowdell and longtime Lynn business owner Eric Ciccone said a tower on the GE land and one opposite it off the Lynnway would define the entranceway to Lynn from Boston.

“Coming over the General Edwards Bridge and seeing a bustling Lynnway with a residential component added — I see no downside to it,” Ciccone said.

But the Beden Hardware owner said a Lynn water ferry is a key component to waterfront development success. The ferry project is under way at the end of Blossom Street extension with workers scheduled to start building the ferry dock, Cowdell said, in about six weeks. He said the ferry will probably be operating in a year and a half.

Thor Jourgensen can be reached at



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