Residents talking downtown strategy


March 16, 2016
By Gayla Cawley/The Daily Item

 More than 100 people packed the Lynn Museum on Tuesday to hear recommendations on how to improve downtown.

Consultants said the city needs to make Lynn more friendly to pedestrians, bicycles and transit users, change the perception that the area is unsafe, add more convenient parking and fill vacant storefronts.   

Findings of a study conducted by the MassDevelopment Transformative Development Initiative (TDI) partnership and the city on how to improve downtown Lynnwere presented and the public’s input was sought.

Picture of the front of Lynn City Hall

Mayor Judith Flanagan Kennedy said the crowd was about two to three times what she expected. Everyone has ideas about how to develop the city and what direction it should go in, she added.

“The people who should have a strong voice in that are here tonight,” Kennedy said. “We do value your input.”

The study centers around potential streetscape, placemaking, land use and development opportunities to attract new investment, with a goal to help downtown Lynn realize its potential.

Joseph Mulligan, a MassDevelopment fellow, said the TDI offers an integrated approach to investment and urban redevelopment to accelerate revitalization. He said the survey’s timing comes as Gov. Charlie Baker has designated Lynn as one of his economic development priorities in the commonwealth.

“I’ve been hearing a lot about how much Lynn means to the people who live here,” Mulligan said. “They aspire it to be a great place for them to live, work and play.”

Scott Page, founder of Interface Studio, a Philadelphia-based design firm, was the consultant for the study and presented the findings. Over the past few months, he said, data has been collected on the challenges downtown Lynn faces.

He said downtown has a need for place-specific designs for public spaces, streets and potential development sites that can be implemented quickly.

Page listed downtown amenities as a short walk to the water, Lynn Woods, historic architecture, community garden, a short distance to Boston and a diverse population.

The study found that about 3,400 people work downtown, but only about 1,400 people live there. Page said there are not enough people to support local retailers, making it harder for the city to attract additional businesses.

The study also showed that 17 percent of the area, or 6.5 acres, is vacant. Another 18 percent is dedicated to parking. As a result, 35 percent of the downtown is not a business, store, home or service. Additionally, compared to other downtowns, Lynn’s has a much higher proportion of tax-exempt uses, such as nonprofits and churches. The study found that in the future, the city should start to look for businesses and housing that bring more money to the downtown.

Other findings revolved around perception that the city has a negative reputation. Page said many people have concerns about crime downtown. But the study found that of all the crimes in Lynn, only 6 percent occur downtown, with 25 percent of those categorized as violent.

“We do believe this is more of a perception problem than a reality,” Page said.

The study showed that well-designed parks often help downtowns fight negative perceptions.

Parking was also addressed. The study found that there are over 3,300 parking spaces downtown, double the existing population. Page said the parking problem is more of a location, rather than a quantity issue. Page said the top floors of the MBTA parking garage are often empty as people have said it feels unsafe or is too far from where they need to go.

The streets were also cited as a challenge. Page said many people have said that walking downtown is difficult. The study showed that 12 crossings do not provide a crosswalk.

Another area for concern was the 200 crashes in the past year, including car-on-car and car-on-pedestrians, or about four a week. Market Street was shown as the worst area for accidents.

The study also found that the city should be thinking about “complete streets,” which are not just designed for motor vehicles, but for pedestrians, bicyclists and transit users.

The public was asked to provide their input at five stations following the presentation. Page said those stations were ideas for Central Avenue, including crosswalks, art and lighting, ideas for the MBTA station and for downtown open spaces. The final two stations were a survey and a one-word exercise to describe Lynn today and tomorrow after improvements.

“We’ve done some analysis,” Page said. “Ultimately, we’ll learn the most from public input.”


Gayla Cawley can be reached at Follow her on Twitter @GaylaCawley.

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