Lynn seeking to develop downtown parking lots


April 25, 2019
By Gayla Cawley/The Daily Item

City officials are seeking to develop three downtown parking lots, and claim there won’t be a loss of much-needed parking spaces for residents and businesses.

The Lynn Off-Street Parking Commission has unanimously approved a request from the city to send out a Request for Information (RFI) for city-owned lots on Buffum Street, School Street and Andrew Street.

James Cowdell, Economic Development and Industrial Corporation of Lynn (EDIC/Lynn) executive director, said the RFI is meant to see if there are developers interested in developing the lots and give officials a sense of what they would like to see in a Request for Proposals (RFP).

“We’ve had numerous inquiries about potential development opportunities on our three city-owned lots,” said Mayor Thomas M. McGee. “Based on the interest we’ve been hearing from potential developers, we decided to put a Request for Information out. I think it’s exciting that people are looking to the city for opportunities and to make investments.”

Cowdell said national developers have inquired about downtown Lynn, in terms of purchasing municipal lots, since Procopio Enterprises Inc. invested $90 million to transform a downtown parking lot and community garden on Munroe Street into a 10-story, mixed-use luxury apartment building, construction that is expected to be completed in mid-2020.

Developers would respond to the RFI and say they have an interest in purchasing and building on the lots, but Cowdell, who appeared before the commission on Tuesday night, said it was not a proposal that would remove parking spaces from the downtown.

In fact, city officials are saying there would actually be an increase of parking with garage space on the lower floors of a potential high-rise building, with residential and commercial space above. The lots are zoned in the central business district, which means, similar to the Procopio project, a developer could propose to build as high as 10 stories, Cowdell said.  

“None of the proposals considered would remove any of the existing parking,” Cowdell said. “We’re not looking to take away any spaces from residents or the business community. We’re seeing if there’s additional development or parking that can occur.”

Although McGee said it’s premature to say what would happen with the lots, he said what the city is looking for would be similar to work that’s underway in downtown Boston, but on a smaller scale.

McGee said there’s a massive mixed-use development being built above the Government Center Garage, which includes demolishing half of the garage and building a 43-story tower atop part of it. Five other buildings are part of the redevelopment, which is an example of keeping the parking, but using the air above it to make a major development.

In Boston, McGee also referenced plans to transform the Dock Center Garage, with a seven-story addition constructed above it with condominium units.

“We would like to see what ideas people have with parking lots and what they envision there that could happen that could work for us,” McGee said. “It’s not necessarily based on Boston, but we’re looking to other places for a model.”

City Council President Darren Cyr said his vision would see the city sell the parking lots. But he said the city wouldn’t be selling the lots themselves, but the air above it. It would be up to the developer to construct the building and parking garage. The city would have one to two floors of public parking, with tax revenue coming from the floors above it, which would be residential units and commercial space.

“We’re trying to think out of the box, different ways to bring revenue into the city,” Cyr said. “If there’s a developer out there that has the same vision we do, there’s no reason we can’t put an RFP out for the lots. I see it as a potential, as a way to generate more revenue, to create more parking, to bring more commerce down there.”

If a proposal is submitted that meets the approval of the City Council and McGee, the city would move onto the formal RFP process. But officials say they’re not even close to putting the lots out to bid.

If there was such interest, all three lots couldn’t be developed at the same time because there is a need for parking downtown, Cyr said.

Robert Stilian, the city’s acting parking director, said he was “100 percent” in favor of developing the lots. City officials have been discussing the idea for a few years now.

“(It has) great potential for the city, could increase the tax base and address a need in the downtown, which is parking,” Stilian said. 


Back to News