Lynn building conversion to start after setbacks


July 8, 2014
By Chris Stevens/The Daily Item

City officials cut a ribbon before 33 Central St. not to herald a new opening but to celebrate that the project that has been plagued by delays is finally getting off the ground.

“The permits are being pulled, and we’re about two weeks away from starting this project,” said Economic Development and Industrial Corporation Executive Director James Cowdell.

It’s been nearly three years since EDIC bought the former Arnold Stationery store with a plan to turn it into eight residential units aimed at working artists with a commercial space on the ground floor.

The initial design had a lot of exposed steel on the front of the building along with balconies, which Cowdell said

Ribbon cutting

Ribbon Cutting/Chris Stevens- Item Photo

From left, contractor Stephen Caruso, architect John Crowell, Economic Development and Industrial Corporation board member Lisa Panakio-Rowe, EDIC Chairman Charles Gaeta (with scissors), EDIC Executive Director James Cowdell, Ward 5 Councilor Dianna Chakoutis, Mayor Judith Flanagan Kennedy and Peggy Phelps from the Neighborhood Development Association celebrate the start of the long-awaited renovation project.

was nice but not affordable. The project came in nearly $1 million over budget and had to be scrapped.

Historical Commission member Calvin Anderson said he could have saved EDIC time and money on plans had they involved the commission in the first place. He said he knew the state Historical Commission would never approve the original architectural plan, but Cowdell said it didn’t need to.

“We asked them for money for the project, but they turned us down,” Cowdell said. “But they can’t deny the project.”

EDIC, who is working in partnership with Neighborhood and Development Associates (NDA), went back to the drawing board and came up with a plan that Cowdell called less modern, more traditional but definitely workable. The plan leaves the exterior of the building virtually unchanged, right down to the green panels above and below the entrance.

However, Deer Hill Architect John Crowell did add in one accessory that he and Cowdell both said ties in with the city’s history. A rendering of the new building shows what looks like a watermark of a high-heeled, high-button shoe circa 1900. Crowell said the image is created by laying a large film over the front of the building.

“The idea is it will look much different at night than during the day because of the light in the apartments and if shades are down,” he said.

Of the eight living spaces, Crowell said four will be one-bedrooms and four will be studio apartments. Peggy Phelps from NDA said the retail space on the ground floor could essentially be anything — a store, a gallery, even a coffee shop.

Phelps said it is nice to see the project finally get underway, and despite the plethora of new apartments in the downtown area, she believes there is a need for the artist workspace.

“We’re taking a blighted site and turning it into something nice,” Cowdell said. “And we’re even tying in the city’s history.”

Chris Stevens can be reached at


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