EDIC Plots Path To Success


  | August 24, 2017

Opinion - The Daily Item

Seawalls don’t generate the kind of excitement a new school or park inspires. But the seawall to be built from Heritage State Park to the Lynn ferry landing is a crucial component in the plan to revive the city’s waterfront.

Building the seawall will set the stage for construction of a public walkway from the waterfront’s North Harbor section to the ferry landing. The walkway is scheduled to open a year from now and its route will take walkers past the proposed 348-apartment North Harbor project. The development will complement the Seaport Landing Marina residential complex located a short distance up the Lynnway.

The $80 million North Harbor project is the debut development that, in the view of city officials, is to be followed by other developments transforming the waterfront and extending the North Harbor walkway from the Department of Conservation and Recreation rotary to the General Edwards Bridge.

All of this may sound like the stuff of fantasy, but Economic Development & Industrial Corporation (EDIC/Lynn) Executive Director James M. Cowdell views the waterfront renaissance as a step-by-step process already unfolding.

EDIC is the force behind securing the $1 million Seaport Economic Council grant that will pay for the seawall work.

For Cowdell and his staff, obtaining the grant is just the latest step on the road to transforming Lynn. EDIC played the lead role working with other city officials and local legislators in landing $5 million in Seaport grants matched with $2.8 million in federal money to build the ferry dock. It played a key role in obtaining agreements providing the North Harbor project developers and Market Basket with tax investment incentives.

The Vault, another project EDIC helped attract to Lynn, reportedly had rented almost 90 percent of its 47 apartments.

Cowdell and his staff and EDIC board members mark the agency’s 40th anniversary this year. Established by the state Legislature as a nonprofit corporation, EDIC’s mandate is to serve as the city’s development bank.

For Cowdell, ceremonial shovels and ribbon cuttings celebrating new projects mark the end of a process defined by conversations, meetings, application filings and more conversations and meetings. The path that took EDIC from thinking about possibilities for empty land on Federal Street to Market Basket’s opening was long and full of twists and turns.

Cowdell, Community Development Director James M. Marsh, and Lynn Housing Authority & Neighborhood Development Executive Director Charles J. Gaeta (also the EDIC board chairman) met repeatedly during 2008 and 2009 to convince General Electric executives to put the Federal Street land on the market.

GE’s decision to sell and Swampscott developer Charles Patsios’ decision to buy the land represented a significant step. But EDIC had plenty of additional work to do to shape a vision for Federal Street. Cowdell met repeatedly with Patsios to define that vision and then joined in the effort to interest Market Basket in coming to Lynn. It opens on Federal Street on Saturday.

With the City Council’s help, the extensive negotiations provided tax incremental financing to bring Market Basket to Lynn in turn for guaranteeing jobs for local residents.

The praise for bringing development to Lynn doesn’t fall only to EDIC, but Cowdell and the agency have demonstrated they can bring together decision makers into a room to talk and pursue the financing opportunities required to make development a reality.

Cowdell said EDIC’s mission remains the same as it did in 1977: Retain jobs in Lynn and create new jobs. A seawall may not sound like the key to economic success for the city. But Cowdell knows it represents a step along the road to prosperity and opportunity. A significant step.

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