Development tour protest ill-conceived, poorly timed


September 23, 2016
Opinion Posted in the Daily Item
By James Cowdell

On behalf of Mayor Kennedy, Congressman Moulton, our state delegation, the Lynn Economic Advancement and Development (LEAD) team, MassDevelopment and EDIC/ Lynn, I would like to thank everyone who contributed to the overwhelming success of Tuesday’s tour of the city for developers and lenders.

We were thrilled to welcome more than 100 potential investors and show them 20 sites that offer development opportunities. It was something that we believe has never been done, and the feedback was overwhelmingly positive. It is reasonable to think that there will be very tangible and measurable results from Tuesday’s tour.

You could almost say it was a perfect day, if not for a poorly timed, albeit ineffective protest by a small group of malcontents.

Showing up with a bullhorn to demand that future developments include affordable housing — and citing the long-awaited redevelopment of the Beacon Chevrolet site as an example — showed an alarming lack of understanding for both the current and future economic development needs of the city.

The percentage of affordable housing in Lynn is about 30 when you factor in housing vouchers issued here. That includes vouchers issued elsewhere that are being used in the city. Lynn has always done and will continue to do more than its fair share when it comes to providing housing opportunities. There is a point at which we have to be willing to say it is neither prudent nor fair for us to be required to do more.

Now is that time — and for reasons even better than the “fair share” argument. We don’t need more affordable housing; we need more people to be able to afford the housing that exists. That will happen when more people with disposable income move here and new businesses follow — businesses that will hire local people and raise their economic standing.

The developers of the Beacon site are prepared to invest $80 million in the city. That would mark the single largest private development in anyone’s memory; more than one person has suggested than perhaps since GE was built.

The idea that anyone — either municipal government or a man with a bullhorn — would dictate to those developers how they spend their money is patently foolish.

Tuesday was about showcasing Lynn’s potential, and I am happy to report that based on the feedback we have gotten, the future is bright. There are many people trying very hard to get people to look at Lynn differently. Tuesday went a long way in making that happen, despite the background noise.

James M. Cowdell is Executive Director of EDIC/Lynn.

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