I love you Lowell–my wife’s hometown for generations and mine for the past three decades, but I am so disappointed in you right now.
I don’t know whether your tendency to stand in your own way is a historic trait for this historic “hard-scrabble” city, or what. But to undo progress, to take a step backwards each time forward steps have seemingly been made, is a damned bad habit. Stop regressing. Stop compromising. It’s painful.
On the national level, the park service has continued to flourish despite the economic challenges that plague us all–representing trolley whistles and proud vibrancy while The Summer Music series has only improved, like, forever! Economic engines that produce visits, pride, spending, financial health for Lowell. The Folk Festival creates positive energy and vibes that last all year long. Tours and uniformed, gracious leaders and ambassadors shine on.
On the State level, what UMASS has done for Lowell is an obvious beacon. Look around. New beautiful buildings, great lighting, more opportunity for future leaders, vibrancy, fresh pavement and sidewalks, Division 1, wins and positive publicity abounds on all of our behalf. Another economic engine that produces visits, pride, spending, financial health for Lowell. Long term vision, short and long term results.
Now it’s time for the City to step up again–to play better than .500 ball. We can be so much better, but we’re not lately. The Spinners happened almost 20 years ago. The Tsongas Arena before that. The JAM plan continues to evolve.
But have you looked around downtown lately? Newsflash; Although numerous good restaurants are finally doing well and represent recent success, they all have replaced ones that didn’t make it. Ramen Bar replaced Mambo Grill. Lowell Burger Company is new but not new. It replaced that Legacy place that didn’t create one, who replaced La Boniche, who did. Warp and Weft was Wicked Irish was Majors was Dubliner. On and on. Mandarin, Holly Crab, Smokehouse, the other crab place . All re inventions of a place that shuttered. What’s new? Jimmy John’s. The budget sandwich shop. And Living waters is new downtown. That “social outreach” service that has increased the percentage and visibility of the indigent and the addicted wandering downtown streets pan handling for spare change, sleeping in doorways and benches in Lucy Larcom park. How does that work with our economic stimulus plans?
And now, as the push grows to overturn the political process, and again (and again, and eventually again) rehab the very old Lowell High School, rather than create a new vibrant economic opportunity downtown–filled with people who have disposable income–the talk of an eminent domain taking of the Professional Building has begun anew. The resultant removal of the Professional Building would eliminate professionals and patients/visitors from the downtown–those who represent success, and taxes, and an upside ratio to the “economically challenged” wanderers of downtown streets. Not to mention the extra millions such an action will ultimately cost taxpayers. Does anyone know the REAL cost of that? (I’m asking about hard costs–purchasing the property, paying off the dentists/doctors after the lawsuit and legal fees, etc.) That’s before considering the soft costs of hurting and/or eliminating two successful downtown businesses. Before people lose their jobs, before the ripple effect that no one takes into account while they fight their bitter Facebook war and promote Pro-Cawley or Pro-Downtown candidates.
Taking the parking lot that goes with The Professional Building (that we have leased for 18+ years) hurts Cobblestones. Cobblestones is the largest downtown restaurant and one of the most successful over the past HOW MANY decades? Has Lowell ever had a large, quality driven restaurant like Cobblestones achieve sustained success? Since 1994, Cobblestones has attracted over two million locals and visitors alike, high tech company dinners, pharmaceutical companies, holiday parties and graduation celebrations, rehearsal dinners, showers, weddings, theater and hockey fans, department heads, celebrities and on and on. What have YOU celebrated at Cobblestones? We provide jobs, scholarships, tax revenue (too much by the way!!), donations to every single social cause that has ever knocked on our door, and a tremendous source of pride and success for this community. We (and others!) have heard people talk about Cobblestones, relative to Lowell, all around the world. In Aruba, Puerto Rico, the White Mountains, in Western Mass, in NYC. (True story…strangers raving about our “…best Reuben” in a famous midtown deli!)
Why would you hurt us Lowell? How does that help the city, the community, the future?
Eventually that damned courthouse will get done. Cranes and framing offer promise. What’s a couple more years? The Connector is repaved. Nice. (Is that the city?) A friend said a street sweeper came into his neighborhood lately. City Hall plaza looks great. Comfort Furniture is no longer an eyesore and will ultimately be vibrant again. That’s all progress.
If you decide not to reward the students with a brand new building at Cawley Stadium–although I personally think that represents much bigger thinking and a “winning” long term vision–then what? Maybe another rehab is a better idea for them? Maybe it’s initially better for the taxpayers? (Short term thinking?) I truly don’t know. No one presents the numbers. And again, soft costs, opportunity cost, long term cost…who is providing the analysis on all of it? Can anyone share the REAL numbers?!? Does anyone even know the real numbers?
Here’s what I DO know…
In making the decision to keep the students downtown, hurting TWO successful downtown businesses by taking The Professional Building by eminent domain is not seeing the big picture. It’s not progress. It’s playing the short, easy game. Seeing the big picture might have been grabbing the Lowell Five building while it was available and vacant. Caught looking. Seeing the big picture might be relocating the post office, or the “outreach center” off of Lowell’s main business district street. It’s possible to be humane and strategic at the same time folks.
Creating economic vitality is the future of upside Lowell. It’s future jobs for those high school students. It’s taxes to pay police and fire, to better clean streets and landscape, to build a new police station, to fix potholes and sidewalks, and help those who need help while uplifting the community at large. It’s pride and vitality.
Hurting two downtown businesses, because you can’t figure out a better way? That’s just lame. There must be a way to move forward without sacrificing existing success. Who has what it takes to find that answer? Too many speech makers and cronies, not enough deep thinkers. Another newsflash; Lawn signs are not equal to problem solvers or strategy makers.
See the big picture Lowell leadership. Play the long game. We did. Plan for the future, without tanking what is already working. Get together, rise above all the “noise,” and make right moves. Maybe someday, an Amazon will actually consider Lowell to bring millions in opportunity to our community. Maybe the next Boston Globe article will rave about how strong leadership and harmony led to great vision and outstanding results for Lowell’s continued march towards long term economic health. Be better than good Lowell. Aspire to greatness. Be smart. Be great.