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Planning for our Future
Michael Sweeney, Lawrence Planning Director

Mayor Sullivan’s leadership on a key issue has produced dramatic results this past week.

Over the past month the property at 207 Marston Street has generated a number of negative stories in the local press. One of the largest privately owned parcels in the city, this 14 acre lot is visible from RT495, very close to the new Parthum school and adjacent to a number of privates homes and important businesses like Mr. Charlie Daher’s Commonwealth Motors.

A combined team effort including work by City Attorney Charles Boddy, Tom Schiavone, Treasurer Patty Cook, Inspectional Service Caroline Ganley, Building Commissioner Luis Waldron and Council President Patrick Blanchette took the time and energy to focus on the issues involving this property.

Communication, or lack thereof, was a key element in the problem. We set up meetings with the financial group holding the current note on the property. To their credit, once they realized that Mayor Sullivan’s team was united and focused on the issue, the note holder stepped to the plate.

A tax agreement was proposed and working closely with John Griffen and Patty Cook, with oversight by Attorney Boddy, we were able to finalize an agreement that resulted in a payment of $90,000 directly to the City of Lawrence. That money will immediately have an impact on the city’s budget.

Also important has been Mayor Sullivan’s approach of focusing on the environmental issues present on the site. First Lawrence Financial, the mortgagee of the property, has made a dedicated effort to work towards the proper cleaning of the site and has tightly secured the location over the past few weeks.

The Planning Department has been working closely with Mr. Ed Huminick of First Lawrence Financial to increase communication about the environmental clean up. We have enlisted the help of both the state DEP office and the federal EPA office to ensure that site is properly cleaned.

The reuse of this site presents an important opportunity to bring significant retail or other commercial use. The potential for the city to enhance its tax base, create new jobs and have a cleaner, useable site is tremendous. In the coming months we will continue to work closely with First Lawrence Financial to ensure that the property becomes a valuable and clean site in our city.

The tax agreement reached this month was an important show of good faith by First Lawrence Financial. Members of Mayor Sullivan’s team will continue to work diligently on the proper end use of the property and to enlist the help of DEP and EPA to ensure a clean, usable site that will service the city’s interest for years to come.

It will be a grand achievement for the city when this site is restored to proper and significant usage in the next two years.
More Action On Commercial Sites

Very shortly the public will learn of a key development in the downtown area that will result in a building that has been closed and unoccupied for over decade being demolished. The building has lived past its commercial usage and had become both a fire hazard and an eyesore. To their credit, the owners of the property never stopped working with the city on ways to resolve the issues presented by this challenging property. Months of hard work is coming together.

Over the next six months we will be working together to have the building demolished and work on the redevelopment of this important site that has the potential to bring a host of new businesses and new energy to the downtown area. Just keep your eyes on the local media for an announcement on this shortly.

Michael Sweeney is the planning director for the city of Lawrence, a former member of the Lawrence City Council and School Committee.  You can e-mail Mr. Sweeney at Esqsweeney@aol.com

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The November, 2006 Edition of the Valley Patriot
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