City Manager Bernie Lynch recently met with neighborhood representatives of the Acre and Pawtucketville to launch his fourth Neighborhood Impact Initiative, a program that utilizes interdepartmental resources to improve conditions and create positive change in our neighborhoods. Utilizing Community Development Block Grant funds along with other resources each project begins with city staff identifying a target area based on health, safety and code enforcement data. Departments involved in the working group include:
• Planning and Development
• Development Services
• Public Works
• Neighborhood Services
Previous Initiative neighborhoods have included targeted areas in Centralville, the Lower Highlands and Back Central; project have included street and sidewalk reconstruction, park improvements, stepped up health and code enforcement, business assistance and streetscape enhancements. Initiative projects generally run 12-18 months and as the Acre/Pawtucketville program gets underway, capital projects are wrapping up in Back Central.
This year’s initiative is unique in that it combines areas of two distinct neighborhoods that are similar in their dense development patterns and connected via the University Avenue Bridge. Each straddles the Merrimack River and each is adjacent to UMass Lowell.
The meeting with Acre and Pawtucketville groups was an opportunity to outline the goals of the Neighborhood Initiative program, present general concepts of possible projects and solicit neighborhood feedback and ideas.
Manager Lynch noted that the goal was to “maximize the impact of resources” by targeting them on a focused area. Staff followed up with summaries of projects either underway or under consideration. City Engineer Lisa DeMeo noted that the new University Avenue Bridge will greatly improve the connection between the two neighborhoods and, in conjunction with planned signal improvements to the Pawtucket/School and Riverside St. /University Ave. intersections, facility traffic flow once completed.
Rachel Kisker, design planner, outlined ideas for park and streetscape improvements while Neighborhood Planner Allegra Williams announced the next round of mini-grants under the Innovation Grant Program. Development Services Director Kendra Amaral reported on plans for code and health enforcement including proactive Impact Team tours conducted in each neighborhood.
Police Lt. Timothy Kilbride provided an overview of police efforts in support of Initiative goals and ways that Lowell police were working with UMass Lowell police to address various incidents in the neighborhoods.
Given the areas’ small business districts, business assistance and sign and façade improvements will be a highly visible element and Maria Dickinson, economic development officer, highlighted ways businesses could benefit.
Throughout the presentation, residents provided positive feedback and suggestions which city staff will develop into an action plan to be carried out over the next year.