In November 2010, through the efforts of the Department of Planning & Development, the City was awarded a “Brownfields Area-wide Planning Grant” for $175,000 from the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to focus on district-wide planning for the Tanner Street area of Lowell. The City is using this grant to study the potential for establishing an urban renewal district for the Tanner Street area of Lowell – a neighborhood marked by a dirty industrial past and home to significant Brownfields issues and sites including the former Silresim Chemical Corp property, Lowell’s only EPA designated Superfund site. Over the past 8 months, DPD has made significant progress on this project. Though most of this progress is “behind the scenes,” the work completed to date is essential to ensuring the Tanner Street area-wide plan is successful.
Urban Renewal 101
Before diving into the progress made on the Tanner Street District, background information on urban renewal is important to frame the discussion. In Massachusetts, urban renewal is a program governed by Massachusetts General Laws Chapter 121B, which authorizes municipalities to complete targeted redevelop of blighted areas within a community for residential, commercial and industrial purposes. In order to create an urban renewal plan a community must undergo an extensive planning process and demonstrate that the project area is a “blighted open area, a decedent area, and/or substandard area” within the definitions of M.G.L. c 121B Section 1. Substantial data must be gathered on existing conditions, and the urban renewal plan must display, among other details, where clearance and rehabilitation are proposed. Public support is essential and final approvals of the urban renewal plan must be obtained from the local redevelopment authority (in Lowell, this is the City Council) as well as the State’s Department of Housing and Community Development (DHCD). Needless to say, the creation of an urban renewal plan is a lengthy and labor intensive process and one that the City does not take on without significant consideration of all other options. With that said, the City has two existing and extremely successful urban renewal district, the Acre Plan and the Jackson/Appleton/Middlesex (JAM) Plan, within which the Hamilton Canal District is located.
Tanner Street Progress
Back to Tanner Street, in April 2011, DPD secured Crosby, Schlessinger and Smallridge (CSS) of Boston as the lead planning consultant to tackle the Tanner Street urban renewal district planning effort. CSS’ extensive history in completing similar, successful urban renewal projects includes, among others, Lowell’s own Acre Urban Renewal Plan. Following the standard contracting process, in early July 2011 CSS and the City kicked off the planning effort with a series of internal meetings with various city staff and departments to provide background history and information on the Tanner Street district. Since that meeting, the CSS consultant team has gathered extensive background information and existing conditions data of the Tanner Street area, which is one of the first steps in creating an urban renewal district. Over the next month, CSS plans to continue its existing conditions analysis and will schedule a series of meetings with neighborhood stakeholders and property owners to discuss the district (both its past and future) in more detail.
Market Research Consultant
A key component to any urban renewal plan is to ensure that the plan is based on existing and future market conditions. Therefore, to inform the Tanner Street planning process, DPD secured the market research consultant Bartram and Cochran (B&C) of Hartford, CT to study the market realities of the Tanner Street District and provide a realistic picture of what types of industries can be supported and targeted for the area. This research will inform the planning process by providing information on the types of potential redevelopment sites, utility infrastructure upgrades, and other improvements that are necessary in order to support the targeted redevelopment of Tanner Street.
Over the next several weeks and months, DPD officials and representatives from CSS and B&C will be conducting continued in-the-field research and stakeholder meetings within the Tanner Street District. Following this process, the public planning and outreach component of the project will commence, and will include a series of public meetings and visioning sessions to glean input on the future vision for the district. DPD will also meet regularly with a Tanner Street Citizens Advisory Committee (CAC) comprised of community organizers, property owners, and other stakeholders to inform the process. DPD anticipates the public outreach component to begin in middle to late fall, with meetings conducted through the winter months.
For more information on the Tanner Street District, feel free to contact James Errickson, Urban Renewal Project Manager – email@example.com.
• Tanner Street Initiative past studies: http://www.lowellma.gov/depts/dpd/services/econdev/brownfield/tanner
• US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Brownfields Program: http://epa.gov/brownfields/index.html
• EPA Silresim Superfund Site: http://yosemite.epa.gov/r1/npl_pad.nsf/f52fa5c31fa8f5c885256adc0050b631/8115F9851E28AB768525691F0063F6F6?OpenDocument
• What is urban renewal?: http://www.mass.gov/Ehed/docs/dhcd/cd/ur/wiur.pdf
• Crosby Schlessinger & Smallridge: http://www.cssboston.com/
• Bartram & Cochran: http://www.bartramandcochran.com/