Saturday Chat - Healthy debate fosters the best decision

By Kendall Wallace
Updated:   02/18/2017 09:17:48 AM EST


LOWELL -- Big projects often cause big controversies.

The city of Lowell has plenty of both going on right now.

What is happening is very healthy for a city that never quits, a city that for decades has been driven to be the best it can be.

I was pleased to see lots of folks turned out for a meeting in Belvidere to discuss the high school possibly relocating to that neighborhood.

Good discussion, done in a fair and reasoned way, can provide the framework for resolution.

On one side, you have concerned parents, particularly parents who have students who would be attending high school during the difficult years of construction if the new school remained downtown. On the other, you have residents who fear having 4,000 people come into the neighborhood everyday will have a major, negative impact.

Both have legitimate concerns. Both have a right to be heard.

But in the end, elected officials will need to make a decision that is in the best interest of the entire community.

Lots of mid-size cities in America would love to have the events that are going on in Lowell right now.

Massachusetts has committed more than a half a billion dollars to Lowell, to build a new high school, to build a new judicial center and to improve access to the Hamilton Innovation District.

Add in the Sal Lupoli project on Thorndike Street, Dave Daly's upscale high rise proposed for East Merrimack Street, two private dorm projects, two potential private developments in the Hamilton Innovation District, renovation projects at UMass Lowell, and the new performing arts center for Middlesex Community College and you are seeing a major transformation of the city.

While the high-school project is raising the most controversy, the debate over the right direction for future development of the Hamilton Innovation District is also going through a very healthy debate.

This too is a good sign.

The city council wants the best mixed use of the 13-acre site and is resisting the easy way of building more housing. They want the area to have more commercial and light industry and are willing to wait if this isn't the right time. The city's willingness to hold out for the right mix says a lot about how far the city has come.

Like the high school, the city wants the project done right.

The two projects will impact the city for the next 50 years and neither should be decided on the emotions of the moment.

I've been an advocate for keeping the high school downtown for historic reasons and because of its central location for students from every section of the city, but I've been impressed with the state's process in evaluating the options.

We should be able to reach a reasoned decision.

In the end, the city will have to come together on all these projects. The ability to do that is what makes Lowell different.

We should enjoy these good times.

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