Giving it the “Old College Try”


Manager Murphy wants to “survey” ULowell and Middlesex College students to see what they want downtown because he thinks after touring Division 1 (Boston College) Football towns, Lowell’s Downtown could become a college town.

It is an interesting concept and should be interesting to see what exactly that survey shows.

I’m guessing one thing it will NOT show is a need for a food / beverage spot. Lowell’s downtown has plenty of bars / restaurants already and in case you haven’t noticed so does UMASS Lowell.

They also offer a little market (everything from snacks to shampoo!)

UMass Lowell Dining Services offers delicious, convenient, and varied dining options across campus. With twelve locations including:

Three dining halls
Two food courts
Taco Bell
Sal’s Pizza
P.O.D. Market- where you have the choice of made-to-order dinners to grab n’ go lunches, everything from snacks to shampoo!
Rowdy Zone

Most of these UMASS offerings are also Open to the public and there is a Starbucks on Drum Hill and at the Wang Tower. Don’t expect one to be opening up downtown.

So what else could students want? Having students drive your downtown seems risky, especially when they are transit.

Ted Panos and other downtown business people are whining about the number of section 8 housing units in the downtown and how these people don’t have disposable income.

They are correct but aren’t they bright enough (or are they bright enough?) to realize that many of the buildings in the downtown would have stayed empty if developers didn’t get Federal / State money or tax breaks that included these type of residents.

Would they rather have empty buildings? I don’t recall a whole bunch of people running into the City to buy/build these units until developers started building housing that included a portion for “affordable housing” and even then many would have remain unoccupied if they did not take in more people who qualified for assistance.

Did they forget that the economy went so bad even a proud /loud restaurant owner (?) in partnership with a Real estate guy canceled plans for expansion and developing condo’s in the downtown even after receiving approvals up through the Historic board!.

If these two guys gave up, why don’t they and others accept the fact that other business people had to change their original business plans to meet the economic conditions. Again would they have preferred seeing these businessman /developers fail and have empty buildings?

How about targeting businesses that these people can support? A Family Dollar, Family Specials on a Sunday or weekdays at some restaurants during the day or early evenings? A reasonable clothing or shoe outlet?

Let’s face it, Teddy is 100% correct when he says a Trader Joes or Chipotle isn’t moving in downtown because of the high franchise fee. So what can go in the downtown?

My guess is not much that will make a difference. With the ease of on-line shopping and the lack of interested brand names downtown Lowell will NEVER AGAIN BE A MAJOR RETAIL AREA.

The Manager may be correct and Lowell’s best option may be so see what the College students, business people who now work downtown and visitors who attend the Tsongas / MRTA and LMA might be interested in.

How about the option or possibility of closing some streets and make the downtown area a pedestrian mall (Market, Shattuck, Middle street area) and tie that in with the new Judicial Center / JAM PLAN Area and trying for some small boutiques and specialty shops based on the surveys of the High School / College students, present downtown workers and the Tsongas / MRTA and LMA visitors? That might be the way to go.

Give the Manager credit, he’s trying and reaching out to new businesses (he mentioned at least 2 this morning, listen to the Radio Replay if you missed it). Let’s see what he and his team can do.

1 thought on “Giving it the “Old College Try”

  1. I don’t know, Gerry, about Section 8 and disposable income being mutually exclusive. I’ll bet we will find that the guy busted on Middlesex street the other day is there with a subsidy, yet he had $3500 stashed in the apartment.

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