Thursday, November 12, 2015

$4.7M Lowell's Hamilton Canal Project

Baker Brings $4.7M more for Lowell's Hamilton Canal Project
By Grant Welker

LOWELL -- The Hamilton Canal District development seems to make advances nearly daily recently, and none may have been bigger than those on Wednesday.

The state has approved a $4.7 million grant to extend Broadway Street and utility lines into the northern half of the development, Gov. Charlie Baker announced in a press conference held in a gravel expanse in the middle of the project. Baker also signaled the state will move ahead on a new courthouse complex at the southern edge of the site, which is expected to cost $200 million.

Funds to build the courthouse had already been included in the governor's capital plan, and on Wednesday, Baker said construction of the long-anticipated courthouse could start in a year.

"We're thrilled by this partnership and excited to see it move forward," Baker said of the Hamilton Canal District.

Wednesday's announcement only adds to what has been a series of positive developments for the project. Until recently, the development had shown little progress compared to what was envisioned in a 2008 master plan as an $800 million mixed-use neighborhood.

 Lt. Gov. Karyn Polito addresses the crowd at Gov. Charlie Baker’s grant announcement for the Hamilton Canal District project on Wednesday afternoon
Lt. Gov. Karyn Polito addresses the crowd
at Gov. Charlie Baker's grant announcement
for the Hamilton Canal District project on
Wednesday afternoon in Lowell. Looking on
at rear are state Rep. Tom Golden, left,
and state Sen. Eileen Donoghue

Last month, two companies, Watermark and Genesis HealthCare, placed bids to build on parcels in the district. Two other developers, WinnCompanies and Anchor Line Partners, have bid to build on the rest of the property. Construction of the $35 million to $40 million Genesis building could start within a year.

A key agreement was also reached between the city and the Lowell Regional Transit Authority.  The aurthority will allow visitors buses to park next to the Gallagher Terminal, helping to allow for parking lots along Dutton Street to be developed as mixed-use space for the Hamilton Canal District.

Craig Thomas, the city's urban-renewal project manager, credited the infrastructure funding with being critical to the northern half of the project, which doesn't have utilities or easy road access.

"Not to overstate it, but it's extraordinary," he said of the effect the investment will have.

Baker visited Lowell District Court in July 2014 while campaigning for governor, and said then that he was committed to funding the new courthouse complex if elected. He said $12 million has already been spent on planning and design, site acquisition and utilities.

The most recent cost for the courthouse is $200 million. The latest plans for the building call for 246,000 square feet on seven floors and include 16 courtrooms and 41 holding cells.

The courthouse complex would replace the cramped and rundown District Court on Hurd Street and Superior Court on Gorham Street, and also hold probate, juvenile and housing courts.

More immediately, the state MassWorks grant will bring vehicular access and utilities into the portion of the development off Dutton Street. It will also pay for some roadways on the property and a temporary surface parking lot.

Officials said the infrastructure work will help kick-start construction. In addition to the Genesis building, Watermark, an engineering company, has said it will spend about $7.5 million and the city plans to spend about $30 million on a parking garage off Dutton Street.

Follow Grant Welker on Twitter and Tout @SunGrantWelker.

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