Expert details Lynn’s strengths

By Thor Jourgensen | The Daily Item | October 24, 2012

A consultant who has already worked with local businesses on development ideas told City Councilors the city needs to hire an “omsbudsman” to help attract potential developers.

“You need someone who can work hand-in-glove with firms, who can act as sort of an omsbudsman,” said Barry Bluestone.

Bluestone, director of Northeastern University’s Dukakis Center of Urban and Regional Policy, led a detailed self-assessment discussion with 25 local business representatives in spring 2011 and came back to the city last month to tout the city’s potential at a Lynn Business Partnership forum.

Starting in January, Bluestone will lead a team of six Center experts who will work with city officials and business representatives for a year.

“You need to tell us, ‘How can we help?’” he said.

Council President Timothy Phelan invited Bluestone to Tuesday night’s council meeting and called the omsbudsman suggestion “a great idea.” He is not sure if the role should be filled by a current city official, like the Economic Development and Industrial Corporation director, or with a new city hire.

“You need someone who is leading the vision,” Phelan said.

Bluestone called Lynn a “community in motion” that is rebuilding itself to be one of Massachusetts’ great cities with particular focus on its waterfront.

“A new waterfront could be the most exciting development in Massachusetts. It could be a whole new community for young people and new firms,” he said.

View a map of potential development on Lynn’s waterfront

To attract businesses to the city, Bluestone said municipal officials must know “what makes business tick” and be prepared to meet their needs.

Councilors took steps last month to push for sped-up permitting reviews on the waterfront and in City Hall. They approved Phelan’s proposal to create a permit processing review committee and approved an accelerated state approval process for five waterfront sites.

One – South Harbor near the General Edwards Bridge – is slated for potential high-rise development centered around residential and commercial uses.

Tuesday night’s Council Chamber audience included Pat McGrath, who owns nine of South Harbor’s 27 acres, as well as Mayor Judith Flanagan Kennedy and Lynn Area Chamber of Commerce President Ralph Sevinor.

Bluestone said current permitting processes are “better than average” compared to other communities and the city has an attractive list of office space. The city’s emphasis on the arts and proximity to Logan International Airport as well as colleges are pluses for the city.

Cahill said efforts by different organizations to improve workforce skills locally should be counted among the city’s strengths.

Ward 6 Councilor Peter Capano said those groups include the North Shore Labor Council and New Lynn Coalition.

“We have a lot to offer,” he said.

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