MSBA approves LHS Plan, Project One Step Closer

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On April 10th, the Board of Directors of the Massachusetts School Building Authority officially approved Lowell High School‘s budget and scope and committed $210 million in state funds towards the project.

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Mayor William Samaras, City Manager Eileen Donoghue, State Senator Edward Kennedy, and school committee members Dominik Lay and Robert Hoey were in attendance for the board meeting at MSBA’s headquarters in Boston.

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State Senators Ed Kennedy of Lowell and Diana DiZoglio of Methuen look at the agenda.  DiZoglio attended to show support for the Pentucket School in her district but also expressed support for the Lowell High School project as well

 

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Last month, LHS project team members hosted a public forum at the Lowell Senior Center to present updates on the project including some of the latest renderings of the new building and campus in the heart of Lowell’s downtown.

 

 

Update on Lowell High School Project

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At Tuesday’s Lowell City Council meeting, representatives from Skanska and Perkins Eastman provided the council and the audience with an update on the Lowell High School project, including the latest renderings and a fly-through video of what the school and campus will look like when completed.

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In the 2017 municipal election, voters of Lowell supported a nonbinding referendum for building a new high school in Downtown Lowell by a margin of 7,254-4,629.  In May of 2018, the Lowell City Council supported Option 3A, a mix of new construction and reconstruction in an expanded downtown location by a margin of 8-1.

For the latest updates on the Lowell High School Building project including design presentations and the upcoming project timeline visit www.lowellhsproject.com

UPDATED (2/1): LHSDowntown.com has relaunched with more coverage of the project.

A Collaborative Corridor

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With so many recent tales of innovation and entrepreneurship success stories, there certainly is a lot happening along Route 3.

And since 2012, the Middlesex 3 Coalition has been a key contributor to that activity in the City of Lowell and our neighboring towns of Bedford, Billerica, Burlington, Chelmsford, Lexington, Tewksbury, Tyngsborough and Westford.  The coalition communities share a common goal of fostering economic development, job growth and retention, diversification of  the tax base and enhancement of quality of life.  Members include stakeholders in local government, business, finance, education and development who have  combined resources to promote the competitive advantages of the region and advance the economic vitality of the corridor.

mayorThe Middlesex 3 Coalition held their first “What’s Happening in Middlesex 3” meeting of 2019 at UMass Lowell’s Innovation Hub on Thursday, January 10th.  These monthly events provide a chance for the membership of Middlesex 3 to learn about updates on the goings on in each of the nine member communities.

Mayor William Samaras was on hand to both welcome guests to the city as well as tout the recent advancements in the Hamilton Canal Innovation District, noting that 110 Canal St was now officially 100 percent occupied, that Winn Development was progressing on their mixed use buildings–the first new private new construction in the district, the installation of the signature bridge that will allow for travel between both sides of the canal, and of course the continuing construction of the massive Lowell Judicial Center.

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While economic development is sometimes looked at as a competition among municipalities, the truth is each city and town still has to exist within a larger regional ecosystem.  The collaborative approach taken by Middlesex 3 helps ensure that communities and cross-community stakeholders work as partners in developing the entire Route 3 corridor.

“In Lowell we know that public-private partnerships are a most important part of our success” the Mayor noted during his remarks, “By us working together, we will all be stronger and have a better future.”

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Middlesex 3’s executive director, Stephanie Cronin provided the guests with a brief overview of the organization.

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UMass Lowell’s Vice Provost for Innovation and Workforce Development, Steve Tello and Associate Vice Chancellor, Industry Partnerships & Economic Development Arlene Parquette discussed new initiatives for corporate partnerships with the university, including a tour of the medical device incubator M2D2, the technology accelerator in the Innovation Hub, and the new Fabric Discovery Center, a collaborative research center for development and testing of smart materials.

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Guests also heard a presentation on Entrepreneurship for All (EforAll) by Lianna Kushi, the executive director of EforAll’s Lowell-Lawrence location.  Founded in 2011 as the Merrimack Valley Sandbox, EforAll is a non-profit organization who is accelerating economic and social impact through entrepreneurship in mid-sized cities.  As noted on this blog, several EforAll graduates have opened new businesses in Lowell in recent years.  Mayor Samaras is scheduled to visit EforAll later this month.

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The M3 coalition recently hosted a similar event at Middlesex Community College’s new Donahue Academic Arts Center back in October, which was attended by Lowell City Council Vice Chairman, Vesna Nuon.  The October meeting featured updates on important transportation and infrastructure projects ongoing in the City of Lowell.

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What’s Happening in Middlesex 3/October 2018 w/ Vice Chair Vesna Nuon

m3kickoffThe Middlesex 3 Coalition was launched in October 2012 as a new type of nonprofit organization supported by the Massachusetts Office of Housing and Economic Development that would bring together a wide range of stakeholders including municipal leaders, colleges and universities, as well as real-estate professionals and nonprofit organizations.

Originally consisting of five communities (Burlington, Bedford, Billerica, Chelmsford and Lowell), the group has now expanded along the highway as far north as Tyngsborough and south as Lexington.  Former City Manager Bernie Lynch was one of the founding board members of the group and continues to support the effort as a sponsor and emeritus board member.

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Bernie Lynch at Middlesex 3 (Photo Credit: Jen Myers)

The wide range of projects that Middlesex 3 has undertaken have included efforts to improve infrastructure, obtain grants, streamline permitting, identify available parcels for development and advocate for economic development legislation.  The group has also hosted roundtable and panel discussions on important regional public policy topics including the North South Rail Link.  The 2013 Small Business Resource Fair hosted by Middlesex 3 at CrossPoint was featured in the original Room 50 blog.

In 2016, the City of Lowell and seven other Middlesex 3 communities entered into a community compact with the Baker Administration to look into transportation issues along the corridor.

The core values of Middlesex 3 are:

  • Regional collaboration to benefit the communities
  • Commitment to quality of life, education, employment opportunities and diversity for our residents
  • Sustainability
  • Commitment to education
  • Thought leadership
  • Alignment of business goals with community goals
  • Receptivity and customer service

With a focus on regionalization, transportation, and economic development, Middlesex 3’s mission truly aligns with many of the priorities that Mayor Samaras has sought to champion during his term in office.   To learn more about the Middlesex 3 Coalition be sure to check out www.middlesex3.com/ 

2018-2019 City Council Inauguration and Swearing In of Mayor Samaras

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As we prepare to kick off year two of Return to Room 50, here’s a flashback to the very first day of the term of Mayor William J. Samaras, the 91st mayor of Lowell, Massachusetts.

The 2018-2019 Lowell City Council and School Committee were inaugurated on January 2nd, 2018.

Prior to the meeting, guests and dignitaries assembled in the Mayor’s Reception Room.  In addition to the four who currently serve on the City Council several other former mayors were in attendance including (then) State Senator Eileen Donoghue (1998-2002), Bill Martin (2006-2008), and Patrick Murphy (2012-2014).

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Patrick Murphy talks with outgoing Mayor Edward Kennedy

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Returning Councilor Vesna Nuon, new Councilor Karen Cirillo, and former Assistant to Mayor Patrick Murphy, Jen Myers

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James Ostis, Patrick Murphy, Vesna Nuon (Photo: Jen Myers)

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Outgoing Mayor Edward Kennedy and his family

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Mayor Samaras receives his boutonniere

The dignitaries then proceeded to the Council Chamber for the Inauguration ceremony.

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Per custom, the City Clerk presides over the inaugural meeting.

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City Clerk Michael Geary

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After the Clerk explained the format of morning’s proceedings, Lowell High School’s chorus and ROTC Color Guard performed the national anthem.

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The City Clerk read an official notice of election results to signify the nine city councilors that had been elected in the November election.  The elected councilor’s names were then called in a roll call by the Assistant City Clerk before the official Oath of Offices was administered by The Honorable Stacey J. Fortes, 1st Justice of Lowell District Court.

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Following the oath of office, the new council is invited to sign into the Clerk’s register.

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The first order of business in any term is the election of Mayor.  Under Plan E government, the mayor is one of nine city councilors elected to his or her post by a vote of the City Council as the first official business of the two year term.

William Samaras was officially chosen as the next mayor of Lowell through a vote of his colleagues by a 5-4 margin during his third term on the Lowell City Council.  As the last name in alphabetical order, Mayor Samaras actually got to cast the deciding vote himself.

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Following Justice Fortes’ administration of the Mayor’s Oath of Office, Mayor William Samaras made his inaugural address to the City.

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Text from Mayor Samaras’s Remarks:

First, I want to thank my fellow councilors for their support in allowing me to be the mayor of the City of Lowell.  Since coming on the city council, I have come to realize one thing.  I am part of a team.  And each of the members of the council is important to the well-being of the city.  We are all here to represent our constituents.  However, in a number of cases, we have a difference of opinion in how to reach our goals.  But that difference of opinion and our willingness to work together gives us the strength to do what is best for the city. 

I realize the position of mayor of the City of Lowell is in some ways in ceremonial, as we do have a city manager who is the chief executive for the city.  But the role of Mayor is an integral position of civic leadership in the Plan E system in that he or she becomes the voice of the city council.  Nobody embodied the importance of that role more than our outgoing mayor, Edward Kennedy.  I think we can all agree, Mayor Kennedy’s leadership truly made a difference.  If it weren’t for his efforts to ensure the people’s voices were heard on the future of Lowell High School, we would be in a very different position today.  In November, those voices were heard loud and clear.

Now that the voters have given this city council guidance on the location, it is up to this city council to ensure that we build the best Lowell High School that we can.  That is why I support Downtown Option 3. 

The question of Lowell High School has always been more than just a political issue for me.  For 19 years, Lowell High School was my passion and my life’s work.  As the former headmaster of Lowell High School, I can only hope that my background is a benefit to the process and not a hindrance or a problem.  I plan to approach the issue of Lowell High School as mayor as I did as headmaster for 19 years, with an emphasis on equity and opportunity, and always putting the students first. 

That having been said, I realize that the issue of the high school question has been contentious and at times divisive.  I feel that over the next two years we all must work together to bring this community back together. 

There are also many other issues that this city council will have to deal with.  We will continue working on the good work already achieved on public safety and economic development.  As a city councilor for the past four years, I have seen that much of the most important work city councilors do is through the subcommittee process.  With that experience in mind, as mayor, I propose the establishment of several new subcommittees to meet the evolving needs of our community. 

One would be a subcommittee on senior citizen issues to ensure that some of our most vulnerable citizens have a voice in this administration.  Likewise, we need to also establish a subcommittee to deal with issues related to nonprofit organizations.  In order for Lowell to thrive we need ongoing constructive communication between the city and these important partners. 

We have also already established an ad hoc subcommittee that is looking at Lowell’s election laws and processes.  Government works best when it is reflective of the people it serves.  As the mayor I am fully committed to seeing that vision realized. 

Finally, I would like to end by talking about partnerships.  Lowell is very fortunate to have some of the strongest partnerships in the Commonwealth.  Historically, because of these partnerships, Lowell has positioned itself to be one of the best midsized cities in the country.  And those partnerships that I speak about include the Lowell Plan—a group of local businessmen and businesswoman who have come together to work towards the best interests of the city. 

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Together we have achieved some very important economic initiatives including the building of the LeLacheur Park and the Tsongas Arena.  We also have an important partnership with the University of Massachusetts Lowell, which has been instrumental in helping many major companies relocate to the city.  Middlesex Community College has been an agent of opportunity and provided the region with a trained workforce that possesses the skills needed for the 21st century.  As the mayor I will work to ensure that these partnerships are maintained and strengthened, as I feel they are a vital component of what makes Lowell successful.

Let me close by saying, I do realize that as mayor I am just one of nine.  But I do believe that in working together, this new council will create the atmosphere needed for Lowell’s future growth and development. I have often spoke of my mentor, Dr. Patrick Mogan.  Pat had a phrase that has stuck with me for many years—it was always about taking things to “the next level.”  Together, I feel this city council will be able to take the City of Lowell to the next level, and I am humbled to be tasked with being a part of it. 

 

Following the Mayor’s speech, the next order of business was the election of the Council’s vice chair.  The vice chair is chosen in the same format as mayor, with a majority of five votes needed for the appointment.

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City Councilor Vesna Nuon who had served on the council from 2012-2013 and returned after a four year absence by topping the ticket in the 2017 election was chosen as the council’s vice chair.

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Freshman Councilor Karen Cirillo joined the long-established tradition of signing the inside of her council desk.

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Immediately following the City Council inauguration is a similar ceremony for the School Committee.  The Mayor is added to the six elected school committee members as the chair of that body.

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The membership then chooses a vice chair among the remaining committee members.  Jackie Doherty was named as the vice chair of the 2018-2019 Lowell School Committee.

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School Committee Vice Chair Jackie Doherty

At the conclusion of the formal ceremonies, the Mayor hosted an inaugural luncheon at Cobblestones for friends and family of the new council, as one last celebration before getting to work.  The first meeting of the 2018-2019 term was less than six hours later.

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The 90th and 91st Mayors of Lowell, Massachusetts

 

City Hall Holiday Open House! 12/11/18

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Please join Mayor William Samaras, City Manager Eileen Donoghue, and the entire City of Lowell at the 2018 Lowell City Hall Holiday Open House.  The annual tradition returns with an evening of food, entertainment, and general holiday cheer!

The party begins at 4:00 p.m. on Tuesday December 11th.  To help get into the mood, here are a few photos from City Hall receptions held in years past.

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2017 City Hall Holiday Open House Highlights included the public unveiling of Edward Kennedy’s mayoral portrait.

An annual favorite of the City Hall Reception is of course: Henri the Magnificent! 

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There will be music…

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…and food…

And most of all, great company!

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Oh yeah..and the Big Guy will be in the house too:  Santa Claus!

So please stop by tomorrow for the festivities!

For even more photos check out the Original Room 50 Blog’s coverage of Mayor Patrick Murphy’s Holiday receptions in 2012 and 2013

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Celebrating a true Great Place

In September, Lowell’s Canalway Cultural District was recognized as one of the Great Neighborhoods in America by the American Planning Association–one of only five such designated in the entire country this year.  On October 9th, Mayor William Samaras formally accepted the award on behalf of the city in a packed mayor’s reception room ceremony prior to that evening’s City Council Meeting.

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The APA describes Lowell as follows:

Lowell has evolved from the nation’s largest industrial center to one of the most exciting cultural centers in Massachusetts, one of 44 cultural districts in the state. Lowell’s Canalway Cultural District is defined by a thriving arts community, daily cultural activities, and an array of dining and shopping destinations. Through partnerships between the city and private developers, the district’s revitalization has resulted in the creation of over 80 new jobs and a total investment of over $4 million. Lowell continues to value its rich natural and cultural treasures, honoring its past while looking ahead towards a more sustainable future.

Generally encompassing Lowell’s downtown core, the Canalway Cultural District is bounded to the northeast by the Merrimack River, running south along Brown and Howe Streets, then running west along the Concord River and Lower Pawtucket Canal, until hitting Central Street.  Bounded by Middlesex street to the south, Thorndike Street and Dummer Street to the West, and then along the Merrimack Canal until returning to the Merrimack River.

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Andrew Shapiro gives the overview of the program

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Canalway Cultural District: Lowell, Massachusetts

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Since the 1970s, Lowell has seen a remarkable rebirth and revitalization. The designation of the Lowell National Historical Park in 1978 as the nation’s first urban National Park, along with complementary local and state efforts to promote historic preservation, heritage tourism, and economic renewal stimulated a restoration of the downtown. An early 1980s wave of immigration, especially from Southeast Asia, Africa, and Latin America, enabled Lowell to carry on its proud tradition of drawing upon the vitality of its immigrant communities.  More recently, through the diversification of its local economy, the City’s job base has broadened beyond its traditional manufacturing core.  Emerging technology, education, healthcare, and creative economy sectors have contributed to Lowell’s recent vibrancy and renewed spirit of innovation.

Plans, such as the Lowell Downtown Evolution Plan by urban designer Jeff Speck, and the City’s Sustainable Lowell 2025 Master Plan, inspired projects and initiatives that have helped the Canalway Cultural District become what it is today.  The City of Lowell has utilized City, State, and Federal funding, such as Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) funds, to implement improvements that made the downtown safer, more pedestrian friendly, and attractive.  Streets were resurfaced and painted with bicycle lanes, sidewalks and ADA accessible curb cuts were added, and improvements were made to canal and river walkway, and wayfinding signage was added to increase multimodal accessibility.  These improvements enhanced access to businesses, cultural facilities, and historic sites.  Historic character has been embraced and enhanced through resetting of cobblestone streets, planting trees, hanging planters, installing Victorian-style streetlights, and landscaping around City Hall.

Following the recommendation of the Lowell Downtown Evolution Plan, two-way traffic operations were successfully restored to several downtown streets in 2014, increasing accessibility, wayfinding, and the desirability of retail storefronts.  The vibrancy of the neighborhood is seen in the variety of retail, the embrace of diverse cultures and the arts, the multitude of community events, and the over 500,000 people visiting each year to enjoy what the District offers.  These results could not have been realized without the creative and thoughtful planning by the City and residents.

Defining Characteristics & Features

  • From the nation’s largest industrial center to one of the most exciting cultural centers in Massachusetts, Lowell’s Canalway Cultural District is defined by a thriving arts community, daily cultural activities, and an array of dining and shopping destinations.
  • Lowell has protected canals within the city and has often leveraged them to generate new development or redevelopment. The Merrimack Riverwalk, a $3.5 million walkway along the historic “Mile of Mills” on the Merrimack River connects the University of Massachusetts at Lowell, LaLacheur Park; the City’s minor league baseball facility, and the Paul E. Tsongas Center with the City’s Central Business District in the Canalway Cultural District.
  • Two farmers’ markets operate in the Canalway Cultural District: one at Lucy Larcom Park and another at Mill No. 5. The Lowell Farmers Market (Lucy Larcom Park) accepts SNAP dollars and provides transportation for seniors from the Lowell Senior Center.
  • Millions of square feet of mill buildings throughout the District, which were once home to thriving manufacturing operations, have been adaptively repurposed into residential, office, and mixed-use properties. One shining example of this in the Canalway Cultural District is Western Avenue Studios, which is home to the largest artist community on the eastern seaboard of the U.S. The five acre complex and its varied brick mill buildings are home to over 300 artists in 250 work only studios and 50 live/work lofts.

By the Numbers

  • The Canalway Cultural District of Lowell is one of 44 Cultural Districts in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, all of which were designated through the Massachusetts Cultural Council’s Cultural Districts Initiative.
  • The 158 acre District is host to 100+ free public and private events, performances, and activities.
  • Through the Department of Energy’s “Better Buildings Program,” 500,000 square feet of downtown historic commercial space has been retrofitted for a projected energy savings of 31 percent.
  • Since 2000, the City has worked with private developers to facilitate the rehabilitation and re-occupancy of over 3,000,000 square feet of vacant downtown buildings.
  • Since 2000, over 1,800 units have been added to the downtown’s residential inventory. These projects represent a total investment of approximately $877 million.
  • The Lowell Development and Financial Corporation’s Downtown Venture Fund has financed over 40 new businesses in downtown Lowell, representing an investment of approximately $4.25 million.
  • The Canalway Cultural District includes a 15 acre area currently undergoing redevelopment called the Hamilton Canal Innovation District, which will create nearly 2 million square ft. of new building space (potentially creating 400 to 1,800 new permanent jobs), over 700 new units of housing, up to 55,000 square feet of retail, and up to 450,000 square feet of commercial/office space.

 

MassHire: New Name, Same Great Service

On September 10th, the Career Center of Lowell officially became the MassHire Career Center Lowell.  Mayor William Samaras joined Career Center and GLWIB staff,  State Representative Tom Golden, and Secretary of Labor and Workforce Development Rosalin Acosta at a ribbon cutting celebration to mark the new name.

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MassHire is a new brand unifying the entire Massachusetts Workforce Development System under a single name and shared mission.

 

Commissioned by the Executive Office of Labor and Workforce Development (EOLWD), the rebranding signifies the state’s commitment to increasing meaningful career opportunities for job seekers and expanding the talent pool for businesses seeking trained, skilled employees.

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MassHire Lowell Career Center’s staff remains dedicated to creating trust and reliability by consistently delivering high quality professional services for those they serve.

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Solarize (Plus) Lowell!

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On the morning of July 30th, Mayor Bill Samaras welcomed partners at the Massachusetts Clean Energy Center, the Department of Energy Resources, and Lowell’s Sustainability Council to the Mayor’s Reception Room at Lowell City Hall for an announcement of Lowell’s entry into the Solarize Mass Plus program.

A partnership between the Massachusetts Clean Energy Center (MassCEC), the Department of Energy Resources (DOER) and local communities, Solarize Mass reduces the overall cost of solar in municipalities across the state, helping residents save as much as 21 percent on solar pricing compared to the statewide average.

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In attendance were Chief Executive Officer of the Massachusetts Clean Energy Center, Stephen Pike and Massachusetts Department of Energy Resources Commissioner Judith Judson.

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“Lowell is excited to receive the Solarize Mass Plus grant, especially since participating in this program aligns with the commitment of the City to build a more sustainable future” noted the Mayor.

This is just the latest announcement in a longstanding commitment by the city  renewable energy promotion and adoption.

Lowell has been recognized as a SolSmart Gold-designated community for its leadership in making solar faster, cheaper, and easier to install.

Last year, the City Council passed a resolution to achieve 100% renewable energy by 2035.

The City of Lowell also hosts nearly 9.4 megawatts of solar panels. Over the years, these panels have generated nearly 50 million kilowatt hours of renewable energy, resulting in close to $1.9 million in utility bill savings.

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MassCEC CEO, Stephen Pike

Through this program, the city is looking forward to helping residents realize the benefits of solar energy while helping Lowell move towards our renewable energy goals.

 

The mayor highlighted the cost-savings benefit of this approach, “the Solarize model allows our community to go solar in the most economical way possible.”

Lowell will also participate in the “Plus” part of the Solarize program. This will educate and engage the community on the benefits of air source heat pumps as a complimentary technology for solar. These heat pump systems can produce significant energy, cost, and emissions savings from high cost heating sources like oil and electric resistance.

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Massachusetts DOER Commissioner Judith Judson

Over the next several months, the community will have the chance to learn more about these technologies. Dedicated municipal staff and volunteers will be participating in multiple community events where our residents can ask questions and learn more about the benefits of moving toward cleaner, greener electricity and heating options.

The mayor closed by thanking the volunteers and noting the road ahead, “We know there is still a lot of work to do, but I have confidence that with this team and this program, we will successfully increase the adoption of clean energy technologies in the City of Lowell and continue to be a model for other communities to follow.”

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Mayor Samaras chats with Commissioner Judson

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Lowell Sustainability Council chair Jay Mason and Yun-Ju Choi of Coalition for a Better Acre attended the announcement ceremony on July 30th

For more information on the Solarize Lowell program, check out this video produced by LTC: