LOWELL -- The City Council on Tuesday night unanimously approved a plan to revitalize the long blighted Tanner Street corridor in the Ayers City section of Lowell.
Also on the economic-development front, the council approved two motions calling for the city to put a renewed focus on bringing a new hotel to Lowell, with a preference for one in the downtown.
The Ayers City Industrial Park plan approved by the Council calls for the cleanup and redevelopment of brownfields sites and 334,000 square feet of new development -- activity that could help generate as much as $1.38 million in new annual tax revenue.
Two new parks and a greenway, as well as improved access to Tanner Street, are also part of the plan that covers 108 acres of the corridor, which starts on Plain Street, across from the entrance to the Target plaza, and ends about a half-mile farther, at Howard Street.
The plan calls for a realignment of the southern end of Tanner Street so the intersection with Plain Street is moved away from the Lowell Connector on- and off-ramps, and into the new signal for the Meadow Brook Shopping Plaza, where Target is the anchor store. The plan will now be sent to the state Department of Housing and Community Development for approval.
"This is a tremendous thing going on here for an area that is very blighted," said City Councilor Corey Belanger, chairman of the body's economic-development subcommittee.
Two members of the public also spoke in support of the plan, which calls for the transformation of the Tanner Street corridor to take place over 20 years.
Carol McCarthy, co-chair of the Sacred Heart Neighborhood Improvement Group, said members of the public who attended meetings in which input was sought on the area's future agreed, "Tanner Street needs attention and some tender loving care."
Attorney Peter Lawlor, who represents the Levine family, which owns several parcels in the plan area, also encouraged Council support. He said he thinks the city's plan will enhance the value of the family's property and present new development opportunities.
Two residents spoke against the plan, concerned about industrial vehicles traveling from Gorham Street to Maple Street to Canada Street. The residents said they worried about the safety of children who play on Maple Street.
Councilor Rita Mercier originally requested a delay in the final vote on the plan so residents' concerns could be addressed.
Instead, the council agreed to ask City Manager Kevin Murphy to meet with the residents to try to address their concerns, while still moving the plan forward. Councilor James Milinazzo said the plan could always be amended if necessary.
The state's Department of Housing and Community Development is expected to review and potentially give approval of the plan within 60 days.
Belanger and Mercier filed the motions calling for a renewed effort to bring a hotel to the city. They said a new hotel could spur economic development.
"If we don't dream and we don't ask, nothing is going to happen," Mercier said.
Both said a developer reached out to them about the potential for a hotel at a property across from the Lowell Memorial Auditorium. Lowell developer David Daly purchased the property last year.
The city has been without a hotel-only facility in the downtown since UMass Lowell acquired the struggling DoubleTree Hotel in 2009. The university does offer 32 hotel rooms at its new Inn & Conference Center during the academic year, and more than 250 during the summer.
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