By Amaris Castillo

Something the community hasn't seen much of drew the interest of Lt. Gov. Karyn Polito when she visited last fall.

It also became the topic of barbs tossed between Selectman Joseph DiRocco and challenger Phil Thibault during the run-up to the town election, in which DiRocco was re-elected.

The state's top economic-development official, Jay Ash, came to see for himself last week what the economic activity is all about.

Town Manager Jim Duggan, who promised economic development when he won the job in 2014, invited Ash, secretary of housing and urban development, to witness firsthand what has been done and what still needs to be done.

After meeting at Town Hall, the men drove with state Rep. Colleen Garry to the first stop -- The Arbors at Dracut, a multimillion-dollar assisted-living facility at 21 Broadway Road. Improvements were made to the intersection of Broadway and Loon Hill roads, the result of a $2.5 million MassWorks grant the town received from the state.

The second stop was the former Dracut Centre School/Town Hall Annex at 11 Spring Park Ave. -- the site where the Coalition for a Better Acre plans to build housing for working veterans. (See related article.)

"We're excited about it," Duggan told Ash of the project.

Peering up at the old building, Ash asked the town manager how many units are planned.

"We're going to have eight," Duggan responded. "We're getting rid of a lot of the pavement out front.


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We're going to have more beautification with more grass area. ... It's an exciting project."

As Duggan, Ash and Garry walked over to the side of the former Town Hall Annex, Garry pointed out that as a Dracut resident, she knows the importance of ensuring that the building remains standing.

"That's awesome," Ash said after Duggan wrapped up his briefing. "Congratulations for doing this."

The third and final stop was Lakeview Avenue, near the CVS at 2019 Lakeview Ave., in Collinsville. Duggan shared his hope that the area would become more of a center for town. He also pointed out the Collinsville fire station further down on Lakeview.

"That's a fire station?" Ash asked with his mouth agape.

"What we have -- one of the things at Town Meeting -- is to go for a debt exclusion for a new fire station," Duggan said.

The town manager said he's also in the process of applying for a $1.5 million MassWorks grant that would go toward improvements on Lakeview Avenue.

"I want to bring sidewalks and do parallel parking along the street," Duggan said, adding that he'd like to support local businesses by adding more parking.

After the tour, Ash said he was impressed by what he saw.

"We've invested money up here with the town, and I'm seeing the results of that," Ash said. "I'm seeing development happen. I'm seeing the infrastructure improvements they're adding to the economic vitality of the community, and it looks like there's lots of other opportunities."

Follow Amaris Castillo on Twitter @AmarisCastillo. Her email address is acastillo@lowellsun.com.