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Boston Mayor Stresses Collaboration

October 6, 2018

Boston Mayor Marty Walsh addresses the crowd at the annual Lowell Plan breakfast on Friday. Lowell Sun/Chris Lisinski Sun staff photos can be ordered by visiting our SmugMug site.

LOWELL -- At first glance, Boston Mayor Marty Walsh might not seem like the most obvious choice to deliver keynote remarks about the future of Lowell.

Yet Walsh, speaking to The Lowell Plan’s annual breakfast Friday morning, said that Boston and Lowell are linked and should have a close relationship when it comes to drafting long-term plans and overseeing development. He urged both cities to work together heading into a future full of unknown challenges, suggesting they could “learn from each other.”

“What happens in Lowell affects Boston, what happens in Boston affects Lowell,” Walsh said. “I truly think it’s important for us that we look beyond our boundaries when we think about growth.”

Walsh joined hundreds of Lowell’s leaders, from city officials to UMass Lowell administrators to members of various small businesses, at the annual breakfast Friday. The event was designed to stress the importance of employing “vision” in drafting clear plans for the future.

The event featured updates on some of the key construction projects, such as a new justice center in the Hamilton Canal Innovation District scheduled to open in the fall of 2019, and half a dozen speakers.

U.S. Rep. Niki Tsongas praised The Lowell Plan’s work at bringing various advocate for strategic planning as so successful that both Fitchburg and Lawrence have emulated its model.

“I believe this approach has worked because it’s fostered a collaborative approach, as we all know so well, between the public and private sectors so that each sector brings its strength to the table,” Tsongas said.

Before introducing Walsh, Lowell Mayor Bill Samaras suggested the city could reach “the next level” with a unified collective vision. One effort he has taken, Samaras said, is to apply to UNESCO for Lowell to be recognized as a “Learning City.”

In his keynote remarks, Walsh shared his experiences overseeing planning efforts in Boston. He said the city had not had an overarching master plan since 1965 when he took office in 2014, but that a new version, Imagine Boston 2030, has since been drafted.

Walsh said he hopes to bring diverse voices into the fold so that municipal development is not decided solely by city employees and focused exclusively on economic development. In Boston, he said thousands of residents contributed to the drafting of Imagine Boston’s plans, stressing the need for improvements to transportation, housing and education.

“The bottom line is planning is no longer a group of smart people working on a drawing board,” Walsh said. “It’s a relentless collaboration and engagement. It’s the only way to get the knowledge and perspective that we need. It’s the only want to get buy-in from the community.”

Such a model, he said, could be replicable in communities across the state.

“The Lowell Plan and Imagine Boston 2030 are not different,” Walsh said. “The only thing different is The Lowell Plan is The Lowell Plan and Imagine Boston is about Boston. But the plan itself is about how do we advance all of our cities in Massachusetts.”

Follow Chris on Twitter @ChrisLisinski.

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