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Lowell Recognized for Canalway Cultural District

October 1, 2018

LOWELL -- When some outsiders think of the Mill City, they immediately picture abandoned mill buildings surrounding downtown.

But over the years, city officials and private developers have worked together to revitalize the area.

Now, Lowell is getting recognized for this turnaround.

The city’s Canalway Cultural District was recently named one of this year’s 15 Great Places by the American Planning Association.

The area was selected as one of five great neighborhoods across the country for its “thriving arts community, daily cultural activities, array of dining and shopping destinations, and status as one of the most beloved neighborhoods in the community,” the independent nonprofit announced earlier this week.

“Through dedicated, community-wide engagement efforts, Lowell’s Canalway Cultural District is a national example of how a community can work together to create access and opportunity for all,” Cynthia Bowen, APA president, said in a statement.

Designees are selected annually and represent the gold standard for a true sense of place, cultural and historical interest, community involvement, and a vision for the future, according to the educational organization. Other than neighborhoods, APA recognizes streets and public spaces.

City Manager Eileen Donoghue said this designation is a “testament to the thoughtful planning and efforts of the city and its many partners to make this district a vibrant neighborhood with eclectic shops and restaurants, cultural amenities, lively events, and the Lowell National Historical Park.”

Through partnerships between the city and private developers, the district’s revitalization has resulted in about $877 million in investment, the rehabilitation and re-occupancy of more than 3 million square feet of vacant downtown buildings, and the addition of more than 1,800 housing units.

Lowell continues to honor its past while moving toward a more sustainable future, officials said.

“We have quite the amazing story to tell,” said Andrew Shapiro, Lowell’s director of economic development. “This recognition gives us the confidence that the momentum will continue.”

Shapiro stressed that there is still plenty of work ahead, though.

In the future, he predicted that residents and visitors to the city will see many new places for people to live, work and play. The city will also be more pedestrian- and bike-friendly, he added.

“The city is working toward those ideals,” Shapiro said.

The other neighborhoods APA recognized were The Village of Shelburne Falls in Western Massachusetts, Guthrie Historic District in Oklahoma, Historic Downtown Georgetown in Texas, and Ghent in Norfolk, Virginia.

Follow Rick Sobey on Twitter @rsobeyLSun.

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