METHUEN — Mayor Stephen Zanni is pleased to announce that Methuen hosted a presentation outlining a new action plan for the city’s downtown today.
Building upon the work of a Visioning Committee appointed by the Mayor in 2014, members of the Department of Economic & Community Development, along with the city’s design firm, Harriman, discussed improvements and development opportunities for Methuen with a group of elected officials, community members and downtown stakeholders during meetings at 11 a.m., 3 p.m. and 6 p.m. at City Hall.
Officials proposed new zoning for the downtown and the adoption of the Smart Growth Zoning Overlay District Act (Chapter 40R). This would give the city the ability to create mixed-use buildings at existing and new locations to further encourage shopping, residential and cultural opportunities that meet 21st century needs.
Chapter 40R allows communities to implement overlay districts — a modification to zoning currently in place that promotes both residential and commercial development and rewards municipalities with additional state funding opportunities after adoption.
“Our goal with 40R is to better utilize the space we have in the city to best allow for economic development growth,” Mayor Zanni said. “We want downtown Methuen to be an attractive place where businesses have the best opportunity to flourish and visitors are compelled to stop and experience all we have to offer.”
Given the downtown’s makeup of historic buildings and location near the picturesque Spicket River, along with its easy access to major highways and the amount of available municipal-owned land, Methuen is an ideal community for 40R zoning.
In addition to new zoning, the city identified future projects and initiatives to support five new planning objectives:
• Support and attract a set of complementary uses that will foster a full and vital downtown.
• Retain and reuse historic buildings so that they contribute to the character and economic success of the district.
• Provide access, views, amenities and places along the river as a distinguishing feature of the downtown.
• Reorganize streets, intersections, crosswalks and sidewalks to make the district more convenient, safe and easier to navigate.
• Create an eminently walkable downtown that is interesting and pleasant for pedestrians.
Future projects will include the construction of the Methuen Rail Trail this year and funding for streetscape and lighting improvements throughout the downtown.
The city also identified potential development sites throughout the proposed district, including new construction of mixed-use development projects in Methuen Square, Five Corners (intersection of Lowell, Osgood, Pelham and Railroad streets and the Central Fire Station), Four Corners (intersection of Lowell, High and Hampshire streets) and along the Spicket River.
If the city moves forward with 40R zoning and other initiatives in the plan, it could create:
• Up to 600 new residential units (450 in new construction and 150 in renovated historic buildings) to create the necessary foot traffic and critical mass to support new business growth
• Up to 80,000 square feet of retail/commercial space (60,000 in new construction and 20,000 in renovated historic buildings).
• Up to a half-mile of new Riverfront walks.
• Up to a quarter mile of the Methuen Rail Trail within the downtown area (over a mile within the city boundaries).
“This action plan gives us a blueprint to revitalize our historic downtown and positions Methuen to receive additional funding and resources to implement our vision,” said William Buckley, Director of Economic and Community Development. “The new zoning will help to unlock the development potential that exists throughout the area to create a downtown we can be proud of. New private investment is required to achieve that. So much potential is there.”