James Cowdell, executive director of EDIC Lynn, is an unabashed and unrepentant fan of the city he has called home for his entire life. Cowdell was educated, married and raised his family here, and he is a 20-year veteran of the City Council, where he served for 10 years as Council President.
“I love this city,” said Cowdell, during a recent sitdown with the Lynn Journal. “I believe in this city.”
Cowdell resigned from the city council and left his job at Bridgewell in 2006, when then-mayor Edward “Chip” Clancy appointed him to take the helm of EDIC (Economic Development and Industrial Corporation) as Executive Director.
“I’ve been here for seven years, and I love it,” said Cowdell.
Working with the Lynn Community Development Office and its director James Marsh, Cowdell and the city have focused on two areas of the city over the last seven years, the downtown and the waterfront.
“The vision for the downtown goes back to the early 2000’s when the city decided to take a bunch of these old factory buildings, left over from Lynn’s history as the shoe manufacturing capital, and turned them into residential buildings,” explained Cowdell.
That vision led to several successful re-development projects – mostly helmed by developers like RCG and Mayo – and resulted in more than 200 new residents of the city living in downtown.
“Those new residents are changing the landscape of downtown Lynn and helping to remake the city,” noted Cowdell. “Because of that, we’re starting to see new restaurants and additions to the city’s nightlife, it’s an exciting place to be and a place that people want to live in now.”
Last year, the city added to the liveability of the downtown neighborhood by establishing one of the city’s first arts and culture districts. A program of the Massachusetts Cultural Council, the state’s Cultural District designation the city the ability to organize its available cultural resources, develop brochures and maps and market the city to people who are looking for arts and culture activities.
“We also have the added benefit of the Lynn Auditorium (in City Hall), which Jamie Marsh and the Community Development department has done a wonderful job with,” said Cowdell. “It’s really rare to have the kind of resource as a municipal space and it has been great for our downtown area.”
With redevelopment and revitalization in the downtown going so well, the city is now ramping up its focus on the waterfront, with several good projects already underway, including the Lynn ferry pier and the Aquasino.
“Four to five years ago, nobody was talking about our waterfront, but we’ve moved the power lines that used to run along the waterfront and now, we’re seeing excitement and enthusiasm for developing down there,” said Cowdell.
Cowdell said that with $6 million in state and federal grant funding already invested, the goal is to have an operating ferry service from Lynn by next summer (2014).
That coupled with continued discussions and interest in several undeveloped waterfront sites, Cowdell sees Lynn’s waterfront as the next logical place for rapid growth and development in the city.
“My job is to sell Lynn, and that is an easy sell for me, because I believe in it,” said Cowdell.