Council takes Mayo Group to task for Broad Street Project: Promises not kept in Downtown Renovation

November 21, 2014
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Usually when a developer invests $5 million into a dilapidated building to revive a neighborhood, local elected officials, residents and business owners are thrilled and excited.

Two years ago, when representatives of the Mayo Group appeared before the Council to request a special permit and variances to renovate the mixed-use building at 157 Broad Street, the Council was thrilled and supportive.

That support was due in large part to the Mayo Group’s “promises”, according to the Councilors, that the renovated residential units at 157 Broad Street would be marketed and rented as market-rate apartments for young professionals with easy access to public transit.

At-Large Councilor Brendan Crighton noted that he has spent much of the past two years telling prospective developers and businesses with an interest in coming to Lynn about the 157 Broad Street project and the promise of a revitalized downtown neighborhood with upscale apartments and ‘transit-oriented’ development.

However, now that the $5 million renovation is nearly complete and the residential units are ready for occupancy, the Mayo Group has agreed to a two-year lease to provide all of the 30-units to Centerboard, a Lynn-based non-profit that works with homeless families and ‘families in crisis.”

The arrangement with the Mayo Group means that the new housing units on Broad Street will now be used to house families enrolled in the Centerboard programs.

Instead of drawing new residents and families with disposable incomes that could help to grow the economy and local businesses of the downtown neighborhood, the 30-unit property will house families that need more services from the city and contribute to the impression that downtown Lynn is an economically depressed neighborhood.

Given the outcome, the City Council – led by Council President Dan Cahill, Crighton and Ward 6 Councilor Peter Capano – found itself in the unenviable position Tuesday night of having to call Mayo Group representatives on the carpet for their failure to deliver on their promises.

Jody Harrah, a property manager for the Mayo Group, appeared before the Council Tuesday night to answer questions about the project and lease arrangement, and ended up taking the heat for decisions that were made by upper management of the Mayo Group.

“I think this (lease arrangement) was just a matter of timing,” said Harrah, of the decision to lease to Centerboard. “We were finishing up with our project and were approached by the organization that had need for all 30-units, we looked at their proposal and it made sense.”

Harrah then talked briefly about the good work that Centerboard does helping “families in crisis,” which seemed only to enflame the Councilors even more.

“There’s a lot of compassion for the homeless here in Lynn and on this Council, we don’t need to be told about the need for services,” said Capano. “But, you’re forgetting that you made a commitment, you said one thing and you are doing something else. I haven’t heard you address what we’re bringing up here, which is your failure to abide by your commitment to the downtown area. To be honest, I don’t think your company cares one bit about then homeless, you only care about making money.”

Council President Cahill, asked Harrah to carry a message back to his superiors, “please share with your bosses that as far as I’m concerned, their credibility is shot with me.”

Striking a more direct tone, Councilor Darren Cyr added, “I’m sick and tired of people using and abusing the city of Lynn to benefit themselves and I think that is what has happened here. I can tell you that I will never again vote in favor of any request that is presented by the Mayo Group.”

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