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Building Will Connect Campuses, Revitalize Area
LOWELL, Mass. - UMass Lowell announced today it has acquired the former St. Joseph’s Hospital in Lowell and will transform the property into a vibrant hub for students and the community.
University Crossing, as the property is now called, will offer an important connection point centrally located between UMass Lowell’s North, South and East campuses, and will provide much needed space for the growing university. UMass Lowell has seen a 30 percent increase in undergraduate students in the past three years.
The property, located at 220 Pawtucket St., has gone largely unused since 1992, attracting only a handful of smaller health-related operations since the hospital relocated as part of a merger. The site was acquired by the UMass Building Authority on behalf of UMass Lowell for $6.3 million from Whitestone Investment Properties. The property consists of six buildings totaling nearly 300,000 square feet that can be occupied, as well as 300 parking spaces in two lots that the university has been leasing.
Located between Merrimack and Salem streets in the city’s Acre neighborhood, the site is a half-mile from Lowell City Hall and is within walking distance to UMass Lowell’s three campuses and the downtown business and cultural district.
UMass Lowell will invest millions to rehabilitate the property and will begin occupying it as soon as possible, beginning with University Police and some administrative functions. While plans for the site have not been finalized, potential uses include space for student services and activities, community programs, classrooms and faculty offices, a centralized and expanded bookstore, student dining options such as a food court and student housing. The additional space will increase UMass Lowell’s total square-footage by 10 percent to top 3 million.
“Acquiring the former St. Joseph’s Hospital building will allow the university to link its North, South and East campuses at a central point. Through this purchase, UMass Lowell is again making a significant investment to revitalize a Lowell landmark that has been underutilized for too long,” said UMass Lowell Chancellor Marty Meehan. “We look forward to working with the city and neighborhood groups on plans to reinvigorate this vital area of Lowell.”
UMass Lowell has demonstrated a strong track record of making excellent improvements to important buildings in the community, most recently through acquisitions of the UMass Lowell Inn & Conference Center and the Tsongas Center at UMass Lowell, as well as with the renovation of the UMass Lowell Bellegarde Boathouse. Each project has proven to be positive for the local economy, community and university.
Eighty-five percent of local businesses surveyed want UMass Lowell to expand further in downtown Lowell, according to findings from the Lowell Plan-UMass Lowell Downtown Initiative. The report also found that UMass Lowell students, faculty and staff spending offers significant financial support to locally owned shops, restaurants and cultural venues. Members of the university community also donate thousands of hours of volunteer work to local organizations.
Across the region, UMass Lowell delivers $490 million annually in positive economic impact, including supporting thousands of local jobs and businesses, according to a separate report released last month by the UMass Donahue Institute. As part of this sale, the city will receive $440,000 in back taxes and water and sewer charges.
Despite the best efforts of the city and community since the hospital relocated in 1992, the property has not attracted significant private investment and the building has been under-occupied for much of the last 19 years.
“For the first time in decades, we will see this property used to its full positive potential,” said Lowell City Manager Bernie Lynch. “Through all recent projects, UMass Lowell has demonstrated its commitment to quality redevelopment that benefits not only the university and its students, but the entire community.”
Revitalization of the St. Joseph’s property is expected to spur greater foot traffic and activity in the surrounding neighborhood and downtown, stimulating redevelopment of the Merrimack Street corridor. The site is located near what will be the south landing of the new bridge that will be constructed to cross the Merrimack River at University Avenue, creating a new and inviting gateway into the neighborhood and other areas of the city on the same side of the river. The university’s new Emerging Technologies and Innovation Center, which is under construction, will be located on the opposite side of the new bridge on UMass Lowell’s North Campus.
UMass Lowell is working closely with neighborhood stakeholders and laying the groundwork for an innovative community partnership that will result in mutual benefits for all participants. A new Upper Merrimack Street Development Task Force will include representatives from the city and university, along with key businesses, nonprofit organizations and neighborhood groups in the nearby Merrimack and Salem/Market street corridors and adjacent streets.
The history of St. Joseph’s Hospital dates back to the Industrial Revolution, when 11 textile companies in the city established it as Lowell Corporation Hospital to serve employees and their families. During the Great Depression, the hospital was transferred to the Archdiocese of Boston and the Oblates of St. Mary’s, and the Grey Nuns of the Cross of Ottawa took over management and renamed it St. Joseph’s. In later years, the hospital was relocated to 220 Pawtucket St. ߝ the buildings on the site were constructed between the 1950s and 1990s ߝ and grew into a full-service community hospital before being merged with St. John’s Hospital to form Saints Medical Center in 1992 and vacating the Pawtucket Street site.
Over the 19 years since, the former St. Joseph’s property has been the site of a variety of other health-care operations. Most recently, it has been partially occupied by the New England Rehab Hospital’s 22-unit Lowell facility. Last month, New England Rehab received state approval to relocate to a new building on the D’Youville Senior Care property a few miles away.
UMass Lowell, with a national reputation in science, engineering and technology, is committed to educating students for lifelong success in a diverse world and conducting research and outreach activities that sustain the economic, environmental and social health of the region. The university offers its 14,000 students more than 120 degree choices, internships, five-year combined bachelor’s to master’s programs and doctoral studies in the colleges of Arts, Sciences, Engineering and Management, the School of Health and Environment, and the Graduate School of Education.www.uml.edu