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Tech Center Still a Priority

By From the Lowell Sun

By Matt Murphy

BOSTON -- U.S. Sen. John Kerry said yesterday that finding stimulus money to help build UMass Lowell's emerging-technology center should be a top priority.

Kerry met with UMass Chancellor Marty Meehan in Washington last week to discuss the project, and remains hopeful that some stimulus money can be carved out for the $90 million center.

Kerry told The Sun yesterday that he placed a call to Gov. Deval Patrick to make sure the project received careful consideration.

"I wanted to make sure it was on his radar, and it is," Kerry said. "I can't tell you how much money we'll be able to get, but hopefully it will be enough to leverage borrowing of the rest."

Meehan announced on Friday that the university had been forced to back away from the project for now because of frozen credit markets. Construction of the new Emerging Technology and Innovation Center, slated to become the first new academic building on campus in more than 30 years, was scheduled to begin this spring.

Officials hoped the technology center could combine public research with private companies to spin off new products and more than 300 new jobs over five years.

The UMass Building Authority notified Meehan in late January that it has become impossible to borrow the $35 million needed to move forward with the project at an affordable interest rate in the current bond market.

State Sen. Steve Panagiotakos also said on Friday he planned to continue to fight for stimulus funding and hoped UMass Lowell could find a way to borrow some money at an affordable rate and make up the difference with federal dollars.