By Jennifer Myers
2013 was a fun and busy year in Room 50. Here is a look back:
LRTA and City officials joined Mayor Patrick Murphy in opening the first of several new bus shelters. This one is at Lincoln Park on Chelmsford Street. Bus shelters were one of the initiatives brought forward by Murphy in his first term as a City Councilor, as part of his vision to increase accessibility, convenience and ease of public transportation.
Murphy invoked the Mayor of Bogota, Colombia, who last year said: “A developed country is not a place where the poor have cars. It is one where the rich use public transportation.”
The shelters were purchased by the LRTA using funding from a Federal Transportation Administration Grant from the U.S. Dept of Transportation. The city is responsible for installing and maintaining the shelters, eight of which are equipped with advertising cabinets — the revenue from which will offset the maintenance costs.
Mayor Murphy joined in a roundtable discussion with Attorney General Martha Coakley, City Manager Bernie Lynch, Assistant City Manager/Director of Planning and Development Adam Baacke, and other stakeholders regarding the impact of the foreclosure crisis on the city and region.
He was also on-hand at the grand opening of UMass Lowell ‘s NERVE (New England Robotic Validation and Experimentation) Center on Pawtucket Boulevard, under the direction of Professor Holly Yanco.
“As the University goes, so goes the city,” said Mayor Patrick Murphy, lauding the partnership between the city and university, a key to the region’s economic vitality.
And . . . at the grand opening of Lowell Community Health Center’s impressive $42 million 100,000 sq. foot headquarters in the Hamilton Manufacturing Co. mills at 161 Jackson Street. The LCHC serves 50,000 patients annually — half of the city’s population.
And, of course, Mayor Murphy easily led the School Committee’s human dogsled team to a crushing defeat of the City Council’s team at Winterfest.
Mayor Murphy participated in Read Across America at the Lincoln Elementary School along with several members of the Lowell Police Department including then-Superintendent Ken Lavallee and Deputy Superintendent Arthur Ryan Jr.
He also . . . got all dressed up and uh . . . told some jokes . . . at the annual St. Patrick’s Day breakfast at the UMass Lowell Inn and Conference Center.
Mayor Murphy joined City Councilor Vesna Nuon and students from the Lowell Community Charter Public School in celebrating Khmer New Year.
Later in the month, Mayor Murphy joined the Merrimack Valley chapter of Parents of Murdered Children in commemorating National Crime Victims’ Rights Week.
Muphy read from Irish poet Seamus Heaney’s “The Cure at Troy,” an adaptation of Sophocles’ play Philoctetes, which reads in part:
History says, Don’t hope
on this side of the grave.
But then, once in a lifetime
the longed for tidal wave
of justice can rise up,
and hope and history rhyme.
So hope for a great sea-change
on the far side of revenge.
Believe that a further shore
is reachable from here.
Believe in miracles
and cures and healing wells.
“As Mayor, I hope and pray for peace in our hearts and on the streets,” Murphy concluded.
Mayor Murphy participated in Lowell Cemetery’s annual Memorial Day Observance.
Mayor Murphy joined the Merrimack Valley Food Bank and then-USDA Northeast Region Regional Administrator James Arena-DeRosa (now running for Lt. Governor), at the Healthy Summer press conference at City Hall.
And celebrated St. Jean Baptiste Day and Franco-American Week with the city’s Franco-American community.
July was a month of multicultural celebration in the Mill City, starting with a ribbon cutting welcoming KhmerPostUSA, a bi-weekly Khmer/English newspaper to their new headquarters on Merrimack Street. The party continued with a Dominican flag raising at City Hall.
The event was organized by Pastor Rafael Najem of the Community Christian Fellowship, who has created a relationship with officials in several Dominican cities to bolster his parish’s efforts to aid the poor of that island nation. More than 100 people, including a delegation of 30 visiting from the Dominican Republic, as well as contingents from Spain and Holland attended.
And . . . of course, July in Lowell means — Folk Festival!!
August was BUSY . . . starting with a Puerto Rican flag raising.
Next on the agenda — a visit from U.S. Sen. Ed Markey. Mayor Murphy filled him in on his plan to build a walkway along Hale’s Brook which will connect to the Bruce Freeman Rail Trail.
And then there was the Lao flag raising at City Hall.
In the middle of the month, Mayor Murphy and City Manager Bernie Lynch welcomed the young men and women of the Career Center’s Van Crew to City Hall to thank them for the hard clean-up and landscaping work they did during the summer, in heat and in rain, in the city’s parks and green spaces.
Then, Canadian Consul General Patrick Binns visited City Hall to meet with Mayor Murphy and a contingent of Lowellians with Canadian roots.
August concluded with a press conference at the Gallagher Terminal announcing the LRTA would be expanding the hours of its nighty bus service, an expansion Mayor Murphy had championed for several years.
Murphy said he picked up where his grandfather, City Councilor George Murphy, left off 50 years ago.
George Murphy was a bus driver for the Eastern Bus Company, who used his platform as a city councilor, to advocate for expanded bus service.
“I’m happy to follow in that line,” said Mayor Murphy, adding that the LRTA has been a great partner with the city and very responsive to the needs of its residents, unlike Eastern Bus, who never complied with the elder Murphy’s requests.“The LRTA recognizes the importance of public transportation not only to our city, but the importance of public transportation to sustainable development for years to come.”
In mid-September Mayor Murphy enjoyed a visit by a second grade class from the Immaculate Conception School. He gave them the real scoop about the City Council . . . and tried to recruit a few of them to run for office.
And he was in attendance as UMass Lowell cut the ribbon on University Suites, a $54 million residence hall across the street from LeLacheur Park.
The boldly-colored 148,000 square-foot complex is home to 472 students, including members of the Commonwealth Honors Program. It includes 88 for-and-six bed suites with kitchenettes and living rooms.
Mayor Murphy joined city and state officials in welcoming Cortron back to Lowell.
Cortron, founded in 1969, designs and manufactures rugged keyboards used by the U.S. Armed Forces as well as NASA. Their work can be found in submarines, fighter jets and in outer space. The company had been located in Lowell, on Walker Street, until moving to Methuen in the late 1980′s.
Later that same day, Mayor Murphy visited the Boys and Girls Club of Greater Lowell to join in the celebration of the Worldwide Day of Play.
And that night was off to UTEC, for the Pollard Memorial Library’s “Lowell Reads What Lowell Writes Event,” where several Lowell authors including Paul Marion, Ryan Gallagher, Ricky Orng, Dave Robinson and Rachel Norton read from their work. Murphy read from the works of one of his favorite poets, Seamus Heaney.
In October it was time to christen the new housing units at Perkins Park.
The Residences @ Perkins Park, 47 market-rate one and two bedroom luxury apartments, sit on the site destroyed by the 1987 Lawrence Mills inferno.
The project, developed by Mira Development and Charter Environmental, joins their initial development the 183-unit Lofts at Perkins Park in the former Hub Hoisery and McQuade buildings (opened in 2009), as well as a 370-space parking garage, in bringing life back to that section of the neighborhood.
And there was the groundbreaking for the new splash pad that will be added to O’Donnell Park on Gorham Street, the site of the city pool that has been closed for several years, in the spring.
The project, spearheaded by City Councilor Marty Lorrey, also includes a renovation of the park’s tennis courts.
November saw the opening of Lowell Makes, a membership-driven collaborative space. A place where people can access and utilize tools and equipment too cost prohibitive to keep in their garage like laser cutters and 3D printers; a place to learn or practice trades like wood and metal working, or to get involved with electronics or software.
November also brought a very special visitor to Lowell. Former Irish President Dr. Mary McAleese visited and spoke at St. Patrick’s Church and later enjoyed a reception at the UMass Lowell Inn and Conference Center.
Mayor Patrick Murphy proclaimed Friday November 8 “Building Bridges Day” in the City of Lowell in honor of Dr. McAleese and presented her with the Key to the City.
And Murphy joined the Howe family in dedicating the new University Avenue bridge in honor of Richard P. Howe Sr., a 4-time Mayor who served on the Lowell City Council with distinction for 40 years.
The City Council Chamber hosted two very special occasions in November. The first happened on the 20th when Mayor Murphy presented Alfred Buckley with his Lowell High School diploma. Buckley, 67 of Pepperell, dropped out of school in 1963 to join the U.S. Army.
Under Massachusetts state law, school committees have the authority to issue high school diplomas to honorably discharged veterans who fought in World War II, the Korean or Vietnam Wars, who joined the Armed Forces prior to completing their high school graduation requirements.
Five days later, William Taylor, a 31-year veteran of the Lowell Police Department was sworn-in as Superintendent.
Later that week, Mayor Murphy was in the Acre, welcoming the Medeiros and Pol families to their new homes, which they helped build along with Habitat for Humanity on a Rock Street site donated by the city.
And in the downtown he welcomed Pawsitive Thoughts, a dog bakery and boutique to Central Street.
The month ended with one of the city’s signature events . . . the City of Lights parade.
Mayor Patrick Murphy led the countdown to flip on the lights at City Hall
The City of Lights wasn’t enough. We continued the party into December with the best Mayor’s Holiday Reception ever. More than 300 people who live and/or work in the city stopped by during the two-hour fete.
The food was the big draw — 12 types of eggrolls from the Eggroll Cafe, pad Thai from Viet Thai, an amazing cake from Cafe Pastiche and coffee and cider from Brew’d Awakening Coffeehaus.
The room was packed.
Mayor Murphy was at the Lowell Community Charter Public School on Friday December 13 to celebrate the life of former South African President and freedom fighter Nelson Mandela along with the African Cultural Association of Greater Lowell.
As the year came to an end, the promise of a delicious 2014 came into view, with the grand opening of El Potro, a new Mexican restaurant on Merrimack Street.
Fluatas de Pollo (chicken fluatas), chicken quesadilla and nachos.
As the year and the term come to an end, I’d like to thank all who have read this blog over the last year and 5 months. In that time, 255 posts were written, attracting more than 64,000 hits from 96 nations around the world.