Dorm Proposal Exposes Rift
Banker & Tradesman | By Jay Fitzgerald
August 28, 2016
The city of Lowell and University of Massachusetts-Lowell officials are trying to hammer out a new agreement they hope will set the stage for future cooperation and expansion of the university after a tumultuous summer of tension and finger-pointing between the two parties.
The relationship between the city and school took a distinct nosedive in June when UMass-Lowell, by far the largest landowner in the city with 4.5 million square feet under its control, unexpectedly purchased the sprawling Perkins Park complex on the city’s east side for future dorms.
Not only did the $61.5 million purchase take a major private piece of property off of city tax rolls, UMass-Lowell’s takeover of the 230-unit Perkins residential development also meant the displacement of hundreds of residents currently residing in the complex, creating an outcry in the city and demands for compensation from the university.
The controversy hits its height – or low, depending on how you look at it – when UMass President Marty Meehan, a Lowell native and former head of the UMass-Lowell campus, accused city officials of a “stunning lack of appreciation” for the university’s overall economic impact and threatened to focus the school’s future expansion outside the city.
The tension ultimately led to the current private talks between city and school officials to establish a list of shared goals, benefits and guidelines on how they will handle their relationship moving forward. The two sides hope to have an agreement ready for review by early September.