You may not agree with the 5-4 vote for the location of a potential new Lowell High School but if you go through the 3024 page report (We know after last night Bob Gignac won’t unless it’s emailed to him directly with instructions to read) you find that Skanska and the City submitted a very honest report highlighting the pro’s and cons of the Cawley and Downtown site and also highlighting the divide in the city. Based on the submission I’d say nothing is guaranteed.
Here are some Highlights I think are worth sharing (others would prefer I don’t ) but it showcases the fairness of the presentation and the issue still surrounding the Cawley Site.
A. Overview of the Process Since the PDP Since the submission of the Preliminary Design Program (PDP), the Lowell City Manager’s Office, City Council, School Committee(SC), School Building Committee(SBC), Educational Leadership Team (ELT), the Lowell Community, Skanska,and Perkins Eastman|DPC with its consultants (the Design Team) have made
continued progress in developing a design that best suits Lowell High School’s unique educational program.
The PDP concluded with 2 sites identified as the most viable for Lowell High School. Both the existing Downtown site, and the Cawley site were selected based upon the District’s priority of meeting the Educational Program. In addition, the existing site, is the long-standing location of the school, located in the downtown which is readily
accessible to public transportation, parking garages, and local services. Whereas the Cawley site would allow for a new more efficient building with more ideal adjacencies,and on-site physical education and athletic spaces, but is located remote from the downtown. The other 5 sites were removed from consideration by the City and School
Building Committee during the PDP phase
E. Summary of the District’s Preferred Solution
The Preferred Solution was not a unanimous choice among the School Building Committee, nor the City Council and has been noted as an emotionally split decision within the community, the likes of which have not been seen in the recent past.
Despite this division, much of the focus remained on what is best for the students along with the community as a whole and it is within these discussion points that very different and charged opinions arose and focused on the existing vs new locations.
The Preferred Option, selected in a 5 to 4 vote among City Councilors was for the new 5-story plan at the Cawley site. The solution was cited as nullifying construction impact on students/staff and the city as a whole,
while also providing a more ideal and efficient school, removed from city center and better connected to green space. The solution requires off-site improvements including replication of fields and busing operations that were considered as part of the selection, including the costs.
The plan consists of two major wings; one a 5-story academic wing oriented for predominantly North/South facing classrooms, the other a 3-story wing housing all major activity/community uses.
The City of Lowell owns all parcels of land contained in each of the Design Options, with the exception of the 75 Arcand Drive parcel associated with the Addition/Renovation Option 3 on Expanded Site.
A meeting was held at Lowell City Hall on May 22, 2017 with the Design Team and City of Lowell Departments to review the permitting and approvals required for the project for both the existing High School and the Cawley sites. Those permits and approvals are reflected in the Approvals/Permit table.
The City of Lowell spoke with Steve Sadwick, Director of Tewksbury’s Department of Community Development to discuss approvals and permits required for the potential construction of the new high school at the Cawley site. Tewksbury’s initial response regarding the relief needed for the parking lot proposed North of the athletic field
adjacent to Clark Rd is as follows:
– File Notice of Intent with the Tewksbury Conservation Commission for both
Wetlands Protection Act and local wetlands bylaw
– File Site Plan Review Special Permit with the Planning Board
– File Paving/Street opening permit (for parking lot and curb cut in Tewksbury)
– File Land Disturbance Permit from Planning Board (per local stormwater bylaw) – can be waived if project is already before Conservation Commission or Planning Board (as in this case)
No other building permits would appear to be required. However, Tewksbury would not commit to a determination of the use for this parking lot (educational use or commercial parking lot use) and wanted to review it with Town Counsel and the Building Commissioner. This determination could impact if the use would need a
separate Special Permit.
The Cawley Site design options requires the displacement of some playing fields that must be replicated elsewhere in the City as required by Article 97. The City has been involved in ongoing discussions with the EOEA and the State Legislature. Refer to Section 3.3.3 for additional information regarding fields located on site and fields
that are displaced. Refer to the appendix for further information regarding the City of Lowell’s proposed replication plan and an assessment provided to the State Legislature which lays out the deeds for all the parcels at issue in the field relocation.
In terms of current status, proposed revisions of the Article 97 divestment legislation is currently before the Senate, City Council motions, and an overview of the Article 97 process and associated timeline.
There are 3 1/2 pages of permits required for BOTH sites listed.
The traffic study indicated that the High School renovation project would have minimal impact should the school remain in the downtown location. It is anticipated that the proposed school in the Downtown area will be slightly more congested than the current traffic operations found at the school due to the projected increase of the
student and staff populations. The traffic survey indicated that many of the students in the existing location currently walk (27% am/ 34% pm) or take the City, LRTA, bus (20% am / 39% pm). The students and staff will also continue to park at nearby parking facilities including the George Ayotte garage, and the John St. garage.
The traffic study indicated that relocating the school to the Cawley site would have a more significant impact due to the added traffic volumes that would occur in the residential neighborhood. Due to the increase in traffic and projected poor levels of service, intersection improvements (retiming/rephrasing of the existing traffic signals
along Rogers Street (Route 38), signing, striping, potential roadway widening to accommodate turn lanes, etc.) can be investigated to improve operations. The traffic survey indicated the students that currently walk or use the LRTA bus to get to school at the downtown location, would need to be bused to and from the Cawley site (53%
am / 60% pm). The traffic study indicated that sidewalks with accessible curbs and crosswalks should be considered at one side of Clark Road and Douglas Road to provide a connection for pedestrians between Andover Street (Route 133) and Rogers Street (Route 33) and the proposed school site. The study also determined that if the school would move to the Cawley site, the project parking demand is approximately 850 spaces on-site.
The City also performed investigations related to costs beyond the scope of this MSBA project such as busing (yellow school buses) and off-site improvements such as the sidewalk and possible road widenings at Rogers Street, and upgrading /installing additional pedestrian signal head and pushbuttons at signalized intersections on Rogers Street/Main Street (Route 38).
As a result, the Cawley 5-story option was developed to provide a smaller building footprint that allowed for the 850 parking spaces. Also, the City was able to factor in the that the City would incur for the busing and off-site improvements when evaluating the Design Options.
Should the Cawley site be chosen, the team will need to further study the site layout in order to establish the preferred traffic patterns for students, staff, visitors, buses,as well as the specific traffic mitigation measures that are required. All work on state roads will need to be reviewed by and coordinated with Mass DOT. As the traffic pattern evolves, additional traffic studies will likely be required.
3.3.3 Final Evaluation of Alternatives
New School at Cawley 5 Story Option:
The goal of this site design is to create a campus that fully integrates a new high school within the Cawley Site. This plan benefits the school and its student body by locating it within this expansive athletic complex, providing immediate adjacency and access to its many fields while maintaining its function as public amenity.
The Cawley Site is located between Rogers Street, Douglas Road, Village Street and Clark Road. The site is approximately 43.24 acres with 5.14± acres being located within the Town of Tewksbury and the remaining 38.1 in Lowell. The site is split between zones SSF and RR in Lowell and R40 in Tewksbury. The site is currently
home to the Cawley Memorial Stadium and Martin Athletic Complex which includes the Cawley Memorial Stadium, Martin Softball Field, Carvalho Field, Stoklosa Field,Desmond Field, Machedo Field and a practice softball field and multi-use field. This site plan leaves the Cawley Stadium intact. The buildable area of the site is
bisected at this point leaving the northern portion totaling 23.5 acres available to locate a new school.
Other constraints include a wetland to the north with an associated 100’ buffer, and the Tewksbury property line to the east. The new building is located within this buildable area of the site and rotated for optimum north south
classroom orientation. The new building has a primary and secondary entrance with expansive entrance plazas located at both.
Due to the Cawley site’s location and lack of transit service, this site will require 46 dedicated buses as well as up to 11 special education buses. Buses will be limited to students living more than 1 mile away from the school as well as anyone living on the Rogers Street and Andover Street since these are busy roads and dangerous
pedestrian crossing points. This scheme features a completely separate bus and car drop off. The bus drop off is
located off of Village Street at the primary entrance with stacking available for 46 buses. Stacking for an additional 11 special vans at this drop off is also provided.The main entrance drive is located off of Village Street to the north of Cawley Stadium and wraps counter clockwise around the stadium. This drive is one-way and
provides access to the bus drop off, staff and visitor parking and student parking. Restricted access to the site is also located off of Douglas Road and could be used for daily circulation or just emergency access. Parent drop off is located at the secondary entrance and contains stacking for approximately 38 cars. It is estimated
that the drop off requirements will be 775 parents in the morning and 423 in the afternoon.
Road widenings and signalized intersections may need to be considered to mitigate the negative effects of generated traffic. Internal circulation patterns will continue to be vetted with the City to create the least amount of traffic impacts to the neighborhood. The building has been located outside of the 100’ wetland buffer. To meet parking requirements parking will be located within the 50-100’ buffer in Tewksbury (where there is a 50’ “No Build” and within the 25’-50’ buffer in Lowell.)
Pedestrian circulation around the site will be created to connect the school with the existing and new fields. Based on the traffic analysis by Bryant Associates it is anticipated that an additional 12,000 LF of sidewalk will be required along the length of Clark Road and Douglas Road to assure the safety of students walking to school.
This may necessitate the taking down of trees, rock walls, and some private property may need to be acquired.
Athletics: The high school will be within the same campus as the majority of the Athletic Facilities allowing students to use the fields during both physical education classes and for after school sports. It is anticipated that Shedd Park and Umass Lowell Boathouse will still continue to be used and students bused to these locations.
In this scheme the following fields will need to be removed/replaced:
• Martin Softball Field- Used for Varsity Softball
• Practice Softball Field
• Field Hickey Field-Field Hockey and Lacrosse
• Machado Field- JV and Varsity Football and track and Field
• Desmond Field- Freshman Football and track and Field
This plan relocates the Field Hockey Field and Martin Softball field on the site as required by Article 97. The remaining fields noted above will be located
B. Construction Impact for Each Alternative
New Five-Story at Cawley Option builds a new five-story 590,300 SF school on the 43.24 acre Cawley Stadium Site in the Belvedere neighborhood of Lowell. The construction duration is estimated at 3 years and would not impact the operation of the existing school in the current downtown location. This option is one story taller and reduces the building footprint by approximately 36,000 SF to allow approximately 100 additional parking spaces on-site. This site currently has City owned fields and a football stadium; this site if chosen would trigger an Article 97 field replication. The City has a plan to replicate the required fields both on and off-site.
C. Conceptual Building and Site Drawings(s)
New Five-Story at Cawley building consists of two major wings; one a 5-story academic wing of twin double-loaded corridors oriented for predominantly North/South facing classrooms and having centralized light-wells, the other a 3-story wing housing all major activity/community use spaces and the main office/lobby. The lobby connects
through to both sides of the building, allowing controlled access to separate bus and car loops and is set up for good visibility from the main office and/or security. The main floor of the academic wing includes the majority of shared or specialty labs, such as Visual Arts, Business and Technology, making them neutrally accessible to all grades,but also zoned for potential after-hours uses. The main lobby is set-up to connect the Cafeteria and Auditorium vertically and visibly to the Media Center.
Pros(+) and Cons (-) of New Five-Story at Cawley:
Building Size/Location- Cawley Stadium Site
― Proximity/Frequency To City Buses
― Proximity To City/Social Services
+ All Parking Provided On-Site
+ Full Service/Perimeter Access
+ Ample Access to Green Space
― Busing Req’d for Arrival/Departure
Educational Program- Meets Objectives Except as Noted:
+ Freshman Academy Connected
+ Public/Activity Areas Clustered
+ F.A. Teams + STEM/Hum. Clusters
+ Meets New Standards (Count/Size)
+ More Efficient/Effective Field House
New Construction and Exterior Shell
± Good for Most All Teaching Spaces
+ No Windowless CRs + Ideal Daylight
+ Lower Operating Costs
Construction Duration- 3 Year Project
+ No School/Services Disruption
± Article 97=Field Replication Off-Site
(Fr+JV Practice F.Ball+S.Ball Infield)