Thursday, November 10, 2005

Ikea In Lynn

I am wondering, what does it take to attract a retailer like Ikea to Lynn? They tried to open up in Somerville but encountered considerable resistance from the residents adjacent to Assembly Square. If Lynn were able to secure similar concessions from Ikea that Ikea proposed to Somerville (T renovation, Park land and development, etc.) it would be great for the city. On the surface a spot on the Lynnway seems perfect for them. It's in a commercial area with other big box retailers, Walmart, Building 19, which are not direct competitors. There are no adjacent residential properties. It's near the commuter rail. They can run shuttle service to the blue-line. The income demographics of Nahant, Swampscott, Salem, Marblehead, Beverly, Lynn, etc. are in their target zone, and we're right next to Boston, not out in Stoughton.

Ikea is an environmentally conscious business with a history of opening in more industrial areas - West Long Island, South Philadelphia, New Haven, Pittsburgh - so they're not adverse to establishing themselves in unpolished locations. They may even help pay to move those power lines and / or renovate the ocean front along part of the Lynnway. It could be Ikea and the Ikea/Lynn memorial park or something like that.

I'm a big proponent of corporate stewardship and community involvement. This would be an opportunity for Ikea to help Lynn in many ways while accessing a vast customer base. It's good marketing, it's good business. It's a win-win proposal.

Think of it. If Ikea also provided shuttle service to the Central Square Commuter stop it would boost foot traffic through Central Square. It would also make Masschusetts and Bostonians more aware of Lynn and downtown, most likely attracting new residents. Especially if Ikea has an oceanfront park outback for people to enjoy. Can you imagine eating Swedish Meatballs overlooking the ocean? Now at first the idea of an Ikea as beach-front property seems terrible, but when you consider the land I'm thinking of is currently an industrial wasteland it isn't so bad. Also, what I'm proposing is that Ikea overlook a park that stretches to the water-front, not that Ikea be at the water-front. That would just be, well, in bad taste.

Now, the question is: Does Lynn want Ikea?


Spucky said...

Judging from the Stoughton experience, you may want to think twice about inviting IKEA to Lynn. I have been following the story, as I am a fan of IKEA, shopping in Canada.

The quiet streets surrounding the IKEA store have been inundated and the locals are quite unhappy.

IKEA, though environmentally conscious, promotes the use of cars and trucks as it sells without delivery. IKEA stores are very ugly, IMO, with their boxlike structure and vast parking lots - not unlike other box stores.

As they say, be careful what you wish for..... (bad grammar not withstanding!)

Marcus said...

I hear what you're saying, and Lynn has several factors in its favor. The location that Ikea would most likely end up is not surrounded by quiet streets - not in that quaint Norman Rockwell way. The streets are quiet, all right, because they are full of abandoned or just barely utilized buildings from the turn of the centjury, or worse - the 70s. Ikea will most likely be placed on the Lynnway, which is a commercial strip currently occupied by industrial, and I mean *industrial* buildings. The likes of General Electric, Hood Milk, Wal-Mart, Building 19, huge storage tanks, and stuff like that. If anything, Ikea will look like an oasis in the scenically post apocalyptic beauty of the Lynnway. The new Honda dealership looks nice though.

As for promoting the use of cars - if you have to drive there to see the merchandise, you already used your car and you need to drive back. Why not use that return trip gas to also take back your goods instead of burning even more gas for a truck to bring it out to you later. It is, however, to your point, unfortunate that Ikea does not deliver, because under certain circumstances it would be more efficient and convenient.

Lynn has a massive commuter-rail station downtown next to the Lynnway. Lynn is also only 2 miles from the Blue Line Wonderland T stop (subway). Ikea can run shuttle service to 2 centers of public transit instead of one. The train which services Boston and the North Shore, and the Blue Line for all of Boston.

Ikea stores are indeed ugly, but beautiful compared to the Wal-Mart next door. I would prefer to see Ikea stay with the trend in Lynn to convert existing abandoned mill buildings, of which we have some very large ones. I think it would add a great deal of charm to Ikea, and produce some great marketing for them. In addition it would make it a more interesting place to visit and possibly increase shopping traffic to them.

It's easy to see the theme of my response. Considering Lynn's infrastructure, demographics, location, and current dilapidated state of the Lynnway, Ikea would be very helpful to the city. All cities, not towns, cities have ugly areas. Lynn is a city, it just so happens the commerical space is a rundown ugly area, so a new Ikea would actually improve it. The extra income the Ikea would bring would directly benefit the other areas of the city which require some badly needed work - such as the beach. Such a beautiful beach, but in dire need of some TLC.

Spucky said...

You have some very good points.

I was semi-interested in one of the lofts when I was thinking about selling my house recently. Back in 2003 I had an offer in on a great house in Lynn. It was off Eastern Ave, Swampscott side. The price was pretty good, and I liked the short walk to the beach and all the conveniences of Swampscott. However, I decided to walk the neighborhood at night and it changed my mind. The seller let the offer slide in any event, holding out for more, I imagine.
Lynn has been a tough town for as long as I can remember, although it used to have a lot of industry and retail downtown.
In spite of the great new lofts, it doesn't look like other amenities are following. I lived in Jamaica Plain and the South End when they were really ratty, and it took a while, but look at them now. That is the rub - things swing either one way or the other, no middle ground.

Marcus said...

The first downtown loft, Boston Machine, was full I think around July of 2004. That means less than 2 years have passed since downtown began a rejuvination of sorts. Since then in addition to BML we have Sloan Machine, Exchange, Keith, Munroe, 32 Munroe, Sherry, 7 Central, Union, and another with a name I can't remember tucked in the Diamond District. This is by any measure a considerable amount of growth in a very short time span. The South End was still considered an up-and-coming neighborhood back in 1995, when it had a decent professional population. I still remember the Globe article about it. It is now one of the more pricey neighborhoods in Boston, but it's 10 years later. It's been less than 2 years since professionals moved here to downtown, when one considers this a Eruo-Cafe and an upscale Restaurant in a once vacant area seems like progress. Nothing of lasting value happens overnight.

I don't believe this area will devleop as quickly as the neighborhoods in Boston. It's just too far away from the Cosmopolitan influence of Boston. It can still swing in either direction, and I'm hopeful it will be for the positive. It happened to Somerville, why not Lynn.

Spucky said...

I guess its time for me to visit Lynn again. I have good friends there, one of Eastern Ave and others on Ocean Street. They usually come up north, where I live now.

My son lives in Lowell, which has had a long and bumpy comeback. Its on the edge, right now. UMass has been a big source of momentum for Lowell. My son is studying regional econonmic development at UMass. He wasn't too fond of the recent Mills to Martinis campaign to sell condos. He works with low income people trying to develop housing.

Lynn would have benefitted greatly from the expansion of the Blue Line. However, Lynn never had the political pull of Cambridge or Quincy to get the expansion. I don't know if its still in the planning stage or if it has been dropped.

You sound a lot like I did when I was a young urban pioneer in Mission Hill. Its very energizing to be part of reclaiming a neighborhood.

Good luck with the drill.

sculpin said...

I purchased a condo in Lowell in 1992 in an old office building. Similar to what you have described, it has 14 ft ceilings, floor to ceiling windows, a brick wall, etc. I rent it now to a couple for $825/month, with positive cash flow. The condo market was decimated when I bought it. A lot of people got hurt. The couple I bought it from paid $112,000 and had to sell for $40,000. There is no one left in the building who purchased new. They pretty much all sold at a loss. The condo board spent a few years litigating with one of the original owners who was so bitter about the deflated value of his condo that he constantly dreamed up reasons for not paying his condo fee.

Lowell has been trying to come out from its reputation as a city for poor immigrants for the past 30 years, and I haven't seen it happen yet, although it seems to be gentrifying more in this climate of condo speculation.

Lowell is a beautiful city, similar in demographics to Lynn, but it has canals, museums, a national park, and a yearly folk festival to anchor it. On the other hand Lynn has proximity to Boston going for it. But then again, so do Chelsea and East Boston, and I keep on waiting for them to gentrify.

No point here I guess. I am sure the Lynn lofts are gorgeous, and I am envious, but I am a bit skeptical that the critical mass will accrue that will make Lynn truly vibrant. Also, I have eaten at Gulu-Gulu, and I can't really afford to eat there again (I can eat at Pho Lynn occasionally) as I need to support a family. And the panini are done wrong, soggy if I recall. The Oxford St. Grill reminds me of a restaurant in Lowell called La Boniche. Every down in the mouth city can support about one excessively expensive restaurant, usually frequented only by the city's old guard, never by the new immigrants who really bring vitality to the city. Another good cheap place to eat is Tacos Lupita btw.