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Inn & Conference Center Will Be Home to Students, Events
LOWELL, Mass. ߝ In a move that will bring students and professionals directly to the city’s vital downtown, the University of Massachusetts Lowell has agreed to purchase the Doubletree Hotel in Lowell.
The 252-room hotel, which will be renamed the UMass Lowell Inn & Conference Center, will provide housing for hundreds of University students and will host professional and academic conferences.
By dramatically increasing the occupancy rate of the hotel, the University will also build on its positive economic impact on the city by bringing an influx of people into the central business district with its restaurants, shops and cultural venues. For years, city leaders have encouraged UMass Lowell to heighten its profile downtown to spur economic activity and strengthen community vitality.
The UMass Building Authority plans to purchase the hotel from The Procaccianti Group, based in Rhode Island, for $15 million on July 31. An additional $4 million will be spent on renovations to the nine-story building.
“The Inn & Conference Center will transform this key facility in the heart of downtown into the social, cultural and intellectual hub that was imagined in 1986 when the hotel opened,” said Chancellor Marty Meehan. “By combining educational excellence and strong partnerships in the community, UMass Lowell will establish a home base for activities that will enhance and showcase the city.”
UMass Lowell already pumps millions of dollars into the local economy through various means including $14.7 million in grants and contracts for research projects that benefit Lowell, $10 million in purchases of goods and services within the city, and a total campus payroll of $121.1 million, of which $23.1 million of which went to Lowell residents last year. Through 2013, the University plans to spend more than $325 million in infrastructure growth and improvements in Lowell. In addition, the University will donate $200,000 annually to scholarships for Lowell residents.
By allocating portions of the Inn & Conference Center for use by students and guests, the occupancy rate for the hotel is expected to increase dramatically from current levels. Top-notch academic and professional conferences are expected to attract a stream of visitors from across the state, nation and world to Lowell’s vibrant and diverse downtown.
“Chancellor Meehan and his team are to be commended for developing this proposal, which would build on the tremendous progress we are seeing at UMass Lowell and could provide a significant economic development boost for downtown Lowell,” said UMass President Jack Wilson. “This proposal would bring the University of Massachusetts into the heart of downtown Lowell and thus would open the door to additional academic and economic collaborations and partnerships.”
The acquisition of the Inn & Conference Center will also benefit Middlesex Community College’s nearby downtown campus, allowing additional collaboration benefiting students and the business community.
Middlesex Community College President Carole Cowan said the college welcomes UMass Lowell to the downtown. “This exciting partnership gives the college an opportunity to work closely with the university on academic programs for our students such as our culinary arts and hospitality management offerings,” Cowan said. “At the same time, it also affords our business and industry training programs the opportunity to partner with the university to offer comprehensive corporate training packages to our respective business partners in our communities. It’s an exciting time for both of our institutions.”
In recent weeks, Chancellor Meehan and other University representatives have been meeting with local business owners, city officials and others in the community to talk about UMass Lowell’s plan for the hotel and have been met with great support.
“The Greater Lowell Chamber of Commerce is pleased with the recent UMass Lowell news,” says Jeanne Osborn, president and CEO of the Greater Lowell Chamber of Commerce. “The chamber is anticipating that the foot traffic from students, parents, faculty and guests will help to increase the economy in the downtown area of Lowell. The entire face of the downtown will be changed as new residents and visitors converge on businesses, venues like the Lowell Memorial Auditorium and Merrimack Repertory Theatre, restaurants and retailers. We look forward to being part of the downtown as it re-energizes.”
The hotel is located just blocks from the sites of the renowned Lowell Folk Festival and Lowell Summer Music Series, as well as the Boott Cotton Mills Museum, Wannalancit Mills research and technology cluster and the $500 million Hamilton Canal District development.
In addition, UMass Lowell is working with Middlesex Community College and the Lowell National Historical Park to identify partnerships with the UMass Lowell Inn & Conference Center.
“A UMass Lowell hub downtown would introduce expanded programs such as the Paul E. Tsongas Center, integrating the campus with community in new ways. Programs like this and other partnerships will elevate UMass Lowell and the city as an exemplar in community innovation and civic engagement,” says Michael Creasey, superintendent of Lowell National Historical Park.
UMass Lowell has a successful track record of drawing top professional conferences, including recent programs focusing on innovation in plastics and homeland security. In June, the university will host the first National Science Foundation Summer Institute on Nanotechnology ever held on the East Coast. Discussions are already underway by UMass Lowell and local partners to host an international conference on revitalizing cities. The University currently hosts more than 1,000 events on campus each year.
In addition to the economic potential, UMass Lowell’s acquisition of the hotel will help meet student housing needs and contribute to student success. The increased enrollment at UMass Lowell and popularity of its campus life led to a waiting list of more than 400 students last fall. To accommodate students’ requests, UMass Lowell housed students during this academic year at off campus sites, including the Radisson Hotel in Nashua, N.H. The University is working toward a 50-50 mix between commuters and residents to enhance the quality of student life and improve retention.
In acquiring the hotel, UMass Lowell is following successful models established by other universities around the country, including Columbia University, the University of Pennsylvania, University of New Mexico and Portland State University.
A report on the UMass Lowell Inn & Conference Center is available online at www.uml.edu/media/inn_and_conference_center.pdf.
The purchase of the Doubletree Hotel by UMass Lowell was praised by local leaders in business, community and government:
Carole Cowan, Middlesex Community College president: “This exciting partnership gives the College an opportunity to work closely with the University on academic programs for our students such as our culinary arts and hospitality management offerings. At the same time, it also affords our business and industry training programs the opportunity to partner with the University to offer comprehensive corporate training packages to our respective business partners in our communities. It’s an exciting time for both of our institutions.”
Jeanne Osborn, president and CEO of the Greater Lowell Chamber of Commerce: “The Greater Lowell Chamber of Commerce is pleased with the recent UMass Lowell news. The chamber is anticipating that the foot traffic from students, parents, faculty and guests will help to increase the economy in the downtown area of Lowell. The entire face of the downtown will be changed as new residents and visitors converge on businesses, venues like the Lowell Memorial Auditorium and Merrimack Repertory Theatre, restaurants and retailers. We look forward to being part of the downtown as it re-energizes.”
Rep. Tom Golden, D-Lowell: “The University’s purchase of the Doubletree is good for them, good for students, and good for the city. By purchasing ready-made rooms at the bottom of the real-estate market, Chancellor Meehan is getting a good deal for the many students seeking UMass Lowell housing. The city of Lowell, too, will benefit from having students living close to the downtown.”
Rep. David Nangle, D-Lowell: “I am happy to see UMass Lowell take over the Doubletree and expand its partnership with Middlesex Community College. The students learning hospitality management will benefit, and UMass Lowell will address its critical need for student housing.”
Michael Creasey, superintendent of Lowell National Historical Park: “A UMass Lowell hub downtown would introduce expanded programs such as the Paul E. Tsongas Center, integrating the campus with community in new ways. Programs like this and other partnerships will elevate UMass Lowell and the city as an exemplar in community innovation and civic engagement.”
Tom Parrish, executive director of Merrimack Repertory Theatre: “Merrimack Repertory Theatre and the University of Massachusetts Lowell have a longstanding partnership and we are excited to welcome the University and its students to downtown Lowell. The new resident student population, coupled with the more than 1,000 University students who attend the theater each season, will help us continue to advance our mutual goal for a vibrant and vital urban economic, cultural and educational center for our city and region.”
LZ Nunn, director of Cultural Organization of Lowell (COOL) and city Cultural Affairs and Special Events Office: “This is an interesting opportunity to get students directly involved in the cultural life in downtown Lowell. We have a vibrant mix of international restaurants, galleries and museums and festival events. Our aim is that more students and faculty members become invested in what makes this city a fun place to live and work.”
Lowell Mayor Edward Caulfield: “The University, in partnership with Middlesex Community College and the city of Lowell, will help stimulate the economy downtown, and offer good, clean housing to its students.”
Andy Jacobson, owner of Brew’d Awakening Coffeehaus in downtown Lowell: “I feel that making this move to house students (graduate students and seniors) downtown can be a positive step to liven and diversify the downtown area. Having more students live here should hopefully increase foot traffic throughout the day but also the evenings and weekends, which would be good for many businesses. It can open up new and creative opportunities for the businesses to bring the students into their establishments. I was also glad to hear that UMass Lowell would be setting aside some rooms for the public during the year and then more during the summer breaks because, as we know, the summer is when big events such as the Folk Festival, Quilt Festival and Boarding House Park Series occur.”
UMass Lowell, with a national reputation in science, engineering and technology, is committed to educating students for lifelong success in a diverse world and conducting research and outreach activities that sustain the economic, environmental and social health of the region. UML offers its 12,000 students more than 120 degree choices, internships, five-year combined bachelor’s to master’s programs and doctoral studies in the colleges of Arts and Sciences, Engineering and Management, the School of Health and Environment, and the Graduate School of Education. www.uml.edu.