When Jose Palma moved his young family to downtown Lynn from Somerville 10 years ago, he was an outlier among local El Salvadoran immigrants, most of whom lived closer to Boston. Today, Palma has plenty of company among his compatriots, who are among the many groups bringing new life to downtown Lynn by moving in and raising families in the area.
Pictured: Palma plays a game of table soccer, a popular game in El Salvador with his son, Kevin 12, while his daughter, Angela, 8, uses her iPod. The Palma's moved to Lynn about a decade ago for the inexpensive housing and are very involved in the schools. Next
While Lynn has been a hub for recent immigrants, they have not always lived downtown. The area was known for shoe manufacturing and retail shopping before malls began drawing the region’s shoppers en masse and left empty commercial spaces in their wake.
These days, a combination of affordable housing, supportive ethnic enclaves, and resources are attracting immigrants and others to make a fresh start. The influx is creating opportunities as well as challenges for a city that’s long aspired to revive its downtown and is gaining traction in that direction.
Pictured: Simons Shoes on Lynnway, Feb. 25, 1967. Next
Families require places to eat, things to do with the kids, and a range of services. As entrepreneurs step up to fill those needs, downtown Lynn’s cultural scene, educational landscape, and economic life all are getting a boost.
Pictured: Sara Alexakos (center,) of Nahant, sits with her daughters Sophia, 7 (left,) and Georgia, 3, while eating dinner at Blue Ox in Lynn. Next
Enrollment figures in Lynn’s schools tell the story. The city’s three middle schools, which now educate 3,200 children, are on track to need seats for 4,200 by 2019, according to Superintendent Catherine Latham. To make room for growing numbers in elementary schools, kindergarten programs from three schools will be consolidated this fall at Lynn Vocational Techinical Institute on Neptune Boulevard.
Pictured: Second graders receiving reading instruction at the Connery School—one of Lynn’s elementary schools. Next
Art After Hours, a three-year-old nonprofit arts center that attracted 3,000 fans to its shows last year, offers acting lessons, plus a summer workshop, for youngsters.Since opening 19 years ago, RAW Art Works has grown to serve more than 1,200 in its free programs for at-risk youths ages six to 19. This fall, RAW will kick off a $1.1 million capital campaign to expand its downtown facilities and make programming accessible for 170 kids on its waiting list.
Pictured: Art students painted a mural on a wall. Next
Meanwhile, local enterprises are capitalizing on the fresh dynamics. When the Blue Ox restaurant opened in 2009, its “upscale casual” approach was aimed at local residents who would appreciate a menu where kids’ entrees cost $8 and meats are hormone- and antibiotic-free. As customers responded favorably, co-owners Matt and Joanna O’Neil have expanded their operation from five nights a week to six, and their staff from 12 to 34.
Pictured: Chef/Co-owner Matthew O'Neil prepares an order in the kitchen. Next
“We felt there was a need for a restaurant that young adults would want to go to anyway and where they could bring their children,” said Matt O’Neil, who’s also the chef. “Now they have a place to go.”
Pictured: Joseph Pacheco (left) and his son Eric, 10, enjoy dinner at Blue Ox . Back to the beginning
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