Save Lowell High

Voters Deserve to be Heard

The Facts about Downtown and Cawley

Save Lowell High got organized because we believe that given the choice, Lowell’s voters would weigh the evidence and choose to build the new high school downtown. Lowell’s School Building Committee, and more recently the City Council, have spent years working with outside experts and city staff to create numerous reports detailing the expected timelines and costs of the different options for a new Lowell High School. We took out the most relevant information from those reports, to lay out the facts on the costs and impact on students of the different options. These reports are all available on the School Building Committee’s website.

This is the cost for the Cawley and Downtown options that was given to the City Council in June. The options that are being debated now are Option #3 for the downtown location, and either the the 4 story or 5 story Cawley options.

That table is not a complete picture of the costs to build a new high school. Option #3 and Cawley both have additional costs.

Cawley has significant additional costs according to a report released October 18th by Lowell’s CFO Conor Baldwin:

1. $1.97 million (park improvements)

2. $1.2 million (traffic signalization)

3. $500,000 (roadway improvements for traffic)

4. $1,054,500 (sidewalk improvements)

5. $5 million (sewer improvements)

6. $1.3 million (water improvements)

SUBTOTAL: $11,024,500

In addition to these capital costs, Baldwin wrote in his report “busing is projected to cost anywhere from $0 to $3.2 million, annually. The numbers at this time cannot be refined down to a more definitive cost until certain decisions are made in regards to potential new bell schedules and bus routes, city-wide.”

Option #3 also has an additional cost: it requires using eminent domain for the dentists’ office at 75 Arcand Dr, which the city estimates will cost $2 million. The infrastructure is already in place to support a high school at the location, according to a report written by the city’s transportation engineer:

As previously mentioned the Downtown LHS site has no negative impacts on traffic due to the existing transportation infrastructure and services. The City has already invested over a million dollars upgrading traffic signals in the downtown area. Recently, video detection and advanced controllers were installed at the Merrimack Street/Dutton Street intersection. Also, design has commenced on a full replacement of the traffic signals at French Street and Bridge Street intersection. In addition to traffic improvements, the City has also invested in sidewalk and bike lane infrastructure around downtown. Other services available include parking garages near the high school and LRTA busing service.


The Lowell Sun had a great run-down of hazardous materials at the two sites:

Soil tests at the current high school site and Cawley Stadium came back positive for heavy metals and other contaminants, according to Stephen Vetere, of Nobis Engineering. The results are not unusual for urban sites, he said. The contamination will mean increased costs for remediation but should not substantially affect construction at either location.

Hazardous material testing inside the current high school, performed by Universal Environmental Consultants, showed the presence of asbestos, mercury, and other materials, but nothing that presented a serious impediment to renovating the school. A representative of the company estimated that, in a worst-case scenario, it would cost $4.2 million to abate the materials.

You can read the complete report from Universal Environmental Consultants in the Preferred Schematic Design Submission.


The current high school location allows over 1/3 of Lowell High students to walk to class. Official estimates indicate that just 7-10% of students would be able to walk to the Cawley Stadium site – approximately 245 to 350 students. According to the city’s report:

The neighborhoods located around the downtown have high concentrations of low income, minority, and low-English proficiency populations residing in the Acre, Lower Belvidere, Centralville, Lower Highlands, Back Central and Downtown neighborhoods. Over 17% of households in the City of Lowell do not have access to a vehicle, and depend on biking, walking and transit for transportation . . . Regardless of age, language, ethnicity, income or ability residents from these neighborhoods have equitable access to everything the city of Lowell has to offer because they can easily walk, bike, or ride a bus to the downtown core. These efforts are evident by the existing mode share of the downtown high school . . . two third[s] (63%) of high school students walk or ride LRTA home from the high school.

Do you still have questions after reading this? Send us an email at [email protected] and we’ll work on getting an answer up on this page.