By Yadira Betances
---- — LAWRENCE — Thanks to a $900,000 Mass Works grant that Gov. Deval Patrick awarded the city and Northern Essex Community College, the school will improve the alleyways and sidewalks around its downtown buildings.
With money from the grant, the college will also build a connector between its new El Hefni Allied Health and Technology Center at the former In Town Mall and the Essex Street business district.
“That was always our intention, to connect the center out to Essex Street’s businesses and encourage others to do the same,” said Northern Essex president Lane Glenn.
The $27.4 million project will house most of the college’s 18 health care associate’s degree programs. The Allied Health and Technology Center will open for classes when the spring semester starts Jan. 22.
One of the alleys is a small strip of land between two businesses on Essex Street. The second one is riddled with graffiti, garbage and potholes located between Common and Essex streets.
“The clean up is important for our students to feel safe and comfortable in the environment they are in,” Glenn said. “If their environment is clean, they are more conducive to study and learn, and businesses will thrive.”
All sidewalk repairs will be done on Common Street, where the college opened a bookstore. The building will also house a cafe and a bank.
“As traffic flows from those business and customers feel drawn to the downtown area, hopefully it will encourage others to open up businesses,” Glenn said.
The college also purchased the former Registry of Deeds and court house building at 281 Common St. in 2011.
The building, which had been vacant for 15 years, was demolished in February to create a connector between the health center and the Louise Haffner Fournier Education Center on Amesbury Street.