LAWRENCE — Mayor Daniel Rivera yesterday laid a brick, if not a cornerstone, in his effort to revitalize downtown by announcing that the state Registry of Motor Vehicles will move its South Lawrence branch to a downtown building yet to be chosen.
The gain for the north side of the city is a loss for the south side. The move will empty the 10,400-square-foot space the RMV has occupied for almost 14 years in a shopping mall at 73 Winthrop Ave., also known as Route 114, where the rent this year is $236,411.
Rivera said the point of relocating the regional RMV branch within the city is to direct development to the business district concentrated along Essex Street and Broadway, which has been declining for decades along with the city’s industrial base.
The move would add to the local and state government buildings already sprinkled around downtown and fortifying the city economy. In addition to City Hall and its satellite offices, the government buildings include the central office for city schools, two state courthouses, two community college campuses, two transit depots, two parking garages, a public housing project and a regional social service agency funded almost entirely by the state and federal governments.
Yesterday, Rivera credited small businesses, not government, for keeping the downtown humming through the decline.
“For many decades, our downtown has been held together by large efforts of small and family businesses, while the Commonwealth, national, regional and local store chains and even the City of Lawrence itself abandoned Essex Street and Broadway for the outskirts of our community,” Rivera said in announcing the move at a City Hall press conference. “So today we are sending a message to all those businesses that stuck it out and to those that invested in downtown Lawrence when others wouldn’t.”
The event was attended by state Transportation Secretary Richard Davey and Celia Blue, the registrar of the Registry of Motor Vehicles.