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West Island

Lawrence, MA

Planning Study for Mixed Use Development
Multi-unit residential 574 units, 409,000 SF, Commercial/Light Industrial 390,300 SF, 18 Retail Spaces 17,000 SF
Completion: 2022

Project Overview

This land planning study for the West Island establishes a shared vision for the site and commits to creating an equitable plan for development presenting a unique opportunity of both public and private land, providing opportunities for phased development at a range of scales and creating a more inclusive approach to development. The proposal works to activate the site, preserves the historic mill buildings, and creates new infrastructure connections from the West Island to city making the island more accessible to all.

Project Team

Hansy Better Barraza
Anthony J. Piermarini
Elise Zilius
Paul Dahlke
Sophie Nahrmann
Kaitlin Pettinger
Michael Farris


MassDevelopment Transformative Development Initiative (TDI)


City of Lawrence, Lawrence Redevelopment Authority

Economic Consultant

MPZ Development

Equitable Development

Public and Private Collaboration

The goal in creating this development plan is to envision the West Island as the next important locus of growth for Lawrence, where public and private players can come together to leverage their resources for meaningful and equitable development of the city in the coming years.

Live, Work, Play

Site Activation

Promoting residential programming, mixed-use and multi-family construction will allow for a range of 574-1069 units that support affordable housing, workforce housing, and artist live/work creating an ecosystem of affordability. Complementing the new residential density, additional programming surrounding ideals of work and play will be implemented providing a new development model for living, working and leisure.

Urban Connections

Infrastructure, Site History + Sustainability

Addressing the greater context of the site, the team worked to align our planning study with the sustainability efforts and planned infrastructure improvements throughout the city to improve accessibility to the West Island. Acknowledging the history of the city and maintaining the industrial character of Lawrence, adaptive reuse and preservation became a key factor in creating a vision for new development.

About the planning study

At The West Island

Studio Luz was engaged for design assitance by MassDevelopment TDI to undergo a planning study to revitalize the West Island in Lawrence. We brought together important stakeholders from Lawrence to understand the needs of the city and address ongoing efforts surrounding accessibility, sustainability, and historic preservation. Acting as a technical architect, Studio Luz worked with MassDevelopment TDI and MPZ Development to implement a long-term development plan that will connect the disparate parts of the city and activate the underutilized portions of the island.

The West Island site is deeply tied to Lawrence’s history and industrial roots, with several historic mill buildings still standing along its Northern edge. The island is currently utilized for light industrial and public activities including manufacturing, food service and family services, however, the island remains largely underdeveloped and underutilized. Neighboring hubs of activity such as Essex Street, and new residential developments on the eastern side of the island, make the West Island the ideal location for implementing a long-term development plan that will connect the disparate parts of the city and activate the underutilized portions of the island.

This land planning study for the West Island strives to activate the site with a long-term development plan for the island that will benefit the city as whole. This study identifies community-based and commercial programming to attract both residents and visitors. The objective of this study is a new, systematic vision for the West Island rooted in a commitment to racial equity and facilitating opportunities for shared wealth-building, in which local developers, community members, and the city can participate equally. The vision aims to attract visitors and external investors, while also serving residents with roots in Lawrence, and ultimately providing a new development model for living, working and leisure.