Sal's Riverwalk Business Center
The Cornerstone of Lawrence's Revival
January of 2004 when Sal Lupoli was looking to purchase
what is now Sals Riverwalk, the building was 60%
unoccupied. Now it is 90% occupied with thriving
In January of 2006 when Sal purchased 500 Merrimack St.,
he tore down the building next to it and was able to
formalize an agreement with the Merrimack Valley Credit
Union to move its corporate headquarters there. The
credit union, according to Sal, is going to occupy over
45,000 square feet. This is a $50 million project
we are working on here, he said.
Lupolis complex is also the new home of
Little Sprouts, one of the largest
childrens enrichment centers in the Merrimack
Valley. The center can accommodate 150 children a day.
And its right here in Lawrence, Sal
added. Lupoli has also leased space to a childrens
interactive museum called Imagine That, where
kids can play, interact and learn in the setting of a
We are going to focus on the continuing
revitalization of all this property and help the
revitalization of Lawrence. We purchased 350 Merrimack
St. Its a tall seven-story building that is one of
the tallest buildings in Lawrence. It has 320,000 square
feet and we plan on working with our existing tenants to
improve the space and continue to lease space the way we
do so well. We believe in putting our customers first and
building to suit what their needs are, not telling them
what they have to take. Theres a lot of space, you
know. When you go to try and rent mill space, others will
tell you, Hey, I have 5,000 square feet Take it or
leave it. If you dont want five and you only
want two, then you are out of luck. If you come to me and
you want 2,000 square feet, we are going to give you
2,000 square feet. Thats what it is all
We separate everyones utilities, we provide
24 hour security, we have a police substation, the bus
routes come through here, and we just spent $1.2 million
on the second largest solar panel array for a private
business in the state of Massachusetts.
The largest, by the way, is owned by Bob Ansin in
another community. And just look at what Bob and I have
created right here in Lawrence. Bob is revitalizing
Lawrences housing by building 600 luxury condos
while we are building the commercial aspect. So you
have two projects that are completely complimenting each
other and the city of Lawrence is getting a tremendous
benefit. We speak every single day about how to improve
our projects. We give each other advice and I am proud to
be his friend.
Lupoli said that the tenants of Riverwalk include the
Northern Essex Registry of Deeds, which will be opening
on October 11th. They are moving in now. They are
going to occupy 17,000 sq. ft. Neurological Medical
Associates is also moving in.
Lupoli now has over 150 companies employing 2,000 people
in his complex. This was empty when we got here.
There were 35 companies, 600 people working here, and the
city was losing money in taxes. When I was getting ready
to buy the building, along with the smokestacks, the city
was getting ready to take it by eminent domain and tear
it down. They were going to spend half a million dollars
to demolish it. I had a conversation with Lawrence Mayor
Mike Sullivan and we talked about what we could do with
the building and Im glad we bought it now. It is
contributing to the citys tax rolls.
Lupoli says Lawrence Mayor
Mike Sullivan has been the catalyst for much of the
renovation and revitalization at the mill complex.
I can tell you that I wouldnt be here
investing millions of dollars in Lawrence if Mike
Sullivan wasnt the mayor of this city. Thats
just a fact. Mike Sullivan has been instrumental in the
success of this project. The people of this city have
also been instrumental in this project. You know how many
phone calls I get from the city referring business here?
Nothing has ever happened in the city of Lawrence like
Sals Riverwalk project. Since he began purchasing
mill space, Lupoli has taken over 1.4 million sq. feet,
leased out over 450,000 sq. feet to new tenants, and
increased the workforce by 300 percent. By far it is one
of the largest complexes north of Boston.
Lupoli also credits Andover state Senator Tucker for
spearheading the soon-to-be=built Riverwalk Park, which
has been approved by the Legislature and will be
federally funded. You are going to be able to
roller skate, ride your bike, take a walk along the
river, bring your family - all because of local
politicians like Sue Tucker and Marty Meehan. The elected
officials in this area meet here once a month to talk
about the Riverwalk and try to figure out ways to improve
the city of Lawrence through efforts like this.
When you started this, could you have imagined it would
end up this great?
Actually, no. When we started with this building -
354 Merrimack Street - there was a lot of excitement when
we started to renovate these mills. But, no, even I am
surprised that it has been such a big success in such a
short period of time. Anybody can go up and down Rte. 128
or go up Rte. 93 and find office space for $20 per square
foot, where you walk in and theres carpeting with
eight-foot ceilings. You get just the plain-Jane, vanilla
box office space that anyone can find. Do you know it is
nearly impossible to take these 100-year-old buildings
and renovate them to suit the needs of incoming tenants
or give existing tenants the flexibility they need?
Sal says that in the next few weeks there is going to be
an even different look at the Merrimack St. complex.
We are putting in over 30 flags and banners on
stainless steel poles. They are going to surround this
complex; its going to be absolutely gorgeous. But
like I said, it is an investment. It takes a lot of
Renovating old mills in a city like Law-rence takes a lot
of time and a tremendous investment, but Sal says it is a
task he is up for. We have a plan to change out
over 600 windows in the next 18 months. These old windows
are $3,000 per unit to change. Thats $1.8 million
in windows. How do you save money and sit back on
increasing re-venue when you have improvements like that
to make? But my family and I are looking at the future.
The opportunity for us to slow down will come in ten or
twelve years. For now we are in an investment mode. We
are in a building and improvement mode. We are in a
Lupoli says even he is shocked at how successful
Riverwalk has been and marvels at how well the project
has moved along. Look at how beautiful this
Riverwalk res-taurant is. You tell me where you can go
north of Boston and find a 300 seat res-taurant that has
a 500 seat function room, and a 300 seat deck overlooking
the river with this kind of accessibility to the
hig-hways, in this kind of atmosphere. Let me tell you,
you cant find it. Nobody has this kind of
commitment and you know where it is? Its in
When we opened the restaurant, I was hoping to do
about 50 percent of what we are actually doing right now.
Business is getting better every single day. We were
hoping to have 25 employees within the first year. We now
have about 60 employees and we are going to add another
15 by the end of the year. You know, I made a commitment
to the City Council and the mayor that I would hire at
least 50 percent of my workforce from the city of
Lawrence. Walk through my restaurant and tell me if I
kept my end of the deal. We have much more than 50
percent of Lawrence residents working here, because I
have never met a more committed community and leaders in
any community like I have met in Lawrence. There is just
so much pride and hope here. They are so committed to
helping business, it is just amazing. And I want to do my
part to make it even better.
When asked about how the Merrimack Valley Credit Union
came to lease so much space at Riverwalk, Lupoli said he
had a little help from the governors office.
When the Merrimack Valley Federal Credit Union was
looking for someplace to move to, Governor Romney and Lt.
Governor Healey came in and rolled up their sleeves and
personally made phone calls to them and said
Lawrence is in desperate need of a company. Like
you, this is just the shot in the arm that they
need. Kerry Healey was here at the groundbreaking
and, you know, Kerry Healey has been here no less than 30
times in the city of Lawrence. At one point we had
Governor Romney, Senator Kennedy, Congressman Marty
Meehan, House leader Sal DeMasi and Mayor Menino, all
standing on this deck and every one of them said they
couldnt believe they were in Lawrence,
Ill tell you this. I was as proud as anyone
could be to tell each of them that this is the start of
great things for Lawrence.
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The October, 2006
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