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Wamesit Lanes to brighten town’s ‘gateway’

By Chelsea Feinstein, cfeinstein@lowellsun.com

TEWKSBURY — A landmark in Tewksbury came down last fall, as the much-maligned Motel Caswell was demolished to make way for a new bowling and entertainment complex.

Wamesit Lanes, set to open this summer in an area considered a gateway to town, may be a harbinger of things to come in Tewksbury.

The property’s new owners and town officials say the new business could be an economic jump-start for Route 38, spurring growth and providing a model for how to bring successful development to the main thoroughfare.

“What the town lacks is something for somebody to do,” said Don MacLaren Jr., who bought the property for $2.1 million and is building Wamesit Lanes along with his father, Don MacLaren Sr., for a total of $12.4 million.

“We had a great opportunity to work with the town and the Caswells to bring something that is going to make a staple in this gateway to Tewksbury, and provide a lot of other opportunities for businesses to come in and join that gateway, and for other residents and surrounding people to spend their dollars here in Tewksbury and build the economic growth it really needs.”

Wamesit Lanes will feature 10-pin and candlepin bowling, an arcade, golf simulators, a bocce-ball course, a restaurant and lounge, and an outdoor dining area with fire pits in a more than 45,000-square-foot facility. It’s expected to employ up to 120 people.

Town officials have heralded Wamesit Lanes as a welcome addition, a project that plays right into their efforts to give Route 38 a face-lift.

“When a local business owner came forward with the idea, it was something that residents had even talked about, the need for an entertainment facility, so it kind of fit into some of the priorities that people were asking for,” Town Manager Richard Montuori said.

In contrast to the Caswell, which was frequently the target of drug arrests, Wamesit Lanes is billing itself as family-friendly. Motel owner Russ Caswell was targeted by a seizure attempt by the federal government under federal drug-forfeiture laws, but fought the attempt in court and won. He closed up shop late last year, seeking a quiet retirement.

When the time came for Caswell to sell, the MacLarens, who also own Tewksbury Welding, were eager buyers.

The location of the lot, less than a mile from the Lowell line and with easy access to Interstate 495, was key in the MacLarens’ decision, as was a desire to give back to the town the family has lived in for generations.

“We knew something had to be done with that property, and what better opportunity for that piece than a family entertainment center?” MacLaren Jr. said.

Also key was the willingness of the town to help with the process, an attitude the MacLarens said wasn’t always the case in Tewksbury government.

“After sitting with (Montuori), his excitement for what we were trying to do really weighed in on what he was looking to do with Tewksbury and what was about to come,” MacLaren Jr. said.

Although they acknowledge it will bring more traffic to an already busy stretch of road, the MacLarens believe their business will benefit the town as a whole, including other businesses.

“The whole idea of us starting our business was, what can we bring to Tewksbury? You can’t bring something to Tewksbury by taking it away from somebody else,” Don MacLaren Sr. said. “I strongly believe that The Ninety-Nine will do better, the Jade East will do better, the liquor store will do better, the Dunkin’ Donuts will do better, the gas stations will do better, Vic’s Waffle House will do better. Everybody will do better because we’re here.”

Montuori also believes in that impact.

“It is the gateway to the community, so to speak, when you’re coming into town right off the highway,” Montuori said. “It’ll look nice, and it’s the type of facility that’s going to attract people to the community. So hopefully there is spillover, indirect benefit to others.”

Selectman David Gay said the new complex is a great example of a Tewksbury family opening a business in a location critical to how Tewksbury is viewed by visitors to town and those seeking to open businesses.

“It’s been a problem area in town, but I think people are excited about having something nice, user-friendly and family-friendly there,” said Gay.

Wamesit Lanes, the MacLarens say, could set an example as a well-maintained, well-run, signature business in town.

“There’s a higher standard that we want to hold ourselves to and hopefully there’s a trend that follows that as well,” MacLaren Jr. said. “It’s something to take pride in.”

Follow Chelsea Feinstein on Twitter and Tout @CEFeinstein.
Read more:  http://www.lowellsun.com/latestnews/ci_27372162/wamesit-lanes-brighten-towns-gateway#ixzz3cg98ZNYr

 

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