Getting to know MINCO’s founder and president

MINCO President Lou Minicucci

29 May Getting to know MINCO’s founder and president

The name MINCO may ring familiar to you. Driving through Newburyport, you have likely seen the company’s signs about land and commercial or industrial buildings available for sale or lease.

But who is the man behind the name?

If the City Council approves the city’s first Smart Growth Zoning Overlay District near the MBTA commuter rail station, you are bound to hear a lot more about MINCO and the company’s Founder and President Louis Minicucci, Jr.

First of all, if you have followed our blog, you know MINCO has a purchase and sale agreement with the MBTA to acquire an 11-acre parcel of land off Parker Street where the company has proposed building One Boston Way, a Smart Growth development of 80 apartments and 3,500 square feet of shared office space and live-work units. Nine of the 11 acres will be preserved as open space and 25 percent of the units will be designated affordable.

Minicucci has indeed built his career on providing housing for people who otherwise would be priced out of the communities where they grew up. From the time he at only 24 years of age was named the executive director of the North Andover Housing Authority until today, some 40 years later, he has successfully developed hundreds of units of multi-family homes, not to mention schools, office buildings, and supermarkets.

Here’s how Minicucci describes his philosophy: “I think individuals are entitled to a good education, good healthcare, and good housing. Those are things I believe people should have ready access to. I’m in building and construction so I do feel that by building housing, I address the needs of individuals and families, including my grandchildren, children, and friends.”

His formative years at the housing authority, from 1974 to 1982, opened his eyes to the hardship of residents who struggled to find homes they could afford. He noted prohibitive zoning laws, calling for 2-acre residential lots, contributed not only to urban sprawl, but also to real estate prices out of reach for the average individual. Minicucci took action, securing the first federal grant from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) ever awarded the town of North Andover.

As Minicucci embarked on several housing developments that catered to the elderly and low-income residents, his reputation for delivering projects on time and on budget made HUD and others across the state take notice. HUD asked for his assistance in Needham and soon he was involved in the development of federally subsidized housing projects in communities such as Groveland, Methuen and Needham, and in state subsidized projects in communities such as West Newbury and Rowley.

But his roots in construction actually stretch further back than the 1970s. Both his father and grandfather were real estate entrepreneurs and ran a business together.

Minicucci says, “My dad built houses so at a young age I joined him on job sites.”

Minicucci graduated with an MBA from Suffolk University in 1972, a time when interest rates were rising rapidly and little housing was built. After the government in the 1980s pulled the plug on many HUD programs, Minicucci transitioned to private real estate development. He founded MINCO Development Corporation in 1982, a commercial real estate company providing consulting services to lenders, investors, government and municipal agencies, as well as buyers and sellers.

Based in North Andover, the company also maintains a regional office in Newburyport, a city where Minicucci feels right at home. His grandfather, Samuel Caruso, lived on Orange Street in the South End and also had a summer cottage on the basin side of Plum Island.

“I spent every summer there as a kid,” Minicucci says. “The water was undrinkable so we used to fill up water jugs at the fire hydrant in Joppa and I remember my uncle rowing from one side of the basin to the other for church.”

At 17, he took a summer job, delivering various items to local stores. Minicucci recalls the city then: downtown was in disrepair, shops boarded up, and the Merrimack River thick with pollution.

“I’ve seen the whole gamut, from the low point to the highly successful place that Newburyport is today,” he remarks. “I think Newburyport is on track to become the best community north of Boston with its downtown core, walkability, waterfront, and access to Boston.”

Smart Growth is to Minicucci an extension of what makes Newburyport so attractive and he cannot think of a more ideal site to put it to practice than the underutilized parking lot off Parker Street.

“It really is a prime example, a textbook example, of what 40R is all about,” he says. “You can’t get closer to the train station than that, there’s a bike path so you could live there and frequently not use your car, the area is currently paved so no open space is taken, it increases the tax base, provides solid affordable housing, and gives more housing options for those who are downsizing or starting out.”

Enacted in 2004, the Massachusetts Chapter 40R or Smart Growth zoning is designed to foster walkable, compact, distinct, transit-oriented, and mixed-use neighborhoods while providing a range of housing options and preserving open space. Minicucci says the demand for those types of dense communities represents a “renaissance of urban living.”

Is there anything else you should know?

Well, Minicucci spent 13 years as chairman of the North Andover School Building Committee, overseeing the construction of four new schools costing approx. $100M. He’s a part-time instructor and past board member of The Executive Education Program at The Harvard Graduate School of Design where he also completed his studies.; he has served as chairman of the United Way and chairman of Merrimack Valley Chamber of Commerce; and he has been a board member of, for example, the Lawrence managing board of the YMCA and the executive board of the Boys and Girls Club of Lawrence.

Minicucci says, “I do whatever I can in support of education, healthcare, and housing. I think those are basic needs that we can all embrace.”

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