Robert DeSalvio, president of Encore Boston Harbor, was the guest speaker at the Jordan Boys and Girls Breakfast
Robert DeSalvio, president of Encore Boston Harbor, speaks at the Jordan Boys and Girls Club Breakfast on Nov. 8 at the clubhouse on Willow Street.
Series at the clubhouse on Willow Street.
DeSalvio presented an update on the $2.6 billion 5-star-hotel and casino that will open in Everett in June, 2019. The project is the single largest, private single-phase development in Massachusetts history.
“It’s amazing how big this is,” said JBGC Breakfast Chair Mark Robinson.
DeSalvio said construction began in August, 2016. “From the very beginning, we said we were going to do this project in 34 months, start to finish. That’s 3.1 million square feet of construction in that building, and then, of course, the landscaping and the work outside of the building.”
“On an average day out there [at the site], there are about 1,500 workers,” said DeSalvio. “We are currently averaging about seven percent of the workforce is female on the job site.”
He noted that the gaming area at Encore will be situated differently than at a typical Las Vegas casino. “When you walk in to a lot of those places, you’re literally smack in the middle of the casino. What we did is put the casino more towards the back of the building, enabling guests to come in, go to the front desk, circulate within the room tower, go to the ballroom space, go to most of the restaurants – all without actually stepping foot in the gaming area,” said DeSalvio.
The rooms in the hotel will be 650 square feet, double the size of a typical hotel room. There will be 671 rooms, of that number 104 will be suites.
DeSalvio called the ballroom event space “amazing.”
“We built one large ballroom that is 37,000 square feet – the second largest ballroom in Greater Boston – the only bigger one is at the BCEC,” said DeSalvio. “There will be 13 restaurants in the building, there’s everything from steakhouse to fine dining Italian to casual Italian, to Chinese, to Asian fusion, to sports bar – we designed a really interesting and fun craft beer outlet to take advantage of so many of the great local breweries.”
DeSalvio added that Encore is working with two Boston restaurateurs, Frank DiPasquale and Nick Varano, and the Midnight Entertainment Group, “which is Ed Kane and Randy Greenstein, and they are wonderful operators who will do the Asian fusion and the nightlife facility in the building.”
DeSalvio said there are currently 200 employees on the Encore team “and we have to get to about 5,000, so we have a little bit of hiring to do after the first of the year.”
He said they are looking for people to work in IT, finance, public relations, marketing, and engineering. “It’s all kinds of jobs, almost any job you can think of is in that building,” he said.
During the question-and-answer session, DeSalvio was asked about the security measures at the building.
“We are thinking long and hard about every aspect of the safety of that building,” said DeSalvio. “We have 3,500 cameras in and around that facility, both inside and outside the building. We have the most sophisticated surveillance technology and we cover literally everything except bedrooms and bathrooms in that building, up to and including all the guest room hallways. I want people to know that when you step foot on that property, do me one favor: have a good time but behave. And that’s what we want people to do. We want them to come in and have a good time, but if there are bad actors, we are going to be all over that.”
DeSalvio, a highly regarded leader in the hospitality and gaming industry, stayed after his remarks to further interact with the local business professionals and officials in attendance.
The development team of The Neighborhood Developers (TND) and Traggorth Development will appeal last month’s Zoning Board of Appeals (ZBA) decision to reject their 42-unit waterfront development on upper Broadway.
TND Director Rafael Mares and David Traggorth, principal of Traggorth, said they believe the project still has great value for Chelsea and for those that are being priced out of the city.
“We were motivated to propose this project because Chelsea residents are being priced out of their own city and there is an overwhelming need for all kinds of affordable housing options,” they wrote in an op-ed to the Record. “We have chosen to appeal the Zoning Board of Appeals decision because we still believe that this site offers a unique opportunity to meet critical community needs.”
Any appeal of a ZBA decision goes to Suffolk Superior Court for a hearing.
The ZBA narrowly defeated the proposal after the company engaged in several community meetings, and even changed the project after neighborhood input – lowering the height on one side and adding some market-rate units.
However, at the ZBA, the call came to reject the plan in favor of home ownership opportunities.
Chief among the opponents was Councillor Roy Avellaneda, who said the city needed people who were buying and intending to stay to preserve the community.
The op-ed said the developers agree with the idea that there needs to be more ownership, but they said they project on Broadway could not work out financially because of environmental costs.
“It is clear from the comments of those who spoke for and against the project that members of our community would like to see more opportunities for residents of Chelsea to own their own homes,” they wrote. “We agree. Opponents of the project argued that rejecting our proposal would encourage the development of homeownership opportunities and discourage more development of apartments for rent. However, the rejection of our proposal will not create any homeownership opportunities, let alone affordable ones. The limitations and costs of complying with Chapter 91 make for-sale condominiums not feasible at this site.”
While they said they want to work with the City to find ways to develop more homeownership opportunities, they also said this project was for the critical affordable housing needs of those being displaced.
This project was designed to serve current Chelsea residents who are clearly in critical need of affordable housing,” the wrote. “It is for this reason that while we work with City officials to envision how more homeownership can be built and advocate for more resources to do so, we will continue to advocate for this project.”
Council President Damali Vidot and Councillor Roy Avellaneda have been battling over a campaign finance violation issued by the state to Vidot earlier this year, with both having radically different views on the matter.
This week, the Office of Campaign and Political Finance (OCPF) released its fall report that contained the paperwork on the violation by Vidot, which was hammered out last June between OCPF and the Vidot Campaign.
Officially, the OCPF found that Vidot and her campaign did not initially report at least $1,341 during campaigns in 2016 and 2017, and received $180 in cash contributions without keeping appropriate records. Some of the cash contributions were received at a raffle, according to OCPF, and political committees are not allowed to hold raffles.
The resolution was that the Vidot Committee amended its reports and the candidate agreed to forgive $1,000 in loans that she made personally to her committee as punishment.
Vidot said it was simply oversight, and the fact that she is new to politics.
“Basically, I’m new at this whole politics thing and last year in the midst of the re-election, our campaign missed some deadlines,” said Vidot this week. “It’s not that we didn’t want to file it. My treasurer works a full-time job and I was buy and we didn’t get it done. When we did, we made an error and didn’t capture some items. It wasn’t a case of there being any money missing or anything like that. OCPF notified me in May of the problem and we worked it all out by June…The whole reason I got into politics is I don’t like the things that happened that weren’t transparent. I would never do something that was hiding money people gave me. I have cried at a $20 donation…Everything balanced out. There was not missing money. Every dollar donated to me went to mailers, phones, office space, and what it was supposed to go to.”
However, Avellaneda, who Vidot said reported the matter to OCPF, had a far different view of the matter. It was something he first brought up at a Council meeting a few weeks ago, but was not allowed to talk about due to being ruled out of order.
By his count, Vidot should have paid penalties of more than $8,000 had the law been enforced to the letter.
“The law was broken,” he wrote. “Actually, laws plural, were broken. Specifically, Mass General Laws pertaining to campaign finance… The City of Chelsea regularly fines its residents on any number of issues from not having an up-to-date resident parking sticker, trash bags overflowing, and not shoveling snow on sidewalks within 48 hours… Wait more than 30 days (to pay) and the City Clerk sends notice to the RMV to suspend your driver’s license and registration.
Yet here we had an elected official not being disciplined by the City Clerk for non-compliance of state finance laws deadlines, which when finally filed, showed unreported donations and expenses. One could argue that this is a show of favoritism towards an individual because of the position they hold. My call to have the City Council address this with the City Clerk was not only voted against, but Vidot’s supporters deflected and made personal attacks on me.
So much for transparency. So much for insuring the integrity of the electoral process in Chelsea.”
Vidot said that Avellaneda is incorrect about the City Clerk’s and City Solicitor’s role in the matter. She said they did contact her several times about filing the report, and that if she did not file, they would have to turn it over to the state for levying fines.
At that point, Vidot said they did file, but they filed it incorrectly.
“Roy puts at fault the state, the City Clerk, the City Solicitor and everyone else,” she said. “The City Clerk and City Solicitor reached out to me several times, and when I filed it was out of their hands. Roy needs to just back up. We could get so much done if he played nicely…The focus needs be on the 02150 where it should be…If there’s any fault, it’s with me.”
Avellaneda said he takes offense to not being allowed to discuss the matter in public at the Council.
“While President Vidot can use her powers as president to both impede motions and orders that she doesn’t agree with and stifle discussion on the floor of the City Council Chambers, she cannot stop my ability to reach out to the Citizens of Chelsea,” said Avellaneda.
Vidot said she is taking as a learning experience, and noting that it is a confusing process for a lot of candidates. She said will be calling for a joint City Council/School Committee subcommittee that would host an OCPF seminar on campaign finance.
The Corcoran Development team and the Chelsea Housing Authority (CHA) are ready to kick-off discussion on their new plan to re-develop the Innes Housing Development into a 330-unit, mixed-income development in two phases.
The plan has been tried before, but was derailed early on, and now with a new financing plan, and some new additions to the old plan, the team believes they have something that the existing residents and the community will be proud of.
The 96 public housing units will be re-developed with 40 middle-income (80 to 120 percent of the AMI) units and 194 market rate units. The project will go in two phases to reduce relocation of residents – with none believed to have to leave Chelsea or any CHA properties.
There will be 226 parking spaces on site, and the developer has said they are willing to do traffic and parking studies to perhaps help the overall neighborhood with street parking.
“The whole reason we’re here is they need new housing for existing residents, but it’s a great opportunity to also develop market rate units alongside it and take advantage of the Silver Line,” said Ronnie Slamin of Corcoran. “It is privately funded. That helps us speed up the process so we don’t have to go through the process of applying for tax credits…We’re also going to be providing amenities and services to the existing residents to improve their schooling. We want to provide services for them to be able to go from public housing to middle income housing to a market rate unit. That’s the goal. We’re planning services like financial literacy, job training, and local hiring events.”
Resident Jean Fulco said tenants are very excited at Innes.
“There is no place to play for the kids now,” she said. “We need bigger rooms. The rooms are too small and bigger cabinets and everything up to date.”
Added resident Melissa Booth, “It would be great to get new apartments and get a new playground. I have two young children and there isn’t a lot of places for them to play here. It’s cramped at the existing playground. The new plan has a bigger playground and it will be a great place for everyone to come and play. It will become a place that kids want to come back to if they want to stay in the area.”
Each of the units will be identical, she said, and no one unit – whether public housing or market rate – will be different.
“There’s not going to be a rich door and a poor door here,” she said.
CHA Director Al Ewing said the lease will be for 99 years with Corcoran, which is the maximum allowed by law. While other such deals are 15 to 35 years, he said they have chosen to go for the maximum.
“It’s important we have this public private partnership so we can have a new development,” he said. “You can’t improve this. You have to replace it. It’s like when you have an old car. At some point, it doesn’t make financial sense to fix it anymore. You have to go and get a new car. That’s where we’re at.”
And Ewing also said there is a sense of urgency, as state monies dedicated to the project could go away soon if there isn’t movement on the project. That is why they’ve scheduled a meeting with the City Council on Tuesday, Nov. 20, at 6 p.m.
“As state financing goes, when you set it aside money they want to see it spent in a timeframe or they will want to re-allocate,” he said. “They want to see this project show some movement forward or they will re-allocate that money.”
Meanwhile, to fix the previous problems, the project will be asking for a 15-year Tax Incremental Financing (TIF) deal that will allow them to pay a percentage of the taxes in three five-year periods.
The first five years, they would pay 20 percent; the second five years they would pay 40 percent; and the final five years they would pay 50 percent. After that, they would pay the full property taxes due.
Joe Corcoran and Ewing stressed that the City would not be losing any money. Right now, as part of a PILOT program, the City would get $51,000 for Innes over the same 15-year period. Meanwhile, with the TIF in place, they said the City would receive $3.4 million in new revenues.
“Even with the TIF in place, you’re still getting $3.4 million in new revenues because the City would only get $51,000 if things stayed as they are,” he said.
The TIF will be the deal-breaker to close the financing gap and allow the project to pay a prevailing wage – which was what derailed the first project attempt.
On the matter of relocation, Ewing and Slamin said they would be building the project in two phases, with the western 48 units coming down first.
Ewing said they have enough space to house residents in Fitzpatrick and Prattville Developments during relocation in the first phase.
“We believe we will be able to house those relocated in other state family developments in Chelsea,” he said.
Slamin said the developer would pay for all moving and relocation costs for residents displaced in the first phase.
The Massachusetts Department of Transportation (MassDOT) announced the Beacon Street off-ramp to Chelsea will be re-opened to all vehicular traffic on Monday, November 19. As a result, the direction of traffic on Chestnut Street between 3rd and 4th Street will return to its usual one-way direction, heading south.
The ramp has been repaired and rehabilitated as part of the Tobin Bridge Repair Project. For more information and to sign up for monthly look-ahead emails, please visit the project website: www.mass.gov/tobin-bridge-repair-project.
Fernanda Lopez helped hang the paper kites created by Chelsea residents and community groups during the first Dia De Muerto, or All Souls Day, as part of Chelsea Prospers. The event displayed kites made by residents before the event, a tradition that is tied to the Sumpango Kite Festival in Guatemala and Ecuador.
When Chelsea art teacher Demetrius Fuller focuses on the community he has taught in since 1999, he has come to
Demetrius Fuller and Chris Miranda are currently painting a mural on Cherry Street and Everett Avenue. The title of the piece is ‘Chelsea Right Now’ and hopes to get viewers to think about the present community.
focus on the here and now.
And in a new mural he is painting on Cherry Street off of Everett Avenue, he has proclaimed everyone to see ‘Chelsea Right Now.’
While many focus on what Chelsea was, or lament about what it might become, he said very few, including himself, stop to enjoy what it is right now – which is pretty wonderful.
“It’s a mural for Chelsea,” he said. “That’s why we call it ‘Chelsea Right Now.’ Everyone is always talking about Chelsea in the future or what Chelsea used to be, or what it might not be tomorrow, but we just don’t stop to see there is a tremendous beauty in Chelsea present. This mural is about right now and captures what Chelsea is right now.”
The mural is funded by a Cultural Council grant and Fuller said he has not really ever done a mural. As a director of the art department in the Chelsea Schools, he has done painting in the schools and also for backgrounds at the Apollinaire Theatre, but never on a brick building. Known mostly for his teaching and his puppet show theatre productions, he said he needed help.
That’s why he brought his friend, Chris Miranda, in from Pittsburgh. The two of them have been working on the mural since Oct. 22, and it’s garnered a lot of attention.
Miranda said so many people comment on it that he has to sometimes ignore them so he can get his work done.
“I love the comments,” he said. “I’ve been enjoying getting to know this really wonderful City of Chelsea. It has so much character. So many people come up to me when I’m painting. All of them are excited, and sometimes there are so many that I have to just get back to work and let them watch me.”
Fuller said he often has students or parents stop to encourage him, which he enjoys.
“I do really like seeing the kids while I’m painting and for them to see me outside of school,” he said. “That’s good because many of them think the teacher lives at the school. I’m attempting to make something beautiful for the City of Chelsea and I think people appreciate that.”
The mural is still in the detail stages, but one can clearly see the figure of a woman coming out into the sunlight – something that Fuller said he has observed in the Cherry Street alley many times. He said the sun actually comes right through the alley at certain times and makes everything light.
With the Chelsea Square fountain in the background and the Bellingham Square clock – along with several other things – the mural features the women in a “here and now” moment stepping into the sun. As a reference point for the woman, Councilor Judith Garcia posed for the artists to get a sense of how things should look at the “right moment.”
That idea of the sun shining on Chelsea at a particular moment played into the Chelsea Right Now theme, Fuller said.
He said he hopes the mural, when finished, can serve as a reminder for everyone to not miss the great community that exists now for worries of the future or laments for the past.
“It’s like the City sat down for me to paint its portrait,” he said.
While Gov. Charlie Baker cruised to re-election statewide with 67 percent of the vote, he barely made any traction in Chelsea this time around.
Though former City Manager Jay Ash is a key member of his cabinet once again, the Republican Baker didn’t seem to get much support in Chelsea over Democratic candidate Jay Gonzalez.
In Chelsea, 3,350 people voted for Gonzalez, while 3,115 voted for Baker – a sharp contrast to the statewide results.
During his victory party at the Hynes Convention Center in the Back Bay, he said his administration will continue to build bi-partisan relationships to tackle the tough issues.
“The people of Massachusetts elected us four years ago to bring fiscal discipline, a reform minded approach to governing, and a commitment to bipartisanship to state government,” he said. “We have done just that. Every single day. And today, the voters have spoken. They like what we are doing and they appreciate the way we work. So here’s the good news. That collaborative, purposeful and humble approach to governing is exactly what you are going to get from us and from our team for the next four years. Non-stop. Let’s rock.”
While governor made the headlines, the most active voting took place on the ballot questions, particularly Question 1 that focused on mandated nurse staffing ratios. The question was defeated easily statewide, and in Chelsea it was also defeated with 67 percent of the vote.
Question 2 won with 70 percent of the vote, and Question 3 to uphold the transgender rights bill passed locally with 68 percent of the vote.
For District Attorney, Rachael Rollins won big citywide and in Chelsea over Mike Maloney. Rollins, who has held great popularity in Chelsea, had been a controversial candidate in submitting a “list” of crimes she would decline to prosecute during the campaign last summer. That “list” had gotten a lot of attention after the September primary victory, and she has spent most of the last month explaining the plan – which would essentially divert resources from smaller, quality-of-life crimes to investigate larger crimes like homicide, rape and aggravate assaults.
In Chelsea, Rollins got 4,812 votes to Maloney’s 1,169.
On Tuesday night, Rollins’ said her election reflects a widespread demand for change in a criminal justice system that for too long has not worked fairly for everyone. Rollins has promised to bring new solutions to the office that will break down wealth and racial disparities, keep communities safe and treat all people with dignity and respect.
“I am humbled by the trust the voters have placed in me to serve as Suffolk County’s next District Attorney,” said Rollins. “I am beyond grateful for the hard work of our volunteers and the support of our community over the last nine months since we launched this campaign. Voters sent a very clear signal today that our criminal justice system is not working for too many people and it’s time for a change. We will start by creating an office that adequately reflects the communities it serves and that is engaged with every neighborhood within the county. Then together we’ll make our criminal justice system better and work to strengthen relationships between communities and law enforcement.”
All three of Chelsea’s state elected officials, State Rep. Dan Ryan, State Rep. RoseLee Vincent and Sen. Sal DiDomenico were unopposed, but prevailed with a good vote Tuesday.
Ryan got 3,637 votes in his unopposed race (Chelsea only), and DiDomenico (for Chelsea only) got 5,409 votes. DiDomenico also represents parts of Cambridge, Allston and all of Everett and Chelsea. Vincent, who also represents Revere, got 1,495 votes in Chelsea.
As a side note, City Clerk Jeannette Cintron White said that early voting was a success in Chelsea once again. She said there were 731 early ballots cast this election cycle.
If District 1 City Councillor Robert Bishop gets his way, he’ll be taking $6,000 per year out of his own pockets, and those of his fellow city councillors.
Monday night, Bishop introduced an ordinance asking that the Council salary be cut from $14,000 to $8,000 per year beginning in 2020. The councillor said he was unhappy when the salary increased from $8,000 to $14,000 several years ago, and wants to see it cut back.
The ordinance was moved to a second reading at a future council meeting before there was any discussion on the proposal, but Council President DamaliVidot said there will be an opportunity for debate and discussion during the second reading.
The council voted for the pay raise to $14,000 in 2013 and it went into effect on Jan. 1, 2014.
In other business, the council heard a legal opinion from City Solicitor Cheryl Watson Fisher that stated that the Council’s subcommittee on finance violated the open meeting law when it discussed a $20,000 appropriation for legal services that was not properly placed on the subcommittee’s agenda. Bishop, who heads the finance subcommittee, countered that the matter was properly posted and fell under the heading of financial requests.
“I felt it would be appropriate to discuss,” Bishop said. “I see nothing in Rule 26 that says we could not speak about it. … To me, this is kind of petty and picayune.”
But Councillor-At-Large Leo Robinson said he didn’t understand how the matter had gotten to the finance subcommittee without coming before the full Council first.
Vidot said there will be a subcommittee discussion about how to best move forward with financial matters on the Council.
Bishop also asked for a meeting to discuss traffic flow issues at Revere Beach Parkway and Washington Avenue, Revere Beach Parkway and Webster Avenue, and Spruce Street and Everett Avenue. The councillor noted that motorists are faced with an especially dangerous intersection at Revere Beach Parkway and Washington.
“It’s a wonder that there are not more accidents than there already are,” Bishop said.
The District 1 Councillor is also requesting a subcommittee meeting to discuss issues with the city and the Chelsea Housing Authority’s rodent baiting programs. Bishop said he has concerns that the programs are ineffective and dangerous for the workers implementing them.
District 6 Councillor Giovanni Recupero introduced an order asking the public works director provide the Council with an accurate account of how the City sets water and sewer rates and how those rates could be stabilized.
In contrast to the past several meetings, when discussion over water and sewer rates brought a steady stream of residents to the microphone, it was a more subdued public speaking session at Monday’s meeting.
Chelsea High School senior Manuel Teshe advocated for fundraising efforts that would allow the senior class to graduate outside at the school’s football field. Teshe estimated the total cost of covering the field to keep it safe for a graduation ceremony would be about $30,000.
“We are passionate about this and want to graduate from the school in the best way possible,” said Teshe.
Teshe’s classmate, senior class president Jocelyn Poste, was also on hand at the meeting to promote the Red Devil Turkey Trot race on Saturday, Nov. 17 to benefit the school’s track and cross country programs.
Anyone interested in finding out more about the race can visit HYPERLINK “http://chelseahightrack.com” t “_blank” chelseahightrack.com. The event begins at 10 a.m. at Admiral’s Hill.