Chelsea Centro : Business Community Looking to Re-Brand, Reinvigorate Downtown

One might have seen the colorful paint job
on the gazebo at Bellingham Square and wondered what it was all about.

Well, it’s more than just a colorful paint
job.

Rather, it is the first step in what business and City leaders hope will be a coordinated plan for the downtown business district – a plan that has already gained the confidence of state government with Chelsea getting two $20,000 grants to further the project along.

TDI Fellow Carlos Matos, Chamber Foundation President Sergio Jaramillo, Councillor Leo Robinson, and new CHISPA BizLab coordinator Deise Paraguay in front of the newly-painted gazebo in Bellingham Square

Carlos Matos, a fellow assigned to Chelsea
from the MassDevelopment Transformative Development Initiative (TDI) program,
said the gazebo was just the first piece of several placemaking initiatives
they hope to achieve with the Chamber, a new business lab dubbed CHISPA BizLab,
and the Chamber Foundation – among many other partners.

“The gazebo was the beginnings of this
placemaking and focusing attention on the downtown,” he said. “It’s bright and
like the things you’ve seen in Boston. We studied it and these are designs that
will resonate with residents of Central America and South America in shape and
color. They will also appeal to everyone because it adds color and vibrancy to
the area.”

“The initiative is working well so far,”
said City Manager Tom Ambrosino. “Hopefully, progress will continue in our
efforts to revitalize the Downtown.”

Sergio Jaramillo, who is a long-time Chamber
member and the new president of the Chamber Foundation, said they hope to use a
coordinated approach to bring life to the downtown, help businesses and make
downtown Chelsea a place to be.

“Our desire is to have Chelsea be a
destination point for the region – just like Chinatown and the North End and as
it is becoming in East Boston,” he said. “We want to have Chelsea be that place
they want to come to because of the activities and food and quality of life
that is here…Jay Ash was great for building up the coffers of the City again
and building up Everett Avenue. I think now we are on the cusp and ready to do
the other half of the city.”

Added Matos, “There are great opportunities
on Everett Avenue and the question is now how do we transform them from
isolated goals to a greater economic impact and draw them to the downtown for
that greater economic impact. That’s the challenge we’re working on now.”

An extension of the gazebo branding effort,
now being dubbed ‘Chelsea Centro’ as a test run – complete with bags and
buttons as promotional tools, is a $20,000 grant from the state that will bring
the same bright color scheme to Luther Place – where the successful Night
Market has been held twice this summer.

The parking lot/market will be painted in
bright colors, and also be painted to accommodate basketball or street soccer –
giving it many different opportunities for activation. That will be
supplemented by murals on the walls in the same color scheme, and sun shades to

protect from the summer heat. That grant is supported by a $55,000 matching
grant from the Chamber, which will also help to provide programming for the
district.

Chamber Executive Director Rich Cuthie has
been very excited about the branding of the downtown using the grant and the
Chamber’s resources. He said, like Jaramillo, that the district is on the cusp
of something very exciting. That is particularly the case for the storefront
improvement program, which has been paved by the passing of new storefront
regulations by the City Council this year.

Part of that will be financed by the new
CHISPA BizLab, which the state awarded a $20,000 grant to start. That will be
supplemented by a $6,000 grant by the Chamber Foundation.

Meaning “spark” in Spanish, CHISPA will help
to provide small business technical assistance and advocacy for Latino
businesses. It will also serve as a business incubator for new startups in
Chelsea’s business district. That assistance will particularly go towards
helping the food-related businesses in the district.

Already, CHISPA director Deise Paraguay has
started talking to local businesses, officially beginning on July 15. Right now
she said she is listening and learning – trying to bring everyone together. She
will also act as the organizer of all of the projects involved with the
re-branding effort.

Jaramillo said they have hired a company to
fly a drone up and down Broadway to highlight the district. Similarly, they
have contracted with a professional kitchen to bring in all of the restaurant
owners from Broadway to consult with professional chefs. Using traditional
recipes, they will work to invigorate their menus and give them new life.

Jaramillo said he is confident that in a few
years, the new efforts will all pay off with an enlivened and exciting downtown
for residents and those who want to come to Chelsea as a destination.

“I see in a few years that we will have an
opportunity for the business community to capture a new market,” he said.
“There will be more going on here and it will be more visually interesting for
residents and visitors coming here. When people say, ‘Where should we go to
dinner?’ They will say they want to go to Chelsea. Creating places where people
want to live and visit is the best thing to do.”

Added Matos, “A
lot of people are clamoring for authenticity in the places they go to. The
places in Cambridge and Somerville are maybe lacking that. We think Chelsea has
that authenticity you want and can’t get anywhere else. We want to highlight
that, and that’s what we are setting out to do now.”

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Chelsea Centro : Business Community Looking to Re-Brand, Reinvigorate Downtown

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