A Chelsea firefighter fighting the stunning blaze created by Pollo Campero in Park Square on Sunday night. The popular restaurant was a total loss, but owners said they intend to re-build.
Heavy smoke poured from the popular Pollo Campero restaurant in Park Square on Sunday night, with firefighters facing treacherous conditions that forced their evacuation numerous times as they tried to put out the stunning fire.
In the end, crews battled and made quick
work of it – getting it out within an hour.
Chief Len Albanese said it is still under
investigation this week, and that it was a total loss.
“The fire is still under investigation;
however, I can report at this time that it appears that the fire started in a
concealed space within a wall, then traveled to the loft space above the
ceiling where the fire was allowed to burn for some time before breaking out
and activating the Fire Alarm system,” he said. “This would account for the
major fire condition on arrival even though the building had a working fire
alarm system. Also, there were no sprinklers within the structure. The fire
remains under investigation for a definitive cause that will be reported upon
There were no civilian injuries, but one
firefighter was injured.
On Sunday evening, at 11:40 p.m. Chelsea
Fire Alarm received an alarm of fire from Box 1134 for the Pollo Campero
restaurant located at 115 Park St. First arriving companies from Chelsea E2 and
L1 under the command of Capt. Phil Rogers reported heavy smoke showing on
arrival from the rear of the building. C4 Deputy Wayne Ulwick arrived
on scene assuming command and immediately ordered the Working
Fire. Due to the heavy smoke and reports of heavy fire within the interior
of the building, a Second Alarm was requested bringing companies from Revere,
Everett, Boston and MassPort to the scene. Crews were ordered out of the
building several times due to conditions rapidly deteriorating from
heavy fire conditions within the structure forcing firefighters to attack the
fire with defensive operations using blitz guns, hand lines
and ladder pipes
The fire was brought under control within an
The Boston Sparks Club under the command of
President Paul Boudreau responded to the scene supplying Re-Hab and
refreshments for the firefighters. Chelsea Police also provided traffic and
crowd control during fire. Crews from Medford and Boston provided mutual aid
during the fire.
Chief Albanese said it was a defensive fight
for firefighters because the structure was too far along to be saved.
Nevertheless, owners are determined to rebuild.
“It was determined that the fire was well
involved within the structure, and crews were ordered out of the building and
proceeded with a defensive fire attack,” he said. “Given the time of day, a
closed business and no reports of occupants, this was the safest course of
action given that very early on it was apparent that this building could not be
saved. Members of Fire Prevention are working with the ownership, who reported
to us that they intend to rebuild as soon as possible.”
The Chelsea 500 Committee, consisting of local organizations such as the Chelsea Collaborative, TND, the Chelsea Housing Authority, the Chelsea Recreation and Cultural Affairs Division, and Bunker Hill Community College, will hold a Career Fair on Dec. 14 at Chelsea City Hall.
The newly formed committee is working collectively to create a jobs pathway for Chelsea residents with Encore Boston Harbor, the $2.6 billion casino and resort that will open in June, 2019, in Everett.
The committee is working on holding jobs pipeline information sessions, career readiness workshops, case management, interview skills workshops, ESL, computer classes and much more. All members of the community interested in working at Encore Boston Harbor are encouraged to participate in the various workshops and classes.
The “500” portion of the Chelsea 500 Committee’s name represents the committee’s hopes to create a workforce pipeline so that 500 or more residents can gain the skills and support necessary to apply for positions at Encore Boston Harbor.
While Chelsea 500 focuses on the opening of the casino, its longer-term ambition is to build a local workforce development capacity, along with advocacy and job readiness services, to improve Chelsea residents’ chances of securing employment in the near term. Building relationships with businesses in other hospitality-related industries is another goal for the committee.
Chelsea 500 will collaborate with the Casino Action Network, One Everett, Somerville, Boston, and the MassHire Metro North Workforce Board.
(Chelsea 500, MassHire and Encore Boston Harbor will host an information session on Nov. 13 at 6 p.m. at the Mary C. Burke Complex. For more information, please call Sylvia Ramirez at 617-889-6080).
A new function hall is slated to open at the site of the former Polish American Veterans Hall at 35 Fourth Street.
At its most recent meeting, the licensing commission approved restaurant and entertainment licenses for the proposed hall.
The applicant, Emiliana Fiesta, LLC, also applied for a wine and beer license, but will have to wait until there is an available license in the city. However, one-day liquor licenses can be granted for the weddings, birthday parties, and other functions planned for the facility.
The Polish American hall had a capacity of over 500 occupants for the two floors of the building. But based on concerns voiced by police officials, the licensing commission approved the restaurant license with a capacity of 250 occupants, limiting the functions to one level of the building, while the basement level can only be used for storage and kitchen purposes. The owners will also install licenses at all entrances on both floors of the building.
Even with the limitations on use, police Captain Keith Houghton said he was wary that the use of the building could tip from being a function hall to operating as a full-blown night club.
“This is going to be a challenge,” said Houghton, who also requested that the opaque outside of the building be replaced with clear windows and that a floor plan be provided to police and the licensing committee.
Broadway resident Paul Goodhue said he also had concerns about the proposal.
“I’ve watched the police clean up that corner of Fourth and Broadway,” he said. “You’re going to be opening up a can of worms if that ends up being a nightclub.”
Commission member Roseann Bongiovanni said she understood the concerns of the police and neighbors.
“We do not want this to turn into a nightclub, that’s not an appropriate function,” she said.
But with the proper conditions in place, Bongiovanni said the new owners of the building should have the chance to give the function hall a go.
“They bought (the building) with the same use,” Bongiovanni said. “I feel like we should give them a shot.”
Licensing Commission Chairman James Guido also stipulated that live bands can perform during functions only and that for functions of over 100 people, a police detail should be requested.
The approved hours for the function hall are 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Mondays through Thursdays, 11 a.m. to midnight Fridays and Saturdays, and 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. on Sundays.
Chelsea Cultural Council has received $21,900 from the Massachusetts Cultural Council (MCC) a state agency, to assist public projects that promote access, education, diversity and excellence in the arts, humanities and sciences.
Council members will be available to discuss grant procedure and guidelines on Monday, September 24 from 2-6 p.m. in the lobby of the Williams Building, 180 Walnut Street.
Organizations, schools, individuals are encouraged to apply for grant funds that can be used to support a variety of artistic and cultural projects that benefit citizens in Chelsea – including field trips, exhibits, festivals, short-term arts residencies or performances in schools as well as cultural workshops and lectures. Projects awarded must be implemented between January, 2019 and December 31, 2019.
The deadline for completed Online Application must be received by October 15, 2018.
Online Application is available at www.mass-culture.org/chelsea. Guidelines can be picked up at Chelsea City Hall, Dept. of Health & Human Services, Room 100 or find it at www.chelseama.gov/ccc. For additional information call (617) 466-4090 or email email@example.com.
It was a new year at the Clark Avenue Middle School Wednesday morning, Aug. 29.
But it wasn’t just any new year.
It was the year that students poured through a brand new front door to the clean, sparkling hallways of a brand new $54 million school building with all of the most modern amenities that their old school – the former 110-year-old Chelsea High School – couldn’t provide.
“I really want to see the new gym; I can’t wait,” said William Bay, a 7th grader, as he waited outside his new school Wednesday morning. “I guess I just want to see all of the school. I’m excited about the whole thing. I think it will help me do better in school. I’m going to learn more here.”
For parents, the excitement was just as frenzied.
“I’m so excited,” said Bernice Reyes, who brought her two sixth graders for their first day. “I have a college graduate who went to the old Clark Ave. I remember that school. It couldn’t give these kids what this one will.”
Said Sara El-Mahil, a returning student, “It’s better than the old one for sure. The classroom are larger and all the water fountains will work now. I really like the space in the front where kids can hang out before school. Everything is going to be more organized.”
The Clark Ave began several years ago, with Phase 1 concluding in December 2016 and kids being welcomed into the new classroom portion along Tudor Street. This year, however, the entire school was opened to students – revealing a new gym, new music rooms, the library and numerous other amenities that completed the project.
“It’s a fantastic building,” said Principal Michael Talbot. “The kids are going to love it. The teachers are going to love the new options that this building gives them to teach the kids. Everyone’s excited.”
Supt. Mary Bourque and other district officials, including Gerry McCue – who shepherded the project through before retiring this year, were on hand to welcome students and parents.
“I am so proud of what the City has done here with this facility,” she said. “This was the right thing to do for the kids and the community.”
One of the most appreciated things on Wednesday morning for the students, parents and staff was the new, sprawling courtyard and outdoor amphitheatre at the corner of Tudor Street and Clark Avenue. The new space is still under construction, but was finished to the extent that it offered a great place to gather before school.
Previously, the school hugged the sidewalk, and there was little to no space for gathering.
The new outdoors space will support learning at the school, and will also be available for the community to use for things such as outdoor plays or movies.
Williams School sewer problems
The Williams School – home of the Browne Middle and Wright Middle Schools – experienced a heart-attack moment on Monday afternoon when a major sewer blockage threatened opening day.
Around 3 p.m. on Monday, the sewer backed up and caused a major problem in the school. All of the teachers getting prepared for the school year in the building were sent home.
Joe Cooney and his team at the Buildings and Grounds Department went to work on the problem and soon found that there was a huge cluster of baby wipes clogging the sewer pipe and drains.
“Joe’s team worked throughout the night washing and sanitizing everything and we were ready to be back in business Tuesday morning,” said Supt. Mary Bourque. “I am truly the luckiest and most grateful Superintendent for our dedicated and hard-working Buildings and Grounds department.”
A state budget advocacy organization – Massachusetts Budget and Policy Center – has released a report this week detailing a five-year roadmap to fix the state’s education funding crisis – a plan that would require $888 million over five years and mean $21 million more in state funding per year for Chelsea Schools.
Colin Jones of Mass Budget told the Record that the report – titled ‘Building an Education System that Works for Everyone: Funding Reforms to Help All Our Children Thrive’ – details a plan that would allow the state to increase school aid – specifically to communities like Chelsea Revere, and Everett – by around $200 million per year over a five-year period. That phased approach would lead to restoring what the 1993 education reform law promised, he said.
“The big picture is our school funding and the system isn’t really providing the resources that are needed for kids across these Gateway Cities like Chelsea,” he said. “The formula for funding hasn’t been updated in 25 years and the school district with the least wealth are facing the worst of it. We looked at the budgets and found that many of these districts are spending 25 percent below what they are supposed to spend on teachers. To make up for it, they have to shift money from other areas or get additional revenues or make cuts to other areas. That’s leading to these big budget gaps.”
Supt. Mary Bourque said the research confirms what the Chelsea Schools have been saying for quite some time.
“The Mass. Budget research validates what we have been saying as superintendents for years,” she said. “In 2013, Massachusetts Association of School Superintendents did their own research which placed the underfunding of school districts at over $2 billion. In 2015, the Foundation Budget Reform Commission – of which I was a member – placed school districts also at over $2 billion underfunded. Now in 2018, we have MassBudget research attesting to the same. It is time to address the flaws that are well documented by multiple groups. It is time to fund our schools and place our students first.”
Jones said the formula fix needs to address the disparities between wealthy and poorer districts. Right now, he said Weston spends around $17,000 per student, while Chelsea Revere, and Everett are around $11,000 per student.
He said it should be the other way around.
He said the current formula requires districts to spend a set amount on teacher salaries, and in order to do that in the current funding climate, districts like Chelsea have to cut the extras, ask for City money or seek out grants. If that doesn’t happen, then it leads to cuts, bigger classes and no extras. Another byproduct is not being able to maintain school facilities properly.
“There are big gaps in these districts and it’s where you’ll see bigger class sizes, less money for the arts and less for enrichment programs,” he said. “You see them have to cut ties with long-time successful partners. They can apply for grants, but they shouldn’t be in that position. Education reform was about the districts doing their job at educating the kids and the state giving them what they needed to do it…We’re now starting to see a backsliding to what it used to be like before education reform.”
In Chelsea, the Foundation budget now is at $113 million, and state Chapter 70 education aid is $90 million. Under the new plan by Mass. Budget, by 2023, the school foundation budget would be $134 million and the state Chapter 70 aid would be $110 million.
It’s a gain of some $21 million per year in aid that the Chelsea Schools have been calling for over the past several years.
Jones said they consider their report a blueprint for fixing the statewide problem – a problem that is especially apparent in cities like Chelsea Everett, and Revere. He said he is hoping that it garners attention on Beacon Hill and becomes a point of discussion.
“We can fix this,” he said. “We have a blueprint now. These things will cost money to implement. There is a price, but we’re in a good economy and we’ve had good revenue collections at the state level. We’re looking at a phased approach of $200 million each year for five years.”
The historic rotunda skylight above the circulation desk at the Chelsea Public Library has served for decades as a nice ceiling, but few knew that the elegant egg-shaped ceiling was designed to provide beautiful natural lighting to the striking entrance of the historic library.
Now everyone knows.
The rotunda above the foyer of the library was completed last Friday, June 15, and made a bright showing for patrons when the library opened on a sunny Monday.
Library Director Sarah Jackson said the rotunda is one part of several small, but effective, renovations that have occurred in the last three years at the library – which had been showing its age severely when she took over three years ago.
“The rotunda is original to the 1910 building, so that means it was 108 years old,” she said. “It certainly got its use, but it was time to replace it. The skylight is new and they re-built the entire structure off-site and moved it back on. It was one of the most extensive renovations that company has done. It was structurally deficient and leaked badly. There has been a tarp over it since I’ve been here. It lasted over 100 years and we decided to make it as historically accurate as possible, but with a modern look.
“It is beautiful and they did a beautiful job,” she continued. “It’s nice to have it open with so much natural light coming in, and we might even be able to see the stars in the winter.”
The rotunda was part of a five-year strategic plan for the building that Jackson wrote with her staff and the Library Trustees three years ago.
Two years ago they began putting new carpeting in the areas most heavily traveled.
Last year, they added more carpet and painted the reference and reading rooms, as well as putting in new lighting there.
“It’s really looking like a brand new building at this point, but with the beautiful details and woodwork still included and not touched,” she said. “It was very dim in the reading rooms, but now that’s changed too.”
Additionally, by getting rid of some of the obsolete books, mostly in the reference section, they were able to create new space at the front of the library to make a Teen Section. There, they have included games, magazines and an area with new furniture for teens to hang out and read.
Jackson said it all came together with very little money and was a way to make the old library new again.
“Every time someone walks in the door, there’s something new that we’ve done that they see,” she said. “I don’t like hearing people come in and say it looks exactly like it did when they were a kid. We’ve tried to change that and the skylight is the bright spot certainly. It didn’t take a lot of money, but really the will and desire to get it done.”
In addition to the great renovations, the library announced that it will be extending its hours to 8 p.m. on Mondays and Tuesdays through the summer. Previously, they were only open late on Tuesdays.
“We re-arranged the schedule and made it work,” said Jackson. “We were pretty packed on Tuesday nights, so this opens up another evening for programming in the summer.”
On Dec. 22, at 5:20 p.m., officers responded to 165 Walnut St. for a report of a past armed robbery. Upon officers’ arrival, they made contact with the victim and alleged robbery suspect, standing out front of the building. The victim claims the suspect took $200 from him after he left the ATM at the Chelsea Bank on Broadway. The suspect claims the money was used to buy drugs from him and that the victim complained about the quality of the drugs purchased.
Jose Rivera, 32, of 11 Congress Ave., was charged with unarmed robbery.
REFUSED SERVICE AT BAR
On Dec. 22, at 10:49 p.m., officers were dispatched to the Spanish Falcon Club located at 158 Broadway on the report of a fight outside.
Officers observed security outside speaking to a group of men, two of which appeared intoxicated. As Officers spoke to security, they were informed that the two intoxicated males had been causing a disturbance because security refused them entry due to their state of intoxication.
They were asked to leave several times, but were becoming aggressive towards employees. As officers engaged the men in conversation, it was apparent that the men were upset at having been refused entry and wanted to continue their night of drinking. The two men refused the officers’ orders to leave the area and became loud and boisterous, causing a disturbance. The first male was placed into custody after violently resisting officers in their attempt to place him under arrest. The second male, and brother of the male taken into custody, refused orders to leave, and he also became aggressive and was taken into custody after a struggle.
David Garcia, 24, of 141 Marlborough St., was charged with disorderly conduct.
Kevin Garcia, 21, of Lynn, was charged with disorderly conduct, assault and battery on a police officer and resisting arrest.
The late Victor Bailey, a world-renowned jazz musician and painter, will be honored on Dec. 9 at the final show in the Spencer Lofts Gallery. Bailey was a resident of the Lofts for about two years before passing last year.
It’s only appropriate that Victor Bailey would close down the Spencer Lofts Gallery.
The world-famous jazz musician, who passed away last year from complications related to MS/ALS, once lived at the Spencer Lofts while working as a bass professor at Berklee College of Music. After taking up art as well as music, he had a great collection of works that were expertly shown in the gallery when it re-opened two years ago. It drew a major crowd and was a highlight for the long-time gallery in the loft building.
“He passed away in November 2016 and lived here about two years ago,” said Dar DeVita, who coordinates the gallery and announced this week that Bailey’s fundraising show would be the last show there. “He was a lovely man and everyone got along great with him here. He was always so happy and loved it here. He really loved that people in the building knew him for his painting, and not just his jazz. After we had closed the first time, he was our re-opening show. Now, sadly, he will be our last show before we close again.”
The fundraiser will benefit Bailey’s estate through the proceeds from the many works that remain in his family’s possession. Bailey’s paintings will be on display in the gallery and will be available for purchase. Proceeds will benefit the Victor Bailey Estate and the Berklee College of Music.
The time will take place on Saturday, Dec. 9, from 4-8 p.m. in the Gallery at Spencer Lofts. Parking is available on site.
Additionally, several of Bailey’s colleagues from Berklee will be on hand to play live jazz music throughout the evening – which will be a tribute to not only his music prowess, but also his artistic abilities.
Born into a music family in Philadelphia in 1960, Bailey attended Berklee and launched a hugely successful jazz career, while also writing many well-known R&B songs for major artists.
An accomplished bassist, Bailey was an Associate Professor of Bass at Berklee College of Music. He performed and recorded with Sonny Rollins, Lady Gaga, Miriam Makeba, Madonna, Mary J. Blige and many others during his long, notable career. He also recorded with Chelsea’s own Chick Corea from time to time.
Bailey was the bassist in two of the most influential jazz-fusion groups: Weather Report (he replaced the legendary Jaco Pastorius) and Steps Ahead.
Bailey drew up upon his jazz career for inspiration in his art career.
DeVita said it will be a bittersweet evening for the Gallery though, as it is closing down for good. Though many Chelsea residents have treasured its contributions to the arts scene in the city, DeVita said many of the residents in the building are not interested anymore.
“We are closing it down,” she said. “I’ve resigned as of Jan. 1 and there is no one taking over. The building doesn’t understand the value of the gallery and my time is up. I’m hoping the show will spark some interest in someone to take over. Maybe it will be a person in the building that will see the value of this and want to keep it going. If not, it will just close.”
The Gallery was a coup for Chelsea when the lofts were built more than a decade ago, one of the few arts locales in the City.
Reception and admission to the Gallery are free and open to the public. The Victor Bailey Exhibit runs through December 31, 2017. Gallery hours by appointment.
Accessible parking is available, as is on-street parking.
The upcoming Chelsea Viaduct state highway project may include plans to eliminate the 5th Street onramp next to the Williams School, and Councillor Roy Avellaneda said he wants answers about the plan.
Avellaneda said at the Nov. 20 Council meeting that he has learned that MassDOT is considering closing down the onramp, which he said is critical for making sure the downtown and Everett Avenue are not flooded with vehicle traffic at certain times of the day.
“There is a proposal by MassDOT to close the 5th Street onramp to the Tobin Bridge at Arlington Street adjacent to the MITC Building,” he said. “They are talking…about doing away with it and eliminating it. It jumps off the page to me. I am wondering what impact that will have to the other two off-ramps and what kind of drastic impact it will have on our downtown.”
The MITC (Massachusetts Information Technology Center) Building is a state-owned building that houses computer technology and electronic records for the state. It has several hundreds employees.
A spokesman for MassDOT would not confirm or deny that there is a plan to take away the on-ramp. He said the plans are still in design for the overall viaduct project, and a public process with members of the community is underway.
A meeting took place earlier this month in Chelsea to discuss the project, which will begin in 2016.
“The Massachusetts Department of Transportation (MassDOT) is continuing to move forward with the design of the Chelsea Viaduct Rehabilitation Project and is committed to rehabilitating this important structure to ensure long term reliability throughout this area,” said the spokesman in a statement. “MassDOT has developed a comprehensive public participation plan that will engage local civic leaders and elected officials, area businesses and members of the community as well as commuters.”
The land where the onramp is located was actually taken by the Highway Department decades ago when the Tobin/Mystic Bridge was being constructed. That particular piece of land was the home to Union Park – a park that housed the Civil War statue now across the street from City Hall. The park was laid out in a “spoke” formation with all paths leading to the Civil War monument in the center. However, during the Bridge construction, it was part of a massive land-taking in Chelsea and was designated for highway use.
It’s on that basis where Avellaneda said he wants more information. He said he wants to know what the plan is for that land if the onramp is taken away. He said since it was taken by eminent domain for highway use, it should be returned to the City if it is no longer a highway use.
He said he has suspicions that the state just wants to use the land to create more parking for the MITC employees.
“Do they want to expand parking for the MITC?” he asked. “That land was taken by eminent domain for one purpose and that was for a highway. If the highway is no longer using it for a highway, that land should go back to the City. That land was taken away from Chelsea and should not go to the MITC for parking and for them to continue their spread. The plan for 5th Street needs to be found and any hidden agenda out there needs to be found.”
The Chelsea Viaduct is a structure which runs between the Tobin Bridge to where Route 1 crosses above County Road and the Viaduct carries traffic through the area known as the “Chelsea Curves.”
The Chelsea Viaduct is structurally deficient and in need of repair and rehabilitation in order to ensure the reliability of this important connection.
Working with the City of Chelsea, residents living near the Viaduct, roadway users, and other stakeholders, the project team is currently designing a plan for construction that minimizes and mitigates temporary construction impacts. MassDOT’s current schedule includes reaching the 25 percent design milestone before the end of this year, continuing design and related work throughout the winter, and then advertising the project to potential construction bidders in the spring of 2018.
When completed, the Viaduct Rehabilitation project will provide repairs to the structure’s supports and a new travel surface for vehicles traveling on it. Work on the viaduct will be coordinated with construction activities occurring as part of the separate Tobin Bridge Deck Rehabilitation Project.