City Expected to Begin Design on Beacham Street in July

City Expected to Begin Design on Beacham Street in July

The City will begin design of a major rehabilitation of Beacham Street in the New England Produce Center area from Spruce Street to the Everett line, said City Planner Alex Train.

That comes due to the fact that the City was just recently awarded an unexpected $3 million grant for the project from the federal Department of Commerce’s Economic Development Administration.

Train said the City has proposed a $5 million capital investment in the project for the Fiscal Year 2020 Capital Improvement Plan (CIP), giving them $8 million total to complete the project.

He said they will begin as soon as they can.

“We are excited to get this started,” said Train. “We are scheduled to start design and engineering on July 1. We will hopefully break ground on construction July 1, 2019. I expect there would be a three-year construction timeline. During that time and before, we will be coordinating with abutters, residents and businesses.”

The plan includes completely repurposing the roadway from a predominantly industrial truck route to a major automobile/pedestrian/cyclist east-west corridor throughway.

That will mean it will get a new surface, a new roadway, a new sidewalk on one side, a shared-use path on the southerly side with a buffered bike/pedestrian path, stormwater/drainage improvements, new lighting, new street trees, new signals at the intersection of Spruce and Williams Streets.

In addition, Train said they are working with the City of Everett to coordinate the design so that the Everett project matches the Chelsea project.

“They will be mimicking our design so there will be a contiguous and similar cyclable and walkable roadway from Chelsea to Everett,” he said.

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City Announces Major Renovation Plan for Garden Cemetery

City Announces Major Renovation Plan for Garden Cemetery

The City has announced that they have hired a landscape architect to present a Master Plan for renovating the Garden Cemetery – with Phase 1 starting as early as this fall.

The goal, said Planner Karl Allen, is to have it all done by 2024.

“We’ve hired our landscape architect to put together a phased Master Plan for rehabilitating the cemetery,” he said. “Our goal is to have it in a condition where we can open it to the public from dawn to dusk on a daily basis by 2024 to commemorate the 400th anniversary of the settlement of Chelsea.”

City Manager Tom Ambrosino said the substantial repair of the historic, garden-style cemetery is part of the Capital Improvement Plan (CIP) – which the City Council approved last week. That CIP had $350,000 set aside for the Garden Cemetery work.

He said the Master Plan will include an analysis of the full rehabilitation and the costs associated with that.

“It’s a little bit of a jewel,” he said. “I think the City would like to spend some money to make it pop a little bit. It can be a small oasis in the middle of the city if treated properly and with a significant investment. I’m proud to recommend that.”

The first step in the program will be putting out phase one in for bid in the fall.

Phase one will include fixing the retaining wall on Shawmut Street that is close to collapse. It will also include replacing the metal fence around the cemetery and putting a new central gate on Shawmut and Chester. The existing entrance will have a new French gate and an arch with the words ‘Garden Cemetery 1841’ above the entrance.

Next year, it is expected that they will continue with the rehab and make the paths ADA compliant and fix the Soldier’s Lot. They will replace the broken up asphalt path piece by piece and put in something that is more appropriate to the time period, such as stone dust.

One of the key issues is that the grave stones over the years have fallen or been knocked over. That is an expensive proposition to set back all of the fallen stones, but Allen said they will likely do that incrementally over time.

“That’s definitely on our radar in order to get it open,” he said. “The restoration and resetting of the graves toppled is probably a very long-term process…Our initial purpose is to address safety issues.”

He also said they hope to be able to include an educational aspect to the project to get the students in Chelsea schools interested and informed about the Garden Cemetery.

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Chelsea Ready for Complete Stadium Renovation

Chelsea Ready for Complete Stadium Renovation

The City and the School Department are preparing to begin construction on a full renovation project of the Chelsea Memorial Stadium, putting down a new turf field and a new track.

Gerry McCue of the School Department said they will begin replacement of the field and track at the end of May.

“We have a synthetic turf field at the high school and it’s at the end of it useful life,” he said. “It was installed 17 years ago. They don’t last forever and it’s time to think about a new field. We’ve been working with the City because the cost was so high and we need to have it in the Capital Improvement Plan. We found at the same time the track was in desperate need of repair as well.”

After meeting with the Planning Department and stakeholders, such as the Pop Warner and Chelsea High coaches, they began designing the field and track.

As part of the project, they will push the track slightly up towards the Parkway to accommodate lighting in a better fashion. They will also prepare for a Phase 2 to the project, which will be built out later in the summer after being bid in July.

“That Phase 2 will provide new lights outside of the track and a new restroom facility,” he said. “We’re also going to create a Master Plan for our remaining baseball fields and the high school and the Burke Complex.”

That second phase is estimated to cost $900,000, with the lights accounting for $800,000 of that.

Phase 1 has already hit a kink in the chain, though, as bids came in at $2 million for a project with a $1.7 million budget. McCue said they would look at cost-cutting measures.

One of those measures is the addition of a large Chelsea ‘C’ in the middle of the new turf field. That might have to be cut out of the project due to the higher bid. Another possible cut is re-doing the scoreboard, which could be taken up at another time.

A second sand pit for pole vault and long jump is also a possibility.

By next fall, the Stadium should have a whole new look.

“We will probably start the project the day after Memorial Day, but it looks like that could slide into mid-June,” he said. “We were hoping to have everything buttoned up by mid-September, but it could end up being late September. It will be an exciting project to see completed next fall.”

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Council Approves Transfers for Rainy Day Funds

Council Approves Transfers for Rainy Day Funds

The Chelsea City Council approved a request from City Manager Tom Ambrosino to clean up and make a big-time deposit into the City’s savings accounts.

The Council approved a $15 million transfer into the Stabilization Fund on Monday night, and also approved a $5 million transfer into a new School Stabilization Fund. At the same time, three old savings accounts were closed out with about $300,000 going into the Stabilization Fund.

The requests came at the behest of Councillor Bob Bishop, who made the requests last month and presided over a committee meeting two weeks ago discussing the matters.

Bishop had indicated that he would like the money in the Stabilization Fund because he believes the City needs to save more money in case of a downturn in the economy. On the background, having the money in the Stabilization Fund gives the Council more control over any spending due to the fact that it requires a two-thirds vote of the Council.

Ambrosino said he supported both transfers and believed that the School Fund was a wise idea given that there are several projects coming up on the City’s schools.

All of them, he said, are in the Capital Improvement Plan.

In the same financial vein, the Council approved the final $3 million payment on the Clark Avenue Middle School project. The City has been paying cash wherever it can on the project – which is still under construction until this summer – to save money on interest payments accrued from having to borrow.

Part of the project is also funded by state reimbursements.

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Online Petition Growing Quickly to ‘Save Our Tower’

Online Petition Growing Quickly to ‘Save Our Tower’

By Seth Daniel

More than 600 supporters have signed an online petition at Change.org in less than a week that is aimed at saving the Chelsea Soldiers’ Home water tower.

The petition was started last Saturday by Chelsea resident Stephanie McCusker after she read the story in the Chelsea Record about the state planning to demolish the Soldiers’ Home water tower as part of its plan to build a new Living Center to better serve the veterans in the current Quigley Memorial Hospital.

“I started the petition to save the tower because just like the Citgo sign, Dorchester tank, the Orange Dinosaur (on Rt. 1), it has meaning,” she told the Record. “The meaning is ‘home’ or ‘almost home’ because I can see the Soldiers’ Home tower… We build everything else up high, would it hurt to add another floor to the design of the new facility instead of taking down a landmark? Nothing is sacred in this city anymore. Chelsea Clock is gone. Box District is all lofts, flats and condos. All the old schools are condos and lofts. The tower makes our city what it is today. It’s a way for people to find us. I mean if people think its ugly then we can paint it.”

Apparently many from Chelsea, and those who once lived in Chelsea agree with her, enthusiastically signing the petition.

“The Chelsea water tower has been a landmark of Chelsea all my life and I think it should remain there despite all the changes in Chelsea,” said Kenneth Lewis of Chelsea on the petition. “It’s as Chelsea as Katz Bagels, City Hall and Highland Park.”

Added former Chelsea resident Juan DeJesus, now of Port Richey, FL, “The Chelsea water tower is more then just a water tower. Its a symbol to everybody that comes from that city, and I’m one of them.”

Many others chimed in as well, and by Wednesday evening, there were 640 signees to the petition. The goal for the petition is to get 1,000 signatures.

McCusker said she heard from a friend about the news of the tower coming down. The friend suggested that someone start a petition. Being a bit bummed out by the news, McCusker said she took it upon herself to start the petition.

“I just felt the need to let everyone know that I wasn’t the only one saddened by this,” she said. “I was shocked as to how many people signed the petition just the first day alone. People left comments about how they used to live here and would hate to see it go – that they still have that ‘home feeling’ when seeing it on visits. Why not try and keep some of Chelsea preserved? Chelsea is an up and coming city, but why not keep a little ‘Old Chelsea’ as we do it?”

McCusker said her personal opinion is that it would be too expensive to preserve the old tower and move it to another location on the site. She said she would prefer to see it left as it, perhaps refurbished, and become part of the new plan.

Last week, the state’s Department of Capital Assets, Management and Maintenance (DCAMM) confirmed that as part of the major Community Living Center project – which demolishes the Quigley Memorial Hospital and constructs a brand new, modern veterans living facility – the old water tower would have to come down.

The news has been viewed as a tough decision, as no one wants the tower to come down, and no one wants the veterans project to be delayed or stymied.

DCAMM officials have said, as have City officials, that they are looking at alternatives to keep some part of the tower alive.

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District 6 Gets Much-Needed Attention this Summer

District 6 Gets Much-Needed Attention this Summer

By Seth Daniel

When Councillor Giovanni Recupero walks around his district on streets like Suffolk Street and Hawthorne Street this summer, he’ll be walking on sidewalks.

That wasn’t the case for nearly 30 or more years, and the outspoken councillor this week is celebrating the end of a long fight to get the City to pay more attention to his oft-forgotten enclave of the city abutting Chelsea Creek. Just two summers ago, he took the Record on a tour of his district, much of which had no sidewalks, was littered with garbage and lacked even cursory street lighting – making it an inviting area for criminals and those who wished to dump dead bodies (which used to happen occasionally).

On Monday, he stood on the exact location at Suffolk and Highland Street where weeds, dirt and used drug needles formerly served as a sidewalk, and celebrated brand new concrete walking paths. It’s what would be the minimum in some neighborhoods, but was rare in District 6.

“That’s something the people here, including myself, thought would never be done,” he said. “I lived here 40 years and people never thought they would see a streetlight here and I never thought I would see a sidewalk on Suffolk Street. Everyone’s happy this summer. Why wouldn’t they be? These are things that have been neglected by the City for a very, very, very long time.”

City Manager Tom Ambrosino said the “love” for District 6 is part of an overall massive infrastructure investment in the City.

“The City is seeking to invest in infrastructure improvements, particularly streets and sidewalk, in many areas of the City,” he said. “The Council has been supportive, approving a Capital Improvement Plan in FY17 of $11 million and in FY18 of $19 million. As a result of this investment, residents of all areas of the City, including District 6, should see improvements that enhance their neighborhoods.”

In addition to the sidewalks and granite curbing on Suffolk Street, Hawthorne Street is currently getting sidewalks right now, and both will be paved this summer too. Last year, on Lynn Street and Lynn Street Extension, streetlights went up for the first time in decades – putting an end to the darkness and the crime that took place in the absent of well-lit streets.

On Wednesday, crews moved in to start paving and implementing sidewalks on Lynn Street as well. Lynn Street Extension will be paved, but it will not get sidewalks because residents preferred to have parking.

On Charles Street, a small street that has no residents and connects Suffolk and Marginal Streets, and abuts Boston Hides and Furs, Recupero pointed out a new streetlight just installed. He said it’s a small thing, but one that will prevent a lot of criminal activity in what is a dark and deserted area.

“They told me for a long, long time they couldn’t do this,” he said. “There it is so I guess they could do it. They just didn’t want to do it.”

Next year, Recupero has designs on getting the same thing done on Congress Avenue and Division Street, among others.

“District 6 should be equal to other districts,” he said. “It hasn’t been and that’s not fair because there are just as many hard-working people here as in the rest of Chelsea. They keep their properties nice and we should be able to keep the City property nice too.”

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Ambrosino asks Council for $230K More for Highland Park

Ambrosino asks Council for $230K More for Highland Park

By Seth Daniel

The extensive improvements to Highland Park’s basketball courts and playground are now being expanded to include lighting improvements and a rehabilitation of the parking lot – at an extra cost of $230,000.

City Manager Tom Ambrosino broke the news to the City Council on Monday night, June 5, and told the Council that the scope of work needed to be expanded.

While the original work included just refurbishing the basketball courts, playground and sitting areas at Highland, once the City’s Planning Department began designing the improvements, they realized there was a desperate need to make additional improvements.

“As the City began to look more carefully at this park during the design phase, it determined that the parking lot area was likewise in desperate need of repair,” he wrote. “

The lighting fixtures were outdated and the irrigation system was not working.

The added improvements include paving the lot, replacement of the perimeter irrigation system, landscaping, an putting in modern lighting to illuminate the area more effectively. He also suggested installing new lighting on the Willow Street side of the park to help illuminate that busy area as well by the Jordan Boys & Girls Club and the Al Huda Society Mosque.

In the original scope, the City received a state grant for $400,000 and contributed $170,000 to the project through the City Capital Improvement Plan.

He called for the Council to tap into the $34 million Free Cash fund.

The full expenditure will now be $800,000.

The Council filed the request and will take it up for a second reading at Monday’s meeting.

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Honoring Elliot and Myer Katzman

By Cary Shuman

Elliot Katzman is a true Chelsea success story.

He grew up in the Central Avenue housing development, attended Shurtleff School, Chelsea High School, and Salem State University before launching his dynamic career and becoming a highly respected executive who built four highly successful companies.

Katzman continues to achieve in the world of business as a general partner at Commonwealth Capital Ventures.

The Chabad of Merrimack Valley-Boston honored Katzman’s life of achievement, generosity, and kindness at its Annual Community Breakfast May 17 at the Bostonian Hotel.

Making it an even prouder moment for Elliot was the fact that his father, Myer Katzman, a resident at the Cohen Florence Levine Estates Assisted Living, was also honored at the breakfast.

Elliot Katzman’s longtime Chelsea friends, Mike Zullo and Tom Faitel, were among the guests who came to honor the former CHS track standout.

Katzman was typically humble in his acceptance speech, thanking Jon Hirschtick for his special friendship that began 20 years ago.

He thanked his wife, Donna (Frangiamone), calling his high school sweetheart “the heart and soul of our family.”

“If my mother were here, she would point out that from our first date, Donna gave me purpose and motivation to build a future together,” Katzman told the crowd that filled the function hall at the hotel.

He also thanked his father and mother-in-law, Chelsea residents Jack and Mary Frangiamone, who looked on proudly from the family table in front of the podium.

“I couldn’t ask for better parents in-law,” said Katzman.

He also thanked his sons and daughter-in-law, Matt, Katie, Dave and Emily. “I couldn’t be more proud of Matthew and david and the men they have become.”

Katzman lauded his father, Myer, “the man of the hour, the real honoree” at the impressive breakfast.

“While I received a wonderful formal education, much of what I accomplished in life is the result of the love and support from my parents and grandparents, and special life lessons I received simply by observing my dad,” he said.

“My father married Marilyn Rosenthal in 1955 and they settled in Chelsea. My father was a devoted husband and father. He has always been a dedicated father to my brother [Scott] and me.”

He recalled his father’s main job working at Revere Smoked Fish, which later become Sealect Foods, where he worked for over 50 years. He told the guests of the respect his father gained from customers.

“Today my father is thriving at the Leonard Florence Assisted Living,” said Katzman. “He says it’s the nicest place he ever lived. There are recreation activities and the staff makes him feel special and respected. I want to thank Barry Berman and Shelly and her husbad, Jimmy, and Kate Kelly, his nurse practitioner for the wonderful work they do.”

Myer Katzman took the podium to a warm standing ovation and an embrace from his son, Elliot.

“I love my sons, Elliot and Scott, very much and I am very proud of them,” said Mr. Katzman. “They both married wonderful women, Donna and Robin, and they gave me four grandchildren.I have much nachas, which is Yiddish, and means I am very lucky.”

Mr. Katzman also thanked “the people at the Assisted Living for everything you do.”

It was clear that Mr. Katzman was overwhelemed by the tremendous honor extended to him and his son on this memorable morning.

Said Elliot’s friend and classmate, Mike Zullo, “This was a deserving tribute to two outstanding individuals. I feel fortunate to be here today on such a happy occasion. I’m proud of Elliot for all his accomplishments in life and the fact that he has never forgotten his Chelsea roots.”

Elliot Katzman embraces his father, Myer, as they receive a standing ovation from the many guests at the breakfast.

Elliot Katzman embraces his father, Myer, as they receive a standing ovation from the many guests at the breakfast.

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State of the City Features Plan for Investing in Residents

By Seth Daniel

The State of the City cannot be summed up in one word, as is often the case in such speeches, but for which City Manager Tom Ambrosino said he could not do during his speech to the City Council Monday night.

“Sometimes people may say we are ‘strong’ or ‘solvent’ or ‘solid,’ but when I tried to decide on one particular word for Chelsea, I couldn’t,” he said. “I have observed in my eight months here that Chelsea is a city in transition. This governing body is in transition…My office is in transition. You’ve had a long-term charismatic City Manager and now you have something different. The City itself is under great transition. The One North building is fully developed bringing professionals and new residents, yet at the same time we have a city with pockets of incredible violence and social ills.”

The 15-minute speech was an opportunity for Ambrosino to lay out his goals for the City in the coming years, and at the outset – though he didn’t intend to – he delved into the horrific shooting incident on Washington Avenue last Sunday.

After discussing his thoughts and the public safety plan, he said he wants to invest in the schools.

“When it comes to budgeting, schools haven’t always been front and center,” he said. “That’s something I want to transition more to.”

He said he would like to expand the Citizen Schools program to every middle school and every grade by the 2019 school year.

On that same youth front, he said he is proposed a new division within the Health and Human Services Department that will be called the Cultural/Recreation Division.

“This City has really been blessed by great leadership and where that leadership has been most successful was creating great financial stability,” he said. “Now is the time to take that stability and invest it in our residents so we can have that safe, vibrant, thriving and diverse city we all want.”

He told the Council he wants them to act on his Capital Improvement Plan, which invests $27 million into the City over two years. That’s far more than previous CIPs and will address everything from sidewalks to street repairs.

He is also calling for $5 million to be devoted to revamping the Broadway business district from City Hall to Chelsea Square.

He said $400,000 of that money will be devoted to planning this year.

The next year, he said, would be a matter of spending the $5 million for improvements to pedestrian access, historic lighting and other improvements.

“If the design work indicates we will need more than $5 million, I will be coming back to you for more than that $5 million,” he said.

He also spoke about economic development and the fact that the City can now choose it’s projects, and he warned of gentrification.

“The kind of development we’ve had here for a city this size is the gold standard,” he said. “It’s not a fluke. It exists because Chelsea has great geographic attributes that no other city has…The challenge for the city is not attracting development. The challenge will be making sure development coming now serves the interests of people who live here. It’s going to require an insistence that when development comes, we require things from the developer.”

In that, he rolled out a new inclusionary zoning policy which will establish, if adopted by Council, an affordable housing component in each new development. He said the City will have the choice of allowing developers to contribute to an affordable housing fund for the building of new affordable housing projects if the units are not in the proposed development.

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City Manager:Time to Invest in Chelsea

By Seth Daniel

The new Capital Improvement Plan (CIP) has been submitted to the City Council and City Manager Tom Ambrosino said it is a huge uptick in spending – with some $27 million in investments on the City over the next two years.

“It’s time to invest our money,” he said. “The City finances are in good shape with lots of reserves and not a lot of debt. It’s time to transition into a new era in Chelsea where we’re investing in programs and infrastructure to improve the City.”

The previous CIP spent about $9 million over one year.

Ambrosino said he hopes the Council will approve the plan, and that a central highlight is a major investment in the Broadway corridor from City Hall to Chelsea Square.

Ambrosino said he has requested $400,000 in planning money for this coming fiscal year to map out the changes with the community. In the second year of the CIP, he is requesting that $5 million be spent on infrastructure in the Broadway business district.

“The goal would be to plan this over the course of the next year,” he said. “We want to do new streetscapes, ornamental lighting and maybe a facade improvement program.”

Chamber of Commerce President Sergio Jaramillo said his organization is on board with the plan.

“We certainly support any and everything that can improve the look of the Broadway corridor,” he said. “It’s important because that infrastructure and that area is very important. The Chamber is very committed to working with Tom and the City Council on this to make sure it gets carried out.”

Ambrosino said he also wants to explore – at the same time – the idea of moving the bus circulation and the bus stop in front of Bunker Hill Community College.

“That bus stop cuts them off totally from the rest of the Square,” he said. “I want to open up Bunker Hill to the Square and connect them to us.”

He said he pictures buses perhaps stopping in a central area in the Square rather than in several different stops.

“I’d like to do something like that, but I don’t know if I can pull that off,” he said, noting that changes to the T program are very difficult to enact.

After that, he said he has a lot of spending for the neighborhoods, including the district of Councillor Giovanni Recupero, who has often pointed out that many of his streets don’t have lights and some sidewalks have been neglected so long that there appears there was never a sidewalk in place.

“There is a call for a lot of investment in streets, sidewalks and schools,” he said. “There’s going to be a lot of investment over the next two years if the Council approves this. It’s an investment of about $27 million and that’s exclusive of the $20 million we’re investing in the new Clark Avenue School.”

One thing that isn’t on that list is the full reconstruction of Broadway from Revere to City Hall – a stretch of road that is in really tough shape and needs work above and below ground.

“We’ll likely push that off to 2021,” he said. “That’s a $10 million plan. We’ll continue to band aid that solution for a bit. That requires major work on the pipes and utilities.”

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