Chelsea residents can expect to see a flurry of activity from the Community Preservation Committee (CPC) over the coming year.
Earlier this year, the City Council approved Community Preservation Act (CPA) funding for a round of pilot projects recommended by the CPC.
The projects recommended by the CPC included money for the rehabilitation of the city’s Civil War monument, improvements to the Garden Cemetery, a Marlborough Street Community Garden proposed by The Neighborhood Developers (TND), renovation of the Governor Bellingham-Cary House, renovations to the Congregation Agudath Shalom Museum (Walnut Street Synagogue) and for the city to hire an Affordable Housing Trust Fund housing specialist on a one-year contract basis.
Chelsea voters approved the adoption of the CPA in November 2016. It will provide hundreds of thousands of dollars each year to be used for the creation and acquisition of affordable housing, historic preservation, open space and recreation. The CPA trust fund currently has a balance of just over $2.2 million before any money was spent on the recent round of pilot projects.
The projects that could be funded during the initial pilot round were capped at $50,000 each. The total of the seven proposals that came before the CPC is just under $270,000, according to CPC Chair Jose Iraheta.
Although Iraheta said he can’t speak for the other members of the CPC, he said he was excited by the Council’s approval of the pilot program.
“The committee has been entrusted by our fellow Chelsea residents to help preserve our open spaces, historic sites, and housing affordability,” Iraheta said. “The projects that were funded through this pilot honor our fellow community members’ wishes. I cannot wait for our next funding round and see what kind of solutions our community comes up with.”
One of the immediate goals for the CPC is to make sure everyone in Chelsea knows what the CPA is, what the community values are, and how the CPC funds have been used, according to the CPC Chairman.
“The CPC will focus on standardizing the community engagement efforts, capture our community’s voice in the community preservation plan and create a straightforward application process so people can know what to expect,” Iraheta said. “We want to create a system that is responsible for our community’s goals and priorities. If organizations and individuals know what to expect, we hope to see more robust and strong community projects that reflect our community’s values.”
To accomplish this, he said the CPC will be engaged in deep reflective conversation around the pilot process, including inviting CPC members from other communities to learn from their experiences, building on proven practices.
“My expectations are for the next grant applications to receive more solutions that meet the values, goals, and priorities laid out in the Community Preservation Plan,” Iraheta said.
A CPC meeting was scheduled to be held on Thursday night.
During the summer, the CPC will work to finalize engagement and application timelines for CPA projects. The next round of funding will not be limited to the $50,000 cap of the pilot round, Iraheta said, but a final decision has yet to be made on if there will be a larger cap on the requested amount.
Organizations or individuals can get more information on how to apply and on the Community Preservation Plan through the City of Chelsea’s Community Preservation Committee dedicated portal at www.chelseama.gov/community-preservation-committee.
Iraheta said he would like to continue to see proposed projects that meet the core values of the Community Preservation Plan.
“The CPA funds are a tool that strengthens our communities through funding for open space protection, historic preservation, affordable housing, and outdoor recreation preserve,” he said. “The CPC does not implement projects; community organizations and individuals do. If your proposal adheres to the values in the Community Preservation Plan, we will consider your application for funding.”
One of the most painful activities as a child is accompanying mom, dad or an older sister to the laundromat.
With only soap operas typically on television and little else to do that twiddle the thumbs or browse phone videos, kids quickly get bored at such places.
Now, Chelsea Community Connections (CCC) and Grace Muwina have combined efforts to put small, free children’s libraries at laundromats throughout the city.
So far, they’ve piloted the program at the Stop & Wash Mat on Broadway, next to Fine Mart, and it’s been a raging success.
“It is working really well so far because the first time we came here we filled up all the book shelves and two days later we came and it was empty,” said Cara Cogliano of CCC. “It means the kids are reading and using the books. Part of the idea is having access to books here at the laundromat, but if they can take it home, we want that too. We really just want access to books for kids. It’s a captive audience here, there’s not much to do, and we thought we should meet the kids where they’re at.”
Muwina has spearheaded the effort as part of a project for her class at TND’s Parent Leadership Program.
“I wanted this program to reach the kids where they are all the time, and give them access to books to read,” said Muwina. “It’s also a way to cut down on screen time as well. When kids are in the laundromat, they are constantly looking at videos on the phone. If this can get them off the phone for a half hour and help them to read a book instead, that can make a bid difference over time.”
This past Monday, at the Stop & Wash, little Emelia Nieto was busy reading a flip book as her mom folded clothes. The little girl was delighted when she learned she could take the book home, and that she could choose one as well for her baby sister.
Cogliano said all of the books are donated to CCC, so the effort is really cost-free. The only cost is the time of volunteers to return to the laundromat and fill up the book cases twice a week with new books.
The novel way of promoting reading is something both women hope will catch on at the many other laundromats in Chelsea. So far, Stop & Wash was the first to agree to the program.
Cogliano and Muwina said they hope that other volunteers will pick up the momentum and begin placing other children’s libraries in other laundromats.
“It’s not an original idea, but the ability for other people to pick up the project and do it elsewhere is tremendous,” she said.
The development team looking to re-build the Innes Housing Development into a mixed-income community has made some major changes this summer – inserting a central parking garage and implementing a single phase of construction that will cut two years off the build-out.
The Chelsea Housing Authority (CHA) and Corcoran Development released the new plans this week ahead of a meeting with residents of the Innes on Tuesday night. The redevelopment plan includes 330 units of housing, with the existing 96 units of public housing re-developed alongside the market-rate housing and 40 workforce development units as well.
The major change in the project is completing it within a single phase, staring in the fall of 2020 and cutting off two years of construction due to eliminating phase 2.
CHA Director Al Ewing said as a result of community input, they decided it would be better for residents and neighbors to attack the project in just one phase. Previously, the project contained two phases and lasted two years longer.
“As we were meeting with people on this project, one issue coming up over and over was the cost of housing, but what the possibility might be for Phase 2,” he said. “So, we thought it might be best to do this in one phase. It would be better for residents and for the project overall.”
Said Joe Corcoran, president and CEO of Joseph J. Corcoran Company, “We’re proud to be part of a team that continues moving forward to ensure affordable housing for residents. We believe the redeveloped Innes Apartments will be a tremendous asset to the community and look forward to continued work with the Chelsea Housing Authority, Innes residents and our City, State partners through the summer.”
The single-phase approach would move the construction timeline to approximately 18-24 months, rather than four-plus years that was expected.
One of the keys to that is being able to put existing residents into temporary housing while construction takes place. With two phases, residents were going to be shifted in smaller numbers – with some staying at Innes in existing units and those impacted by construction moving to other developments in the city temporarily. Now, however, all of the existing residents will have to move at once.
Ewing said they are confident they can relocate residents, and they will be particularly conscientious of those residents with children in the school system.
“We are committed to keeping people in Chelsea to the degree we can,” he said. “We will continue to give priority to families that have children in the school system. We are working with the schools and we want to have minimal impact on our residents…Based on the number of vacancies we have and the people living in the development…we should be able to accommodate most, if not all of the residents.”
All residents will maintain their rights as public housing residents during relocation, with many being relocated to existing public housing units and some to private units – regardless of where they are placed, relocated Innes Residents will continue to enjoy all of their rights as public housing residents before, during and after relocation. Corcoran has employed Housing Opportunities Unlimited – an organization that specializes in providing direct assistance to residents impacted by renovation and unit rehabilitation projects in affordable and mixed income housing communities – to support the redevelopment team and Innes residents throughout the process.
“We continue to work diligently to ensure residents of Innes are fully informed of all updates on this exciting redevelopment project,” said Melissa Booth, co-president of the Innes Residents’ Association. “We couldn’t be more pleased with the improved construction timeline that allows for faster rehousing for all our families.”
Another new component of the project is a central parking garage facility that will be located on the eastern side of the development near the MassPort Garage.
“We felt that would work better, and the added bonus of that is we hope we can increase the numbers of on-site parking spots,” said Ewing. “We’ve been trying to be responsive to the concerns of the neighbors, the City Council and the City as a whole.”
Another new piece of the plan is that the development team has signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the City to confirm commitments made to restrict on-street resident parking privileges for the new, market-rate tenants of the development.
The Innes Redevelopment team is committed to continued on-site office hours throughout the summer so that residents may informally drop by and ask further questions. The project team will continue its tradition of an annual backpack giveaway for residents in late August and also hold two resident engagement events, including a youth engagement party and an employment fair. A comprehensive Resident Relocation Plan will also be developed and introduced as part of the continued outreach to Innes residents.
“This newest plan is really the result of all the concerns we’ve heard from City officials, our residents and people in the neighborhood,” said Ewing. “We continue to address concerns and it makes it a better project.”
In a split decision, the Zoning Board of Appeals (ZBA) denied a request for a special permit and variance for a proposed eight-unit, four-story, market-rate condominium project at 254 Spencer Ave. on Tuesday night.
In a 2-2 vote, ZBA members Arthur Arsenault and Marilyn Vega-Torres voted to okay the project, while members Hugo Perdomo and Joseph Mahoney voted to deny approvals, siding with the recommendation of Planning Director John DePriest.
DePriest stated that the conversion of the existing two-family house to eight units was too large for the site, and that the developers did not meet the hardship requirements to gain approval for the special permit and variances.
While the Planning Department recommended no more than five units on the parcel, a number of neighbors and city officials came out in support of the project Tuesday night, much as they had done last month when the project was approved by the Planning Board.
“I would hate to see these units be abandoned, it is kind of an eyesore right now,” said District 3 City Councillor Joe Perlatonda.
Perlatonda noted that the City has recently approved larger, affordable housing projects, such as at the old Midas site, and that 254 Spencer Ave. sits next to the 34-unit Acadia affordable housing development.
“The neighbors want this, I want this, and I don’t think it should be limited to five units,” said Perlatonda. “It’s a great project, and I don’t see why we wouldn’t want it right now.”
Richard Lynds, the attorney for developer Ricky Beliveau, said the four-story condo building would fit into the neighborhood by serving as a transition from the taller, five-story Acadia development on one side to the triple-deckers on the other side of 254 Spencer Ave.
To make the project work financially, Lynds said Beliveau needs the eight units at market rate. He said Beliveau would be investing $2.5 million into the project, with units selling for about $500,000 each.
“Ricky believes in the City of Chelsea,” said Lynds. “For him to make this type of investment shows where his mind is and where his wallet is.”
As the special permit and variance failed to garner the necessary vote, several of the supporters who attended the meeting voiced their displeasure to the board members and DePriest.
“We are going with what the law is in the books,” said Mahoney.
After the meeting, Lynds said he and Beliveau will regroup to see what their next steps are for 254 Spencer Avenue.
“It’s too early to tell what we will do right now,” he said. “We will look at all of our options.”
Lynds said he was surprised by DePriest’s staunch vocal opposition to the project.
“This was an opportunity for good, market-rate units,” said Lynds.
Chelsea photographer Darlene DeVita hosted her “People of Chelsea” exhibit Monday night at City Hall.
The exhibit featured individual black-and-white photographs that DeVita had taken in the city. In the text underneath the photo, the subject expressed his/her opinions and thoughts about Chelsea.
Councillor-at-Large Leo Robinson and Police Capt. David Batchelor, one of Chelsea High School’s greatest all-around athletes, were among those featured in the exhibit.
Bill Carriere, who works full time at Home Depot in Chelsea, said he was “incredibly honored” to have his photo included in the exhibit.
“I’m proud to be among all the diversity and all the photos and wonderful stories that have been highlighted here,” said Carriere. “Darlene’s work is really amazing. She’s so passionate about this project.”
Sarah Putnam, a photographer who assisted DeVita as a Spanish language interpreter and editor of the interviews, said, “I love her work. She’s a very good photographer. She has a great eye and we just had so much fun working together.”
DeVita, who has lived in Chelsea for 15 years, said the exhibit was the culmination of a three-year project. She has been a photographer for 30 years, having first been inspired by a teacher, Byron Baldwin, at Myers Park High School in Charlotte, N.C. “I owe my photographic career to him,” said DeVita.
Councillor-at-Large Calvin Brown and Chelsea Police Community Engagement Specialist Dan Cortez joined residents in congratulating DeVita on her inspiring exhibit.
“I’ve been getting a very good response,” said DeVita, who helped launch the Chelsea Art Walk. “I love Chelsea and everything that is going on in the city. I want to see Chelsea stay as the great community that it is.”
Silvia Lopez-Chavez, a mural artist, said of her friend Darlene’s work: “I love the fact that she’s showcasing the beautiful people of Chelsea. There is such a variety of groups and people and it is nice to be able to connect the community through art. She’s a really good photographer and I got the opportunity to collaborate with her creating the banners in the city using her photographs.”
The passing this past week of Genevieve Spinelli, who owned and operated Genevieve’s Dance Studio for 42 years, marks the end of an era for those who lived in this city in the latter part of the last century.
Genevieve taught two generations of children the joys of dance, installing in each child a sense of self-confidence, teamwork, and discipline. Parents admired her both for the individual attention she gave to their children and for the uplifting manner with which she taught each and every cild.
The end-of-the-year recitals were a source of much joy for Genevieve, as she watched her students perform so confidently in front of large audiences for the first time.
Her generosity of spirit, her ability to make each child feel special, and her vibrant personality made each day at the studio a fun and enjoyable after-school activity for all of her dancers.
She was the wife of Ralph Spinelli, with whom she shared 50 years of marriage. Ralph was her most valued supporter and No. 1 fan, knowing his wife was revered by children and parents alike. Ralph himself possesses an incredible ability to tell a story or a joke and bring a smile to those fortunate enough to be in his company, and together Genevieve and he were an inseparable pair who made a difference in the lives of those who were fortunate enough to attend her school.
Those of us who were blessed to know their son, Robert MacDonald, in his youth, remember his early and successful involvement in the performing arts and what a terrific person he is.
In Genevieve Spinelli, Chelsea truly has lost a legendary figure — a link to a glorious period in our history when dancing was an activity for so many of our youngest residents. Genevieve inspired countless young people in this city to develop a lifelong appreciation for dance.
We know we join with all of our fellow residents in expressing our condolences to her family. Genevieve was a wonderful lady and truly will be missed.
Few places in the food supply chain for Greater Boston and beyond are more vulnerable than the New England Produce Center.
That huge food resource for the region, along with other industries, are very close to sea level and, as discovered a few years ago, very prone to flooding and sea level surges.
Now, the City of Chelsea is poised to begin a major project at the Island End River that will help to protect the industrial areas along Beacham Street and enhance the environment around the improving Island End River.
“That area is about six or seven feet above sea level now, and experts expect sea level and storm surges at 14 feet above sea level by the end of the century,” said Alex Train, of the Chelsea Planning Department. “This project is in concert with Everett and it’s gathered a lot of momentum. It’s a priority of the City Manager and our department because we understand how much is at risk. It’s a gamble otherwise and we don’t like to gamble in the planning industry.”
Such a gamble was clearly seen two winters ago when huge coastal surge storms lifted the water levels into the industrial areas along the Island End, nearly causing major disruptions and opening a lot of eyes to the vulnerability of the situation.
The project has been supported by a grant from the Coastal Zone Management Office, as well as the Chelsea and Everett City Councils.
The project includes gray infrastructure, such as flood walls and berms by the Island End River. It also includes green infrastructure with the restoration of the salt marshes abutting the Island End. At the same time, they will also be able to add some amenities for the public like a Boardwalk to connect to the Admiral’s Hill Marina area.
“It’s going to be a sizeable project, but in the context of the surrounding industrial businesses and the produce center, it’s easily a worthwhile initiative on our end,” said Train.
Right now, in Chelsea, they are at 60 percent engineering design on the project. Everett is a little bit further behind as they are in the Designated Port Area (DPA) and require many more steps. Everett is currently in a schematic design phase.
On the Chelsea side, Train said they will culminate design this summer, and then look for further grants this winter. Then they will engage in the final engineering, permitting and construction phases.
The project will also be tied into the large Beacham Street roadway, sidewalk and bike path improvements that are also coming soon.
A report in 2015 by the Metropolitan Area Planning Council (MAPC) showed that the Produce Center generates $2.3 billion of economic activity per year, and the entire industrial district generates $7 billion per year. There are 5,000 direct jobs there and 10,000 supportive jobs there.
“Many of that activity and those jobs benefit Chelsea and Everett residents and they are solid middle-class jobs and we’re committed to protecting them for our residents,” said Train.
Other Development Activity
•The City has received a PARC grant for rehabilitation of the O’Neil Playground on the hill up from Williams Street. The new design will encourage water features and tree canopies. The restoration will look to prevent heat islands and provide a cool place during the summer. The project is currently under construction and should be substantially completed by the fall. It came in at a cost of $884,000.
•The Eden Street playground is currently in design. The new design will also feature a robust tree canopy and more permeable surfaces. The project will be bid out in September, with a fall start. Construction will start up again in the spring for a substantial completion by summer 2020. That project was supported by a $400,000 PARC grant.
•Voke Park is another area that will soon receive more attention. The Bocce Court and fields were done over two years ago, but now it’s time for some attention to be paid to the playground. Already, they have had one public meeting to get input on the park, and they are working on conceptual designs now.
“We’ll apply for a grant in July to secure funding,” said Train.
Design will be done in June 2020 and construction on that is likely to be 2021.
•The City is preparing to modernize the traffic signals and intersections at Williams/Chestnut and Williams/Broadway this summer. That upgrade will include new Smart Traffic Signals that are able to read the traffic flow and adjust signal timing on the fly. One of those lights has already been installed on Broadway and Webster earlier this year. Sidewalks will also be touched up as well.
The Chelsea GreenWay project is fully under construction this week, and City officials expect to have the multi-million dollar job substantially completed by the fall.
The GreenWay project came through a $1.1 million commitment to the City from the state, as well as funds from the City Council to complete the beautification of the shared use path along the new Silver Line.
“This final part of the Silver Line project will result in such enhancements as the planting of more than 500 trees and several parcels will be landscaped, and there will also be hardscape plazas at key entryways such as Chestnut Street and Highland Street,” said Alex Train of the Planning Department.
That project goes from Eastern Avenue where the shared use path stats and concludes at Chestnut Street.
After that, there will be on-street improvements to continue the walking path such as signage, sidewalk replacement and crosswalk enhancements – filling out the walking path from one end of the project to the end at Market Basket.
Train said this is also an opportunity to plant more native trees that aren’t necessarily common in Chelsea.
“I think there is a real opportunity in the planting program,” he said. “This is one of the most intensive planting of local native species. These are trees that are native to the area, but may not be prevalent anymore.”
The idea with the GreenWay is to take pieces like the Chelsea stretch and connect it to other greenways and paths, such as the East Boston GreenWay and Everett’s Northern Strand Trail. Connecting those paths can create a network for alternative transportation that most planners only dreamed of a few years ago.
“We’re working very close now with an organization called the Land Line Coalition, which is working to try to connect all of these greenways together,” he said.
The same is true for the Silver Line’s potential expansion into Everett and Cambridge – a plan that is being considered by the MBTA in the near future.
“We are ready to expand the GreenWay network if the Silver Line expands into Everett and to the casino and beyond,” he said. “That could be a tremendous connection for our residents.”
Work will continue throughout 2019 on the project, though it is expected to be finished in November, with punch list items finishing next spring.
The contractor on the project is D’Allesandro of Avon.
The Planning Board has approved plans for an eight-unit, four story condominium building at Spencer and Eastern Avenues, despite concerns from some board members about traffic and the size of the project.
The project at 254 Spencer Ave. will now go before the Zoning Board of Appeals (ZBA) for several variances, including parking relief. The developer is proposing eight parking spots at the site, where 12 are required by the City.
The developer will tear down the existing two-family house on the 5,000-square-foot lot and replace the home with the market-rate condo units. The units will be about 1,000 square feet each and likely sell for about $500,000 each. The project will abut the larger Acadia affordable housing development.
Although several Planning Board members raised concerns about the size of the project, Mimi Rancatore was the only board member to cast a vote against the project.
Rancatore said she appreciated the look and quality of the new building, “but I think it is just too big.”
While Rancatore said the four-story building would be comparable to the Acadia project, it would be bigger than other homes and buildings in the neighborhood. She said it could create a domino effect, with other developers buying smaller homes and knocking them down to build higher in the area.
City Council President Damali Vidot also said she liked the overall look of the project but was worried it could set a precedent leading to denser development in the neighborhood.
However, a number of residents who live in the neighborhood said they supported the project and questioned why the Planning Board had not taken greater action to stop the larger Acadia and 1005 Webster Avenue projects if they were concerned about traffic and overdevelopment.
“Why give (the developer) a hard time about this when it is the same level as the Acadia,” said neighborhood resident Barbara Richard. “We in the area approve of it.”
The Planning Board approved the project with the condition that the developer look at ways to add some more trees and shrubbery near the front of the building.
“In my opinion, the project will make a nice transition from the Acadia down to the two- and three-story buildings next to it,” said Planning Board Chairman Tuck Willis. “Certainly, what is there now is underutilized and in bad condition, and this building would clean that up.”
•In other business, the Planning Board discussed a proposed zoning amendment from the City Council concerning off-street parking regulations. Under the zoning change, residents of buildings where the developers have sought zoning relief for the number of on-site parking spaces would not be eligible to participate in the City’s off-street sticker parking program.
“This would be a way to encourage development but not further burden the residents who live here,” said Vidot.
But Rancatore said she believes the amendment would be hard to enforce and only encourage illegal parking.
The Council, Planning Board and City officials will meet in the fall to further discuss the parking regulations.
•GreenStar Herbals withdrew its site plan for a retail marijuana facility at 200 Beacham St., but are expected to be back before the Planning Board with a revised plan in July.