Marisa Yee, 6, painting on the ice at the Cronin Skating Rink during the first New Year’s Eve Paint & Skate event on Sunday afternoon, an event put on by the Chelsea Recreational and Cultural Division. The event was a great success and many Chelsea families enjoyed the afternoon.
By Seth Daniel
Reclaimed space is at an all-time high in today’s modern cities, and Chelsea is leading the way this month with the soon-to-be unveiled Mystic River Overlook Park – a rare stretch of City-owned parcels under the Mystic/Tobin Bridge that have been transformed into a funky new park.
The space was long a construction staging yard and was highly contaminated, but it has been environmentally remediated and now walking paths, historic lighting and lush green grass have replaced the blight under the bridge near Admiral’s Hill.
“We spent a lot of money cleaning the site up,” said Alex Train, City planner. “We took out a lot of soil and construction debris and contamination. We trucked in lots of clean soil and replaced it…We tried to create a design philosophy that tended to mimic the edges in the architecture of the bridge, so there are three or four wavy walking paths that curve through the park and allow you walk through and under the bridge. We envision this as an active park for exercise.”
The City has placed cross-fit equipment in the new park, and envision the lush new lawn to be used for Yoga, exercise classes or other activities.
The remainder of the new park is more of a passive area with seats and areas to view the water and Boston skyline. Another City-owned parcel at the foot of the new park has been designated for the City’s first off-leash dog park. That, however, is a separate project from the Mystic River Overlook.
“We are now about two weeks away from opening the Overlook and just trying to tie up the loose ends,” said Train. “We were able to bring it in under the allotted budget as well.”
One of the action items for the near future of the park is to identify some public art opportunities. All over Greater Boston, cities are using spaces under bridges and highways as hip, urban landscapes for public art.
In Chelsea, a small piece of that was delved into last year with a small mural at the Everett Avenue onramp courtesy of the organization of Chelsea artists like Joe Greene.
Train said he hopes to have something more expansive in the Overlook.
“We are contemplating public art opportunities there,” he said. “It’s definitely a funky terrain and it’s a prime place for an art installation and unique lighting.”
He said they are working with the Cultural Council right now to identify local artists who might be interested.
The ability for the City to be able to create the park was unique because the City actually owned the parcels. On the other side of the Bridge in Charlestown, that community has been hamstrung by state red tape in being able to utilize vast tracts of land under the Bridge. That’s also an issue in Chelsea further into the Bridge approach area.
Train said the three land parcels belonged to the City because they had been transferred from the federal government to the City when the old Naval Hospital closed down.
“Everything else under Route 1, though, is state-owned,” he said.
That doesn’t hamper a larger vision, nonetheless.
Train said they hope the Overlook is just the first piece of what could be a series of parks, green spaces, bike paths and pedestrian paths throughout the underside of the Bridge.
Already, the state has plans to build a new public parking lot under the Bridge as it embarks on an upcoming maintenance project over the next three years. That could be the impetus, Train said, for more thoughtful park planning.
“That is something we envision,” he said. “We’d like to create an entire network under the Bridge for pedestrian walkways, open green spaces and public landscaped promenades.”
Funding for the Overlook came through a state PARC grant of $400,000 and another appropriation from the City Council.
Quirk Construction built the park, and the landscape architect was CBA.
By Seth Daniel
Chris Barnes, X. Bonnie Woods and Ali Clift were just one group of Chelsea artists who gathered at the Mystic Brewery to kick off the City’s effort to identify all of the artists working and living in Chelsea. While artists have long been active in Chelsea, no one has ever identified all of them and what they do.
Chelsea has long had a budding artist community, but few have ever fully taken stock of just what talents are blossoming in Chelsea’s creative community.
That is all changing as the Chelsea Cultural Council begins its effort to do an assessment of artist in the city and their various talents.
The kick-off for the event took place last Thursday, July 27, at the Mystic Brewery – where artists new and old came out for an evening of socializing with one another and City leaders.
“This is something we’re doing in conjunction with the artist survey we’re running to identify all the artists who live and work in Chelsea,” said Sharlene McLean, chair of the Cultural Council. “We decided it would be nice to have an event to kick it off where artists could met each other. Also, many of us on the Cultural Council don’t know each other and many of the artist don’t know each other. The overall effort is to get a sense of the artistic resources here and what their ideas are about holding artist-related events that will help them…This will not be the last time we get together for certain.”
Bea Cravatta, director of the Recreation and Cultural Affairs Division, said having a sense of the artists in the community is extremely important.
The Cultural Council, she said, is an entity that fits under her department and one that needs to be enhanced a great deal.
“There’s a lot of financial support out there; it’s just about where to find it and is your timing right,” she said. “This work is the heart and soul of the city and very, very important for health and enjoyment of the entire city.”
Long-time artists X. Bonnie Woods said the event was enjoyable and it was nice to see the artists and the Cultural Council get together. It was the first time she recalled such a thing happening.
By Seth Daniel
While wholesale infrastructure changes aren’t expected for another couple of years on Broadway, momentum is already building for major change to the downtown Broadway Business District this summer.
On Wednesday, June 28, the musician Kali gave a sneak peak on Chelsea City Hall Lawn just what will come with the new Chelsea Lunch initiative, which starts next Weds., July 12.
According to Downtown Coordinator Mimi Graney, Chelsea Lunch Marketplace will take place every Wednesday from noon to 2 p.m. on City Hall Lawn through the end of September. The event is presented by Chelsea Prospers in partnership with Healthy Chelsea and will have musicians and community information tables.
The effort is meant to enliven the district during the day, but there will also be action in the evenings in Chelsea Square. Graney envisions having daytime activities in Bellingham Square throughout the summer and evening activities in Chelsea Square.
To kick off that effort, Summer Nights in Chelsea Square will kick off in one month on Aug. 3 with music and dancing by Los Sugar Kings.
Other concerts include:
- August 10, Willie Wonka and the Chocolate Factory in Smell-O-Vision
- August 17, Tarbox Ramblers backwoods blues music
- Aug. 24 will be a unique experience where concert-goers can be the star. the live Karaoke band, The Cover Story will play and audience members are invited to sing.
Additionally, late last week Graney announced small placemaking grants available for the district. The mini-grants are between $200 and $750 for small projects like parklets, pop up events or temporary art installations – or whatever creative idea one may have for the district. An info session has been scheduled for Tuesday, July 11, at 6 p.m. in the Chelsea Public Library. The deadline for applications is Aug. 18.
To enhance the mini-grants, Chelsea will be celebrating National Parking Day on Sept. 15. All across America, cities, towns and organizations transform parking spaces in downtown districts into small parks for the day. That was done last year for the first time by GreenRoots on Broadway – an effort that was a smash hit and likely will become even more intriguing this year, Graney said.
On the infrastructure and design front, the Re-Imagining Broadway effort will present its findings after many months of study on July 13, 6 p.m., in the Chelsea Senior Center, 10 Riley Way. The consultant Nelson Nygaard has been studying everything from sidewalks and streetlights to making Broadway a two-way street again. The findings will be suggestions for implementation to the City, which contracted the consultants late last year and has conducted several public meetings since then.
City Manager Tom Ambrosino said he is encouraged by the work of the Downtown Task Force over the past few months – an effort that include four Chelsea Police Officers dedicated to patrolling the Broadway Business Corridor and meeting in a roundtable on a weekly basis.
He said that between that effort, the Human Service Navigators, good deal is getting done on the Corridor.
However, he said that spending the large sum of money approved by the City Council for infrastructure repairs and improvements would likely not take place for a little while. Right now, he said about $500,000 of that sum has been on design and planning. The bulk of the monies, some $5 million, will be allocated in a few years, he said.
“There’s still a lot of planning to do,” he said. “We We probably won’t start the infrastructure work for another year or more, but we are looking at what we want to do now. Most likely, all of that work will start in calendar year 2019, maybe 2018. We’re at least one year away from that work…This is a marathon and not a spring. It’s a five to 10 year effort to re-invent this downtown.”
Other efforts under way or already planned include:
- Retail Best Practices Program presented by City of Chelsea’s Chelsea Prospers with the Chamber of Commerce – July 18 at 8:30 a.m. at the Chelsea Chamber of Commerce. Half-day workshop for all downtown businesses on issues like effective displays, marketing, customer service. Businesses can then apply to be one of the six businesses that will receive a half day of one-on-one consulting on their specific needs and to receive a mini-grant to implement one of the recommendations. http://www.chelseachamber.org/
- FDA Voluntary National Retail Food Regulatory Program Standards – Chelsea Prospers in partnership with the Board of Health to increase food safety, build business and workforce expertise, and boost consumer confidence. The first activity under this multiyear effort is a training and certification food safety program for Chelsea businesses. Through the Chelsea Community Schools we’re presenting on July 27 a full day of training in English and Spanish, plus the certification exam at a deeply discounted rate. The program is exclusively for Chelsea businesses and workers. Registration required at https://register.communitypass.net/Chelsea
- MassSave Business Grants – In August, at the behest of Chelsea Prospers and the Chelsea’s Energy Manager to increase environmental sustainability, a team from EverSource is coming to the downtown the week of August 7 to conduct free energy assessments for area businesses. Through the assessments they’ll be able to determine eligibility for a variety of new equipment like lighting, thermostats, refrigerator motors, etc. Discounts for the installed equipment start at 70 percent and 0 percent financing is available for the co-pay. Many businesses are eligible for thousands of dollars in new equipment and able to dramatically reduce their utility bills. All Massachusetts utility customers pay into the fund that supports this program – take advantage of these significant savings. https://www.masssave.com/en/saving/business-rebates/facility-assessments/
- Chelsea’s First Paw-Raid – Walk and celebration for dogs and their friends on September 9 to check out the dog park under construction at Mystic Overlook Park. Starting at City Hall Lawn at 11 a.m. and finishing up at Mystic Overlook Park.
- Interise is the “Street-wise MBA”, a training program for established businesses. For the first time ever they’ll be hosting their training program in East Boston and focusing on the needs of businesses in Chelsea, Everett, East Boston and Winthrop. Get your business to the next level or be prepared to steer it ably through a time of transition. https://www.interise.org/
- Cultural Assets Survey in partnership with the Cultural Council and The Neighborhood Developers – This fall we’re gathering information on Chelsea’s creative assets — both the people and the infrastructure – who make related to the cultural economy of the City. The first part of this effort is the Artist Survey, open now at https://tinyurl.com/chelseaartistsurvey and at https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/S7TRRLK.
By Seth Daniel
Mimi Rancatore, a co-owner of the world-renowned Toscanini’s in Cambridge, has created a working life around ice cream since coming to Boston in the 1970s. Since 2001, she has called Chelsea home and said she loves working in Cambridge and coming home to Beacon Street.
Chelsea’s Mimi Rancatore has constructed a life around an ice cream cone, and to date, it’s been topped with sprinkles.
Rancatore has lived in Chelsea since 2001, but during working hours she spends her days in Cambridge at the world-renowned Toscanini’s Ice Cream and Coffee in Central Square – a business she has co-owned with her brother for more than a decade.
Toscanini’s has been around since 1982, when Rancatore’s brother, Gus, started the business after training in ice cream making at Steve’s Ice Cream in Davis Square. Rancatore, who also worked at Steve’s and learned a lot about ice cream, worked in fine dining at many notable restaurants until joining her brother a little over 10 years ago.
“I love my job and I love Chelsea,” said Rancatore this week at her shop in Central Square. “I love wearing multiple hats in business and I love being in charge. Both Gus and I worked at the old Steve’s Ice Cream in Davis Square in 1975 and 1976. Steve started the parlor ice cream. He invented the mix-ins. We worked there and then we went our separate ways. Gus is the ice cream maker, which he is excellent at, and I do the business end. Don’t get me wrong, I can make ice cream and I can cook, but Gus is really good at it. I was into fine dining for a long time, but got sick of the hours and joined Gus as a co-owner about 11 years ago. The best way to describe Toscanini’s is it’s an adult ice cream store. We have a lot of flavors for children too, but we have some complex ones as well. I love working in an ice cream store because it’s happy food. Everyone is happy here.”
Rancatore was born in the New York City/New Jersey area, but she and her five siblings spent their high school years in St. Louis. Her brother Gus had already left St. Louis and settled in Boston when Rancatore graduated high school. She said she couldn’t bear to go to college and knew the academic world wasn’t for her. Gus said he could get her a job at Steve’s Ice Cream, so at the age of 19, Rancatore left St. Louis for an ice cream job, and she continues that tradition to this day – though she and her brother have pretty much climbed to the top of the East Coast Ice Cream world.
Toscanini’s has a truly incredible following, with several Best of Boston awards and numerous Top 10 lists – with the New York Times once calling it the best ice cream on the planet.
The most popular flavor in the store is the B3, a concoction of brown sugar, brownies, browned butter and burnt caramel.
“The most popular flavor is B3 and has been for awhile,” she said. “Right now, our chocolate is outselling vanilla. It didn’t used to be that way, but now the two have reversed in popularity. My personal favorite is malted vanilla, but we are doing some very exciting things with our new soft serve offerings, including a twist of chocolate rum banana with malted vanilla.”
Rancatore lives on Beacon Street in Chelsea and has been around long enough to see her condo go from very desirable to very undesirable and the, back to desirable. She serves on the Chelsea Cultural Council and is a big supporter of the Apollinaire Theatre and the Chelsea Girl Scouts.
She said she often thinks about the future of Broadway Chelsea and compares it to the successful climb of Central Square lately. One thing she said is there needs to be more restaurants, simple restaurants, on the stretch.
“There needs to be a go-to restaurant, something like Newbridge in Prattville,” she said. “When I imagine Broadway, that’s what I think.”
Rancatore said business is good and she relishes being able to spend her days in Cambridge and her private time in Chelsea.
“We’ve been very lucky and we’re doing very well with the business,” she said. “I love being able to work in Cambridge and go home to where I live in Chelsea. I really appreciate Chelsea and how in Chelsea the city councillors will go to all the events. You don’t get that in Cambridge so much. I think that’s great. There is a real community feel to the city.”
By Seth Daniel
When the Chelsea Art Walk premieres this coming June 11 and 12, it will have a significant Chelsea Square feel to it.
That’s because instead of buses ferrying folks all over the City, this year’s Art Walk will be the first to acknowledge the desire by the City to have a Cultural District, and therefore will center most activities in and around Chelsea Square for the first time.
“We’ve re-engineered Art Walk to be in venues proximate to Chelsea Square,” said Bob Boulrice, who is helping organizer Joe Greene and others with this year’s walk. “This is related to allowing people to experience the venues without the need for buses. To that extent, we’re glad to now have Roca participating and others. We’re doing this to support the City’s desire to activate Chelsea Square as a Cultural District. That means that people will come to Chelsea Square and experience a lot of art and culture. There are Cultural Districts all over the places I go, why should Chelsea have one too?”
The Art Walk will feature new venues in proximity to the Square like Roca, as mentioned above, but it will also use some creative ways of centralizing the fun.
For example, the Boston Printmakers Board will present a show of award winning etchings and lithographs inside of a shipping container parked in the park area next to Broadway and Second Street.
Also, there will be an Independent Film Festival called ‘Moving Pictures’ inside another container on the park area.
There will also be live music on a stage that is set up on Second Street. There, from 3-5 p.m. on Saturday, The Curve of the Earth and Chelsea High School Rockers will perform – as well as hip hop artists ‘Truey’ and ‘Frenchie.’
It will all be anchored by the Apollinaire Theatre, which is undergoing major renovations right now with the goal of re-opening a whole new theatre complex this fall.
“It’s a wonderful opportunity this year,” said Boulrice. “The renovations now going on at the Apollinaire is very appropriate and convenient to this. The Apollinaire is now going to be offering an opportunity for Boston-area theatre artists to create their work in Chelsea Square. The moment is right. Those who have been involved with Art Walk for a decade feel it’s incredibly important to let people know we want them to come here. There’s been enough bad news, and this is very good news.”
At the City level, City Planner John DePriest said that through May, students from Tufts University in the Urban and Environmental Policy and Planning class have been surveying and interviewing folks in the downtown area.
DePriest said the City wishes to have a Cultural District that runs from City Hall all the way to Williams Street. It would not only include arts venues like Apollinaire, but also capitalize on the different foods and cultural items on Broadway.
“They talked to a lot of people to get a sense of what’s going on downtown and what’s available downtown,” he said. “They went through a process of gathering information for a grant application that we plan to submit. We’re also looking to identify private funding and non-profit funding opportunities. It really goes beyond the arts. We want to emphasize the multi-cultural aspects of the District. There are Spanish restaurants, Asian stores and then you have the international nature of the City. Chelsea’s downtown fits well together.”
Boulrice said one must think about how a Cultural District can help the city.
“It’s not to think about what a Cultural District is, but what a Cultural District does,” he said. “A Cultural District provides an opportunity for residents and others to go to a a specific place…In Chelsea Square there food, karaoke, Mariachi, singing, dancing, Apollinaire Theatre, Pearl Street Gallery and the art now being produced at Roca. Chelsea Square would seem to be a likely area to designate as a Cultural District. Arts and culture goes on all over Chelsea, but by designating this a cultural district, the local population and the wider populace that attends an arts and culture event will come to know there’s a lot going on in Chelsea.”
Certainly, anyone attending the Art Walk on June 11 or 12 will be well aware of that, as they premiere ‘Art in the Park.’
- Pearl Street Gallery, 100 Pearl St.
- Chelsea Community Garden, Ellsworth Street
- Roca, 101 Park St. (12-6 p.m. both days)
- Apollinaire Theatre Company, 189 Winnisimmet St.
- The Apollinaire Gallery (second floor), 189 Winnisimmet St.
- Second Street Sound Stage, Saturday 3-5 p.m.
- Indie Film Fest, Containers in the Park (Broadway and Second Street)
- Boston Printmakers, Containers in the Park (Broadway and Second Street)
- Mystic Brewery, 174 Williams St.
City officials are calling upon local residents to get more involved in the community. Specifically, the City is seeking volunteers to join standing boards and commissions.
“A key to the great success our community is enjoying is the participation of so many in helping their elected and appointed officials manage a complete transformation of City affairs,” said City Council President Dan Cortell, who got his start in municipal government by serving on the Chelsea Licensing Commission. “If we’re going to extend that success, we need even more people to stand up and commit to a better Chelsea.”
City Manager Jay Ash echoed Cortell’s call for volunteers.
“The City Council and City Administration have tried to open the doors of City Hall to those we’re here to serve. We welcome the participation of more and more people and truly feel that the greatness of our community is rooted in greater participation on each and every endeavor we undertake,” Ash added, while noting that more than 100 people currently serve on City boards.
Openings currently exist or regularly become available on the City’s standing boards and commissions, including the: Affordable Housing Trust Fund, Board of Assessing, Licensing Commission, Traffic Commission, Cable Television Advisory Committee, Council on Elder Affairs, Economic Development Board, Community Schools Board, Housing Authority Board of Commissioners, Historical Commission, Board of Library Trustees, Conservation Commission, Planning Board, Board of Health, Tree Board, Youth Commission, Zoning Board, Board of Registrars of Voters and the Cultural Council. Additionally, a new board, the Commission on Diversity and Empowerment, will soon be established.
Volunteers with specific skills are also being sought. In particular, those with computer networking, programming and web site development experience are in need for a variety of community projects. Public relations specialists and those interested in community beautification and event planning are also encouraged to volunteer.
Those interested in serving should forward a letter of interest, which includes any relevant experience and/or a resume, by Friday, October 25th to: City Manager Jay Ash, 500 Broadway, Chelsea, MA 02150 or email@example.com.
“This is a terrific way for community residents to get involved in the management and improvement of their community,” said Councillor Paula Barton, a former Licensing Board member herself. “So many positive outcomes can be produced by each and every one of us working together.”