New Group Looks to Raise the Profile of Bicycling

With National Bicycle Month underway, a new group of cyclists and pedestrians in Chelsea are looking to create momentum and visibility on safety issues for those that aren’t using vehicles.

The Chelsea Bike and Pedestrian Committee has formed over the winter and got things rolling with their first community bike ride on May 8. Now, they said they would continue those rides every Weds. evening at 6 p.m.

Resident Asad Rahman, an avid cyclist who commutes to Boston daily from his Broadway home, has been involved in biking safety issues for a number of years and said he worked with City Planners to try to get more of a community built around bicycling and walking.

While he thought it might take some time, surprisingly the movement has grown quickly and they are already planning their first event and several events beyond that.

“More than ever, I think Chelsea is at a crossroads to put people and bicycles first instead of cars,” he said. “We’re a City with five or six street lights and several thousand people and cars go very, very fast. We hope we can shift the paradigm that people come first and cars come second…Right now we have a passionate group of people in Chelsea, and we’ll ride around town on May 8th for about a half-hour and then have a social time to continue building this community.”

With the help of the City and MassBike, the Committee is planning several events such as a Bike Repair workshops and a bike rodeo – this coming at future City events like Fiesta Verano and the Night Markets.

The group is on Facebook at BikeWalkChelsea, and anyone interested in joining them can show up at City Hall 6 p.m. on May 8.

The Vision for the Committee includes:

•To advance cycling and walking as leading modes of transportation in order to promote the health, wealth, and quality of life for Chelsea residents.

The Mission of the Committee is:

•To establish safe, interconnected, and enjoyable infrastructure in Chelsea for cycling and walking, through strategy with the Planning and Development department, resident education on practical use, and community engagement to build awareness and enthusiasm.

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New Group Looks to Raise the Profile of Bicycling, Pedestrian Issues

With National Bicycle Month underway, a new group of cyclists and pedestrians in Chelsea are looking to create momentum and visibility on safety issues for those that aren’t using vehicles.

The Chelsea Bike and Pedestrian Committee has formed over the winter and is looking to get things rolling with their first community bike ride on May 8 at 6 p.m.

Resident Asad Rahman, an avid cyclist who commutes to Boston daily from his Broadway home, has been involved in biking safety issues for a number of years and said he worked with City Planners to try to get more of a community built around bicycling and walking.

While he thought it might take some time, surprisingly the movement has grown quickly and they are already planning their first event and several events beyond that.

“More than ever, I think Chelsea is at a crossroads to put people and bicycles first instead of cars,” he said. “We’re a City with five or six street lights and several thousand people and cars go very, very fast. We hope we can shift the paradigm that people come first and cars come second…Right now we have a passionate group of people in Chelsea, and we’ll ride around town on May 8thfor about a half-hour and then have a social time to continue building this community.”

With the help of the City and MassBike, the Committee is planning several events such as a Bike Repair workshops and a bike rodeo – this coming at future City events like Fiesta Verano and the Night Markets.

The group is on Facebook at BikeWalkChelsea, and anyone interested in joining them can show up at City Hall 6 p.m. on May 8.

The Vision for the Committee includes:

•To advance cycling and walking as leading modes of transportation in order to promote the health, wealth, and quality of life for Chelsea residents.

The Mission of the Committee is:

•To establish safe, interconnected, and enjoyable infrastructure in Chelsea for cycling and walking, through strategy with the Planning and Development department, resident education on practical use, and community engagement to build awareness and enthusiasm.

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Councilor Luis Tejada Joins Latino Policymakers In Los Angeles for Naleo Discussions

Councilor Luis Tejada joined the National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials (NALEO) Educational Fund and 50 community college trustees, municipal level officials, and state legislators from throughout the country for the NALEO National Policy Institute on Workforce Development in Los Angeles from March 29-30, 2019.

Councilor Luis Tejada.

The convening provided Luis Tejada and Latino policymakers from across the nation with the opportunity to deepen their knowledge around current workforce issues and discuss various approaches to strengthen their jurisdictions’ workforce development. Over two-days, Luis Tejada addressed ways to strengthen innovative and successful workforce development policies and best practices that drive economic success in the labor market for their constituents, communities, and regions.

Tejada, Chelsea District 2 City Councilor, said, “My need to be here was to learn how we can help ALL of our constituents have a more fruitful life and provide for our families in spite of the forces, like technology and other created future challenges, that are threatening to hold us back.”

During the Institute, Tejada networked with other Latino leaders, strengthened their governance skills, and exchanged policies and ideas around effective ways to address pressing workforce development issues. Topics addressed during the convening included:

• Preparing Latinos for the Workforce of Tomorrow: National Workforce Landscape and Projections;

• The Engine of Change and Economic Growth: Embracing Transformative Technology;

• Supporting the Current and Future Latino Workforce: Turning Skills into Careers; and

• Industry Sector Strategies: Healthcare, Advanced Manufacturing and Service.

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Smart Growth Zoning Wins Unanimous Council Approval

Smart Growth Zoning Wins Unanimous Council  Approval

Much of the public discussion over the Smart Growth overlay district for Central Avenue over the past several months has focused on the technical aspects of the zoning ordinance.

But Monday night, as the City Council unanimously approved the Smart Growth zoning – which will pave the way for the Innes Development project to move closer to becoming a reality – much of the talk focused on the human and community benefits of that decision.

As the final vote was made official, cheers and applause were heard from Innes residents, project development team members, and even City Planning and Development Director John DePriest.

“This will allow for new homes that all the residents of Chelsea can be proud to call their own,” said Ronnie Slamin, the project director for Corcoran, the developer behind the Innes Street/ Central Avenue housing redevelopment plan.

The special zoning designation, allows the mixed-income project to have its own, special regulations for parking and density and other requirements. It also unlocks $5 million in state and local funding for the project.

Corcoran Development will assist in developing the 330-unit community on the site of the current housing development. Those units will include the existing 96 public housing units, as well as 40 workforce housing units. The remaining 194 units will be market rate, and with the state and federal grants, will subsidize the replacement of the public housing units.

Overall, the development would have a 41 percent affordable ratio, which is three times as much as what would normally be required by the City and double the state requirements.

For many of the current Innes residents, and for members of the Chelsea Housing Authority, it is a major step forward to replace the current units, which are rundown and decades old.

“It is our dream to live in new apartments that are safe and decent for our children, elderly, and the disabled,” said Melissa Booth, co-president of the Innes Residents Association.

The Smart Growth overlay district will cover the current footprint of the Innes Development, and puts a premium on affordable housing and access to public transportation.

Chelsea Housing Authority (CHA) board member Bertram Taverna said the Innes redevelopment is the kind of opportunity that the City has not seen for decades.

“We are talking about an opportunity for these 96 families, as well as 40 more affordable housing units,” said Taverna. “Everybody is invested in this project and wholeheartedly all in.”

CHA Executive Director Al Ewing said the redevelopment will give the city the ability to deliver on its promise of providing a home where residents can be proud to live and raise their families.

“This is a win for the City of Chelsea,” said District 8 Councillor Calvin T. Brown. “Folks are going to see that Chelsea can do this and other cities are going to do this.”

Council President Damali Vidot said it’s been a long road for the Innes project to move forward. The Council voted down a project three years ago because prevailing wages for workers wasn’t on the table.

With prevailing wages now part of the development proposal, the only major issue that gained any traction over the past several months was, unsurprisingly, parking.

While the smart growth zoning is one major step towards getting shovels in the ground for the project, developers will be back before the Council for approval of a TIF (Tax Increment Financing) tax break for the project. That is expected to come before the Council later in the spring.

Vidot said that parking will be addressed in the TIF.

Corcoran is proposing 226 on-site parking spots, with an option to lease another 50 parking spots nearby.

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Cocoran, Chelsea Housing Face Critical Vote At Council Monday

Cocoran, Chelsea Housing Face  Critical Vote At Council Monday

The Innes Street/Central Avenue housing redevelopment plan has cleared its latest hurdle with the Planning Board, but will face a critical vote Monday night at Council on whether or not to allow them to have a ‘40R’ zoning designation.

The Council will consider the special zoning designation, which allows the mixed-income project to have its own, special regulations for parking and density and other requirements. At the same time, it also unlocks $5 million in state and local funding.

“It’s a critical vote,” said Chelsea Housing Authority (CHA) Director Al Ewing. “That is a very important ‘yes’ or ‘no.’ If we don’t get it, this project dies. It is our use it or lose it moment.”

The mixed-income development is in partnership with Corcoran Development, which will assist in developing the 330-unit community on the site of the current housing development. Those units will include the existing 96 public housing units, as well as 40 workforce housing units. The remaining 194 units will be market rate, and with the state and federal grants, will subsidize the replacement of the public housing units. Overall, the development would have a 41 percent affordable ratio, which is three times as much as what would normally be required by the City and double the state requirements.

It seems like a huge moment for residents like Jean Fulco, who is part of the Innes Residents Alliance (IRA).

“This will be a much better situation for the people who are there now,” she said. “The re-development would be so much better because the apartment conditions now are not very good.”

Resident Melissa Booth, also of the IRA, said she has a special needs child who cannot walk up the stairs, but they live on the second floor now.

“I usually have to carry my child up the stairs because there isn’t an elevator,” she said.

The new development is slated to have an elevator.

But one of the strangleholds in this second go-around of the mixed-income redevelopment – which had to be backed off two years ago – is parking. There are 226 spaces available on site, and another 50 spaces will be located off-site nearby.

Council President Damali Vidot said she does support the project, but she also lives in the area and understands that parking is already a mess. She said they have worked out a potential plan where the market rate units will not be able to apply for a residential parking sticker.

“Everyone says that these people who will live here will take the Silver Line and not have a car,” she said. “Let’s see them prove that. I’m ok with giving them the 40R so they can move forward, but when their Tax Incremental Financing comes up, I will let them know that I will not support the project unless they will enter into an agreement with the market rate tenants to not participate in the residential parking program.”

She said the decision is a tough one for the Council. While many have reservations, they also want to help the public housing residents improve their lives.

“I’m not in love with the project, but I know everyone is trying to do their best,” she said. “These 96 families deserve to live in dignity. I have family that lives there and no one should live in those conditions…If this is what I have to do to preserve the units for these 96 families, then we don’t have a choice really.”

Over the last several weeks, the IRA and the CHA and Corcoran have been pounding the pavement. They have had coffee hours, done personal outreach and have launched a website.

“We are in a competitive process and if this doesn’t get approved for whatever reason, Chelsea will not realize this opportunity,” said Sean McReynolds of Corcoran.

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Chelsea Collaborative Creating Pathways to Rewarding Encore Boston Harbor Careers

Chelsea Collaborative Creating Pathways  to Rewarding Encore Boston Harbor Careers

Chelsea Collaborative staff members are busy helping residents prepare for rewarding career opportunities at Encore Boston Harbor, slated to open in Everett this June. Encore Boston Harbor, the first five-star urban gaming resort in the U.S, plans to hire over 5,000 workers for a range of rewarding hospitality careers. For more information, visit encorebostonjobs.com.

More than 175 career-seekers participated in workshops in recent weeks alone on resume writing and how to create a Skillsmart profile. Skillsmart is a portal that helps match peoples’ interests with positions at Encore Boston Harbor. “We are proud to create pathways to better paying positions, so our residents can achieve better economic mobility, and don’t have to work two jobs just to make ends meet for them and their families,” said Sylvia Ramirez, Workforce Development Manager at Chelsea Collaborative.

Chelsea Collaborative is part of Encore Boston Harbor’s community action network. Encore Boston Harbor is committing $10 million over the next four years to support a wide range of social programs and civic institutions that will help those in need and improve the lives of residents in local communities.

Chelsea Collaborative is leading the Chelsea 500 coalition, which mission is to engage the City, businesses, and local non-profits to create a workforce pipeline so that 500+ residents can gain the skills and support necessary to apply for positions at Encore Boston Harbor. While Chelsea 500 capitalizes on the casino opening, its longer- term ambition is to build local workforce development capacity to improve Chelsea residents’ odds of securing employment in the near term, and to work with industry leaders to help diversify the employment options. Members of the coalition include City of Chelsea, Chelsea Collaborative, TND/Connect, Chelsea Housing Authority, Chelsea Recreation and Cultural Affairs Division, Bunker Hill Community College, Casino Action Network.

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City Manager Ambrosino Highlights Achievements -Looks to the Future in His State of the City Address to City Council

City Manager Ambrosino Highlights Achievements -Looks to the Future in His State of the City Address to City Council

Fresh off of a new contract, City Manager Tom Ambrosino gave an enthusiastic opening to Monday’s Council meeting during his State of the City Address, where he talked about Chelsea’s accomplishments in 2018 as well as its goals for 2019.

“I feel confident in saying that the state of our City of Chelsea is very good indeed,” he started.

Among the achievements of the past year, Ambrosino noted that the City ended 2018 with an excess of $28 million in its coffers.

“There’s not another city our size in the entire Commonwealth with that level of reserve,” he said. “That is a testament to the shrewd financial planning of City Council.”

In 2018, Chelsea was also one of only 35 cities in the country to be awarded a Bloomberg Challenge grant for its vision to reduce crime with preventative care.

“Because of that award, our model of predicting harm and then engaging in cross-sector collaboration to address the harm got national attention,” said Ambrosino. “It’s gaining interest and it has people seeking to replicate that, not just in Massachusetts, but outside as well.”

Ambrosino cited the City’s increased development in 2018, such as the construction of two new hotels and the multi-million dollar expansion of a pharmaceutical company. He also mentioned the $10 million grant by the state to reconstruct Broadway from City Hall to the Revere Line, as well as a $3 million federal Economic Development Administration (EDA) grant to renovate Chelsea’s waterfront, one of the largest grants given by the EDA to any municipality in the country in 2018, and one of the only grants issued in Massachusetts.

“We kept our promises to our residents in 2018 by doing good services,” Ambrosino reflected. “I think we can achieve the same level of success in 2019 if we have the same level of collaboration from City Council.”

In terms of goals for 2019, Ambrosino highlighted the effort to renovate the downtown Chelsea area, building on the foundational work done in 2018.

“We added police, social services, more lighting, decorative banners, public art,” he said. “We’ve created an atmosphere and foundation for success, so what we need to do now is finalize the work that remains.”

Ambrosino outlined four areas of improvement for downtown Chelsea: finalizing the design for the infrastructure improvements for one-way schemes, adopting the necessary zoning permissions to improve the facade of the corridor, offering a rich array of cultural and artistic activities, and submitting a request for proposal (RFP) for the redevelopment of the former Salvation Army site.

The City Manager threw his support behind the Forbes Proposal, which is up before the City Board of Appeals next month for the redevelopment of the Chelsea waterfront, claiming that it will include affordable condominiums for Chelsea residents looking to become homeowners.

Ambrosino also mentioned the planned infrastructure and capital improvements for 2019, including work to the Chelsea Greenway, the Chelsea Garden Cemetery and Veterans’ Field. This would all be in the context of a master plan, the first of its kind in Chelsea since the 1970s.

The City Manager emphasized the importance of investing in affordable housing as well as in education, specifically for grants to allow high-achieving, low-income high school students in Chelsea to attend Bunker Hill Community College free of charge.

“This idea of public funding for education beyond just high school is gaining momentum in this nation,” he said. “We can feel a sense a pride that Chelsea is in the forefront of that movement.”

The City Manager’s State of the City address can be viewed on the Chelsea Community Cable’s YouTube channel here: youtu.be/lRVWajXR44w.

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1005 Broadway Affordable Housing Project Back to ZBA

1005 Broadway Affordable Housing Project Back to ZBA

The Suffolk County Land Court has remanded the controversial Zoning Board affordable housing denial on Broadway back to the Chelsea Zoning Board of Appeals (ZBA) with a revised plan.

The combination of The Neighborhood Developers (TND) and Traggorth Development went before the ZBA last year with a project slated for 1005 Broadway – a mostly affordable housing development. However, shockingly for many, it was denied in a close vote as community members called for a revised project with more home ownership opportunities.

The developers appealed that denial, and now Land Court has sent a revised plan back to the ZBA for consideration next month.

“The Traggorth Companies and The Neighborhood Developers have settled our appeal of the ZBA’s decision to deny a special permit for our proposed project at 1005 Broadway,” said TND Project Manager Steve Laferriere. “The terms of Settlement revised the initial proposal based on feedback from the ZBA, and allow us to have new public hearings in front of the ZBA and Planning Board. We are excited that the revised project remains a great opportunity to create 38 affordable apartments for Chelsea families and provide publicly accessible open space adjacent to Mill Creek.”

The new proposal has eliminated the commercial component, reduced the height on Broadway from five- to four-stories. The unit count is also down from 42 to 38. This time, all 38 units will be affordable apartments for rent.

City Attorney Cheryl Fisher Watson said the developers and ZBA placed the matter on hold during the appeal.

“It is the Parties hope that a revised petition is considered by the ZBA with a public process,” she said. “The ZBA wants public input as to all decisions if possible.”

City Manager Tom Ambrosino said he would be supporting the revised project.

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City Council Considers Smart Growth for Innes Housing Development

City Council Considers Smart Growth for Innes Housing Development

By Adam Swift

The pieces continue to fall in place for the proposed 330-unit mixed-income redevelopment of the Innes Housing Development on Central Avenue.

Tuesday night, the City Council held a public meeting with state officials and developers on the 40R Smart Growth overlay zoning that the council will need to approve before the City can become eligible for at least $11 million in state funding for the project.

In addition, with passage of the 40R zoning, Chelsea could receive a little over an additional $1 million from the state’s Department of Housing and Community Development (DHCD).

About half of that money would go to Corcoran Development, which has partnered with the Chelsea Housing Authority (CHA) to redevelop the Innes Housing Development in two phases. The 96 public housing units will be re-developed with 40 middle-income (80 to 120 percent of the AMI) units and 194 market rate units. The project will go in two phases to reduce relocation of residents.

“We’re having this meeting so we can have more understanding about the 40R zoning amendment for smart growth,” said Judith Garcia, the District 5 Councillor.

The Planning Board is expected to make a recommendation on the smart growth zoning at its next meeting Tuesday night, clearing the way for a final City Council vote.

The basic requirements for a 40R district are an eligible location preferably in a city or town center, near public transportation, and allowing minimum by-right density of eight single-family units, twelve 2-3 family units, and 20 multi-family units per acre, according to William Reyelt of the DHCD.

“It has to be primarily a residential district, but we do encourage mixed-use development,” said Reyelt.

In addition, age restrictions cannot be required in the smart growth districts, and 20 percent of the total units must be affordable, he said.

Once the zoning is approved by the city and then verified by the state, the city will get its first incentive payment from the state, Reyelt said. With smart growth zoning, communities are also eligible for additional density bonuses and school reimbursement payments.

Currently, there are 47 smart growth districts in 41 communities across the state, Reyelt said.

Unsurprisingly, parking was the biggest area of concern raised by City Councilors during the question and answer portion of Tuesday night’s presentation, although there are no specific parking requirements or regulations built into the 40R zoning.

“The project is great, but not at the expense of the citizens in the area,” said Council President Damali Vidot. “We need to have a very serious conversation about it.”

There will be 276 parking spaces on site, and the developer has said they are willing to do traffic and parking studies to perhaps help the overall neighborhood with street parking. Initially, the developers proposed 226 spaces, but Ronnie Slammin of Corcoran said an additional 50 spaces are now in the plans.

The current CHA residents are eligible for street parking permits, and will continue to be able to park at the redeveloped Innes housing for free as part of the CHA’s 99-year lease with Corcoran.

But several councilors said they still had concerns about how parking would impact the neighborhood.

“Before the Council moves forward, that will definitely have to be on the table,” said District 8 Councillor Calvin T. Brown.

District 1 Councillor Robert Bishop said he wants to make sure the current CHA residents are allowed to park on-site and not forced on the street for parking.

District 4 Councillor Enio Lopez said he wanted assurances that the 96 public housing units would remain under CHA control.

“Those 96 units will always be filled by public housing tenants,” said CHA Director Al Ewing assured.

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BHCC Names New Dean of Workforce and Economic Development

BHCC Names New Dean of Workforce and Economic Development

Bunker Hill Community College (BHCC) appointed Kristen P. McKenna as Dean of Workforce and Economic Development. In this role, McKenna will oversee corporate learning and development and community education programs at the College. The renamed Division of Workforce and Economic Development supports area businesses and community based agencies with career pathway building, customized training and individualized support to grow workforce and economic development for the greater Boston metro area.

McKenna possesses over 20 years of professional implementation, management and policy development experience in higher education, workforce development, nonprofit and government funded programs. She has held senior leadership positions focused on program improvement, enrollment and the development of industry supported training for workforce development at River Valley Community College in Lebanon, New Hampshire, and Bristol Community College in Fall River, Massachusetts.

Working with the Rhode Island Governor’s Workforce Board and the Institute for Labor Studies and Research, McKenna has also implemented a number of projects designed to accelerate credential attainment with technology-based solutions. She’ll bring expertise to the College’s workforce development initiatives and the development of non-credit to credit career pathways.

The Greater Boston community has come to rely on BHCC’s community education programs for English language instruction, test preparation, continuing education and international learning programs. In the 2018 academic year, over 2500 students enrolled in customized training, community education and adult basic education at the College. With a focused commitment on workforce and economic development, BHCC will expand access and equity with additional course development and innovative pathways development so all community members have options and flexibility in a supported environment.

The division is working with partners like Facebook to offer future opportunities that will support local entrepreneurs with workshops on social media marketing and more.

McKenna holds a Masters of Education in Adult Learning and Higher Education Administration from Eastern Nazarene College, a Masters of Education in Educational Leadership from Bridgewater State University and a Bachelor of Fine Arts from Rhode Island College. To learn more about BHCC’s Workforce and Economic Development program and to view the courses that are offered visit bhcc.edu/ce.

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