The development team of The Neighborhood Developers (TND) and Traggorth Development will appeal last month’s Zoning Board of Appeals (ZBA) decision to reject their 42-unit waterfront development on upper Broadway.
TND Director Rafael Mares and David Traggorth, principal of Traggorth, said they believe the project still has great value for Chelsea and for those that are being priced out of the city.
“We were motivated to propose this project because Chelsea residents are being priced out of their own city and there is an overwhelming need for all kinds of affordable housing options,” they wrote in an op-ed to the Record. “We have chosen to appeal the Zoning Board of Appeals decision because we still believe that this site offers a unique opportunity to meet critical community needs.”
Any appeal of a ZBA decision goes to Suffolk Superior Court for a hearing.
The ZBA narrowly defeated the proposal after the company engaged in several community meetings, and even changed the project after neighborhood input – lowering the height on one side and adding some market-rate units.
However, at the ZBA, the call came to reject the plan in favor of home ownership opportunities.
Chief among the opponents was Councillor Roy Avellaneda, who said the city needed people who were buying and intending to stay to preserve the community.
The op-ed said the developers agree with the idea that there needs to be more ownership, but they said they project on Broadway could not work out financially because of environmental costs.
“It is clear from the comments of those who spoke for and against the project that members of our community would like to see more opportunities for residents of Chelsea to own their own homes,” they wrote. “We agree. Opponents of the project argued that rejecting our proposal would encourage the development of homeownership opportunities and discourage more development of apartments for rent. However, the rejection of our proposal will not create any homeownership opportunities, let alone affordable ones. The limitations and costs of complying with Chapter 91 make for-sale condominiums not feasible at this site.”
While they said they want to work with the City to find ways to develop more homeownership opportunities, they also said this project was for the critical affordable housing needs of those being displaced.
This project was designed to serve current Chelsea residents who are clearly in critical need of affordable housing,” the wrote. “It is for this reason that while we work with City officials to envision how more homeownership can be built and advocate for more resources to do so, we will continue to advocate for this project.”
The Corcoran Development team and the Chelsea Housing Authority (CHA) are ready to kick-off discussion on their new plan to re-develop the Innes Housing Development into a 330-unit, mixed-income development in two phases.
The plan has been tried before, but was derailed early on, and now with a new financing plan, and some new additions to the old plan, the team believes they have something that the existing residents and the community will be proud of.
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 – with none believed to have to leave Chelsea or any CHA properties.
There will be 226 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.
“The whole reason we’re here is they need new housing for existing residents, but it’s a great opportunity to also develop market rate units alongside it and take advantage of the Silver Line,” said Ronnie Slamin of Corcoran. “It is privately funded. That helps us speed up the process so we don’t have to go through the process of applying for tax credits…We’re also going to be providing amenities and services to the existing residents to improve their schooling. We want to provide services for them to be able to go from public housing to middle income housing to a market rate unit. That’s the goal. We’re planning services like financial literacy, job training, and local hiring events.”
Resident Jean Fulco said tenants are very excited at Innes.
“There is no place to play for the kids now,” she said. “We need bigger rooms. The rooms are too small and bigger cabinets and everything up to date.”
Added resident Melissa Booth, “It would be great to get new apartments and get a new playground. I have two young children and there isn’t a lot of places for them to play here. It’s cramped at the existing playground. The new plan has a bigger playground and it will be a great place for everyone to come and play. It will become a place that kids want to come back to if they want to stay in the area.”
Each of the units will be identical, she said, and no one unit – whether public housing or market rate – will be different.
“There’s not going to be a rich door and a poor door here,” she said.
CHA Director Al Ewing said the lease will be for 99 years with Corcoran, which is the maximum allowed by law. While other such deals are 15 to 35 years, he said they have chosen to go for the maximum.
“It’s important we have this public private partnership so we can have a new development,” he said. “You can’t improve this. You have to replace it. It’s like when you have an old car. At some point, it doesn’t make financial sense to fix it anymore. You have to go and get a new car. That’s where we’re at.”
And Ewing also said there is a sense of urgency, as state monies dedicated to the project could go away soon if there isn’t movement on the project. That is why they’ve scheduled a meeting with the City Council on Tuesday, Nov. 20, at 6 p.m.
“As state financing goes, when you set it aside money they want to see it spent in a timeframe or they will want to re-allocate,” he said. “They want to see this project show some movement forward or they will re-allocate that money.”
Meanwhile, to fix the previous problems, the project will be asking for a 15-year Tax Incremental Financing (TIF) deal that will allow them to pay a percentage of the taxes in three five-year periods.
The first five years, they would pay 20 percent; the second five years they would pay 40 percent; and the final five years they would pay 50 percent. After that, they would pay the full property taxes due.
Joe Corcoran and Ewing stressed that the City would not be losing any money. Right now, as part of a PILOT program, the City would get $51,000 for Innes over the same 15-year period. Meanwhile, with the TIF in place, they said the City would receive $3.4 million in new revenues.
“Even with the TIF in place, you’re still getting $3.4 million in new revenues because the City would only get $51,000 if things stayed as they are,” he said.
The TIF will be the deal-breaker to close the financing gap and allow the project to pay a prevailing wage – which was what derailed the first project attempt.
On the matter of relocation, Ewing and Slamin said they would be building the project in two phases, with the western 48 units coming down first.
Ewing said they have enough space to house residents in Fitzpatrick and Prattville Developments during relocation in the first phase.
“We believe we will be able to house those relocated in other state family developments in Chelsea,” he said.
Slamin said the developer would pay for all moving and relocation costs for residents displaced in the first phase.
A recent Chelsea Community Workshop on the Community Preservation Act (CPA) witnessed a vibrant community come out to speak about future investments they want to see in their respective neighborhoods, and the newly-established Community Preservation Committee (CPC) said they are there to help residents accomplish those goals.
Taking place in the main room of Chelsea’s senior center, residents poured in at on Sept. 27, and listen to local committee members present the growing potential of tax revenues collected as part of the CPA, which was passed in Nov. 2016 by Chelsea voters. To date, there has yet to be any projects designated for development by CPA funds.
Jennifer Goldson, founder and Managing Director for JM Goldson, presented the main purpose of the community workshop. Goldson presented the most viable options to the community and get them the most for their money’s worth, while also collecting their opinions on the matter to engage the community’s wants directly.
“We have to prioritize how we use that money and be smart about it,” Goldson said.
Goldson said an estimated $1.46 million has been collected from taxpayers for the CPA in 2017-18, and is available for future investment possibilities.
The CPA, which was passed with 66.5 percent of the vote, allows Chelsea to have direct control over tax revenue collected through residential and commercial properties at a rate of 1.5 percent, which is also matched by state government assistance. This new tax revenue requires a 10 percent commitment to three categories: historic preservation, community housing, along with open space and outdoor recreation programs.
Totaling 30 percent for these three mandatory categories, the CPC presented varying ideas to the community about how they’d best like to allot the remaining 70 percent.
“As time goes on the priorities of our communities change,” Jose Iraheta, chair of the CPC stated as he greeted the crowd in both English and Spanish, adding “We really need your help to pick between the three brackets.”
Iraheta addressed those in attendance coming in by asking them to tally a total of seven points into the three categories presented for allocating the appropriate tax funds for Chelsea to choose from. Residents walked up to tally their choices with the overwhelming majority of these votes going to community housing funding.
Voting for specific returns in the community proved popular amongst those in attendance, with Goldson conducting a series of small polls to gauge what the public felt was most necessary to invest in from each of the three categories. Additionally, Goldson also asked everyone in attendance to write down their ideas on the paper table covers in order to later collect them and determine which ideas were most eligible.
Presented in a matrix of potential possibilities Goldson displayed a few of the options residents could choose to focus on, including: new housing, home ownership programs, preferences for low-income families, stewardship of historic buildings, creating community gardens or waterfront access, improving existing parks, and preservation of natural resources.
Bea Cravatta, director of Chelsea’s Recreation and Cultural Affairs division, collected information about the demographics of the meeting through a 10 question poll.
“Great turnout today, a good mix of ages, profound interest, and collaboration has been the most exciting thing for me to see,” Cravatta said.
During the last half hour, residents were allowed to take the microphone to represent each table they were sitting at.
Some residents, like former City Councillor Matthew Frank, raised valid concerns.
“Instead of creating new open space, we need to clean up what we already have,” Frank stated in reference to existing open space problems the City already has on the Harbor Walk and other locations.
The CPC must present any and all ideas before City Council for approval after creating a Community Development Plan. The City Council retains the power to approve, deny or lower the allotted funds for project ideas.
The CPC will convene again in November at a date to be announced, and will present their viable future investment options in December.
The Chinese company that was sent packing in 2015 for a far-reaching plan for the Forbes site that included skyscrapers more than 20 stories tall, is now back before the Zoning Board of Appeals (ZBA) next month with a more modest – but still large – plan for the site.
YIHE will present a plan for the 18-acre Forbes site on Sept. 11 to the ZBA that includes 630 residential units (approximately 700,000 sq. ft.), and 44,230 sq. ft. of non-residential space to include resident amenities, retail and dining and a co-working space. Some 60 percent of the units will be home ownership opportunities and 40 percent will be rentals. There will be 80 studios, 330 one-bedrooms, and 220 two-bedrooms in the residential scheme.
Known as Summer Court, the project will also include much improved public open space and public access to Chelsea Creek.
“The development will step down in height towards the waterfront, with the tallest buildings proposed along the eastern portion of the site to mitigate impact on the adjacent neighborhood and shorter, smaller buildings closer to the entrance,” read the report. “Parking will be provided in a single-story parking garage located beneath the plaza and a parking garage adjacent to the railroad tracks.”
The project will retain three existing buildings on the site, but others will not be able to be saved. There are 949 spaces contemplated in the garages, and the zoning requires 1,268 spaces.
Summer Court will have a large plaza in the middle parcel with ready access to retail and restaurant spaces. The portion of the project abutting Chelsea Creek is perhaps the most intriguing. Using a stepped board wark that will also serve as flood retention, the area will include a plaza with green space and water access.
“The waterfront plaza will offer opportunities for the public to enjoy the site’s magnificent views of the Boston skyline when using walking and jogging paths or resting on benches,” read the filing.
One major sticking point will likely be the one means of accessing the site over the MBTA railroad bridge. The only way to get to the large development will be to travel by a large school complex and through a low-density residential neighborhood on Crescent Avenue.
“The project includes the relocation of the western bridge to just east of the eastern bridge,” read the filing. “Both bridges will be placed into service in order to provide redundant access in the event of an emergency. The entrance road will ramp down from the elevated road over the tracks toward the waterfront plaza.”
YIHE purchased the site in 2014 with the intention of redeveloping the site.
Also at the ZBA, but on Thursday, Sept. 13, will be a proposal at 208 Spencer Street to redevelop a one-family home into a nine-unit, four-story residential building.
The proposal comes from South Boston’s OPC Development, and will include nine parking spaces (four of which are compact) on the first floor of the development.
The units will all be two-bedroom units with a private balcony and/or roof decks. They will average 1,134 sq. ft. with all units on floors two through four.
The meeting on Sept. 13 will also have on the agenda the four-story, 42 unit building proposed by Traggorth and The Neighborhood Developers (TND) on what is now a vacant lot (formerly Midas) at 1001 Broadway.
More than 13,000 people came to Suffolk Downs this weekend to enjoy live thoroughbred racing and a food truck festival.
And what a show it was. There was a carnival-like atmosphere on two hot summer days at the popular East Boston racetrack.
Longtime horseracing fans stood trackside next to some some young families who were getting their first, up-close look at what was once one of the most popular sports in the United States. The Kentucky Derby, for example, is still often called “most exciting two minutes in all of sports.”
Chief of Operations Chip Tuttle, a giant in the industry of horse racing, was very pleased with the large turnout on both days. He said the food trucks are always a nice draw that gives people variety over the standard racetrack faire.
There had been some concern at mid-week that the weekend of racing might not materialize after the State Legislature failed to vote on the measure during the last day (July 31) of its legislative session. But the legislature met informally Thursday to reinstate the law and Gov. Charlie Baker signed it, thus allowing for simulcasting and live racing to resume.
“Thankfully it was taken care of quickly and we appreciate the work of the House leadership, and the Senate, and the governor to get it remedied in less than 48 years hours,” said Tuttle. “We thank Speaker DeLeo for his efforts especially.”
Tuttle said that Suffolk has a request before the Massachusetts Gaming Commission to add another weekend of live racing on Sept. 15-16. “It’s on the Commission’s agenda for their meeting on Aug. 14,” said Tuttle. “We’d really like to run one more weekend. There’s certainly funding to do it in the Racehorse Development Fund and it helps the local horsemen, the Massachusetts breeders. They don’t have as many opportunities to run for purse money as they like and we’re doing our best to accommodate them.”
Tuttle said that Suffolk Downs will be open through the end of the year (2018) for simulcasting.
“And we’re already in discussions with both the horsemen and HYM [the real estate company that will be redeveloping the Suffolk property] about dates for the first half of 2019,” he added.
The decision for whether or not to make the Broadway business corridor into a two-way street will come down to a vote of the Traffic Commission on Tuesday, July 24.
Several City officials have already weighed in on the issue, and it could be the most significant change to the surging downtown area in decades.
Two-way Broadway came about during the Re-Imaging Broadway workshops and study that were done all last year. Consultants suggested many options to improve the circulation and vibrancy of Broadway, and one of them was the possibility of making the street two-way instead of one-way.
The biggest backer of the plan is City Manager Tom Ambrosino, who has pledged that, if approved, he would stake his tenure on making the plan work. This week, he said he is still very much in favor of the idea.
“I’m a full supporter of Two-Way Broadway,” he said. “I believe the change will be transformative for the Downtown, both in terms of pedestrian and vehicular safety and in aesthetics. I will be advocating strongly for a favorable vote.”
Meanwhile, Council President Damali Vidot is not feeling the change. She said she appreciates the enthusiasm, but feels it’s a bad idea.
“I think it’s a horrible idea and one we’re not quite ready for,” she said. “Before the City goes changing long-time driving patterns on Broadway, we should deal with our existing parking and traffic issues and how to activate the businesses in that area. I appreciate the ambition and creativity of the pushers of this idea, but there are far bigger things to focus on in this district than changing the flow of traffic. You can put lipstick on a pig, but still Tedeschi and other businesses on Broadway need revival.”
Police Chief Brian Kyes is another long-time supporter of the two-way plan. Kyes sits on the Traffic Commission, and said he will support the plan.
“I concur wholeheartedly with the sentiments of City Manager Ambrosino on this important issue for the reasons that he cited,” said the Chief. “Both he and I have spoken at length on this issue and truly feel that this type of environmental design and resulting traffic configuration will not only enhance public safety, but also will be more aesthetically appealing and inviting to both the residents, visitors and business community.”
The Traffic Commission will take up the matter on Tuesday, July 24, at 6 p.m. in the Planning and Development Conference Room.
Chelsea Record photographer Katy Rogers has won three awards for her photography in the first-ever ‘Welcome to Chelsea’ photo contest, which was announced this week.
Record Photograper Katy Rogers took first in the People of Chelsea category with this photo entitled ‘Maggie and William.’
More than 40 photographs were contributed by amateur and professional photographers in the first “Welcome to Chelsea Photo Contest” over the spring. The contest was presented by Chelsea Prospers, the City of Chelsea’s initiative for vitality in the downtown, and the Facebook group Chelsea MA Photography Club coordinated by photographer and former City Councilor Matt Frank.
The judging panel included Darlene DeVita, an award-winning fine art photographer; Matt Frank, a former City Councilor and photographer who initiated the Chelsea MA Photography Club; State Rep. Roselee Vincent, a champion for the arts and former member of the legislature’s Joint Committee on Tourism, Arts and Cultural Development; Suzy Chavez, a local painter whose decorative murals and “Welcome to Chelsea” signs can be seen in key locations throughout the city; Marianne Ramos, a self-taught “outsider artist” and longtime Chelsea resident who serves as Program Coordinator for the Chelsea Senior Center; and Alex Train, artist and Assistant Director of the Department of Planning and Development for the City of Chelsea.
The judging panel selected three winning images in four categories along with a Best in Show award. They also nominated images for the public to select a People’s Choice winner. Voting for People’s Choice is now open through July 31 at https://tinyurl.com/ChelseaPeoplesChoice.
Rogers is a photographer who lives in Everett, though her backyard is actually in Chelsea. She attended Monserrat College, and is the founder of Katy Rogers Photography. She works for the Record, and its sister publications in Everett, Charlestown and Revere.
All of the winning images will be reproduced in large print format and will be on public display this fall at Gallery 456, the storefront gallery at 456 Broadway. A community reception will be scheduled in September for the public to meet and celebrate with the photographers. At the conclusion of the exhibit, the winners will take home their high-quality, framed images with the Best in Show and People’s Choice winners receiving additional prizes.
After many hours of meetings and dozens of discussions, a parking plan putting put forth by Council President Damali Vidot has been tabled by a vote of 6-4.
But within that vote was the promise by City Manager Tom Ambrosino to do a comprehensive parking study that would focus on resident needs and be done by this fall.
“Sometimes, you put things forth knowing you won’t get support; but as an opportunity to allow councilors to show where they stand to their constituency for when Election season comes,” said Vidot after the vote Monday night. “The parking ordinance served its purpose by initiating conversation and the City finally getting a comprehensive parking study going. It’s a win-win for the people of Chelsea.”
Vidot’s plan would have applied to developers who asked to waive more than 10 percent of the required parking under the zoning ordinances. Those that do ask for such relief would then be required to put in apartment leases that residents of the development could not apply for or receive City residential parking stickers.
One of the main problems with many developments, it has been explained, is that they waive the parking requirements with the assumption that residents won’t utilize cars. However, Vidot and other councillors have said that it isn’t the case, and resident parking is being taken up by those in new developments with nowhere to park.
By precluding the parking stickers for those who have sought relief for more than 10 percent of parking, Vidot hoped to open up spaces for existing residents.
“We have a serious problem with parking,” she said. “That’s one reason I became a city councilor…I’m not sure if this is the best thing personally. I speak to residents and they say it is, but I speak to businesses and non-profits who are in the development world and they say not to do it. I was elected by the residents, so I say yes to this.”
Many, however, had grave concerns that it would squash new development.
“I do speak in opposition to the amendment as proposed,” said City Manager Tom Ambrosino. “I understand the sentiment, but the 10 percent figure will surely hamper out ability to improve the downtown and do one thing this Council is intent on doing and that’s building more affordable housing. I ask that you consider deferring action until we finish any parking study.”
Councillor Leo Robinson said he could not support the matter.
“I have concerns about how we’re going about this,” he said. “We’re in the process of finishing a parking study. At this point, I think we should be able to work on a study first.”
Those voting for the parking plan were Vidot, Enio Lopez, Bob Bishop, and Giovanni Recupero.
Those voting to table the matter were Yamir Rodriguez, Calvin Brown, Luis Tejada, Leo Robinson, Joe Perlatonda, and Judith Garcia.
The blinking signals at the corner of Eastern Avenue and Broadway have not functioned for years, but after some recent repairs, they are close to being fixed now.
The question, though, has become whether or not the City really wants to get them working.
“The constraint on operating the lights has not just been the control box,” read a letter from City Manager Tom Ambrosino. “Rather, there has been real concern that having the lights fully functioning on the typical green, yellow, and red sequence will adversely impact the flow of traffic. Because it has been so long since the lights have functioned in that fashion, I cannot opine of the legitimacy of that concern.”
Two years ago, the City Council approved money to fix the control box on the lights. That work was completed, and now a small $2,000 expenditure is all that stands in the way of another working traffic light.
That said, the flow of traffic at the intersection is fairly smooth, though there is quite a bit of confusion for those coming onto Broadway from Clinton Street.
Ambrosino said the Council should make the decision, but he recommends a pilot program for 30 to 60 days to see if a functioning lights helps matters or hurts them.
He also suggested upgrading the lights to a sophisticated system using smart systems, cameras and sensors that can automatically change the timing of the light based on traffic volumes. Those types of signals have been approved by the Council for the Williams Street corridor.
He said if there is more development on the Creek, these advanced lights might be in order.
“I do believe that, if any further development is to occur at either the Forbes site or the old Midas site, an upgrade to a smart intersection at this location will be an essential precondition to such development,” he said.
The Boston Bruins will be returning to Massachusetts and New Hampshire libraries this summer to continue their “When You Read, You Score!” reading programs, presented by Velcro Companies. They will be at the Chelsea Public Library (569 Broadway), on Tuesday, July 10th from 2 – 3 p.m.. On Wednesday, June 27, the Bruins will host a kick-off event pairing Bruins Development Camp prospects and local students for games and other reading activities at the Waltham Public Library (735 Main St., Waltham).
2018 marks the ninth year the Bruins will partner with the Massachusetts Board of Library Commissioners and the Massachusetts Library System, and the third year partnering with the Children’s Librarians of New Hampshire to support literacy programs and encourage reading among youth across the two states.
Throughout the summer, Bruins Mascot Blades and members of the Bruins promo team will visit libraries across Massachusetts and New Hampshire in an effort to promote youth literacy. At each “When You Read, You Score!” library visit, children and teens will be able to meet and interact with Blades, participate in Bruins arts and crafts, fun backyard games, and have the chance to win official Bruins prizes by competing in hockey trivia.
“Literacy is one of the most important abilities for students to develop and builds a strong foundation for success in life; so we are proud to be working with the Bruins to bring educational and literacy programs to the kids,” said Fraser Cameron, CEO, Velcro Companies. “‘When You Read, You Score!’ is an innovative way to connect with kids and sharpen their reading skills by making learning engaging, exciting and fun outside the classroom.”
To help inspire children and teens to keep reading over the summer, Bruins players, including Patrice Bergeron, ZdenoChara, Brad Marchand and Tuukka Rask have helped libraries develop a summer reading list that also includes librarian picks for the best hockey books. To see the “Favorite Books of the Boston Bruins” list, visit BostonBruins.com/SummerReading.