City’s Façade and Signage Program to Kick Off on July 12

City’s Façade and Signage Program to Kick Off on July 12

The City of Chelsea will begin a downtown façade and signage improvement program in a kick-off meeting on July 12.

Business and property owners in the downtown, as well as other interested parties, are invited to this meeting to learn about the rollout of the program and to meet Nathalia Hermida.

Hermida will be available throughout the summer to provide free design services for signage and façade improvements of downtown properties. During this meeting, Hermida will detail the design process, what assistance she’ll be able to provide and how to engage her services.

Along with responding to inquiries solicited through this meeting, Hermida will also be approaching specific identified properties. Those interested in the program who cannot attend this meeting should contact Mimi Graney, Downtown Coordinator at mgraney@chelseama.gov.

Design consultation with Hermida will be available both in English and in Spanish.

The City of Chelsea Façade and Signage Program meeting will take place on Thursday, July 12, at 8:30 a.m. at Chelsea City Hall, third-floor Committee Room.

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Best Weekend of the Year Chelsea Art Walk Starts June 17

Best Weekend of the Year Chelsea Art Walk Starts June 17

By Seth Daniel

The annual Chelsea ArtWalk will take place this Saturday and Sunday, June 17 and 18, in venues throughout the downtown area.

It will be the 9th Annual Chelsea Art Walk.

Throughout the Downtown, there will be galleries and alternative venues offering art, music and theater. Most venues are handicapped accessible, and all events are free of charge. The events include pop-up art in the park, shows by the Griffen Museum of Photography and 555 Gallery, a scarecrow competition at the Community Garden, an independent film festival, photos of Cuba by Chelsea artists at Mystic Brewery, and much more.

For a complete listing of events, please visit www.chelseaartwalk.com.

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Council Prepares to Evaluate City Manager on One-Year Anniversary

By Seth Daniel

The City Council has assembled a committee of three members to begin the annual evaluation process for City Manager Tom Ambrosino after the passage of his one-year anniversary on July 20.

As part of the City Charter, the Council must evaluate the Manager annually on a set of criteria defined by the committee.

This time around, Councillor Leo Robinson will chair the Committee and he will be joined by Councillors Matt Frank and Roy Avellaneda. Council President Dan Cortell appointed the members.

A meeting of the sub-committee hasn’t been scheduled yet, but will be once the Council reconvenes from the summer.

This week, in preparation, Ambrosino released his one-year self-evaluation of his work based on Economic Development; support for Chelsea Public Schools and Youth Initiatives; and Neighborhood and Quality of Life Issues.

For Economic Development, he pointed to the opening of Phase II of One North, just opened at the end of July; and the impending completion of the FBI building this summer. For hotels, the Hilton Homewood Suites and Events Center is fully into construction and will be completed in winter. He indicated two projects would break ground in the current budget year, including the Broadway Hotel near the Revere Line and the Fairfield Residential Project at the old Chelsea Clock.

The biggest piece of Economic Development, however, are tracts in the Downtown Business District and along the Chelsea Creek waterfront. Both are in the formative stages, but Ambrosino said there is major groundwork that has been completed on both.

He also indicated that the developers of the Forbes site in Mill Hill are interested in coming back to the City with a much smaller, but still major, redevelopment.

Ambrosino also highlighted investment in the Chelsea Public Schools, noting that the Council approved his recommendation to reverse a net school spending deficit and make a significant investment in the schools. The expansion in funding has allowed the Citizens School program in the middle schools to reach more kids, and to bring on an after-school and summer program provider in For Kids Only. He also highlighted the Clark Avenue School building project that is well underway and that he is closely shepherding, having overseen numerous school building projects while mayor of Revere.

The City Manager also stressed in his review that he has targeted funding youth programs, including doubling the summer jobs money available for youth, creating a Youth Navigator position, and establishing a new Recreation and Cultural Affairs Division of City government.

His greatest asset, though, has been investing in neighborhoods.

He listed the investments in the Downtown Corridor, as well as the quick successes of the Navigator and services on demand programs for those who congregation in Bellingham Square. Additionally, he highlighted park investments and streamlining services at City Hall.

“The paramount task of any municipal government is to improve the life of its residents,” he wrote. “During this past year, through collaboration and good decision-making, we have advanced this goal. I look forward to another productive year ahead.”

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Ambrosino Proposes Ambitious Initiative,Parking Changes for Downtown Corridor

By Seth Daniel

City Manager Tom Ambrosino is putting his money where his mouth has been in talking up his hopes for the downtown Broadway area – requesting the Council approve nearly $300,000 from Free Cash to dive into a major organizational and marketing effort for the area.

That request followed a call for major money to be delivered in the City Budget this spring, money the Council did approve within its Capital Improvement plan.

For the Downtown Urban Initiative, first, he is calling for the creation of a downtown coordinator job position to be funded, a position that would coordinate all of the construction projects, infrastructure upgrades and business opportunities in the district. The position would be similar to what Boston calls a Main Streets director, he said.

“The position is critical to the program,” he said. “This new municipal employee would be responsible for coordination of all the City’s downtown efforts. The coordinator will be expected to organize all programming for the area, oversee all municipal services in the area and work with the property and business owners to implement efforts to enhance and enliven the streetscape.”

A second part of the proposed program is a $100,000 plan to institute a one-year storefront improvement program for the corridor, which stretches from City Hall to Williams Street.

“Maybe we can do three or four storefronts to get a start this year,” he said. “We would do it as a matching grant program where we would pay half the cost and the owner would pay the other half. We would probably only require that if you participate in the program, we would ask businesses to take down the grates and have some faith that we can effectively police the downtown area.”

He said the initiative also calls for a little bit of “seed money” for festivals and events to be held on the corridor, possibly closing down the street.

To begin things, he has asked that the Council do a marketing study of the district for around $80,000.

Already, a consultant paid for within the recently passed City Budget, Nygaart, is preparing to start studying the corridor on July 1 for infrastructure improvements and traffic calming measures. That consultant was part of a budget allocation for the downtown within the Capital Improvements plan that asked for several million dollars to fund downtown infrastructure improvements only. The first part of that plan is the contracting of Nygaart. They will study potential improvements to the “bones” of the district for one year, with implementation of their suggestions and the public’s input next fiscal year.

The $300,000 Downtown Urban Initiative request is seemingly separate, but related to the overall effort – with it mostly focusing on marketing studies and storefront programs. In essence, it would be the creation of what in Boston is called a Main Streets District.

On top of all of those changes for the downtown district, Ambrosino has submitted a zoning change package scheduled for a public hearing on Monday, June 27, at Council that – among many, many things – asks for a relaxing of the parking requirements in the downtown area.

Ambrosino said the current parking requirements basically make the downtown buildings unreachable for residential developers as they were mostly built before cars appeared on the streets.

He said he firmly believes that the final piece of the overall puzzle is getting residents living in quality units above the businesses.

“My opinion is very straightforward that if we want this vibrant downtown, we have to build good residential units above the storefronts,” he said. “There’s no parking there and so you have to relax the parking requirements. If you want to improve the downtown, you have to substantially relax the parking requirements for residences above storefronts. If you don’t want to improve the downtown and leave it the way it is, then don’t relax the parking requirements and nothing will be developed because the parking requirements cannot be met.”

He also said the time is now to develop the downtown for residences and businesses – just as 10 years ago the time was perfect for Everett Avenue.

“I think it’s an interesting corridor that’s very close to downtown Boston,” he said. “People are being priced out of East Boston and this is the time to really build this downtown.”

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