Marijuana Store, Education Facility Looks at Possible Parkway Plaza Location

Marijuana Store, Education Facility Looks at Possible Parkway Plaza Location

The Western Front company is proposing to locate a medical marijuana dispensary and a marijuana industry training program at the Parkway Plaza off of Webster Street.

A public meeting to hear and discuss the proposal will be held at City Hall tonight, Aug. 9, at 6 p.m.

Attorney Tim Flaherty said that Western Front is led by Marvin E. Gilmore Jr., a World War II veteran who has spent most of his life helping low-income people get into profitable industries so that they could move into the middle class.

Flaherty said the state Cannabis Control Commission (CCC) has already certified Western Front as an Economic Empowerment proposal, which makes it unique compared to traditional proposals. It also puts it somewhat on the fast-track in the state process. Chelsea is designated as a community where Economic Empowerment proposals are allowed due to what is termed an inequitable enforcement of drug laws regarding marijuana in the past.

Flaherty said to be certified, a proposal has to meet three of six criteria, and Western Front met all six.

“This is a very appropriate site we think for this use and complies with zoning in Chelsea,” said Flaherty. “What we will do with the space is we will operate a dispensary on one side and we will operate the other side as a workforce training space. Our business model is to have Chelsea residents and have people previously impacted by the War on Drugs benefitting from this proposal. There are certain types of offenses that disqualify people from being hired by Western Front, but a conviction for possession of marijuana would not prohibit them.”

The proposal at the moment is for a medical marijuana dispensary to operate, but Flaherty said they would like to become a recreational facility if they can get the financing and approvals. For now, though, they will be apply for medical.

The workforce training center will exist to educate Chelsea residents about how to get involved and qualified to work in the burgeoning marijuana industry.

The proposal, Flaherty stressed, is unique in that it is meant to benefit people in Chelsea that have been disproportionately harmed by the War on Drugs in the past.

He said they haven’t signed a Host Community Agreement with the City yet, but he said a standard condition is a 3 percent impact fee. Another 3 percent fee would be imposed as a local sales tax option. Other mitigation could come if the proposal is approved.

Flaherty said they will have 24/7 video and audio surveillance, with steel doors and a security guard on site.

After the community meeting, if there is not major opposition, the proposal would move to a full application with the state. If approved there, the application would come back to the Chelsea Planning Board for a Special Permit.

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City Expected to Begin Design on Beacham Street in July

City Expected to Begin Design on Beacham Street in July

The City will begin design of a major rehabilitation of Beacham Street in the New England Produce Center area from Spruce Street to the Everett line, said City Planner Alex Train.

That comes due to the fact that the City was just recently awarded an unexpected $3 million grant for the project from the federal Department of Commerce’s Economic Development Administration.

Train said the City has proposed a $5 million capital investment in the project for the Fiscal Year 2020 Capital Improvement Plan (CIP), giving them $8 million total to complete the project.

He said they will begin as soon as they can.

“We are excited to get this started,” said Train. “We are scheduled to start design and engineering on July 1. We will hopefully break ground on construction July 1, 2019. I expect there would be a three-year construction timeline. During that time and before, we will be coordinating with abutters, residents and businesses.”

The plan includes completely repurposing the roadway from a predominantly industrial truck route to a major automobile/pedestrian/cyclist east-west corridor throughway.

That will mean it will get a new surface, a new roadway, a new sidewalk on one side, a shared-use path on the southerly side with a buffered bike/pedestrian path, stormwater/drainage improvements, new lighting, new street trees, new signals at the intersection of Spruce and Williams Streets.

In addition, Train said they are working with the City of Everett to coordinate the design so that the Everett project matches the Chelsea project.

“They will be mimicking our design so there will be a contiguous and similar cyclable and walkable roadway from Chelsea to Everett,” he said.

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Chelsea Included in Baker-Polito Administration Opportunity Zone

Chelsea Included in Baker-Polito Administration Opportunity Zone

Gov. Charlie Baker submitted the state’s Opportunity Zone designations to the U.S. Treasury Department today to encourage long-term investment in eligible Massachusetts communities. Created as part of the federal Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017, the Opportunity Zone program presents an opportunity for private, tax-free investment into areas of economic need, benefiting both residents living in the zones and private investors.

 Eligible communities include municipalities with state-designated-opportunity zone tracts submitted for federal approval:

Boston

Chelsea

Lynn

Revere

Winthrop

“The opportunity zone program helps leverage private investment in Massachusetts cities and towns and can be a catalyst for job creation and economic activity,” said Gov. Baker. “I look forward to working with our congressional delegation and local officials to support these new economic development opportunities across the Commonwealth.”

The Opportunity Zone program provides a federal tax incentive for taxpayers who reinvest unrealized capital gains into ‘Opportunity Funds,’ which are specialized vehicles dedicated to investing in low-income areas called ‘Opportunity Zones.’ The zones themselves are to be comprised of low-income community census tracts and designated by governors in every state.

Of Massachusetts’ 1,478 census tracts, 581 tracts were determined by the U.S. Department of Treasury to be eligible to be considered for Opportunity Zone designation. Gov. Baker recommended 138 Opportunity Zones, the maximum number for Massachusetts.

The administration engaged municipal leaders and other key stakeholders in the communities with eligible tracts in the development of the state designation process, opening the application process on March 9th.

“As part of a collaborative process with communities, our administration empowered local leaders to nominate eligible tracts they believed would benefit most from this program, resulting in a diverse set of designations across Massachusetts,” said Lt. Governor Karyn Polito. “These communities range from small rural towns to Gateway Cities and large urban centers, representing a wealth of opportunities for new investment in the Commonwealth.”

Of the 138 designated tracts submitted for federal approval, 32 tracts are located in the 10 communities with the lowest median family income (MFI) in the state. 48% of the tracts are from “Gateway Cities,” which are municipalities with a population between 35,000 and 250,000, with median household income and rate of educational attainment of bachelor’s degree or greater below the state average. Rural communities were encouraged to participate as well, and they make up 18% of the communities with designated tracts.

Applicant municipalities explained why their nominated tracts offer attractive investment opportunities, what level of planning they had already completed, and key demographic data such as median family income, unemployment, and poverty rates – both in the nominated tract and in the wider community.

“We are committed to helping our cities and towns prepare for and attract investment, and we are enthusiastic about the possibilities represented by the Opportunity Zone program,” said Housing and Economic Development Secretary Jay Ash. “Here in Massachusetts, our communities have proven that planning, site readiness, and community engagement are major factors in successful development. The tracts identified by the nominating communities reflect these characteristics and are worthy of consideration by the federal government.”

The U.S. Treasury has committed to responding to state submissions within 30 days.

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Treasurer Deb Goldberg Kicks Off Re-Election Campaign for State Treasurer

Treasurer Deb Goldberg Kicks Off Re-Election Campaign for State Treasurer

With the crowd overflowing from the room, State Treasurer Deb Goldberg kicked off her re-election campaign last night.  Goldberg, who was introduced by House Speaker Robert DeLeo, spoke of how her principles and values have guided her tenure as State Treasurer.

“Economic stability, economic opportunity, and economic empowerment are the values I was raised with and what guides my work as your State Treasurer,” Goldberg told the crowd. “I am proud of what we have accomplished and am excited to continue to work for the people of Massachusetts as your Treasurer.”

In introducing Goldberg, DeLeo said, “Deb understands that the role of the Treasurer’s office is not just about dollars and cents; it is about making people’s lives better.  The programs she has created have had a positive impact for our children, our families, our veterans and seniors across this Commonwealth. Deb Goldberg has made good on all the promises she made when she ran, and she has truly made a difference in people’s lives.”

DeLeo continued, “Massachusetts is lucky to have Deb Goldberg as our Treasurer. I know she can and she will do even more for our Commonwealth and our residents in the future.”

Since taking office in January of 2015, Deb Goldberg has brought a commonsense business approach to the management of the treasury’s various offices.  Leading on initiatives that include wage equality, increasing diversity, and expanding access to financial education, she has also helped families save for college, protected the state’s pension fund and developed programs for veterans and seniors.  For more information, contact Treasurer Goldberg’s campaign at info@debgoldberg.com.

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Council Spars Over Instituting Term Limits On Boards, Commissions

Council Spars Over Instituting Term Limits On Boards, Commissions

By Seth Daniel

A move by Councillors Damali Vidot and Enio Lopez supposedly aimed at diversifying the City’s Boards and Commissions was roundly criticized by several Council members Monday night – with Councillor Roy Avellaneda calling the drafters “cowards.”

Vidot said many on Boards and Commissions – such as the Planning Board or Zoning Board of Appeals (ZBA) – have been in their volunteer seats for many years, and by enacting term limits, perhaps those bodies could become more diverse.

“Some of these boards make decisions we as a City Council have no say on and we have to face the residents,” she said. “We have people serving on some of these boards year after year. I respect the work they do, but the City is changing and maybe we need to think about diversifying these boards.”

That set off Councillor Avellaneda, who called the move “cowardly.” He noted that he had a problem with one Board member, former License Commissioner Ken Umemba, and he used the current process of Council oversight to try to remove him. That, however, he said, requires standing up and facing the dirty looks and the bad feelings.

“If you don’t want people on the Board, stand up and say ‘Thank you for your service, we don’t want you. We want someone else.’ This is cowardly. If you don’t have the guts to tell someone you don’t want them on the board to their face, then don’t do it. Standing up and doing that takes guts. It takes guts to say that to someone’s face.

“This is hypocritical,” he continued. “I can’t believe how hypocritical it is…I will fight against this. I will make a stink about this if I have to.”

Avellaneda referred to the process of Council oversight in his comments, which includes the Council having to vote for any appointment or re-appointment to all boards and commissions. The Council can vote down an appointment, which would require the city manager to put a new candidate forth.

Councillor Lopez said he was offended by being called cowardly in putting the idea forward. He said it had nothing to do with that.

“I’m not a coward,” he said. “We did this because we want to see change. Maybe it didn’t happen when you wanted it, but now it’s a different year and a different time. We want to see more people volunteer…We want people who want to come. The idea is to have different faces and not just the people who have been there all the time.”

That said, there isn’t exactly a line out the door waiting to serve on Chelsea’s boards and commissions. Many seats go unfilled, and a number of boards have trouble making a quorum in order to be able to have an official meeting – even critical boards like the Planning Board that can hold up development.

Councillor Giovanni Recupero brought that to everyone’s attention.

“If people don’t want to come serve on these boards, nothing will change,” he said. “The City needs to try to recruit people to sit on these boards. If no one wants to do it, then the people there should do it and I thank them for what they do because no one else wants to.”

Councillor Matt Frank had a good point in citing Chelsea’s history of corruption, and how the boards and commissioners purposely spread out power.

“In the past, too much power was centralized in only a few hands,” he said. “Our boards and commissions system de-centralized the power over all these boards and commissions. If you are proposing something, you might need to go to Economic Development, Zoning, Planning, and the License Commission. That’s a lot of people to go before. There was a time in the City when you had to grease one hand and you got things done. We don’t want to see that again.”

The matter was defeated by a vote of 2-8, with only Vidot and Lopez voting for it.

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Jay Ash is a True Superstar of the Baker Administration

Jay Ash is a True Superstar of the Baker Administration

Among those who spoke at Friday’s check presentation ceremony was Jay Ash, the administration’s Secretary of Housing and Economic Development, and it was plain to see why Jay was the first Cabinet appointee named by Charlie Baker shortly after his election in 2014.

Ash had been the City Manager of Chelsea for over a decade and performed an incredible job in raising that city from the ashes (no pun intended) to the point where it is one of the most vibrant communities in the state and won an All-American City Award under Jay’s tenure.

Jay is a graduate of Chelsea High (as is our Town Council President, Russ Sanford) and Clark University, where he excelled on the basketball court. He not only was articulate, humorous, and convivial, but he displayed a sense of professionalism about his job that transcended politics-as-usual: An understanding of how the legislative process works, coupled with real expertise in the realm of economic development.

The respect with which Jay Ash is held on Beacon Hill was evident in the remarks made by House Speaker Bob DeLeo, who related how he first got to know Jay when Ash was the chief aide to the former House Ways and Means Chairman and Majority Leader Richie Voke — and how obvious it was at that time that Jay Ash was a young man who was destined for big things.

It truly was a privilege to see Jay Ash in action, so to speak, and to realize that the entire Commonwealth is the beneficiary of such a dedicated public servant who truly wants to see our state become the best that it can be.

We’re fortunate that a person of Jay Ash’s caliber is working for the citizens of our state and we look forward to even bigger things from him in the future.

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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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Housing for Young Parents to Open in Chelsea

The Neighborhood Developers (TND) and Roca announced on Tuesday afternoon the completion of Lewis Latimer Place in Chelsea – a four-unit supportive housing development on the Shawmut Street site of the birthplace of Lewis Latimer.

With the support of the City of Chelsea, and other funding partners, The Neighborhood Developers has redeveloped the formerly vacant site into four, two-bedroom homes. The newly constructed apartments at Lewis Latimer Place will soon provide homes for at-risk, or high-risk young pregnant or parenting families. The new apartments will provide affordable, energy efficient and healthy living located not far from the many amenities in downtown Chelsea.

“We wanted to think of solutions for high-risk people with children who don’t have housing,” said TND Director Ann Houston. “It’s hard enough to change risky behaviors and then to be a parent when you don’t have a home makes it so much harder. We thought about what we needed and looked at what would work and the Lewis Latimer home was born. This is four units and that’s a small drop in the bucket, but please see this as the first of many locations providing these types of housing and supports.”

The new building is named after Lewis Latimer, who was born in 1848 in a building that formerly occupied this site. The son of a runaway slave, Latimer executed the drawings for Alexander Graham Bell’s patent for the telephone and invented a carbon filament to make electric lights longer lasting and more affordable. The ribbon cutting will include the unveiling of a plaque in Latimer’s honor. The plaque is a collaboration with Chelsea’s Lewis H. Latimer Society – headed up by City Councillor Leo Robinson and his brother, Ron Robinson.

“This is a big day for us,” said Ron. “We’ve been at it 18 years now to try to get something in Chelsea named for Lewis Latimer. We wanted to build a legacy and it’s forming now. Hopefully, three blocks up the street will be the Lewis Latimer Park…When we first started, there wasn’t a lot of information about him – a paragraph here or a museum there. We are now part of an organization united all along the eastern seaboard. We found this organization to use Latimer as a role model for young people to show that you can accomplish anything and overcome any obstacle with education.”

Lewis Latimer Place represents a new collaborative effort between TND and Roca pairing affordable homes with supportive services tailored to family needs. Roca is an experienced and nationally-recognized service provider that has helped more than 20,000 young people change their behaviors and transform their lives. Roca has partnered with TND to provide supportive services to residents, addressing interpersonal relationships, stage-based education, life skills and parenting supports, and employment programming.

“This is an exciting day. We are honored to collaborate with TND, the City of Chelsea and the funders on this great project, said Molly Baldwin, Founder and CEO of Roca. “Supporting young people, one cluster of apartments at a time, will promise that our community helps young parents and families move towards stable and happy lives.”

The Lewis Latimer project team included Timberline Construction Corporation and Horne + Johnson / StepONE architects.

The project was also made possible with the support of the City of Chelsea, the Massachusetts Department of Housing and Community Development, the Massachusetts Housing Investment Corporation, Boston Private Bank, Community Economic Development Assistance Corporation, North Suburban Consortium, MassDevelopment, MassHousing, and Charlesbank Homes.

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Chelsea Part of Six-City Compact to Address Regional Development

Six Boston area Mayors and City Managers on Wednesday jointly announced the formation of the Greater Boston Regional Economic Compact, which will facilitate regional problem solving among the municipalities of Boston, Braintree, Cambridge, Chelsea, Quincy and Somerville.

“We are thrilled to announce this new partnership between our cities to address the regional economic challenges and opportunities facing the Greater Boston region,” announced the Mayors of Boston, Braintree, Quincy and Somerville and the City Managers of Cambridge and Chelsea in a joint statement.

“In order to succeed it is important that we first recognize that some of our greatest obstacles are not contained within city lines and that regional challenges require regional solutions,” said Mayor Walsh of Boston. “I look forward to working together with our surrounding partners to overcome obstacles and grow together across sectors and across borders.”

The municipal executives and their staffs will meet to strategize and solve common issues in the areas of housing, transportation, sustainability, and economic development that would benefit from a regional response.

As part of the compact, each participating city will explore committing funds to hire a full-time staff member to work with all participants and help develop a strategy for economic growth. In addition, a Regional Compact coordinator will be hired to develop a regional economic development strategy.

“The economy of the Boston region is too complex for each of us to identify ourselves by the community in which we live,” said City Manager Thomas Ambrosino of Chelsea. “While we might think of ourselves as being from Chelsea, or Boston, or Quincy, in reality we are all from the Boston region and we need to plan and foster investment in the region as a single unit.”

The Compact commits each participating City to five principles:

  • Commitment: Each community will demonstrate their commitment to developing a regional economic strategy by meeting at least every other month and establishing a formal structure for the group;
  • Leadership: These meetings will serve as a forum for participants to discuss regional economic development and related critical regional issues including, but not limited to housing, transportation, economic development and sustainability;
  • Follow Through: Participants recognize that success in leveraging regional economic opportunities and solving regional economic challenges requires persistent follow through. They will therefore regularly review progress made and challenges encountered;
  • Support: Participants agree to explore the appointment of a staff member to serve as a project manager for the compact, recognizing the need to coordinate and manage the several topic areas;
  • Inclusion: Participants will welcome and encourage other communities in Greater Boston to support and join the effort.

Aside from geographical proximity, the six participating cities and towns have chosen to join the compact because of their common identities and set of challenges. Last May, the mayors of Boston, Cambridge, Quincy, Somerville and Braintree announced the formation of the Life Sciences Corridor. The corridor was created to promote the robust life sciences sector along the MBTA red line in the Greater Boston region.

City Manager Tom Ambrosino signs the new six-city Greater Boston Regional Economic Development Compact on Wednesday, Dec. 9, as Boston Mayor Martin Walsh and Somerville Mayor Joe Curtatone look on.

City Manager Tom Ambrosino signs the new six-city Greater
Boston Regional Economic Development Compact on Wednesday, Dec. 9, as Boston Mayor Martin Walsh and Somerville Mayor Joe Curtatone look on.

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Cortell’s Response to Perlatonda’s Comment on Strip Club

I was most surprised to read of Councillor Joe Perlatonda’s unwillingness to oppose the return of a strip club he speaks of in the same breath as concerns he voices about prostitution, addiction and the negatives that go along with being the home of a Methadone Clinic. I’ve gladly become a vocal voice in opposition to the return of this type of establishment to the district I represent and call home, as I would anywhere else in this City. As someone I’m not sure has ever attended a Licensing Commission, Planning Board, Economic Development Board or Zoning Board of Appeals meeting, and am certain was at none with Phantom Ventures as a party, I’m not sure from where he gets his conviction. I know I get mine from going to them and hearing the vehement sentiments of those I represent along with others throughout the city who’ve reached out to me, including residents from his district.

With no better idea than hiring a Police Commissioner and clearly against the likes of a methadone clinic, but without the understanding that the time to contest an undesirable use is before it’s here, at least as to the “gentleman’s club”, I’m as confident he doesn’t speak for those he represents as I am that the rest of us will continue to fight for the better things we’ve earned.

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