The Chelsea Night Market plans is smoking,
and that’s because the first installment on June 8 will have fire jugglers,
amongst musicians, comedians and a full slate of food and craft vendors.
Unveiled earlier this year, the Night Market
is part of the City’s Chelsea Prospers campaign and looks to add activity to
the downtown area on summer evenings with a creative and exciting market in the
Luther Place municipal parking lot once a month.
As the plans come together for the first
Market, Downtown Coordinator Mimi Graney said she couldn’t be happier with the
way things have come together.
“It’s going amazingly,” she said. “We’ve got
this really cool Turkish band that’s playing on the first day. We will also
have the Boston Circus Guild coming and they will have two performances. There
will be folks on stilts, jugglers, people juggling fire and close interactive
magicians. They will have a 20-minute fire performance during the evening.
Think juggling things on fire with incredible music behind it.”
Graney said she couldn’t yet reveal the
vendors, but they have 13 signed up so far that will be a great mix of exciting
items and food.
“I’m really excited so many local businesses
and food businesses are looking to take part,” she said. “We’re not doing food
trucks because we want an intimate atmosphere with open BBQs and food service.”
All of that will be flanked with creative
lighting that is meant to ‘wow’ visitors as they come via the newly-refurbished
“Our plan is to encourage people to come
into the Market using the Chelsea Walk and it will be like ‘kapow,’” she said.
“They’ll be hit with the lights and music and circus acts and vendors.”
There will also be community entries into
the Market, with a group of comedians participating and the Chelsea Pride
Committee having a booth.
“The Pride Committee will be having their
flag raising the day afterward, but they will have a booth at the Market too,”
she said. “They plan to use grease body paint to have people write things on
themselves that they are proud of. I love a lot of the community vendors are
trying to do new and different things instead of just standing behind a table.”
The first Night
Market will be on June 8 from 7-10 p.m. with a rain date of June 15.
Dr. Deborah Wayne’s optometry shop has been
on Broadway in one way or another since 1936, but in 2019 she’s hoping that new
City guidelines and a store improvement program will help her shop – and others
around it – catapult into the new century.
“You want to see quality businesses and you
want them to look like quality businesses,” she said. “I think it’s a fabulous
idea. It’s an old storefront. I have a storefront that doesn’t have any grates.
We’ve been operating in one location or another on Broadway since 1936 and
we’ve never had a grate. I’d do anything to get the grates off the businesses
on Broadway. I think they’re ugly. I’m hoping that these regulations go through
so I can take advantage of the program. I don’t want to take action and build
something that isn’t in compliance. I’m ready to rip the front off my store. I
She shares the enthusiasm of most of the
business community on Broadway, who wholeheartedly support a set of design
guidelines for the corridor, as well as a storefront improvement assistance
Downtown Coordinator Mimi Graney has
proposed the regulations this spring to the Planning Board, and had a hearing
on April 1. They will have a stop at the City Council again with a ruling promised
“The goal is to be attractive and be
maintained and lit well,” she said. “It’s also transparency of the windows.
We’re telling folks not to have the big frosted glass and we would like the
business to take down the big metal grates. In a lot of cases, they aren’t
necessary because it can done other ways. We can meet the goal of safety and
meet the goal of feeling safe and having an attractive façade.”
One of the problems, she said, is that the
regulations for signage and façade improvements are woefully outdated – in some
cases not allowing simple things like a blade sign. A blade sign is a suspended
sign that faces those walking on the sidewalk. Because of the outdated
regulations, she said, many store owners are hesitant to make upgrades that
could be a code violation.
“The downtown has always been a bunch of
things, but the rules never changed so it means the businesses can’t update or
maintain their facades,” she added.
Alberto Calvo of Stop & Compare
Supermarket said they improved their façade and sign a few years ago, and it
made a huge difference. He’s excited to see that happen throughout the business
“We’re absolutely excited to see movement
toward the revamping of sign ordinances,” offered Calvo, also executive vice
president of the Chelsea Chamber of Commerce.
“A few years ago, we at Stop & Compare in Chelsea invested
significantly to improve our building’s façade and to install updated, modern
signage. It has made a marked, positive
difference in our foot traffic and sales at that location, and I very much want
to see other businesses in the Downtown corridor benefit from these kinds of
Chelsea Chamber President Joseph W. Mahoney
added, “We do get member businesses, and non-members, too, asking whether there
are programs to assist business owners to fund signage and façade
improvements. For façades, we know that
there is a small program to be made available, but the roll-out of the façade
program has been at least a couple of years in the making. Our understanding is
that there may also be a cost-sharing program for signage as well. The new
signage ordinances still need to be passed by the City Council, so we’ve been
telling businesses to sit tight, but be ready. We’ve been saying the same thing
to our member and non-member businesses in the signage business. We suggested to Craig Murphy, owner of our
member Cambridge Reprographics, start talking to people now.”
“I think businesses are most excited about
the potential return of blade signs,” Mahoney elaborated, “those that are
perpendicular to the building.”
Newburyport’s shopping district is full of those signs.
When one drives down its streets, one can
see the businesses’ signs before accidentally passing them. Pedestrians also
can spot their destination from a half-block away.
•Another piece of the regulations addresses
outdoor or sidewalk dining – which was pioneered by the Ciao! Market on
Broadway two summers ago. It was a success, by most accounts, and Graney said
they would like to encourage others to try it.
First, however, they wanted to put some
standards in place.
The regulations would only allow such dining
on sidewalks and they would have to be immediately in front of the business.
The furniture would have to be matching and of a high quality. There would have
to be a safety plan, and businesses would be responsible for the area. No
alcohol service would be allowed for the time being.
Seasonal heaters for outdoor dining are also
“Realistically, there’s not a lot of space,”
she said. “Downtown, where this works, it’s two or three tables or six people.
It’s similar to what Ciao! Did on their pilot.”
Addressing the proposed sidewalk dining
ordinance, Chamber Executive Director Rich Cuthie was slightly more
“Edson and Marvin from Ciao Pizza definitely
have been the market movers on this and need to be applauded,” he said. “They
put in the work and time with the City to test it out. But let’s say it’s a nice summer evening and
you and I wanted to have a beer and split a plate of nachos al fresco at a
local restaurant on Broadway; maybe an
after work meeting or just something social. We sit down at the table and
chairs on the sidewalk and then are told, ‘No, sorry. No alcohol is allowed
outside.’ Like many people, we’re just
going to get up, apologize, and either go to the inside of that restaurant, or
another restaurant, or worse, decide to move our meeting or dinner to another
Cuthie said there is no compelling argument
for a business owner to make the investment in tables, chairs, and staffing
while also having to insure against additional outdoor liabilities if the
potential revenues to offset those costs are not there.
“No mistake,” Cuthie continued, “we’re happy
and appreciative that the City is moving to try to formally create a path to
outdoor dining, but without beer, wine, and cocktails—which by the way are a
restaurant’s highest margin offerings and offset food costs, we’re missing the
mark and I have to reserve judgment on the initiative’s ultimate success. I don’t want Chelsea to always be 10 years
behind other communities. We need proper updating now so that people will say,
‘It’s a beautiful evening, let’s have some margaritas and good Latin food in
Chelsea tonight. We’ll decide where we
want to eat when we get there, because there are so many outdoor dining
The City’s Chelsea
Prospers initiative has been working behind the scenes for months – often
hinting that something fun is coming – and last week they unveiled the Chelsea
Night Market, the newest, biggest plan yet to enliven the downtown district.
Director Mimi Graney has
been working with Chelsea native Edwardo Chacon, of Jukebox Events, to come up
with a summer gathering in the parking lot behind the Chelsea Walk – a ‘Night
Market’ that would take place five times on Saturdays in the summer.
“This is going to be a
reflection of the City in its first year,” said Graney. “As it grows more
popular, you’re going to see the abutting cities like East Boston, Everett and
Revere coming. We want vendors here to be Chelsea residents. We want artists
and performers to be Chelsea residents. We do want to mix it up too. The Night
Market is for the City of Chelsea and for residents.”
The idea was also
championed during a Chelsea Prospers meeting on Feb. 6 by Edwardo Chacon.
Chacon grew up in Chelsea and graduated from Chelsea High School. After that,
he went to college in Florida and then lived in Los Angeles for many years,
doing corporate marketing events with big budgets.
And every time he
returned to Chelsea, he said he could picture some sort of hip, fun market
taking place in his hometown.
Now, having returned to
Chelsea a year ago, he decided to try to help make it happen.
“I always came back and
felt like something like I was doing elsewhere could really happen in Chelsea,”
he said. “I would look at the city and just feel that Chelsea had the right
atmosphere to do these things too and one year ago I moved back and felt like I
had to try. My goal is to do the same things I was doing elsewhere in Chelsea.
I feel Chelsea is a city that’s perfectly located for this and the people
deserve it. They would love it and be filled with a sense of excitement.”
The layout of the event
would be in the City parking lot behind the Chelsea Walk. There would be a
stage for performances, vendor booths in the middle, places for food and an art
installation in the back end. In the future, next year hopefully, the
initiative hopes of have a beer garden in the back end. However, Graney said
they discovered that the laws against public drinking are too strict and
couldn’t be changed in time to accommodate this year’s market.
Many in the audience,
however, were very excited about the idea of a beer garden and talked for some
time about how to make it happen. However, Graney said it is out for this year,
but she did say the enthusiasm in the room for a beer garden would help for
changing the ordinances so next year one could be put in the mix.
Graney said they hope to
have fire jugglers, creative lighting and artists of all kinds. The
entertainment would vary, with the times for the market being from 7-10 p.m.
The tentative dates are
June 8, July 13, Aug. 10, Sept. 21, and Oct. 5.
The first one on June 8,
Graney said, would have a graduation theme since the next day is graduation.
“It’s going to be a
pre-celebration for the high school senior class,” she said. “We have baby
pictures of all of the kids and an artist is creating a collage . There will be
performers from the class and they are really going to be our ambassadors.”
Vendors would be selling
new and used items, and it would be highly curated and very unique. There would
also be service oriented vendors like henna tattoo and chair massage. The food
would be hot and ready to eat street food using BBQ grills and such instead of
“It would be scaled for an intimate, community oriented atmosphere,” read
Ask 100 people where the Mill Hill
neighborhood separates from the Mill Creek neighborhood and one would probably
get 100 different answers.
Neighborhoods in Chelsea have been loosely
defined for decades, with some not even named at all, but now Downtown
Coordinator Mimi Graney is looking to residents of Chelsea to define the City’s
neighborhoods more precisely.
“It came up because City Planner Karl Allen
has been working on a project by the Produce Center and he kept calling it West
Chelsea,” she said. “Every time he did that, people would laugh at it. It
brought up the question as to what do you call that area. It was the same thing
for the Walnut Street Synagogue area. Then you have people talking about
Prattville. We decided to try to figure out what you call the various
neighborhoods of Chelsea.”
That started with a query of the Chel-Yea
group last month, and during that event and with online follow ups, Graney said
she got very impassioned responses.
People, she said, took it very seriously.
“Several people said everything was just
Chelsea, but others had strong opinions about Admiral’s Hill and Prattville,”
she said. “It has solicited a lot of interested conversations.”
Graney has produced a map with suggested
boundaries and names. So far, they have included Prattville, Mayor’s Row,
Chelsea High, Addison-Orange, Soldiers’ Home/Powderhorn Hill, Cary Square, Mill
Creek, Mill Hill, Spencer Avenue, Eastern Ave Industrial Area, Box District,
Bellingham Hill, Salt Piles, Waterfront, Downtown (including Chelsea Square and
Bellingham Square), Williams School, Carter Park, Mystic Mall, Produce District
and Admiral’s Hill.
It was difficult, she said, to find the real
boundaries of the Soldiers’ Home neighborhood versus Cary Square, she said, and
many said the Spencer Avenue area should be called Upper Broadway. Mill Creek,
on the other hand, has been confused in some ways with the Parkway Plaza.
She said the exercise is one that moves
beyond the fun of talking about it, and moving towards making it a place.
“The legacy of the fire in the Mystic Mall
area sort of upended most boundaries there,” she said. “People are
uncomfortable with the area beyond Carter Park and Chelsea High area. If it
doesn’t have a name, it becomes this no man’s land. Naming a place has a power
to it. I’m hoping people in these areas claim that power in that naming.”
Graney said they
will continue to take input on the neighborhood boundaries, and will likely
present something to the community in the near future.
City Manager Tom Ambrosino and Downtown Coordinator Mimi Graney are moving forward with the idea that the former Salvation Army Store on Broadway can be the catalyst for the entire block both in the future and in the present.
In his State of the City Address on Monday, Ambrosino laid out a plan for the building and said, now that the City owns it, they plan to move forward soon to seek proposals from developers for a mixed-use redevelopment with a major affordable housing component.
“Although the particulars of that development are unknown at this point, it will definitely include activation of the streetscape and affordable housing,” he said. “I really believe the redevelopment of the Salvation Army site could the spark for the transformation of that block between Fifth and Fourth Street.”
Meanwhile, Graney has been busy making temporary renovations to turn the old store into a temporary gallery, something being installed right now.
The exterior will be cleaned up and temporary walls and new lighting will be installed to show off rotating art exhibits. The first show scheduled is letterpress prints from middle school students of English teacher Lindsey Horowitz and art teacher Jennifer Porto of the Eugene Wright Science and Technology Academy.
Those students are composing poems about Chelsea and creating posters and other media of words and images. Chelsea artists interested in exhibiting in this space should contact Mimi Graney at email@example.com.
Meanwhile, for the future of that block, Ambrosino said Graney is working to land a very significant grant from MassDevelopment for the block.
“For the last several months, our Downtown Coordinator has been working with the Chamber, business owners and property managers on Broadway on a grant application to MassDevelopment to help us transform the block between Fifth and Fourth St. on Broadway,” Ambrosino said. “We’ll know for sure in a matter of weeks whether we are selected for this Transformative District Initiative Grant, but we are certainly confident in our chances. And, regardless, we now have a committed team to help us tackle the challenges in that block.”
The initial Chelsea Lunch initiative kicked off on the City Hall Lawn on Wednesday, July 12, at noon, and was a hit. While rain threatened the event which takes place every week on Wednesday from noon to 2 p.m. – it held off and residents and business owners filed to the event. Downtown Coordinator Mimi Graney said it was a great mix of residents and area workers. Food provider Rhythm N Wraps sold out of their offerings by 1:30 p.m.
“There were more than a few smiles and folks said they were excited to attend again next week,” said Graney.
The Chelsea Lunch Marketplace offers food, but also informational booths, small retailers and other amenities.