Night Market Plans are on Fire…Quite Literally

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 Chelsea Walk.

“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.

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New Broadway Sign and Design Guidelines Head to City Council for Review

New Broadway Sign and Design Guidelines Head to City Council for Review

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 can’t wait.”

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 program.

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 in May.

“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 district.

“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 improvements.”

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 being considered.

“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 cautious.

“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 town.”

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 choices.’”

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Enliven Downtown Chelsea Prospers Unveils Plans For ‘Chelsea Night Market’ This Summer

Enliven Downtown Chelsea Prospers Unveils Plans For  ‘Chelsea Night Market’ This Summer

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 food trucks.

“It would be scaled for an intimate, community oriented atmosphere,” read the literature.

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City Looks to Residents to Name, Define Neighborhoods

City Looks to Residents to Name, Define Neighborhoods

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.

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Salvation Army Building Looks to be Anchor in First Wave of Change on Broadway this Month

Salvation Army Building Looks to be Anchor in First Wave of Change on Broadway this Month

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 mgraney@chelseama.gov.

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.”

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Chelsea Lunch Initiative

Chelsea Lunch Initiative

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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.

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