The opening of the fully-completed Clark Avenue Middle School is just about one month away, and work crews are finishing up the final preparations to welcome students into the completed new school project – after more than three years and two phases of construction.
“I think we’re shooting for substantial completion by the middle of August,” said Gerry McCue of the Chelsea Schools. “Teachers go back on Aug. 27 and students come into the new school on Aug. 29. We expect to have the school operational then. There will be punch list items to get to, but nothing major will be left.”
The completion of Phase 2 will mark the end of the $57 million project that started under former City Manager Jay Ash, and was carried out by City Manager Tom Ambrosino and the School Department.
Already, Phase 1 opened in December 2017, and students and teachers have been using half of the school since that time. The former building, the Old Chelsea High, had been completely demolished earlier this year to make way for Phase 2.
Demolition of the other side of the old high school started in March 2015, when the project first got off the ground.
With the addition of the Phase 2 building, the school will be introduced to many of the amenities, including the gym, an auditorium, a small performance stage, the library, technology labs, art rooms, music rooms, an administrative suite and the new front courtyard facing Crescent and Clark Avenues.
“In addition to things like the gym, there will be a smaller performance space and things can be done on that stage and the cafeteria can be used for seating,” he said. “Larger productions can be done in the auditorium. That’s important because the Clark Ave is the feeder program for the Chelsea High Drama Club, so they have an emphasis on music and performing arts at the Clark Avenue.”
The courtyard will be a very welcome addition to the school and the neighborhood, he said. The space was designed to open up to Crescent and Clark Avenues so that the buildings are pushed back and the space seem more open and inviting. He said the possibilities are endless for the new space.
“We could do outdoor performances or in the summer the City could have a movie night for the neighborhood out there,” he said. “There will be seating and decking in the courtyard. There will also be a school garden there too. There has been a big emphasis on school gardens across the district and the Clark Ave will have one too.”
He said that the top floors are pretty much completed, and many classrooms are set up now. He said the bottom floor is still having work done – as the contractor started from the top and worked down.
As it is, the action is aplenty on the site as the final work is completed.
“There’s just a lot of activity there now and it will be non-stop until the first day of school,” he said.
The Clark Avenue School is expected to have 668 students when it opens in August.
A partnership between the Traggorth Companies and The Neighborhood Developers (TND) will soon file for a project that includes 42 units of affordable and market rate apartments on a long-vacant property at 1001 Broadway – right on the Chelsea City Line.
Traggorth and TND once worked together to create the Box District, with Traggorth being responsible for the Atlas Lofts project within that district.
Dave Traggorth said he and TND have been in some extensive outreach with Mill Hill neighbors regarding the project for some time this month. After an initial proposal to neighbors before July 4th, the developers went back to the table to make some tweaks.
Those changes were reported back in a public meeting on Monday, July 16, in the Mary C. Burke Complex.
“Our current plan calls for 42 residential units over about 1,100 sq. ft. of retail space and a lobby and community areas,” he said. “There will also be 42 parking spaces on the ground floor. That’s the program we’re proposing. That’s after we got feedback from our neighbors along Clinton Street.”
The input included some design initiatives, such as keeping the building lower on Clinton Street than on the Broadway side.
On Broadway, he said, there would be a five-story structure with four residential floors over one floor of parking. On the Clinton Street side, there would be two levels of residential over one level of parking.
“The idea is to keep the height as low as possible on the Clinton Street and provide a buffer between the Broadway corridor and the Clinton Street residential district,” he said.
Per input from the neighbors, the developers have now included some market rate units, where before there were none.
That means there will be 33 affordable units (at 60 percent AMI, or about $55,000 per year for a family) and nine market rate units in the building.
Traggorth said there is a big demand for affordable housing in Chelsea.
“There’s a strong demand here for affordable housing,” he said. “TND is getting ready to draw for the Arcadia (French Club) project and they have 1,400 applications from Chelsea residents for 32 units. There’s just a tremendous demand for affordable housing here to prevent displacement. We’ve heard it loud and clear.”
Meanwhile, one great amenity for the public as a result of the potential development is 3,000 sq. ft. of public open space along the waterfront at Mill Creek.
“It’s part of reclaiming the waterfront and will connect with the hotel waterfront project and the playground further up at the Commons,” he said. “We’re looking at options and we want to start that conversation with the community about their vision for that open space and what would work there. Kudos to the City for having that waterfront vision plan.”
That waterfront plan was conducted in 2016 and called for opening up the waterfront to the public at most potential development sites, such as 1001 Broadway.
Traggorth said they would be filing with the City very soon to start the formal review process. The meetings and neighborhood input were all pre-file work that he said they wanted to do before beginning the process.
Apollinaire Play Lab invites youth ages 11 to 16 to audition for their summer production of Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream! The youth production will take place in August, following the professional company’s production of the same play this July in PORT Park. All performances are FREE!
Apollinaire Theatre Company is known for environmentally staging its summer park shows. The audience moves with the action of the play, and different scenes are staged in different areas of the park. (If you attended the PORT Park production of Hamlet in 2016 you might recall the titular character delivering his to-be-or-not-to-be speech from atop one of the towering salt piles.) Following in the footsteps of the professional company, Apollinaire’s young actors will employ environmental staging with their youth production. The audience will be taken from in the Riseman Family Theatre out into Chelsea Square!
Armando Rivera, whom you may have seen on the Apollinaire stage (Everyman, First Love is the Revolution), will be directing the show. Armando has been a teacher and director at the Play Lab since 2016, just before the opening of the Riseman Family Theatre at the Chelsea Theatre Works. Armando says, “This is an amazing opportunity for young artists to create work that will be shared directly with their community. Our production of Shakespeare’s Midsummer will be a hilariously fun learning experience for everyone who gets involved.”
Auditions are being held this Saturday, June 9 at 2:00. You can email email@example.com to reserve your audition slot. There is no need to prepare a monologue and no previous acting experience is required. Youth who are interested in design and working backstage are encouraged to audition as well! Auditions will be in an open class format, and the entire group will work together over the course of the 45 – 60 minute audition.
The Play Lab didn’t forget Chelsea’s younger budding thespians! There are also dance & singing performance classes available this summer for youth ages 4-11. Children in these classes will appear as the fairies in two of the youth performances of Midsummer lending extra magic to the production! No audition is required for these classes; registration is on a first-come, first-served basis. The Play Lab makes scholarships available to ALL who need them to attend!
Crista Núñez, who began teaching at the Play Lab in the spring, will lead the dance & singing performance classes. Crista, originally from Guatemala, has taught more than 300 students during her career at Ballet Armonía. She studied ballet for 18 years with the methodology of the Royal Academy of Dance from London. As a vocalist, she has won first place in national contests as a soloist and with her band. “Discipline and art are perfectly combined by participating in this class and performances of Midsummer,” says Crista. “Students will grow as professionals, experience being an integral part of a performance, and gain confidence.”
The Play Lab’s production of Midsummer is part of a larger effort organized by The Neighborhood Developers (TND) in conjunction with the City of Chelsea’s Downtown Initiative to activate Chelsea Square with arts programing this summer. In addition to the two-week run of the youth production of Midsummer (August 10-12 and 17-19), there will be other regular performances in Chelsea Square throughout the summer, including live music. The kickoff event for the summer series in Chelsea Square is Thursday, June 9, from 6:00 to 8:00pm. The Apollinaire Play Lab will be hosting a booth with fairy-themed crafts and sign-ups for the audition and dance & singing classes.
Visit them online at aplaylab.com! Or you can call (617) 615-6506.
The Apollinaire Play Lab is a program of Apollinaire Theatre Company (ATC), Chelsea’s award-winning professional theatre. ATC produces adventurous contemporary theatre, and free outdoor summer shows. The ATC’s home is the Chelsea Theatre Works in Chelsea Square, which houses their three theatres: the Apollinaire Theatre, the Riseman Family Theatre, and the Black Box—a co-working rental theatre for Boston Area performing artists. Visit them on the web at www.apollinairetheatre.com.
As The Neighborhood Developers (TND) celebrates its 40th year in existence, the Chelsea-based organization is poised to announce its new director, Rafael Mares, at a celebration function tonight, May 31.
Rafael Mares, formerly of the Conservation Law Foundation, will step in as the new executive director of TND in Chelsea, Revere and Everett. He replaces long-time director Ann Houston who has moved over to lead a collaborative organization between TND and Nuestra Communidad in Roxbury.
Mares is a Revere resident and will replace 15-year director Ann Houston – who will be moving on to a new collaboration project between TND and Nuestra Communidad in Roxbury. Houston will also be honored at the event May 31.
Mares has been working at the Conservation Law Foundation (CLF) in the fields of housing, environmental justice and transportation – often working in the Chelsea, Revere, Everett area that TND serves.
“My work has always been on the state and regional level,” he said. “From time to time I had the opportunity work with Community Development Corporations (CDCs) in Somerville and Lawrence. I really enjoyed partnering with CDCs…So, I was particularly attracted to running a CDC in my own community of Revere…I always felt particularly excited about working on issues where I live.”
Part of the celebration will be to mark the creation of 400 affordable housing units in four years at TND, but Mares said he wants to do the same in much less time.
“My goal is to continue that good work, but speed it up,” he said. “We need to be working to do what we did in 40 years in a shorter time period. We need to be able to do that same thing in seven years…I think Greater Boston has seen significant growth and there has been pressure on people who have become displaced from housing…I feel in Chelsea, Everett and Revere – unlike downtown Boston – we still have opportunities for affordable housing unlike other areas where it’s rare. It’s extremely important to develop affordable housing before the opportunity is missed.”
Mares moved to Boston in 1996 to attend law school. After that, he worked at the Legal Services Center in Jamaica Plain for 10 years. Then he went to CLF. He now lives in Revere with his family, including three young children. Incidentally, his home in Beachmont Revere burnt down last February, and he is living temporarily in Winthrop until the home there is rebuilt.
Houston said Mares is a great follow-up for what she did, and she challenged him to speed up affordable housing development.
“I think maybe he can do even better,” she said. “I’m going to challenge him to do that much development in six years.”
CLF President Bradley Campbell wished Mares well and said he is very capable.
Rafael has been a steadfast advocate for healthy communities across New England,” said Campbell. “His work ensuring equitable access to the MBTA and fighting for environmental justice in places like Lawrence, Massachusetts will have a lasting impact on countless lives. All of us at CLF will certainly miss his energy and the passion he showed for his work over the last nine years.”
City Manager Tom Ambrosino said he is looking forward to working with him.
“I’m excited for TND and have a great deal of respect for Rafael,” he said. “He was a tremendous advocate at CLF. I feel he’s capable, straight forward and helpful. I’m looking forward to him taking on this new role.”
For Houston, she will be moving on to head up a new collaboration called OppCo, which offers services to CDCs – with the founding collaborators being TND and Nuestra.
She said there are a lot of things that can be done to scale, such as some services and administration of CDCs. However, she said they are looking to create something that keeps the power local and keeps the local touch in place while also saving money on combining services.
“The challenge we face is our work grows increasingly complex and to be efficient, we need greater scale,” she said. “You see savings, but you can lose that local connection. That connection is our most precious resource and we can’t lose that. TND has always been an organization that didn’t do well having to make a choice…OppCo is the answer to how we can do both.”
She said some of the services could include financial management, real estate development, asset management, residential services, data analysis.
“We hope OppCo becomes something that allows CDCs to increase capacity to serve local communities without sacrificing that local connection,” she said. “We’re encouraged by the excitement it’s received from CDCs so far.”
OppCo was in the planning stages all last year, and was launched officially on April 1.
The TND 40th Anniversary Gala and Annual Meeting will take place tonight, May 31, at 6 p.m. in the Homewood Suites in Chelsea. The guest speaker will be Congressman Michael Capuano, with honorees being Mike Sandoval (partner of the year), Inocencia Perez (volunteer of the year) and Jan Dumas (Revere member of the year).
The Neighborhood Developers (TND) will announce its new director on May 31 just as it honors its outgoing, long-time Director Ann Houston.
Trey Greer of TND told the Record that the big announcement for their new director will come during their 40th Anniversary Annual Meeting at the Homewood Suites in Chelsea on May 31.
“Part of this process is that Ann Houston, TND’s Executive Director,
will be moving up to lead this new partnership,” he wrote in an e-mail. “Ann really defined the TND we all know today. And so, TND will be taking on a new Executive Director. They will be announced at our Annual Celebration on May 31.”
Houston has been the director of TND for quite some time, but an announcement came this month officially that she would be transitioning to a larger role that would encompass TND and Roxbury’s Nuestra Comunidad Development Corp.
It’s called OppCo, and it will involve preparing partner CDCs for the next generation of our work: building homes, supporting communities, and fostering opportunities.
The 40th Anniversary comes on May 31st at Homewood suites in
The Neighborhood Developers (TND) announced this week in a release ahead of its 40th Anniversary celebration that long-time Executive Director Ann Houston will be departing to become the new CEO of a new, merged community development corporation.
“TND will honor outgoing Executive Director Ann Houston as she takes on the new role of CEO of Opportunity Communities, where she will continue to provide leadership and vision to TND through this exciting new partnership,” read the announcement.
Houston was not immediately available for comment on the move.
TND declined to comment on the matter as well this week.
The announcement indicated Houston would be the new CEO of Opportunity Communities.
That new collaboration is with Roxbury’s Nuestra Communidad Community Development Corporation (CDC), a partnership between that organization and TND that launched in April.
“In April 2018, we launched a company for back office operations known as Opportunity Communities (OppCo) with a sister organization, The Neighbor Developers (TND), based in Chelsea,” read the website for the new partnership. “This is our newest partnership, designed to achieve better results for the Roxbury, Dorchester and Mattapan neighborhoods we serve. There is no change to Nuestra’s board, staff, leadership, mission, office, programs, projects, agreements, relationships and commitments to neighbors and local stakeholders.
“This new company allows Nuestra and TND to combine our back office operations and staff,” it continued. “By centralizing our accounting, purchasing, data collection, HR, IT and other management functions, Nuestra can most efficiently deliver high-quality, effective services and programs for Roxbury, Dorchester and Mattapan.”
Houston has been the face of TND since it planted its flag in the Box District many years ago and built out several blocks of what used to be derelict industrial properties. Using a formula of creating civic awareness in a mixed-income development of subsidized and market-rate housing, TND created a successful model in the Box District.
Since that time, they have developed other properties in Chelsea, including the old American Legion Post that houses homeless veterans in supportive housing. They are currently developing the old French Club into affordable housing.
In year’s past, TND moved into Revere to develop affordable and senior housing there. It has just expanded to Everett, where a proposal is on the table for a large senior housing development there on the former site of St. Therese’s Church campus.
The owners of the old Forbes Lithograph campus on Mill Hill will likely propose a new project to the City in the coming months, like this summer, said City Manager Tom Ambrosino.
The Chinese company once proposed a gigantic campus development with skyscrapers, a hotel and more than 1,000 apartment units in a multi-phase development with one small entrance coming in through the neighborhood. It was vociferously opposed by most every resident and elected official in the City.
That was a couple of years ago, and since that time the company has been laying low and preparing to propose something a little more modest.
“My guess is perhaps they’ll be in front of us this summer,” said Ambrosino.
He said the development could likely be by right, meaning there might not be any reviews or public hearings necessary for the project to go forward.
He said the numbers of units would be far smaller than previously proposed and much less dense.
However, parking requirements for the district are two spots per unit, which might be hard for the developer to achieve by right. That would mean a parking variance would be required, triggering reviews and public hearings.
The issue of accessing the site still hasn’t been resolved.
Previously, Ambrosino had made a point of requiring that the company look into providing access via a bridge over the Chelsea Creek to the site from Revere. In the previous proposal, he had said he or the City would not support any proposal that didn’t include that access point.
It is uncertain at this point if that’s still the case with the smaller project that is believed to be coming.
In an Op-Ed that appeared in State News on Monday, Dec. 18, Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren called House Republicans onto the carpet for halting federal funding to the nation’s Community Health Centers like East Boston Neighborhood Health Center (EBNHC) while working on cutting taxes for the ‘wealthy”.
“I love community health centers,” Warren wrote. “They do wonderful work and enjoy widespread support. But I’m worried because Republican leaders in Congress have held these centers hostage by halting federal funding while they focus on passing tax cuts for the wealthy. It’s past time to step up the fight for community health centers in my state of Massachusetts and across the country.”
Warren argued that community health centers, like EBNHC, are a big part of what’s working well in health care today — more coverage at lower cost.
“They are on the front lines of the opioid epidemic,” she wrote. “They provide preventive services and chronic disease management. They are taking the stigma out of mental health treatment. And they save money by promoting disease prevention, providing care coordination, and reducing the use of hospital emergency rooms.”
On Sept. 30, Warren said Congress blew past a major funding deadline for community health centers — a reauthorization of the Community Health Center Fund.
“This program provides more than 70 percent of all federal funding for health centers,” she wrote. “Reauthorizing this program should be a no-brainer, and many of my Republican colleagues agree with that. But Republican leadership has been so focused on stripping health care coverage from many of the people who walk through the doors of community health centers that they ran right past this deadline — and they’ve just kept on running.”
Community health centers across the country are feeling the impact.
“They are holding back on hiring new staff or deferring opportunities to make vital improvements to their programs. If they don’t get this funding soon, they’ll have to make even tougher decisions, like laying off staff members, cutting services, or reducing hours,” she wrote. “In East Boston, which is geographically isolated from the rest of the city, the community health center operates an emergency room that is open around the clock.People who work in community health centers know that health care is a basic human right. The dedicated doctors, nurses, and other health care professionals at these sites take incredible care of families from every background. And they’re always looking for ways they can better serve their patients and their community. But community health centers can’t do this much-needed work if the federal government doesn’t keep its promises.”
Warren said tax cuts for billionaires shouldn’t come ahead of making sure that children, pregnant women, people in need of addiction treatment, veterans, and other vulnerable populations have access to health care.
“I’ll keep fighting for community health centers and for all of these health care programs that have improved the lives of people in my state and every other state,” she wrote. “I believe everyone deserves access to affordable, high-quality health care. Community health centers excel at providing that care — and they deserve our support.”
EBNHC recently hosted Sen. Warren were she saw first hand the important work that the Health Center and its staff does on a daily basis.
“We were obviously so pleased to host Senator Warren on her visit tour to the Health Center and we are glad she is fighting hard for Community Health Centers like ours across the country,” said Snyder.
Chelsea GreenRoots is leading the way in jump-starting a renewal of Chelsea-Eastie activism on the Chelsea Creek – sending out teams to help build up momentum on the Eastie side for Creek activism.
GreenRoots Director Roseann Bongiovanni said the organization began trying to revitalize the interest in Eastie back in August after getting a grant to do some organizing.
“We can only be more powerful with one voice like we were in the past,” she said. “Overall, since we started, folks have been receptive because they know this is for East Boston residents and will be led by East Boston residents. It goes back to the holistic look at the Chelsea Creek on the East Boston and Chelsea side.”
For many years, the former Chelsea GreenSpace and the Eastie Neighborhood of Affordable Housing (NOAH) combined efforts to form the Chelsea Creek Action Group – or CCAG. Together, that group fought of what they believed to be environmental threats to the Creek, including a power plant, CAD cells buried in the riverbed, and the Hess tank removal. They also advocated successfully for the Urban Wild location on the Eastie side, and held social events like the River Revel.
However, about two years ago, a lot of the leadership in Eastie shifted to other matters and concerns in the neighborhood, leaving Chelsea holding up one side of the Creek.
Recently, though, Eastie’s Magdalena Ayed spun off environmental work in her organization HarborKeepers.
That began to develop some interest again in the Creek activism in Eastie.
This year, GreenRoots got a grant to do work to re-activate the grass roots base in East Boston and to institute Eastie leaders to begin leading the revived organization.
“That was very important that this was for East Boston and we were just helping to get it started for them,” said Bongiovanni. “We didn’t want it to seem like Chelsea was coming over and telling East Boston what to do.”
First, they visited 12 groups, including the many neighborhood organizations in Eastie, and spread the word about trying to revive interest in Creek activism.
Right now, John Walkey of Eastie and Indira Alfaro of GreenRoots are canvassing Eastie to get more people involved.
Bongiovanni said getting both sides organized again is very important to the health of the Creek.
She said there is also a great opportunity to learn from one another.
“You see gentrification along the Creek a lot more in East Boston and we are hoping to learn from what they have gone through,” she said.
Bongiovanni said the missing link on the Creek still is Revere, but she has hopes that some organizing can be done there as well.
The Chelsea Zoning Board of Appeals (ZBA) approved a new apartment building project at 25 Eleanor St. on what is currently an industrial building with parking lot.
The approval came during the Nov. 14 meeting and the project is championed by Eleanor Street Associates LLC – headed up by Michael Massamino.
Currently the building houses 12 offices and two conference rooms and a parking lot. The new project will be a three-story building with 20 units and 28 ground floor parking spaces – 14 of them covered spaces. The building will house 10 units on the second floor and 10 units on the third floor. There will be no open space.
It was approved with standard conditions.
In other matters before the board.
24 Tudor Street: A neighbor spoke in opposition to the conversion into three units. The Board will continue the hearing on December 12.
145 Cottage Street: continued discussion on December 12.
67 Jefferson Ave: Approved.
73 Broadway: The owner wants to keep it two units and maximize the space. A neighbor from 62 Beacon St. spoke in favor of the work as good for the neighborhood.
94 Fourth Street: Patricia Simboli spoke on the project, calling it “highly challenged” because it’s a direct abutter of Dunkin Donuts. She referenced parking issues, and suggested renting spaces elsewhere. It was continued.