The Forbes Park development proposal, with
more than 500 residential units proposed for the former industrial campus, has
been approved by the City’s Zoning Board of Appeals (ZBA) after four years and two
The final iteration of the project includes
590 units of housing, with 60 percent of those units being condos for sale and
59 units being affordable to a range of incomes. There are also 1.6 parking
spaces per unit, or 963 spaces. The project also boasts a major public access
area to the waterfront of the Chelsea Creek and Mill Creek. The current project
also has a very small amount of retail and office uses, with both totaling
below 20,000 sq. ft.
The project, though still very large, was
scaled back from the developer’s (YIHE Forbes of China) original proposal in
2015. That proposal featured skyscrapers about 21 stories tall and more than
1,000 units of housing accompanied by large office spaces and large hotels. It
was rejected informally and the company eventually withdrew during a ZBA
meeting that went past midnight.
The news of Tuesday’s approval of the new
plan was viewed with mixed results by most, including those who had come to
support the project, including City Manager Tom Ambrosino.
“I’m happy with the project even though it’s
far from perfect,” he said. “Given all the concessions made since they first
showed up here, I think it’s a workable project. There is lots of
homeownership, with 60 percent being condos. This is the largest condo project
in Chelsea for more than a decade if not longer. They also have really exciting
plans for accessing the waterfront along the Chelsea Creek.”
Ambrosino said they also agreed to several
affordable housing concessions. Of the required 59 units of affordable housing,
the mix will include many different income ranges, including 60 percent of the
Area Median Income (AMI), 50 percent of the AMI and 30 percent of the AMI.
“That’s really deeply affordable and it
assures that actual families that live in Chelsea now will be able to afford to
live in the complex. That was very important to the City,” he said.
The developer also agreed to contribute
$300,000 to the four schools at the Mary C. Burke Complex, which is about two
blocks from the Forbes entrance.
That said, not everyone was happy with the
news – and in particular was Councillor Joe Perlatonda, who represents the Mill
Hill and Forbes area. He said the problem with the Forbes project is the same
as it has always been, and that problem is the fact that there is one access
In the first iteration, City officials –
including Ambrosino – had called for a bridge over the Chelsea Creek to Revere
as a second access point to alleviate traffic in the neighborhood. However,
this time around that was not made a requirement, and Perlatonda said he was
not happy there was a concession made on that point.
“It’s a shame that no one has thought about
the concessions of the residents that live in our neighborhood,” he said.
“Right now, with cars parked on both sides of the street that go into the
Forbes site, and what we have to go through every day. Try getting out of your
driveway every day; try driving down the street when you have to dodge cars,
and then add 963 parking spaces which is 1.6 cars per unit. But someone seems
to forget about the cars they will have for each unit like the mother, father
and kids that all have cars, not to mention the visitors or guests that will
come with cars. Has anyone thought where to put the overflow of these cars? Our
streets are already congested, and getting in and out will be so bad. This is
just part of the nightmare.”
GreenRoots Executive Director Roseann
Bongiovanni said they didn’t believe the project was perfect, but felt there
had been reasonable concessions made about their concerns.
“We had a number of concerns relating to the
impacts on the neighborhood, and we feel that we have achieved some reasonable
concessions from the developers,” she said. “The number of affordable units,
deeper levels of affordability and preference for Chelsea residents for those
units – together with the mitigation for the adjacent neighborhood and the
$300,000 for the four schools at the Mary C. Burke Complex are all concessions
that we are proud to have fought hard for…GreenRoots is committed to ongoing
dialogue – and protest if necessary – to ensure the benefits are for everyone
in the community, not just the lucky few who will get to live at Forbes.”
Ambrosino said the site is very large, and
that did allow the developer to be able to build large numbers of units by
right if they chose to do so and could meet the parking requirements. That, he
said, would have cut the City and the neighborhood out of the planning
completely. He felt it wasn’t worth the risk to chance that.
“They could have gone in by right and built
450 units and 900 parking spots and got a building permit without any say from
the City or the neighbors,” he said.
The project has already cleared Major Site
Plan at the Planning Board, but has many hurdles to clear at City Hall in
reviewing plans before they can break ground.
It is believed
that the developer plans to keep three of the smaller buildings on site and
rehabilitate them. The rest of the project will be new construction.
The Suffolk County Land Court has remanded
the controversial Zoning Board affordable housing denial on Broadway back to
the Chelsea Zoning Board of Appeals (ZBA) with a revised plan.
The combination of The Neighborhood
Developers (TND) and Traggorth Development went before the ZBA last year with a
project slated for 1005 Broadway – a mostly affordable housing development.
However, shockingly for many, it was denied in a close vote as community
members called for a revised project with more home ownership opportunities.
The developers appealed that denial, and now
Land Court has sent a revised plan back to the ZBA for consideration next
“The Traggorth Companies and The
Neighborhood Developers have settled our appeal of the ZBA’s decision to deny a
special permit for our proposed project at 1005 Broadway,” said TND Project
Manager Steve Laferriere. “The terms of Settlement revised the initial proposal
based on feedback from the ZBA, and allow us to have new public hearings in
front of the ZBA and Planning Board. We are excited that the revised project
remains a great opportunity to create 38 affordable apartments for Chelsea
families and provide publicly accessible open space adjacent to Mill Creek.”
The new proposal has eliminated the
commercial component, reduced the height on Broadway from five- to
four-stories. The unit count is also down from 42 to 38. This time, all 38
units will be affordable apartments for rent.
City Attorney Cheryl Fisher Watson said the
developers and ZBA placed the matter on hold during the appeal.
“It is the Parties hope that a revised
petition is considered by the ZBA with a public process,” she said. “The ZBA
wants public input as to all decisions if possible.”
City Manager Tom
Ambrosino said he would be supporting the revised project.
City Manager Tom Ambrosino said the City would defend the Zoning Board of Appeals’ (ZBA) September decision to deny an affordable housing project on upper Broadway, but at the same time he said he personally believes the ZBA made a “huge mistake.”
The ZBA denied the 42 unit affordable- and market-rate residential development at 1001 Broadway in a narrow vote that was based on creating more homeownership opportunities in the City. The project included nine units of market-rate housing and enhanced access to the Mill Creek waterfront.
And Ambrosino said, personally, he feels like the Board should have vote for the project.
“Personally, I think the Board made a big mistake in denying that project,” he said. “Affordable housing is the single most critical issue facing the city and to reject an affordable housing project is ludicrous. It’s the single biggest issue I hear about every week in this office. Denying that project will not create one single unit of home ownership.”
Last week, developers Traggorth and The Neighborhood Developers (TND) indicated they would appeal the decision in Suffolk Superior Court, believing that the project had ample community support.
Ambrosino said the City would defend the decision to deny, as it does have to, but his personal opinion differs.
“The City will defend the decision of the Board of Appeals,” he said. “My personal opinion is I like the project and supported the project. I wish them well (in their appeal).”
A few weeks ago, the Zoning Board of Appeals narrowly rejected our proposal to convert a vacant lot at 1005 Broadway into 42 new homes, a coffee shop (or similar business), greenspace, an open walking path along Mill Creek, and 42 parking spaces. We were motivated to propose this project because Chelsea residents are being priced out of their own city and there is an overwhelming need for all kinds of affordable housing options. We have chosen to appeal the Zoning Board of Appeals decision because we still believe that this site offers a unique opportunity to meet critical community needs.
In putting our proposal together we relied on Chelsea’s 2017 Comprehensive Housing Analysis and Strategic Plan and the City’s Waterfront Community Vision Plan. We asked for input from the surrounding community and changed our proposal to incorporate it. We are grateful to those who came out to the community meetings and made the proposal better and more responsive to neighborhood needs. Our project was also designed with state waterfront regulations (Chapter 91) and the City’s ordinances and zoning regulations in mind.
Our proposal had the support from many community members, the City Manager, and a majority, i.e., three out of five of the members, of the Zoning Board of Appeals. To be approved, our proposal, however, needed four out of five votes. Thank you to those of you who took the time to speak in support and share stories about the impact of rising housing costs in Chelsea.
It is clear from the comments of those who spoke for and against the project that members of our community would like to see more opportunities for residents of Chelsea to own their own homes. We agree. Opponents of the project argued that rejecting our proposal would encourage the development of homeownership opportunities and discourage more development of apartments for rent. However, the rejection of our proposal will not create any homeownership opportunities, let alone affordable ones. The limitations and costs of complying with Chapter 91 make for-sale condominiums not feasible at this site.
To achieve increased homeownership in Chelsea, it is helpful to understand the facts. Over 30% of Chelsea residents are home owners, according to the City’s 2017 Comprehensive Housing Analysis and Strategic Plan. Opponents to our project claim that all of the new construction over the past ten years has been of rental apartments, further skewing the homeownership rate. However, the reality is that Chelsea has also seen a significant growth of condominiums over the past fifteen years, with total condominium units increasing by over 700 units, including the conversion of existing rental apartments to homeownership condos, as is reflected in the 2017 Comprehensive Housing Analysis and Strategic Plan.
And while these condominium conversions (from rental to ownership) created new homeownership opportunities for some, they have decreased the number of apartments available to rent, contributing to higher rental prices for current Chelsea residents. The Housing Analysis and Strategic plan notes that monthly rents increased 38 percent between 2011 and 2016. According to Apartments.com the average one-bedroom rent in Chelsea is $2,114 per month and a family sized 3 bedroom is over $2,800 per month; a 6.6% increase over this time last year.
To help address homeowner displacement in Chelsea and regionally, since 2008, The Neighborhood Developers has created 36 affordable ownership opportunities in Chelsea on Marlborough, Cottage, Maverick, Suffolk, and Broadway, as well as the Box District. Traggorth Companies successfully completed 43 affordable homeownership opportunities in Mission Hill using City of Boston funding. We
would like to build more homeownership in Chelsea, but unlike for affordable rental apartments, there have always been fewer state or federal resources dedicated to affordable homeownership, and that which does get built requires heavy reliance on scarce municipal sources of funding.
However, even if we are able to find sufficient funding, it is important to know that affordable homeownership opportunities are typically for families who earn at least $86,000 per year, or less than 20% of the current Chelsea population. The apartments we proposed are intended to serve families who earn about $60,000 per year or less. Sixty percent of Chelsea’s households have an annual income in this range, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.
In other words, this project was designed to serve current Chelsea residents who are clearly in critical need of affordable housing. It is for this reason that while we work with City officials to envision how more homeownership can be built and advocate for more resources to do so, we will continue to advocate for this project.
Rafael Mares is the Executive Director of The Neighborhood Developers, Inc. and Dave Traggorth, Principal of Traggorth Companies.
This past week, the ZBA (Zoning Board of Appeals) denied a proposal at the old Midas Site (1005 Broadway) submitted by a partnership between Traggorth Companies and TND (The Neighborhood Developers). That proposal was to build another 42 affordable RENTAL units on the corner of Clinton, Eastern Ave and Broadway.
At the hearing I spoke in OPPOSITION to the proposal along with other area homeowners. My reason for asking the ZBA not to approve the project was because there has been a long growing sentiment that we as a city, no longer should allow rentals to be built without raising homeownership opportunities to an equal level. Chelsea cannot continue to lose another ownership opportunity to rentals. Right now, 80 percent of our housing stock is rentals, meaning that close to 90 percent of our residents spend their money on rent and are subject to the market forces and whims of a landlord.
That is an insane number for a community trying to solve all of the injustices and social ills it has.
Mind you, I support affordable housing but it has to be OWNERSHIP, not rentals. The last time affordable condos (with income guidelines and deed restrictions) were built was in 2007. Those two condo projects were Boxworks (by TND) and Keen Artist Lofts (by IBA). Last year only three affordable condos were available for re-sale compared to 180 market condos.
As a licensed real estate broker, I have first-hand experience of not being able to find affordable homes in Chelsea for our teachers, police officers, trades people, Logan Airport workers, etc. Our local businesses depend on a working class being nearby. Some may try to paint my advocacy for ownership as self-serving.
Real estate agents can earn a commission on rentals too. I am here advocating for the betterment of my community and am using my experience and knowledge to influence policy and discussion. Also, I have been contracted by TND in the past to assist in a purchase of multi-families. I’m pretty sure this position isn’t helpful to my real estate career or relationship with them.
Since 2010, we have seen nearly 4,000 apartments built. TND itself has built three large affordable projects along Spencer Avenue. They also built the affordable rentals on Shurtleff Street at former Winnisimmet Club, the Latimer Lewis home on Shawmut Street, and in the Box District on Gerrish Avenue and Highland. This is in addition to the many three-families in Chelsea they have bought which were once the pathway for ownership for the working class in Chelsea.
That in no way is helpful to a community trying to make itself vibrant, active, interested and vocal about the going-ons within its community. Homeowners have long been a minority. Our school population reflects this dire situation with the annual entrance and exit of new students/former students numbering in the hundreds. Civic participation and active voting is dismal for a community with a population of 50,000.
My support for ownership over rentals was widely agreed as a valid concern by many in the room, including those supporting the TND proposal. One TND supporter who is now a homeowner said herself, “Ever since my family bought our home, I care more about how clean my street is, who is hanging around, if there is suspected criminal activity etc.”
That’s what those opposing more rentals are encouraging.
Additionally, affordable rental units force its tenants to stay poor. In order to qualify, a working class household has to stay under the income guidelines. The incentive is to make less, not more. Conversely, if you buy an affordable home, and you get a raise at work, then it doesn’t matter. You don’t get kicked out. And when you sell, its sold at an affordable rate again.
And all the while those 4,000-plus apartments were and are being built, we are losing and lost our working class residents because prices of homes have gone up and there are no new ownerships opportunities being built for them.
Chelsea is becoming a city of either rich (by Chelsea Standards) or very poor. No middle working class.
A couple making $60,000 to $80,000 combined per year cannot afford to live in Chelsea. Too little income for the market rates at some of the newer buildings while too much income for TND’s apartments.
The City Council voted to require new police and firefighters to live in Chelsea (a policy I think is a city budget mistake; more on that later) yet we have no program or policy on how to help them achieve that on their entry level salary.
I am on record with having sponsored and supported the Inclusionary Zoning which requires developers to have to include at least 15 percent of building affordable.
I am on record with having sponsored the Community Preservation Act order that placed it on the ballot in 2016, and campaigned for its passage to the voters of Chelsea. The voters overwhelmingly supported it.
Last week, under the order request from Councilor Leo Robinson, the City Council met with Executive Director Helen Zucco and her staff from Chelsea Restoration. Chelsea Restoration is the other (apparently forgotten or unknown by some Chelsea activists) longest serving non-profit agency that has both built affordable home ownership housing and has graduated thousands of Chelsea Residents from their First Time Home Buyer Courses.
It reminded my colleagues and informed our new city manager both what has been done and what has to be done with some of funding sources from the CPA and with support from the City.
The CPA funds should be used for supporting our current working class residents and city employees on increasing the down payment assistance provide by Chelsea Restoration and local banks for first time home buyers course graduates.
If my Colleagues and the community advocates really feel strongly about our City employees living here, then support added down payment assistance for them with CPA funds.
If TND says there is no state funding for non-profits to build affordable ownership, then support the private condo developments that include affordable units.
The City should bring back its problem property program that takes over abandoned dilapidated properties with CPA funding and sets up an agency like Chelsea Restoration as a receiver to rehab and sell as an affordable home to first time homebuyers.
I am willing to get together with TND and take them up on their executive director’s offer to discuss creating ownership opportunities.
I will work with them to look at their portfolio of 49 properties…and offer some of those three-families to their renter occupants as an affordable purchase. We can require them take the Chelsea Restoration home buying course, get down payment assistance and along with TND’s financial literacy training create a stable owner occupant while charging affordable rent to the other two units. Or, convert those three families to three affordable condos.
Some of those properties have been owned by TND for more than 20 years now and were bought at a low value. They can surely sell it very low.
Let’s sit down and take another look at the Midas site and the undisclosed purchase price Taggart agreed to and see if now, you cannot go back to the seller and get a lower price to support 42 condo units with 50 percent being affordable.
Let’s look again at the Seidman Property that TND has under agreement on Sixth Street, and instead of making plans again for more apartments, let’s sit down and try to run the numbers as condos with a 50 percent affordable rate.
That property had previously been under agreement with a private developer. That proposal was to have 60 condo units with 20 percent affordable.
Surely, if we sit down with TND and housing advocates and experts and look at the numbers we can do better than 20 percent affordable by a private non-subsidized developer. I mean if there is no profit needed…we can make it at least 50 percent affordable can’t we?
While TND continues to try to buy the former Boston Hides and Furs site, keep in mind that you will have to build condos, not apartments. That should help you negotiate a workable purchase price.
It wasn’t a sad day when the ZBA said ‘no’ to TND’s proposal. It was, I hope, a watershed moment for the city’s beleaguered homeowners who have said enough is enough. It’s been sad in Chelsea for a long time now…ever since we became a super-majority city of renters.
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