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regulations for signage and façade improvements are woefully outdated – in some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 Because of the outdated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
Carlos Fuentes is a flourishing social media
star and mentor who is helping inspire others on their own health and fitness
And when we say star, well, Fuentes has more
than 56,000 followers, a number that is growing every day.
Chelsea residents, classmates, and childhood
friends will remember him well as the personable and multi-talented member of
the Jordan Boys and Girls Club (JBGC), the hard-working and helpful student at
CHS (Class of 2009), or the diligent staff member at the Chelsea Collaborative
where he worked with administrators Gladys Vega and Roseann Bongiovanni.
Fuentes credited former JGBC Executive
Director Josh Kraft for making his visits there a positive and productive
“Josh is definitely a person who helped me,” said Fuentest. “Patricia Manalo was the performing arts director and she was the first one to say to me, ‘it’s okay to put yourself out there and do something different’ “I did ballet, tap, singing, and dancing. She helped me get out my comfort zone and that’s what my current journey has been about.”
Chelsea resident Carlos Fuentes, teen program director at the East Boston YMCA and social media star, is pictured outside the youth development and community sports facility.
Reflecting on his job at the Collaborative,
Fuentes said, “Gladys and Rosie are awesome. They gave me my first job. I
worked at the Collaborative for five years as an environmental Chelsea
One of his childhood highlights was singing
at the Zakim Bridge opening ceremonies with superstar Bruce Springsteen.
Fuentes graduated from Wheelock College with
a degree in Social Work. While a college junior, he began working at the East
Today he is the Teen Program Director at the
East Boston YMCA where he oversees relationships with the surrounding middle
and high schools and manages the academic credit recovery programs as well as Y
In 2016, Fuentes began posting photos of his
workouts, attendance at musicals, and his various travels on social media.
“I was doing cardio workouts and then I
signed up for personal training at the YMCA,” said Fuentes, who has lost 40
pounds on a three-year fitness program.
Fuentes said one of his transformation
photos became an overnight viral sensation, with no less than 800,000 likes
One of his fans praised his healthy
lifestyle and positive attitude, writing, “I believe in you, Carlos.”
Fuentes now posts videos every other day and
the demand for more interaction on social media is growing.
“I just recently learned how to swim, so a
lot of it is my swimming videos and my working out videos,” said Fuentes, whose
father, Jorge Pleitez, is from El Salvador and mother, Suyapa Fuentes, is from
Honduras. He has two older brothers, Miguel and Jorge.
Fuentes is part of the LGBT community and he
is often sought out for advice by people who consider him an inspiration and a
source of support.
James Morton, YMCA of Greater Boston
president and CEO lauded Fuentes who is part of a caring, dedicated staff that
has made the ‘Y’ a true community resource in East Boston.
“Carlos’ story is truly an inspiration to
all,” said Morton, who is an avid runner and fitness advocate himself. “When
people join the Y, they are seeking to improve themselves, but in actuality
they are also part of creating a better community. The Y helps teens with job
training, academic support, and college prep help.”
Ashley Genrich, aquatics director at the
East Boston YMCA, taught Fuentes how to swim.
“Carlos is one of hardest workers I’ve ever
met in my life,” said Genrich. “He figured it out pretty quickly and was hungry
to learn all the different strokes. Now he assists with our swim classes. The
kids love him. East Boston is such a family here and Carlos models what it is
to be a huge member of the this community and the family. He’s an awesome guy.”
Added Kate Martinez, 17, who works part time
in the teen program, “Being at the Y has always felt like a second home because
of Carlos. He helps me balance my schoolwork and sports. He’s also given me the
opportunity to support other youths with their homework and taking part in ‘Y’
Meanwhile, Fuentes is becoming so popular
and uplifting across many age groups and lifestyles that he is being approached
by clothing companies to promote their products. A local film maker has also
reached out to Fuentes for a project.
“I’m trying to see what endorsements are
available,” said Fuentes. “The response has been overwhelming. A lot of people
on Instagram say they appreciate me being vulnerable. Because of this platform
that I have, I am looking to expand my outreach.”
Fuentes said he’s pleased that the East
Boston ‘Y’ is attracting members from Chelsea. “It’s great that some of our
participants are from Chelsea. I’ve tried to make it known that Chelsea
residents are welcomed. My heart has always been Chelsea.”
And Fuentes is happily putting his hometown
and the East Boston YMCA on the map through his tremendous following on social
With his ability to lead and inspire others,
is an entry in to the political arena in his immediate future?
about it,” he admits. “But not right now.”
In a sudden move, District 5 School
Committee member Julio Hernandez has resigned – one of the City’s up-and-coming
political figures that many thought had a big future on the Committee.
Hernandez, a Chelsea High graduate, told the
Record this week that it was with a heavy heart that he resigned, and he felt
it was necessary as he had to work more hours and attend college at the same
“When I ran for office, I had more support
from my family,” he said. “As rent started getting higher, I knew that I needed
more income, and while still being in college, I decided to look at other jobs.
“I loved working in the School Committee,
but it also made me angry to see some members not show up to meetings, not ask
questions, and not have thorough discussions regarding our students’
education,” he continued. “Student advocacy has always been my platform, to
serve all students the right way. From starting the policy of an outdoor
graduation, to having the opportunity to work with many teachers who really
care about this community. I now believe School Committee Members should be
appointed, because our student’s education is no joke.”
Hernandez, 20, said college, family and
financial constraints hit all at once this year, and he couldn’t in good
conscience serve on the Committee while not being able to show up.
“I know once I’m done with college, I’ll be
back to serve the community I love and cherish,” he said. “I want to thank all
the people who supported me, and are still supporting me in my time of sorrow.”
At Monday night’s City Council meeting,
Council President Damali Vidot said Hernandez had given notice to the City
Clerk that he would be stepping down as of April.
Because his resignation is more than 180
days from a City Election, Vidot said the City Charter calls for a joint
meeting of the Council and the School Committee within 30 days to appoint a
replacement. That replacement would serve through the city election in
November, when the position will be on the ballot.
“Julio was an incredible leader during his
tenure,” said District 5 City Councillor Judith Garcia. “He did an incredible
job while on the School Committee and was a great representative for District
Garcia encouraged anyone from District 5 who
is interested to apply for the open seat.
However, Councillor-At-Large Roy Avellaneda
said the Council and the School Committee may want to leave the position open
until the municipal election.
“I may have some reservations about filling
the post,” said Avellaneda. “There’s only one more month until (candidates can)
pull papers, and then the election is in November. I feel it may be best to
leave the seat unfilled.”
someone to a short-term on the School Committee would give that person a leg up
on other candidates who run for the seat in the general election, Avellaneda
A retail marijuana shop on Webster Avenue
near the Home Depot is one step closer to opening in Chelsea.
Tuesday night, the Planning Board approved a
site plan for a 10,000 square foot retail marijuana facility at 121 Webster
Ave. by The Western Front, LLC.
The pot shop still needs additional
approvals from the state’s Cannabis Control Commission as well as the local
Zoning and Licensing Boards before it can officially open its doors. But local
officials have praised the plans for the facility, which is filing for a
license to operate under a state economic empowerment provision.
The economic empowerment provision helps
provide for minority populations that have faced the brunt of marijuana
prohibition punishments achieve social and economic justice, according to
Timothy Flaherty, the attorney representing the Western Front team.
The Western Front’s board includes a number
of Massachusetts business and community leaders who have addressed social
justice issues in the past, including board chair Marvin Gilmore.
Gilmore has a long and storied history in
the Boston area and beyond. He co-founded Unity Bank and Trust, was a major
real estate developer in the Southwest Corridor of Boston, owned the storied
Western Front nightclub in Cambridge, and was awarded the Legion of Honor,
among other awards, for helping storm the beaches of Normandy in World War II.
Economic empowerment applications get
priority for consideration at the Cannabis Control Commission, Flaherty said.
As for the proposed site at 121 Webster
Ave., Flaherty said as a stand-alone building in an area with adequate parking,
is an optimal site for a retail marijuana facility.
All marijuana products will be shipped in
pre-packaged from a wholesaler, and the facility will feature a host of
security measures, from cameras the Chelsea Police can immediately access to a
what Flaherty called a mind-boggling number of alarms.
Chelsea police officials were satisfied with
the security measures for the building, according to John DePriest, the City’s
Inside the shop, plans also call for a
future workforce development area and a work bar where consumers can gather
before entering the retail sales floor.
The sales area will be like “a cross between
a jewelry store and a spa,” said Flaherty.
The facility will be open from 9 a.m. to 9
p.m., seven days per week. There will be a total of about 25 employees, with
eight to 10 working at any given time.
“The goal is to hire 100 percent Chelsea
residents,” said Flaherty.
All those employees will be trained and
certified by the Cannabis Control Commission.
“I’m impressed by the group before us and
their commitment to social justice,” said Council President Damali Vidot.
District 3 City
Councillor Joe Perlatonda also said he was very impressed with the organization
and happy that they are committed to hiring Chelsea residents.
Much of the public discussion over the Smart
Growth overlay district for Central Avenue over the past several months has
focused on the technical aspects of the zoning ordinance.
But Monday night, as the City Council
unanimously approved the Smart Growth zoning – which will pave the way for the
Innes Development project to move closer to becoming a reality – much of the
talk focused on the human and community benefits of that decision.
As the final vote was made official, cheers
and applause were heard from Innes residents, project development team members,
and even City Planning and Development Director John DePriest.
“This will allow for new homes that all the
residents of Chelsea can be proud to call their own,” said Ronnie Slamin, the
project director for Corcoran, the developer behind the Innes Street/ Central
Avenue housing redevelopment plan.
The special zoning designation, allows the
mixed-income project to have its own, special regulations for parking and
density and other requirements. It also unlocks $5 million in state and local
funding for the project.
Corcoran Development will assist in
developing the 330-unit community on the site of the current housing
development. Those units will include the existing 96 public housing units, as
well as 40 workforce housing units. The remaining 194 units will be market
rate, and with the state and federal grants, will subsidize the replacement of
the public housing units.
Overall, the development would have a 41
percent affordable ratio, which is three times as much as what would normally
be required by the City and double the state requirements.
For many of the current Innes residents, and
for members of the Chelsea Housing Authority, it is a major step forward to
replace the current units, which are rundown and decades old.
“It is our dream to live in new apartments
that are safe and decent for our children, elderly, and the disabled,” said
Melissa Booth, co-president of the Innes Residents Association.
The Smart Growth overlay district will cover
the current footprint of the Innes Development, and puts a premium on
affordable housing and access to public transportation.
Chelsea Housing Authority (CHA) board member
Bertram Taverna said the Innes redevelopment is the kind of opportunity that
the City has not seen for decades.
“We are talking about an opportunity for
these 96 families, as well as 40 more affordable housing units,” said Taverna.
“Everybody is invested in this project and wholeheartedly all in.”
CHA Executive Director Al Ewing said the
redevelopment will give the city the ability to deliver on its promise of
providing a home where residents can be proud to live and raise their families.
“This is a win for the City of Chelsea,”
said District 8 Councillor Calvin T. Brown. “Folks are going to see that
Chelsea can do this and other cities are going to do this.”
Council President Damali Vidot said it’s
been a long road for the Innes project to move forward. The Council voted down
a project three years ago because prevailing wages for workers wasn’t on the
With prevailing wages now part of the
development proposal, the only major issue that gained any traction over the
past several months was, unsurprisingly, parking.
While the smart growth zoning is one major
step towards getting shovels in the ground for the project, developers will be
back before the Council for approval of a TIF (Tax Increment Financing) tax
break for the project. That is expected to come before the Council later in the
Vidot said that parking will be addressed in
proposing 226 on-site parking spots, with an option to lease another 50 parking
When the Lime Bike rental program returns to
the streets of Chelsea this spring, riders might notice a little extra oomph in
Chelsea took part in a program with Lime
Bike, along with 16 neighboring communities, last year. Council President
Damali Vidot said the bike rentals will be up and running again this year.
However, there will be a difference this
year, as Lime is unveiling electric-assisted bicycles throughout the region.
Because electric bicycles are currently not
allowed in Chelsea, Vidot has introduced an ordinance to the City Council that
would allow for the vehicles as long as they do not travel faster than 15 miles
“Since the late Summer of 2017, the City of
Chelsea has been experimenting with dockless bikes, initially as a pilot with
the company Ofo and then, last year, as part of a regional Metropolitan Area
Planning Council (MAPC) contract with Lime Bike,” City Manager Tom Ambrosino
stated in a letter to the Council. “Notwithstanding some minor complaints, I
believe the experiment has been successful.”
Last year, more than 4,000 people used the
dockless bikes in Chelsea, taking almost 20,000 separate trips, according to
the city manager.
“The City would like to continue this
dockless bike program in 2019,” stated Ambrosino. “However, there has been a
change in the marketplace for dockless bikes. All the companies in this arena
are moving away from pedal powered bikes to electric assisted bikes, including
To continue with the regional effort with
Lime and allow the bikes in Chelsea, the City will have to change the current
ordinance that prohibits the vehicles.
“Over the past month, we have explored the
options of replacing Lime Bike with another company that might offer dockless
pedal only bikes, but no operator is interested in the restriction,” Ambrosino
While the change in the ordinance would
allow for the electric-assisted bicycles, Ambrosino said there are no plans in
the works to allow for electric scooters to operate on public streets.
“I am just alerting the Council that the use
of such scooters may soon become ubiquitous in surrounding communities,” he
Councillor-At-Large Roy Avellaneda said he’s
looking forward to the transportation upgrade.
“I’m looking forward to them,” he said. “I
took a practice ride, and it was quite fun.”
•In other transportation-related news,
Ambrosino told the City Council it should keep the future appearance of
autonomous vehicles in the back of its mind.
“Right now, testing of such vehicles is
underway in Boston and other communities,” he said.
As with the electric-assisted bicycles, the
Council would have to adjust its ordinances to allow for autonomous,
self-driving vehicles. A MassDOT and MAPC agreement could allow for a pilot
route for the vehicles in the Industrial District.
“It is likely to be some time before
autonomous vehicles actually appear on this pilot route,” Ambrosino said.
“Again, such testing cannot occur until the City has given express permission.
However, I just wanted to give the Council notice that this transportation
innovation is moving forward and may someday make its way to Chelsea.”
The Innes Street/Central Avenue housing
redevelopment plan has cleared its latest hurdle with the Planning Board, but
will face a critical vote Monday night at Council on whether or not to allow
them to have a ‘40R’ zoning designation.
The Council will consider the special zoning
designation, which allows the mixed-income project to have its own, special
regulations for parking and density and other requirements. At the same time,
it also unlocks $5 million in state and local funding.
“It’s a critical vote,” said Chelsea Housing
Authority (CHA) Director Al Ewing. “That is a very important ‘yes’ or ‘no.’ If
we don’t get it, this project dies. It is our use it or lose it moment.”
The mixed-income development is in
partnership with Corcoran Development, which will assist in developing the
330-unit community on the site of the current housing development. Those units
will include the existing 96 public housing units, as well as 40 workforce
housing units. The remaining 194 units will be market rate, and with the state
and federal grants, will subsidize the replacement of the public housing units.
Overall, the development would have a 41 percent affordable ratio, which is
three times as much as what would normally be required by the City and double
the state requirements.
It seems like a huge moment for residents
like Jean Fulco, who is part of the Innes Residents Alliance (IRA).
“This will be a much better situation for
the people who are there now,” she said. “The re-development would be so much
better because the apartment conditions now are not very good.”
Resident Melissa Booth, also of the IRA,
said she has a special needs child who cannot walk up the stairs, but they live
on the second floor now.
“I usually have to carry my child up the
stairs because there isn’t an elevator,” she said.
The new development is slated to have an
But one of the strangleholds in this second
go-around of the mixed-income redevelopment – which had to be backed off two
years ago – is parking. There are 226 spaces available on site, and another 50
spaces will be located off-site nearby.
Council President Damali Vidot said she does
support the project, but she also lives in the area and understands that
parking is already a mess. She said they have worked out a potential plan where
the market rate units will not be able to apply for a residential parking
“Everyone says that these people who will
live here will take the Silver Line and not have a car,” she said. “Let’s see
them prove that. I’m ok with giving them the 40R so they can move forward, but
when their Tax Incremental Financing comes up, I will let them know that I will
not support the project unless they will enter into an agreement with the
market rate tenants to not participate in the residential parking program.”
She said the decision is a tough one for the
Council. While many have reservations, they also want to help the public
housing residents improve their lives.
“I’m not in love with the project, but I
know everyone is trying to do their best,” she said. “These 96 families deserve
to live in dignity. I have family that lives there and no one should live in
those conditions…If this is what I have to do to preserve the units for these
96 families, then we don’t have a choice really.”
Over the last several weeks, the IRA and the
CHA and Corcoran have been pounding the pavement. They have had coffee hours,
done personal outreach and have launched a website.
“We are in a competitive process and if this
doesn’t get approved for whatever reason, Chelsea will not realize this
opportunity,” said Sean McReynolds of Corcoran.
For the second consecutive year, three
Chelsea Jewish Lifecare (CJL) skilled nursing facilities have received the
prestigious Five-Star Quality Rating from the Centers for Medicare &
Medicaid Services (CMS).
This designation reflects the highest number
of stars allotted to a skilled nursing facility. Currently, there are a select
number of nursing homes that have been awarded this distinction.
“We are pleased that all our skilled nursing
residences have once again been recognized as being among the top nursing homes
not only in Massachusetts, but throughout the country,” states Chelsea Jewish
Lifecare President Adam Berman. “Earning this Five-Star designation is a
testament to our skilled and
compassionate staff, our strong commitment to excellence and our
dedication as an organization to provide the highest caliber of care possible.”
The CJL homes include the Chelsea Jewish
Nursing Home in Chelsea; the Jeffrey and Susan Brudnick Center for Living in
Peabody; the Leonard Florence Center for Living in Chelsea, which is the
country’s first urban model Green House skilled nursing facility.
These residences offer both short-term
rehabilitation services as well as long-term comprehensive care.
To receive a five-star rating, nursing homes
are judged by three components. Health inspections are one means of evaluating
a residence. The rating is based upon information from the last three years of
onsite inspections, including both standard surveys and complaint surveys.
Secondly, a rating is given based upon staffing, which details information
about the number of hours of care provided on average to each resident each day
by nursing staff and other healthcare providers. The final category involves
quality measures, which includes data on how well nursing homes are caring for
their residents’ physical and clinical needs.
Today the five-star rating system has become
a critical tool for the public to measure the quality and performance of a
skilled nursing facility. Nursing homes with five stars are considered well
above average quality.
Berman, “In reality, we work very hard, day in and day out, to achieve and
maintain these five-star ratings. We are so proud of our staff at each of the three
Fashion designed by Joan Cromwell, president of Chelsea Black Community, is modeled by the designer herself. It was just one part of the epic talent show last Thursday, Feb. 21, that has become an annual tradition of the Chelsea Black Community’s Black History Month celebration.
Members of the Chelsea Chamber of Commerce
joined local residents in paying tribute to well-known local businesswoman and
Chamber board member Joanne Tarason at observances this week.
Mrs. Tarason Washington Ave., died
unexpectedly on Feb. 19. She was the owner of Coprico Printing, 40 Washington
Ave., for many years.
Susan Gallant, vice president of the Chamber
of Commerce, said the local business organization could always count on Mrs.
Tarason to help out at events.
“Whether it was
making a donation or helping the Chamber with the great work they do at the
printing business, she was always really accommodating and very generous with
her support,” said Gallant. “She was a great, hard-working lady. We will all
greatly miss her.”