The Corcoran Development team and the Chelsea Housing Authority (CHA) are ready to kick-off discussion on their new plan to re-develop the Innes Housing Development into a 330-unit, mixed-income development in two phases.
The plan has been tried before, but was derailed early on, and now with a new financing plan, and some new additions to the old plan, the team believes they have something that the existing residents and the community will be proud of.
The 96 public housing units will be re-developed with 40 middle-income (80 to 120 percent of the AMI) units and 194 market rate units. The project will go in two phases to reduce relocation of residents – with none believed to have to leave Chelsea or any CHA properties.
There will be 226 parking spaces on site, and the developer has said they are willing to do traffic and parking studies to perhaps help the overall neighborhood with street parking.
“The whole reason we’re here is they need new housing for existing residents, but it’s a great opportunity to also develop market rate units alongside it and take advantage of the Silver Line,” said Ronnie Slamin of Corcoran. “It is privately funded. That helps us speed up the process so we don’t have to go through the process of applying for tax credits…We’re also going to be providing amenities and services to the existing residents to improve their schooling. We want to provide services for them to be able to go from public housing to middle income housing to a market rate unit. That’s the goal. We’re planning services like financial literacy, job training, and local hiring events.”
Resident Jean Fulco said tenants are very excited at Innes.
“There is no place to play for the kids now,” she said. “We need bigger rooms. The rooms are too small and bigger cabinets and everything up to date.”
Added resident Melissa Booth, “It would be great to get new apartments and get a new playground. I have two young children and there isn’t a lot of places for them to play here. It’s cramped at the existing playground. The new plan has a bigger playground and it will be a great place for everyone to come and play. It will become a place that kids want to come back to if they want to stay in the area.”
Each of the units will be identical, she said, and no one unit – whether public housing or market rate – will be different.
“There’s not going to be a rich door and a poor door here,” she said.
CHA Director Al Ewing said the lease will be for 99 years with Corcoran, which is the maximum allowed by law. While other such deals are 15 to 35 years, he said they have chosen to go for the maximum.
“It’s important we have this public private partnership so we can have a new development,” he said. “You can’t improve this. You have to replace it. It’s like when you have an old car. At some point, it doesn’t make financial sense to fix it anymore. You have to go and get a new car. That’s where we’re at.”
And Ewing also said there is a sense of urgency, as state monies dedicated to the project could go away soon if there isn’t movement on the project. That is why they’ve scheduled a meeting with the City Council on Tuesday, Nov. 20, at 6 p.m.
“As state financing goes, when you set it aside money they want to see it spent in a timeframe or they will want to re-allocate,” he said. “They want to see this project show some movement forward or they will re-allocate that money.”
Meanwhile, to fix the previous problems, the project will be asking for a 15-year Tax Incremental Financing (TIF) deal that will allow them to pay a percentage of the taxes in three five-year periods.
The first five years, they would pay 20 percent; the second five years they would pay 40 percent; and the final five years they would pay 50 percent. After that, they would pay the full property taxes due.
Joe Corcoran and Ewing stressed that the City would not be losing any money. Right now, as part of a PILOT program, the City would get $51,000 for Innes over the same 15-year period. Meanwhile, with the TIF in place, they said the City would receive $3.4 million in new revenues.
“Even with the TIF in place, you’re still getting $3.4 million in new revenues because the City would only get $51,000 if things stayed as they are,” he said.
The TIF will be the deal-breaker to close the financing gap and allow the project to pay a prevailing wage – which was what derailed the first project attempt.
On the matter of relocation, Ewing and Slamin said they would be building the project in two phases, with the western 48 units coming down first.
Ewing said they have enough space to house residents in Fitzpatrick and Prattville Developments during relocation in the first phase.
“We believe we will be able to house those relocated in other state family developments in Chelsea,” he said.
Slamin said the developer would pay for all moving and relocation costs for residents displaced in the first phase.
The Massachusetts Department of Transportation (MassDOT) announced the Beacon Street off-ramp to Chelsea will be re-opened to all vehicular traffic on Monday, November 19. As a result, the direction of traffic on Chestnut Street between 3rd and 4th Street will return to its usual one-way direction, heading south.
The ramp has been repaired and rehabilitated as part of the Tobin Bridge Repair Project. For more information and to sign up for monthly look-ahead emails, please visit the project website: www.mass.gov/tobin-bridge-repair-project.
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.
The golden arches on Revere Beach Parkway are going to shine a little brighter.
Tuesday night, the Planning Board approved a special permit allowing for the demolition and rebuild of the McDonald’s at 170 Revere Beach Parkway.
The updated fast food restaurant will be larger than the current building and will feature a double drive-through lane, according to project engineer William Lucas. There will also be fewer parking spots and more green space on the property.
“McDonald’s is going through a nationwide rebranding program at all its restaurants,” said Lucas.
In many locations, that means major renovations. But in Chelsea, Lucas said the demolition and rebuild of the restaurant will help improve accessibility inside and outside the restaurant.
“This will bring the restaurant into compliance and improve operations,” he said. “They are implementing a side-by-side drive-through instead of the single file line.”
The current drive-through lane is parallel to Washington Avenue, while the new window will face Revere Beach Parkway. The size of the building itself is slated to increase from 3,500 to 4,400 square feet, and the number of parking spaces will decrease from 65 to 32.
Planning Board Chairman Tuck Willis asked how long the demolition and rebuild will take once work gets underway.
“Generally, it gets done in less than 60 days,” said Lucas.
Board member Todd Taylor said he did have some concerns about the project if the construction affects Washington Avenue.
“The traffic there is such a bad problem,” said Taylor. “That is the main way out of Prattville, and in the mornings, there is a huge backup and people cannot get out of the neighborhood.”
Other than the McDonald’s vote, it was a fairly low-key evening for the Planning Board, as it approved special permits to convert several single-family homes to multi-family units.
The massive, 630-unit Forbes Street project was continued to the board’s Nov. 27 meeting.
The most excitement during the meeting came during a thunderstorm, when several board members were startled during an especially close and loud boomer.
The Chelsea Zoning Board of Appeals (ZBA) meeting on Sep.11 saw a focused gathering of concerned Chelsea residents fighting against YIHE Forbes, LLC and their new construction proposal, among other Chelsea zoning appeals.
Hosted at the Senior Center across from City Hall, the proposal attracted a larger audience as the ZBA meeting slowly proceeded from appeal to appeal, but more attendants poured in as Forbes’ lawyer Paul Feldman began speaking.
The planned project would be located across the train tracks opposite of Crescent Avenue on Forbes Street, providing only one entrance and exit and limited space for development.
“A $25 million investment doesn’t work on this size of space,” said Feldman in reference to previous 2015 plans that called for a much larger project with skyscrapers and hundreds of housing units.
Returning with a new plan from a similar proposal in 2015, YIHE presented their renewed project for an estimated 18 acre total reconstruction of Forbes Street in Chelsea to provide 630 residential units across roughly 700,000 sq. ft. with a 3-acre reconstructed public waterfront pathway for public use. There are a planned 80 studios, 330 one-bedroom, and 220 two-bedroom apartments to be available.
Feldman estimated that there would be approximately a $1.7 million tax revenue return for Chelsea.
“There are going to be $3 million in building and department fees estimated,” Feldman added.
Those opposed to the developing project also raised concerned criticism at the lack of transparency with the official costs and how exactly the tax revenue will be invested back into local community needs, with residents pointing out a lack of outreach to local schools.
The new plan cuts the 2015 sizing plan to less than half its original size (approx. 1.5 million sq. ft.). However, Chelsea residents continue to express their discontent with the project.
RoseannBongiovanni quickly fired back after Feldman, chief project engineer Richard Salvo, and traffic engineer Jeffrey Dirk completed their respective informational presentations concerning development.
“I’m offended by so much of what you’ve said here tonight,” Bongiovanni began, adding “I can’t go [to the new development] because I have two children. Because you are not family friendly.”
Bongiovanni is not the only concerned Chelsea resident; Crescent Avenue homeowners are worried about future traffic being even more congested, while others see a combination of other problems unfolding.
Among the major issues that locals raised included: an additional estimated 170 cars added to local transit, insufficient emergency egress, lack of community consulting, transparency of project plans, an 80 percent calculated median average income based cost for the proposed studios and apartments, parking, lack of community investment, a very low-height seawall (11 ft.), and the size of the infrastructure.
“Every time the community has raised a concern, it’s fallen on deaf ears,” Bongiovanni stated.
Many residents said they don’t believe a vast majority of the community could even afford to live in the new development, leading to even less of a desire to accept the proposal.
After more than two hours of presentations with strong appeals from both sides, the meeting concluded.
The project will be revisited and decided upon at the Oct. 9 ZBA meeting.
CLOSET DRAWS CONTROVERSY
In other matters, a total of nine projects were presented, with three approved by the board and five others continued to either the Planning Board meeting on Sep. 25 or the next Zoning Board meeting on Oct. 9.
A noteworthy case was 34 Beacon St. and Carol Brown’s plans to create an extended closet in very limited space between her property and neighboring 32 Beacon St.
Brown appealed that she retained the right to remodel her property and create the extension, while two neighbors retained that due to flooding problems and snow accumulation on the planned closet, it shouldn’t be allowed.
“We have bent over backwards for these neighbors,” stated Brown.
There seemed to be a neighborhood blame game being thrown back and forth between the three homeowners. Despite Brown’s two neighbors declining to going on record, the tension between the three was palpable.
The project was approved with conditions, especially concerning sitting and freezing water on Brown’s property.
TEMPLE ON GARFIELD AVE WITHDRAWS
Of interest, the previous ZBA meeting on Aug.14 had seen TapanChowdhury introduce a project for a Buddhist Temple on 165 Garfield Ave., but the appeal for that project has since been withdrawn.
The remaining appeals that were approved had conditions set upon them, while the remainder of the appeals were moved to subsequent meetings due to needed revisions for the project.
The ZBA will be meeting again on October 9 at 6 p.m. in the Senior Center.
It was a new year at the Clark Avenue Middle School Wednesday morning, Aug. 29.
But it wasn’t just any new year.
It was the year that students poured through a brand new front door to the clean, sparkling hallways of a brand new $54 million school building with all of the most modern amenities that their old school – the former 110-year-old Chelsea High School – couldn’t provide.
“I really want to see the new gym; I can’t wait,” said William Bay, a 7th grader, as he waited outside his new school Wednesday morning. “I guess I just want to see all of the school. I’m excited about the whole thing. I think it will help me do better in school. I’m going to learn more here.”
For parents, the excitement was just as frenzied.
“I’m so excited,” said Bernice Reyes, who brought her two sixth graders for their first day. “I have a college graduate who went to the old Clark Ave. I remember that school. It couldn’t give these kids what this one will.”
Said Sara El-Mahil, a returning student, “It’s better than the old one for sure. The classroom are larger and all the water fountains will work now. I really like the space in the front where kids can hang out before school. Everything is going to be more organized.”
The Clark Ave began several years ago, with Phase 1 concluding in December 2016 and kids being welcomed into the new classroom portion along Tudor Street. This year, however, the entire school was opened to students – revealing a new gym, new music rooms, the library and numerous other amenities that completed the project.
“It’s a fantastic building,” said Principal Michael Talbot. “The kids are going to love it. The teachers are going to love the new options that this building gives them to teach the kids. Everyone’s excited.”
Supt. Mary Bourque and other district officials, including Gerry McCue – who shepherded the project through before retiring this year, were on hand to welcome students and parents.
“I am so proud of what the City has done here with this facility,” she said. “This was the right thing to do for the kids and the community.”
One of the most appreciated things on Wednesday morning for the students, parents and staff was the new, sprawling courtyard and outdoor amphitheatre at the corner of Tudor Street and Clark Avenue. The new space is still under construction, but was finished to the extent that it offered a great place to gather before school.
Previously, the school hugged the sidewalk, and there was little to no space for gathering.
The new outdoors space will support learning at the school, and will also be available for the community to use for things such as outdoor plays or movies.
Williams School sewer problems
The Williams School – home of the Browne Middle and Wright Middle Schools – experienced a heart-attack moment on Monday afternoon when a major sewer blockage threatened opening day.
Around 3 p.m. on Monday, the sewer backed up and caused a major problem in the school. All of the teachers getting prepared for the school year in the building were sent home.
Joe Cooney and his team at the Buildings and Grounds Department went to work on the problem and soon found that there was a huge cluster of baby wipes clogging the sewer pipe and drains.
“Joe’s team worked throughout the night washing and sanitizing everything and we were ready to be back in business Tuesday morning,” said Supt. Mary Bourque. “I am truly the luckiest and most grateful Superintendent for our dedicated and hard-working Buildings and Grounds department.”
Jose Cruz is quiet at the first impression, but he is intentional about and committed to improving his community.
At 13-years old and a student at the Browne Middle School, “Josey” called by those who know him well, has been volunteering at the Chelsea Walk with artist Silvia Lopez Chavez since the beginning of the project. Throughout sweltering hot days, Josey has been on scene helping the artist prime and paint the transformative mural which will make everyone in Chelsea proud.
Josey is the president of the Explorer Post 109, a community service and leadership club for Chelsea adolescents, teens and young adults. He exemplifies all of the good in Chelsea youth Ð respectful, kind and committed to helping out. He has aspirations to become an aeronautical engineer. Every person who walks by says “hello” to Josey and remarks about what a “nice kid” he is.
Josey is just one of the dedicated people who are working to ensure this mural is led by and created for the community.
Dimitris Meletlidis, owner of Broadway House of Pizza, was skeptical about the Chelsea Walk Revitalization Project when he was first approached about the idea. Now, he is one of the project’s biggest proponents.
Dimitris, came from Greece in 1981 and attended Northeastern University where he earned both undergraduate and graduate degrees in electrical engineering. He and his family purchased the Chelsea locale in 1987, just a few doors down from its present location. When the existing building became available, he bought it and opened up the thriving business he has run for the last 30-plus years. He also owns Prattville Pizza as well as locations in Revere and West Roxbury.
Dimitris comes to Chelsea twice a day and often is here until midnight or later. He knows practically everyone in the city, quickly chatting up teenagers, adults and the elderly alike. With a twinkle in his eye and a quick laugh, he says, “I’ve known this guy since he was practically a baby, always coming in for pizza!”
It is no surprise Meletlidis feels a strong sense of ownership and connection to Chelsea and the Chelsea Walk. He checks out the progress of the transformation daily and has donated pizza for Artist Silvia Lopez Chavez and the multitude of volunteers she’s had on hand over the past week.
Previously unsure of the project, now just like the Chelsea Walk’s transformation, Meletlidis is changing his mind and thinking it might just be nice to have the mural extend to the back of his building too.
As a proud husband and father of two Ð a son studying at Amherst and a daughter studying law at Suffolk Ð Meletlidis exemplifies the theme behind Lopez Chavez’ mural “A City of Dreams.”
The mural takes inspiration from the diverse multi-cultural background of Chelsea people, a city which has welcomed immigrants from various countries for many years, working together to promote inclusivity, diversity and tolerance.
The Residence Inn by Marriott on Maple Street has petitioned the Zoning Board of Appeals (ZBA) to expand their 128-room hotel by another 68 rooms.
The expansion would take place in the existing surface lot to the north of the hotel. The idea would be to create a 200-room dual branded hotel, which is a current direction in the lodging industry.
The expansion would add 28,234 sq. ft. to the existing structure. The majority of the hotel is extended stay rooms now, but there would be 12 non-extended stay rooms created during the expansion, if approved.
A special permit is required for parking because 118 spaces are required, and only 86 are provided. A Site Plan Review process is also required.
The matter has been in front of the ZBA already for a preliminary hearing, and a vote on the the project is expected at this month’s meeting.
The Forbes Lithograph owners have come back to the City with a plan for 700,000 sq. ft. of development and 630 residential units for the 18-plus acre site on Mill Hill – but they still only have one entrance.
The project has yet to be formally filed, but the City has requested that the owners conduct a serious neighborhood information campaign first, which the company has been doing.
The project has been scaled back significantly from its 1.5 million square foot proposal two years ago that included skyscrapers, hotels, restaurants and about 1,000 units of housing.
The current plan would have 630 units, including several units in a 16-story building. The remainder of the units would be in a couple of other smaller buildings. The would be a small amount of commercial space, with retail and office workspace uses.
City Manager Tom Ambrosino said it has been scaled back, but the City will not take a stand on it until the company files with the Zoning Board in July.
“It’s significantly less dense than the plan three years ago,” he said. “They can build the units by right as they meeting the density requirement. They will definitely need some zoning relief and the City has encouraged them to together with stakeholders and their parking access plan.”
There is still some question about the access, which comes from one bridge that would be rebuilt. Another access point over the Creek will not be part of the development.
“They explained it was just cost prohibitive with the decrease in units,” he said.
Already GreenRoots has met with them twice and that organization believes that the project is still too much.
“At both meetings, GreenRoots’ staff and members, as well as adjacent residents, voiced concern over the size and density of the project; the impacts on adjacent neighborhoods including on elementary school pedestrians and traffic and public transportation; and how the public access improvements to the Chelsea Creek waterfront would not be welcoming to the community at-large,” said Director Roseann Bongiovanni. “In short, this project must be scaled back significantly. A development in the likeness of Assembly Row cannot be built in a small neighborhood that does not have property access roads into and out of the site.”
Councillor Joe Perlatonda also has numerous concerns about the proposal. He said he has met with the developer, along with Councillor Leo Robinson, recently.
“First of all, there needs to be a two-way access to get in and out of this property which the only way the city would allow this is through a bridge connecting from the site to Rt. 1A, which will cost millions of dollars,” he said. “And what about the cleanup? Do we know if the land is contaminated? Is there a solution for pest control to combat the rodents? How long will this project take?… This will take years to develop even if this gets off the ground.
My fellow councillor and I would like to see a development that would consist of duplexes and single-family homes to keep up with the neighborhood.”