After a packed meeting last Wednesday, Jan. 24, project managers for the state Department of Transportation (MassDOT) said they are reconsidering a recommendation to eliminate the 5th Street onramp as part of the overall three-year Chelsea Viaduct Rehabilitation project.
Joseph Pavao, project manager, said a consultant for MassDOT told them it was believed the onramp could be eliminated. It was believed that the Everett Street ramp and Cottage Street ramp could absorb the traffic.
However, Pavao said they have heard loud and clear from the community that it might not be popular.
“As of right now, it’s still under consideration,” he said. “We have certainly heard the concerns of the local community. We certainly heard it loud and clear at the meeting last week…After an internal study, we thought we could handle any traffic from the closure with the ramps at Cottage Street and Everett Avenue. However, based on community feedback and elected officials, we are reconsidering that and seeing if it’s a prudent thing to do on this project.”
He did say they would definitely be closing the 5th Street onramp at least temporarily for about three or four months in 2020 during the repairs to the superstructure of the Viaduct. Beyond that, though, they are reconsidering the original plan to fully discontinue it.
That reconsideration came chiefly from Councilor Roy Avellaneda and other elected officials and business leaders that sounded off late last year when it was first reported that the ramp might close.
Concerns about traffic coming down Broadway and further clogging Everett Avenue were chief among the comments.
Pavao said they have met with City Manager Tom Ambrosino recently about a mitigation package that was presented to MassDOT late last year. He also said that he hopes to be on the agenda of the next Chelsea City Council meeting to present an official mitigation plan for the project.
The project is now at 25 percent design, and they are hoping to advance it to a final design very soon. He said they hope to have it advertised to bidders this spring.
“We want to advertise this for bids in late March or early April,” he said.
The project includes fixing about 260,000 sq. ft. of structurally deficient decking and superstructure. It doesn’t mean those portions of the viaduct are unsafe, but they certainly need to be repaired.
The project also includes work on the structure below the bridge, improving lighting, improving drainage and making parking lot improvements under the bridge.
They hope to have a contractor on board soon and potentially start in October 2018. The majority of the work will begin in 2019, and that will be on the underneath of the bridge and won’t impact Rt. 1 traffic.
In 2020, that’s when the superstructure work will begin and that will be very cumbersome for traffic.
“That’s when we’ll have permanent lane reductions to two lanes in both directions,” he said.
He said they will use accelerated bridge repair techniques, and they will work 12 weekends (55 hours each weekend) during the project.
It is slated to end in early 2021 with paving and small items.
Parishioners at the St. Rose Church on Broadway have returned to put up their spectacular Christmas light display this year on the new piazza. The volunteers spent most of 2016 building out the new structure, and this year is the first year they have been able to fully decorate it for Christmas – a tradition that goes back about six years.
An electrified Nativity scene outfitted with a blazingly bright star is just one of the many spectacular light displays on the new piazza to the north of St. Rose Church – a light display that started humbly a few years ago and now has grown to great proportions.
Father Hilario Sanez said the annual display is back this year courtesy of many dedicated parishioners from the Vietnamese-speaking contingent of the Parish.
The 20 or so men dedicate their time year in and year out to build out the bright display for the community and to honor the Christmas holiday.
The effort is now made all the more special due to the piazza patio that is in place to the north of the church – a patio that supports the colorful light display even more than the previous lights.
Cuong Pham led the Vietnamese parishioners in installing the piazza in the summer and fall of 2016. Working late into the night on weekdays and weekends, parishioners built out on a volunteer basis the new structure so that the church could host better get-togethers outside.
Their dedication to the project was unmatched, as many of those working came to volunteer late into the night after working full-day shifts in the construction industry.
Now, after a year break from the Christmas lights, this month the crew of Vietnamese parishioners were back to work putting up the light spectacular.
Within the community, many have commented on the display, and noted that the City’s new Christmas lights compliment the St. Rose display perfectly – making the downtown area much more festive.
The Chelsea Zoning Board of Appeals (ZBA) approved a new apartment building project at 25 Eleanor St. on what is currently an industrial building with parking lot.
The approval came during the Nov. 14 meeting and the project is championed by Eleanor Street Associates LLC – headed up by Michael Massamino.
Currently the building houses 12 offices and two conference rooms and a parking lot. The new project will be a three-story building with 20 units and 28 ground floor parking spaces – 14 of them covered spaces. The building will house 10 units on the second floor and 10 units on the third floor. There will be no open space.
It was approved with standard conditions.
In other matters before the board.
24 Tudor Street: A neighbor spoke in opposition to the conversion into three units. The Board will continue the hearing on December 12.
145 Cottage Street: continued discussion on December 12.
67 Jefferson Ave: Approved.
73 Broadway: The owner wants to keep it two units and maximize the space. A neighbor from 62 Beacon St. spoke in favor of the work as good for the neighborhood.
94 Fourth Street: Patricia Simboli spoke on the project, calling it “highly challenged” because it’s a direct abutter of Dunkin Donuts. She referenced parking issues, and suggested renting spaces elsewhere. It was continued.
After hundreds of athletic banquets, wedding receptions and a whose who list of Chelsea political functions, that history all came tumbling down last Friday when the French Naturalization Club on Spencer Avenue was demolished for affordable housing.
Crews secured the area last Thursday, and began the demo on Friday – taking down the old Function Hall that many had known from the old days of political times or youth sports banquets. By the end of it’s stretch, though, it had seen better times, as a man was murdered in the Club during a party a few years ago.
That led to the Club’s end, and it became vacant until The Neighborhood Developers (TND) purchased the property for an affordable housing development.
That development was controversial when Mill Hill neighbors learned late in the game of TND’s plans to put up the housing.
That sparked a vigorous debate throughout the community two years ago, and led to a scaling back of the project and a return of the Spencer Avenue Extension to the City so cars could continue using it.
Now, the project will include 34 units of affordable rental housing in a brand new building that will feature a community space on the bottom floor and the activation of the sidewalks with front porches on ground-floor units.
City Manager Tom Ambrosino said TND has its permits and its financing in place. They are ready to commence the construction phase now.
This week, almost a month into work, the Massachusetts Port Authority (Massport) is pleased to report that the critical Runway 4R-22L Resurfacing and Approach Light Pier Replacement Safety Project is progressing on schedule and will result in the rehabilitation of one of Logan Airport’s key runways and the replacement of a light pier used in operations.
The runway is expected to reopen for use by June 23.
This project is necessary to maintain the high standards of safety at Logan, MassPort said.
The runway reconstruction project began in mid-May with the closure of Runway 4R-22L and is expected to continue through June 23 as critical work is done to maintain and repair one of Logan’s major runways. The paving in the majority of the phases has been completed, with pavement markings, landscaping and lighting work remaining.
Additional work not requiring the extended closure of 4R-22L will continue through November.
The continuous work schedule and closure was agreed upon in consultation and coordination with the airlines and the Federal Aviation Administration enhances safety and will reduce the overall construction timeline, bringing normal operations back faster. This important project is running on schedule and Massport expects Runway 4R-22L to be open again for use at the end of the day on June 23.
“Safety is Massport’s top priority,” said Massport CEO Thomas P. Glynn. “While routine, this project will repair one of our critical runways ensuring the safest environment for the traveling public, our employees and communities. We appreciate the patience of our neighboring communities and the traveling public as flight patterns have changed and apologize for any inconvenience this work may have caused.”
This work is part of routine, but essential, safety maintenance projects that occur annually throughout airport property. The main goal of this project will be to replace the asphalt pavement that has deteriorated. The pavements were last rehabilitated in the years 2005, 2006 and 2008.
This project will include work both on the runway and at the runway’s end to replace the light pier. The existing wooden pier will be replaced with a concrete pier designed to last 75 years; the current pier was originally constructed in 1955, with repairs last made in 2016. Work on the approach light pier replacement is progressing according to schedule.
Massport Community Relations can be reached at 617-568-3711.
It was even earlier than the early shift as dozens of volunteers, City officials and state officials filed into the Chelsea Police Station on Thursday morning – some time just after 3:30 a.m.
The goal was to complete the first-ever Chelsea Homelessness Count – an effort championed by Rev. Sandra Whitley of the People’s AME Church and the Project Opening Doors in Chelsea volunteers. It was officially sanctioned by the state and by City Manager Tom Ambrosino.
In the end, some 14 men were found and counted – all of which were offered services and help if they wanted it.
For Ambrosino, the first count was inspirational.
“I know we had expected to find between 15 and 20 and we found 14 throughout the city, though there are some we could have missed,” he said. “We are trying now to provide services to these folks, but frankly some don’t want any services. In that case, we make sure we can help them with blankets and gear to survive the cold weather. I was very surprised in a happy way at the numbers of volunteers there who went in the middle of the night to help us. It’s another example of the great spirit of this community that continues to amaze me. I am so impressed with the amount of people here who want to come out and try to do good.”
Whitley said she was grateful for the volunteers as well and deemed the first effort a success – noting that the numbers found were reported to the state agency, as were other similar efforts in Boston and other locales last week. The annual homelessness survey is carried out annually in the last week of January all over the nation.
“I thank the Lord for 25 volunteers showing up and getting engaged,” she said. “I was in my zone with others of like-mindedness — people helping others with a good spirit about it all. I had a wonderful time with Chelsea family coming together around what we can do to help somebody, in this case the homeless. Of course, the City Manager and city leadership support and presence made it all the more worthwhile because they are in the position of making decisions on how to genuinely put faces to and find ways to help the less fortunate…Chelsea cares about those less fortunate than ourselves.”
Before filing out onto the streets to find the homeless individuals living out in the elements in places such as under the Tobin Bridge or on the waterfront or in certain alleyways, volunteers took a training course. They were also instructed to let the homeless they encounter know that there are services available.
Not only does the state offer services and shelter from the cold, but also the City is now getting into providing such services to help folks who want to get off the streets.
In the community room of the police station, 25 volunteers divided up into groups of six, named Alpha, Bravo, Charlie, Delta, Echo, and Foxtrot. They practiced asking the pertinent questions and also how to make sure they were safe above all things.
From around 5 a.m. to 6:30 a.m., the teams searched the areas that the homeless within the city are known to congregate and to sleep.
Two men were observed and counted, while 12 men were interviewed for the official survey.
Volunteers and coordinators plan to schedule a meeting afterward to discuss the methods used and organize for next year’s effort.
In Sunday’s Globe, there was a highly negative article about the quality of life in Chelsea. While the article did point out many positive construction projects in place or being built, the gist of the article was negative about our City citing household incomes, poverty rates, low education levels and the number of newly arrived immigrants into our City.
The issues that were mentioned are apparent in the everyday fabric of the City.
However, these issues are not solely in Chelsea, but also exist in many other communities in the Commonwealth and throughout the nation. For example one only has to drive 15 minutes to Harvard Square in Cambridge where homeless people and drug addicts walk the same streets as well heeled college students and professors. However, these problems are not acknowledged or addressed by these local government officials.
Chelsea has always been a Gateway Community (before that catch phrase came into being) and has always had its share of problems that come with any new wave of immigrants whether those immigrants came in the early 1890’s from Eastern Europe or Ireland or whether the immigrants have arrived from Central America in the last two decades.
Chelsea City officials and local organizations have acknowledged the problems and are implementing solutions to address them. Some of the problems are beyond the financial scope of any municipality to address such as the methadone clinic that draws more than 700 patients a day who come from many of the surrounding communities. But problems like the homeless are being addressed. Project Opening Doors will be doing a count/outreach on Tuesday. City Manager Tom Ambrosino will be offering free services in Bellingham Square along with CAPIC and Bay Cove to residents who need help.
No one can deny that we have problems, but we are not ignoring these problems either.
The first-ever homeless count and survey will take place in Chelsea at the end of the month, sparked by a growing group of volunteers focused on ending homelessness in the city.
A group of about 30 volunteers shown here gathered on Monday night to listen to advice and get training from Melissa McWhinney of the state Department of Housing and Community
Development (DHCD). The plan is to gather on Jan. 27 at a time and place to be determined to walk around the city and engage the homeless population.
The annual count is a nationwide effort and seeks to offer ways for homeless folks to find permanent housing. The effort in Chelsea is sponsored by Project Opening Doors, which is aligned with the People’s AME Church and Rev. Sandra Whitley.
City Manager Tom Ambrosino is supporting the effort, as are city councillors such as Damali Vidot.
More volunteers are needed and those interested should contact leaders by Jan. 20. Contact
information is (617) 336-7177 or email@example.com.
The Apollinaire Theatre is well underway to becoming a hub for Boston’s experimental theatre scene right in Chelsea Square with a major renovation of the Theatre’s spacious facilities.
Danielle Fateaux Jacques, Apollinaire founder and owner, and Development Coordinator Trip Venturella officially announced the plans and treated the Record to a behind-the-scenes (no pun intended) tour of the project on Monday. The announcement was in conjunction with an announcement by MassDevelopment of a $250,000 to support the project.
“We sort of started this theatre as a way to take the energy of Apollinaire Theatre and create a center of artistic energy and vitality in Chelsea Square and this is expanding it to spaces that weren’t fulfilling that desire,” said Venturella. “It was an artistic no-brainer to me. Of course, you want to bring in these innovative companies. Way back when Danielle bought the building (in the early 2000s), I think she had the vision of making this into a community hotbed for performance. This corresponded with that vision. It was sort of us seizing the moment. We are really excited for the project. It’s going to be transformative.”
Venturella outlined that the major renovations will not take place in the main theatre on the second floor of the building, which is in quite good shape. Aside from a few bathrooms to be added, it will remain the same.
“The idea is that the upstairs has an Old World elegance and downstairs would be a funky burgeoning art space,” he said.
The changes come on the first floor, where Apollinaire is constructing a full Black Box Theatre space where a furniture store used to be. Next to that, in another storefront, there will be a full youth theatre space for youth programs and youth performances – something Apollinaire has done for years.
Venturella said Apollinaire will not be using the Black Box for its own productions.
Instead, they will be renting out the space to theatre groups that have – in recent years – found themselves homeless.
Venturella said there is an explosion in theatre companies and works in Boston, but there are few places for them to perform. Many are doing innovative works, creating weird and unique productions, but having nowhere to present that artistic work.
Apollinaire looks to fill that void.
“There is plenty of spaces in Boston that are huge – like 3,000 seats,” he said. “There are plenty of spaces in Boston that are 200 to 300 seats. But, there are no spaces in Boston under 99 seats. There are only a very few. One place is a repurposed building and looks it. Some of the other places are adventurous places to do theatre, such as arcades, churches, or found spaces. The Charlestown Working Theatre and Boston Playwrights’ Theatre are great, but they tend to have their own productions. There are just a lot of gypsy companies that don’t have space and have incredible potential.”
He said one part of that equation is that rents are going up in so many places, and apartment buildings or other spaces where theatre was done is no longer welcome as redevelopment happens in formerly undesirable locations.
Also, there are so many groups forming in the Boston area that space is hard to book.
“There is an explosion of small theatre companies and I don’t know why that is,” he said. “Maybe there are more people moving to Boston who are interested in theatre. We hope that some of those companies would want to come here and use these facilities. We’re ready to welcome them. We hope it becomes a hub not only for Greater Boston performance, but also a cultural hub for Chelsea.”
Because Apollinaire owns the building, Venturella said those renting the Black Box Theatre can take advantage of the many underutilized spaces within the building – including areas to rehearse lines and areas in the basement to build sets. They can set up, he said, and use other parts of the building while they prepare for the actual performance.
He said they envision renting out the Black Box on a weekly basis.
A Black Box theatre is a minimalist production where there is not main stage and the audience is very close to the performance, which happens literally in a black room with dramatic lighting. The focus, obviously, is on the acting and the writing rather than full production values like sets and costumes.
The Youth Theatre is something that Apollinaire always planned to do, reserving the first-floor space for a similar small theatre, along with a gallery/foyer area and rehearsal space.
Right now, the spaces have been fully gutted, and workers are framing the spaces and exposing unique elements like a brick wall that still appears to have baked-in soot from a fire long ago. Venturella said the key date to finish is in August, as that’s when the new theatre season will start.
“This has to be completed by the summer,” he said. “The big date for us is late A
The beginnings of the Black Box Theatre in a former storefront that once housed a furniture store.
ugust – August 28. Companies start their seasons on a school schedule. It’s very important for us to have that season booked in August.”
Funding comes from a variety of sources, including the major MassDevelopment grant announced last week. Other funding sources came from the City of Chelsea, from a refinancing of the building, from Chelsea native Benson Riseman and from local business owners and long-time supporters.
There was nothing rough around the edges about the presentation by Yihe Forbes LLC at Tuesday’s Zoning Board of Appeals (ZBA) meeting on Tuesday night.
In fact, the polished attorneys, architects, engineers and consultants were pretty much the best team that money could buy in Boston.
Even so, neighbors and elected officials said over and over again there was such an outlandishness to the 534-unit, 253-room hotel with 25,000 sq. ft. of retail space – all coming in over one small bridge and through the Mill Hill neighborhood – that many simply laughed the proposal away or began to think about possible conspiracy theories.
“I was waiting for Ashton Kutcher to come out and the MTV camera crews to tell us all we’d been ‘Punked,’” said Councillor Dan Cortell, referring to the popular practical joke television show. “The proposal sounds like Station Landing and Assembly Row stuffed into one spot, but with only one entrance and exit. They were taking notes during all the comments the whole way through, but at some point you just have to highlight the whole book. The City Manager asked for a second or alternate egress as a conversation starter and they had nothing to offer. How surprised could they have been by what was said?”
Said neighbor Betty Richards of Hooper Street, a normally very vocal voice at ZBA meetings, “I can’t even speak words about how bad this is. This is so asinine and stupid and I don’t know know what planet this is coming from.”
City Manager Tom Ambrosino lent the strongest voice against the plan, calling for it to be dispatched at the earliest point possible. He said he has worked with the architects, attorneys and consultants on the Waterfront Square project in Revere Beach from when he was the Revere mayor, and was surprised at their conduct on this project.
“These are great folks on the team,” he said. “I’ve worked with them before and we had meetings with the developer and the City for four years before we even got to a hearing at the ZBA. There’s none of that with this proposal. I’ve been in this business a long time. That’s how it’s done. When a project is proposed without any of that, I question the seriousness of it. I urge you to shoot this down at the earliest point possible and they can go back to the drawing board because they are capable. Then, they can engage us.”
Very importantly, Fire Deputy Chief Paul Giancola said the CFD is absolutely against the plan because they can’t handle it and have issues with the access.
“We oppose this project totally,” he said. “It’s unacceptable. We can’t handle it…You can’t have one bridge to get in and out. The second bridge you have on the plans for emergency access says it’s a pedestrian bridge…We just don’t have the manpower to handle this, and the 27-story building is just too high.”
The plan by the Chinese company – which looks to spend in the ballpark of $500 million to make the project on the old Forbes Industrial site a reality – is very ambitious and has drawn attention since last summer when it was submitted due to the large number of units and the 27-story skyscraper that is the centerpiece of the project.
While the density is an overriding concern, a more critical concern has been access to the site. Right now, the only access is via Crescent Avenue off of Eastern Avenue – taking a small bridge over to the island-like spit of the vacant, 18-acre former home to the world-famous Forbes printing company.
City Manager Tom Ambrosino has told the developers that a good starting place would be to develop an alternative access point that doesn’t travel through Mill Hill. He has been a proponent of tying into Rt. 1A via a small bridge that would span the Creek and lead to Railroad Avenue in Revere.
However, project Attorney Paul Feldman said they had explored the idea of putting a bridge across the Creek with the MBTA and it was shot down.
“We have done some exploration of alternative access,” he said. “I can say to you that alternative access doesn’t work. We have to be straight up and transparent. We can’t tell you there is an alternative access that is available, but what we can do is make the site work. We have enough confidence to invest a half million dollars that this will work without an alternative access.”
It wasn’t good enough for Ambrosino.
“There was just an appalling lack of attention to the desperate need for an alternative access,” he said. “I really don’t think there was sufficient energy spent to explore alternative accesses to the site.”
He said though it presented problems and expense, it’s what major developers do to move along big developments like the Forbes.
The developers also proposed that there would be no traffic in the neighborhoods off of Crescent Avenue, zeroing out any traffic impacts on streets like Clinton Street and others.
“When Eastern Avenue gets backed up like it always does, everyone is going to go on the side streets,” said Clinton Street resident Christine Barnes.
“That’s unrealistic,” added City Planner John DePriest.
And as a bone thrown to the neighbors (which turned out to be a rotten tomato), Feldman proposed completely rehabilitating Crescent Avenue – replacing the water mains, building sidewalks where there are none and reconstructing the street. Within that plan, they proposed taking away parking from the western side of the street to widen the road. Instead, the developer would create two neighborhood parking lots on property he owns by the Burke Complex and the entry way to Forbes. There would be 32 street spaces lost, but 40 spaces in the parking lots gained. Unfortunately, that plan would call for long-time neighbors to not be able to park in front of their homes any longer.
“These are people’s homes and many of them have lived there a long time and they want to say we can’t park in front of our homes anymore,” she Richards. “They want us to walk all the way down the street now and park in a lot they’re going to provide for us so they can have their development.”
Prior to the big whiff by Yihe Forbes, Feldman and the team – who have put together projects such as the Cambridgeside Galleria and Patriot Place – presented a spectacular presentation regarding the plans for the site. It included the massive amounts of residential apartments and condos built in five phases with seven acres of waterfront open space for everyone to enjoy. There was far more parking than required in a garage deck that would sit under a large, raised plaza – with the hotel and retail portions being right at the entrance to the site. The plan was drawn up using the City’s 2004 Planning Document with its recommendations for 500 units on the Forbes site, Feldman said. He also added that the project when fully built would result in $6 million per year in property taxes – a hefty sum for a small City like Chelsea.
There were plans for 20,000 sq. ft. of landscaped roofing, car sharing services on site, fine restaurants, a shuttle service and, perhaps even, an ice cream shop for neighbors to frequent as they perched on the waterfront for a picnic lunch.
Sounded great, but it was just a little too far-fetched for most neighbors to take seriously – and the seriousness of the project was probably the greatest critique during the meeting, which stretched on until almost midnight.
Councillor Matt Frank urged the ZBA to dispatch the plan immediately.
“You can put $500 million on the table and if it blows the community apart, then it’s really not worth it,” he said. “If the MBTA can say ‘no,’ and the MassDOT can say ‘no,’ then the City of Chelsea can also say ‘no.’”
Added Council President Leo Robinson, “We don’t need to jump at the first thing thrown at us. We should be able to control what goes there. Something significant is obviously going to go there, but we can sit down and get a better deal than this.”