New Chelsea Stadium Pegged to Be Completed by End of May

The new Chelsea Stadium is only a few weeks from being completed and put into use, school officials said this week.

The new track will be named after late teacher/track coach Bernard Berenson, who is in the state Coaches Hall of Fame.

Facilities Director Joe Cooney said the rainy weather has slowed down the surfacing of the track, but that most everything else in the long-awaited Stadium project is completed.

“We’re getting very close,” he said. “When it’s done, it’s going to look dynamite.”

The football field is completely done, he said, but the track has been tricky.

An overview of the new football field looks spectacular but getting the track down has been tricky in the recent rainy weather. The project began last summer and will be completed at the end of May.

Already there has been a base coat of asphalt put down, but the rubberized surface on the track cannot be placed down in the rain – which pretty much means it has been delayed for quite some due to the deluge that has been seen lately.

He said there are two layers of rubberized surface, and that when it is done, it will be a very fast track for the runners.

The only other things outstanding are the conduits for the lights, permanent bathrooms, and bleacher improvements.

He said they have to complete the project by early May because graduation is taking place on the new field on June 9.

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TND, Traggorth Finally get the Green Light on Midas Site

A 38-unit affordable housing project at the former Midas site on Broadway can move forward after the Zoning Board of Appeals (ZBA) unanimously granted a special permit for the project Tuesday night.

The $15 million project is a partnership between the Traggorth Companies and The Neighborhood Developers (TND). The developers initially came before City officials last year with plans for a 42-unit housing development with some market rate units included.

In addition to cutting the project down to 38 units and making all the units affordable, a planned fifth floor of a building along the Broadway side was eliminated.

“This project cannot do everything for everyone, but it can achieve many things for Chelsea by creating 38 units of affordable housing,” said Dave Traggorth of the Traggorth Companies. “This blighted site pays very little in taxes. This will change that and bring revenue to the city.”

In addition to providing affordable housing, Traggorth said there will be public access to Mill Creek for all Chelsea residents.

As has been the case during past public hearings on the project, a number of community members touted the need for affordable housing in Chelsea and TND’s past successes in bringing affordable units to the city.

City Council President Damali Vidot said she has never supported a TND project in the city until this one.

“There is a huge problem with affordability in this city and we are displacing residents at a rapid rate,” said Vidot.

Resident Sandy Maynard supported the creation of affordable units and the improvement of a blighted site in the city.

“I can’t think of a better project than this one to meet that (affordable housing) need and to beautify Chelsea,” said Maynard. “That lot is an ugly, ugly place.”

Several residents who have been homeless also spoke in favor of the project and of the need of affordable housing.”

A letter from District 3 City Councillor Joe Perlatonda cited his objections to the project, including the welfare of neighboring residents due to traffic and parking concerns.

City Councillor-At-Large Roy Avellaneda, who has spoken against approval of the 1001-1005 Broadway project in the past, said his overreaching concern has been TND’s lack of a vision to bring affordable home ownership, as opposed to rental units, to the city.

“Teachers and city employees are not able to bid on homes (in Chelsea) and they are pushed out,” said Avellaneda. “I understand the need for affordable housing, but there is no balance here … There is a broader discussion that is needed in this community.”

The special permit granted by the ZBA was required because the project did not meet minimum zoning requirements for rear yard setbacks, number of off-street parking spaces, and maximum lot coverage percentage.

A housing lottery will be held for all of those units, with 30 offered at 60 percent of the Average Median Income (AMI) for the area (about $64,000 for a family of four) and eight at 30 percent AMI (about $32,000 for a family of four). The maximum preference allowable under state law will be given to Chelsea residents for the units.

There will be 42 parking spaces for the 38 units (the majority of which will be two-bedroom apartments). And because of state law regulating public access to public waterways, 31 of those parking spaces will be available as public parking from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. to provide access to Mill Creek for everyone.

•In other business, the ZBA held a public hearing for a retail marijuana shop at the site of the former King Arthur’s strip club at 200 Beacham St. GreenStar Herbals, Inc. is seeking to tear down the existing two-story building and replace it with a one-story retail facility.

Representatives from GreenStar said the building will feature state-of-the-art security and 34 parking spots on site. Representatives of several of the neighboring local produce businesses came to express concerns about traffic and parking affecting their businesses.

The GreenStar proposal still needs to go before the Planning Board later this month before coming back to the ZBA for special permit and variance approvals.

•The ZBA also denied a special permit for a church to operate out of the second and third floors of 307 Broadway because the plan did not include any parking spaces.

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Tobin Bridge/Chelsea Curves Rehabilitation Project Started May 14

The Massachusetts Department of Transportation (MassDOT) began the closure of one of three southbound travel lanes on Route 1 in Chelsea and the Tobin Bridge the morning of Tuesday, May 14, snarling traffic in many parts of Everett as commuters looked for an alternative route.

The public was also reminded the one-lane northbound closure on the Tobin Bridge and Route 1 was expanded the morning of Tuesday, May 14. MassDOT anticipates that these lane closures will lead to increased travel times on sections of Route 1 northbound and southbound for drivers and MBTA bus customers for months to come.

These traffic impacts are associated with MassDOT’s Tobin Bridge/Chelsea Curves Rehabilitation Project and lane closures will remain in place for approximately two years. Additional overnight lane closures will be necessary throughout the project meaning only one lane of travel may be open during certain evening hours.

In order to accommodate travelers during this necessary construction work, MassDOT is opening the I-93 southbound carpool lane between Medford and the Zakim Bridge to all vehicles regardless of the number of occupants. This lane will continue to function as an “express lane” and vehicles in this lane on I-93 southbound will not have access to Exit 28 (Mystic Avenue) or Exit 26 (Storrow Drive).

“North Shore commuters should be aware that beginning the morning of Tuesday, May 14, a travel lane will be closed on Route 1 southbound in Chelsea, and the lane closure that is already in place on the Tobin Bridge and Route 1 northbound will be expanded,” said Highway Administrator Jonathan Gulliver last Friday. “MassDOT is carrying out this necessary rehabilitation work in order to ensure the continued use and reliability of Tobin Bridge and Chelsea Viaduct. We appreciate the cooperation and patience of the traveling public and advise everyone to make smart decisions such as considering public transit, using the appropriate technology apps to find the best route and time to travel, and building extra time into their commutes to account for potential roadway congestion.”

Travelers are also reminded of options such as free fares in the inbound direction on the MBTA Silver Line 3 bus line offered at the Chelsea, Bellingham Square, Box District, and Eastern Avenue stops for the duration of construction. In addition, public transit customers will be able to use a CharlieCard to travel between North Station and Chelsea on the Commuter Rail. The MBTA is also running additional MBTA Blue Line trains to increase capacity. These measures are all being funded by MassDOT Highway Division project funds.

MassDOT is also advising the public to also consider using the Haverhill or Newburyport/Rockport Commuter Rail lines and note that the Haverhill Line historically has parking capacity at Haverhill and Bradford stations. The Newburyport/Rockport Line historically has parking capacity at Newburyport, Salem and Lynn station. Customers can monitor @MBTA_Parking on Twitter for capacity updates and information. In addition, the MBTA has installed a digital parking capacity sign at the Blue Line Wonderland parking lot so drivers approaching the lot can get “real time” information on parking availability.

MassDOT is carrying out work on the Tobin Bridge and Chelsea Curves section of Route 1 at the same time so that the most impactful work will be completed by 2021. If the projects were done at separate times, drivers would be inconvenienced for additional years. This work will eliminate the need for weight restrictions and postings, and MassDOT will use accelerated construction techniques to shorten the overall construction time.

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MBTA Board Awards Contract for New Commuter Rail Station

The MBTA’s Fiscal and Management Control Board approved a $32.3 million contract that will result in the relocation and construction of a new, fully-accessible Chelsea Commuter Rail Station.

When complete, the new Chelsea Station will be an intermodal facility that connects the Newburyport/Rockport Commuter Rail Lines to the Silver Line 3-Chelsea service, which began operating in April 2018.

“This is a key investment in our Commuter Rail infrastructure that will allow for faster boarding and improved accessibility for people of all abilities,” said MBTA General Manager Steve Poftak. “Once complete, the new station will serve as a multimodal connection that will give our customers the choice of traveling to North Station on the Commuter Rail or South Station on SL3 from a single point.”

Featuring high-level platforms, canopies, benches, and windscreens, the brand new station will also include new sidewalks, landscaping, stairways, lighting, communications systems, and structures for maintenance and bus operations personnel. The project also includes the demolition of the existing Chelsea Station, upgrades to railroad signal systems, and new traffic signal system installations at local intersections.

The project to construct and relocate Chelsea Station aims to relieve traffic congestion and overcrowding on existing area bus routes in Chelsea while also providing better transit options to environmental justice populations through improved accessibility to employment opportunities in downtown Boston and the Seaport district.

The project also includes the installation of transit signal priority improvements for the SL3-Chelsea along with improved operational efficiency and the incorporation of green operations elements at the new Chelsea Station. Greenhouse gas emissions will also be reduced by increasing the transit mode share and decreasing the idle time of commuter rail and BRT vehicles.

The Chelsea Commuter Rail Station Project was advertised in February 2019 with bids open in April 2019. After six bids were received, the Chelsea Commuter Rail Station contract was awarded to A.A. Will Corporation for $32,367,200.

Construction could start as early as this summer, with project completion estimated for late 2021.

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Split Decision for Broadway Affordable Housing, Faces Tough Path Again

Split Decision for Broadway Affordable Housing, Faces Tough Path Again

It was a split decision for a 38-unit affordable housing project at the former Midas site on Broadway before the Planning Board on Tuesday night.

For the second time in less than a year, the Planning Board approved the site plan for the development, a partnership between the Traggorth Companies and The Neighborhood Developers (TND).

Late last year, the Zoning Board of Appeals (ZBA) narrowly denied the 42 unit affordable- and market-rate residential development at 1001 Broadway. The Suffolk County Land Court remanded the controversial Zoning Board affordable housing denial on Broadway back to the ZBA with a revised plan.

However, the project did not garner the necessary votes from the Planning Board for a recommendation to the Zoning Board of Appeals to grant special permits for the project for parking and lot coverage relief.

The project will still come before the ZBA at its April 9 meeting for approval, but if the revised project is to move forward, it will have to do so without the Planning Board’s seal of approval.

Four of the six board members who voted Monday night did support recommending the special permits to the ZBA. But given the need to pull in a two-thirds vote of the overall nine-member board, it wasn’t enough to gain official approval of the project.

Planning Board members Todd Taylor and Shuvam Bhaumik cast the votes against the recommendation, in large part echoing the parking and larger economic impact of the project on the city.

Monday night’s two hour public hearing covered a lot of familiar ground for residents and city officials who have been following the course of the project over the past year.

Supporters of the project touted TND’s past successes in providing affordable housing in the city and the continued need to provide more affordable housing units in the city.

Those opposed to or with reservations about the development raised questions about traffic and parking, as well as continued development that puts affordable rental units on the market without providing for home ownership opportunities.

Representatives from TND and the Traggorth Companies presented their revised plans for the project, much as they had to the ZBA during an initial meeting earlier this month.

The major revisions to the proposed $15 million project include cutting the total number of units from 42 to 38, making all the units affordable, and eliminating the fifth story of the building that had been proposed for the Broadway side of the development.

The commercial space on the first floor in the initial proposal has also been eliminated and replaced by a community room.

“The goal of the project has not changed since we have begun,” said Tanya Hahnel of the Traggorth Companies. “Our number one goal is to provide affordable housing and increase public access to Mill Creek.”

The original proposal denied by the ZBA totaled 42 units, with nine of those at market rate. The revised plans cut four units out, and lower the height of the building facing Broadway from five to four stories.

A housing lottery will be held for all of those units, with 30 offered at 60 percent of the Average Median Income (AMI) for the area (about $64,000 for a family of four) and eight at 30 percent AMI (about $32,000 for a family of four), according to TND Project Manager Steve Laferriere. The maximum preference allowable under state law will be given to Chelsea residents for the units, Laferriere said.

There will be 42 parking spaces for the 38 units (the majority of which will be two-bedroom apartments). And because of state law regulating public access to public waterways, 31 of those parking spaces will be available as public parking from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. to provide access to Mill Creek for everyone.

As with almost all development proposals in Chelsea, traffic and parking are a major roadblock to support for approval.

District 3 City Councillor Joe Perlatonda, who represents the area where the affordable housing will be built, said the project at the corner of Broadway and Clinton Street will only worsen a nightmare traffic and parking scenario.

While Perlatonda said the city needs more affordable housing, he said it can’t be at the detriment of the many residents who live in the already crowded and congested neighborhood.

“How are we going to get in and out of there?” he asked. “I think the board really needs to think this through.”

But for others, including City Council President Damali Vidot, the need for affordable housing units in Chelsea trumps the traffic and parking concerns.

“Housing shouldn’t be something we argue about,” said Vidot. “Affordable housing creation is absolutely needed.”

Vidot, who said she has almost never supported development in the city, said her main concern about the Traggorth/TND project was its impact on parking.

Hahnel said the developers would be willing to consider an agreement where residents would not be eligible to apply for city street parking stickers, thereby helping ease parking congestion in the neighborhood.

At-Large City Councillor Roy Avellaneda took a different view of the affordable rental units.

While Avellaneda said he is a supporter of affordable housing in Chelsea, he questioned TND’s recent history of developing affordable rental units at the expense of creating affordable home ownership opportunities.

“TND has a (real estate) portfolio but they keep building apartments,” said the councillor. “Where is the home ownership? Where is the balance?”

Avellaneda said the lack of more affordable home ownership opportunities in Chelsea is pricing out middle income and working families who want to set down roots in the city.

Taylor echoed Avellaneda’s sentiments that a lack of home ownership is an issue in Chelsea.

“I bet that by 2020, the new statistics will show that there is more affordable housing than home ownership (in Chelsea),” he said. “That’s not a good place to be in, and this is a problem that the city should really address.”

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Major Broadway Improvements Could Begin in 2022

Major Broadway Improvements Could Begin in 2022

A major $9.5 million improvement project for the one-mile stretch of Broadway from City Hall Avenue to the Revere line could get underway by the spring of 2022.

On Thursday, March 21, the Massachusetts Department of Transportation held a public hearing on the preliminary design plans for the roadway reconstruction. Although the state officials and engineers outnumbered the residents in attendance for the meeting, there was a good amount of information provided on the shape, scope, and timeline of the road reconstruction project.

“We are finishing the 25 percent design stage,” said Larry Cash, the MassDOT project manager. “After this hearing, we will be advancing to the final design stage.”

The purpose of the project is to increase safety for pedestrians, bicyclists, and vehicles along the Broadway corridor and intersecting streets in the city, according to Weston and Sampson engineer Larry Keegan. He said there will be new turn lanes, additional vehicle stacking room, and traffic signals at the project intersections allowing for the safer turning of vehicles and improved safety for pedestrians and bicyclists. The plans also include dedicated bicycle lanes through the one-mile stretch.

“There have been 97 collisions over a three-year period” along that portion of Broadway,” said Keegan. “That is above the state average.”

Keegan pointed to poor intersection layout, outdated traffic signals, and deficient pedestrian, bicycle, and public transit accommodations as being among the chief culprits for the high number of accidents. All of those issues will be addressed during the roadway reconstruction, he said.

In addition to the repaving of the road itself, a major component of the work includes new sidewalks and improved drainage.

Sidewalk improvements will mean the removal of some trees.

“The existing trees are old and unhealthy, lifting up the sidewalks themselves so that they are not ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) compliant,” said Keegan.

Other areas that will get major upgrades are the MBTA bus stops along the route. Keegan noted that there is deterioration of pavement and pavement markings from years of use along the mile of Broadway, and that the deterioration is especially pronounced at the bus stops.

The proposed project will require permanent and temporary easements from adjacent property owners, but Cash said those easements are either temporary to allow for construction work along the road, or are for the installation or minor regrading of sidewalks.

As with any project that involves ripping up pavement and sidewalks to make way for improvements, there will be traffic and construction impacts once work gets underway.

But Keegan said the plan is to keep disruptions to a minimum and traffic flowing as easily as possible.

“No detours are anticipated at this time,” he said.

During the day, the plan is to have a single lane of traffic closed and have the traffic managed by police. At night, there will be two-way traffic, according to Keegan. Access to schools, businesses, and residences will be kept open as much as possible, he added.

Chelsea resident John Gunning asked if the bus stops would remain in the current locations and if there would be improvements to the bus shelters.

Keegan said engineers will be working with the MBTA during the next phase of design to address some of those issues.

“The T wants certain things and the city wants certain things (for the bus stops),” he said. “We are looking at different options at this point.”

Dunning said he would like to see fresh, new bus shelters and stops that will complement the surrounding area and completed improvements.

Cash said design, permitting, and right of way acquisition for the project will continue through 2019 and 2020 with construction anticipated to start in the spring of 2022.

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Broadway Affordable Housing Project Back Before ZBA

Broadway Affordable Housing Project Back Before ZBA

A revised affordable housing development at the corner of Broadway and Clinton Street is back before City boards, and now it features fewer units with all at affordable rates.

Late last year, the Zoning Board of Appeals (ZBA) narrowly denied the 42 unit affordable- and market-rate residential development at 1001 Broadway (Midas site) in a 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.

The Suffolk County Land Court remanded the controversial Zoning Board affordable housing denial on Broadway back to the ZBA with a revised plan.

Monday night, the revised version of the development, a partnership between the Traggorth Companies and The Neighborhood Developers (TND), was back before the ZBA. The revised plan is an attempt to address the concerns of the board and neighbors, according to Dave Traggorth of the Traggorth Companies.

“Our goals have not changed,” said Traggorth. “It is to create affordable homes for Chelsea residents and to provide public access to Mill Creek.”

The major revisions to the proposed $15 million project include cutting the total number of units from 42 to 38, making all the units affordable, and eliminating the fifth story of the building that had been proposed for the Broadway side of the development.

The commercial space on the first floor in the initial proposal has also been eliminated.

“We have reviewed the plans based on the ZBA recommendations, and the commercial space will now be a community room,” Traggorth said.

The project needs special permits due to a slightly larger than allowed lot coverage, and for not meeting City parking requirements. The Broadway housing will have 42 parking spots, where 52 are required by the city.

Thirty one of those parking spaces will be available for the public to access Mill Creek from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. In addition, Traggorth said the developers will give the city $15,000 for intersection improvements in the area.

With the decrease in units and the elimination of the commercial space, TND Project Manager Steve Laferriere said there will be less of an impact on parking in traffic in the area than the initial proposal.

District 3 City Councillor Joe Perlatonda, who represents the area where the affordable housing will be built, said he is still opposed to the project, citing a burst of recent development in the city that will increase parking and traffic.

Perlatonda said the parking and traffic issues around Broadway and Clinton Street are already a nightmare for neighbors, and that the Traggorth/TND project will only make it worse. He said the City should take a look at other uses for the property, such as a new public library on Mill Creek.

But the majority of people who spoke during the public hearing said they supported the creation of sorely needed new affordable units in Chelsea, and praised the efforts TND has already made to create safe and modern affordable units in the city. A recent affordable housing lottery in the city saw more than 3,000 applicants for 34 units, with more than 1,200 of those applications coming from Chelsea residents.

“There is a clear need for affordable housing as rents continue to go up in the Chelsea area,” said resident Sandy Maynard.

City Manager Tom Ambrosino said he continues to support the TND/Traggorth partnership.

“The number one complaint I receive as City Manager from residents is the lack of affordable housing,” said Ambrosino.

Ambrosino said he understands the concerns about traffic and parking, but said the impacts of any project has to be weighed against the benefits, and that the benefits of affordable housing at Broadway and Clinton tip the scales in favor of the project.

While state law prohibits the developers from offering the affordable units to Chelsea residents only, the developers said they would work to make sure the maximum units allowable are for Chelsea residents. The Planning Board will take up the project at its March 26 meeting, and then it will come back to the ZBA at its April 9 meeting for a possible vote, according to ZBA Chair Janice Tatarka.

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City to Get Mitigation from MassDot for Viaduct Project

City to Get Mitigation from MassDot for Viaduct Project

The City might have to put up with traffic backups for nearly three years on the Chelsea Viaduct, but there will be a mitigation package for the City when the dust all settles.

City Manager Tom Ambrosino said they have received a mitigation package to go along with the Viaduct project, which starts on April 1.

“We got what I thought was a reasonable mitigation package from MassDOT,” he said. “It wasn’t perfect, but at the end of the day it was reasonable.”

One of the major improvements will be two new, fully constructed public parking lots under the Tobin curves when the project is done.

Ambrosino said it will include 135 public parking spaces just a block from downtown Chelsea, something he hopes will help alleviate some of the parking crunch in the area.

There will also be parking constructed under the curves at Carter Street too.

One key piece of the puzzle that will remain as part of the package is the Arlington Street onramp by the Williams School. MassDOT had toyed with the idea of eliminating that ramp in early designs, but pushback from the community seemed to keep that idea at bay.

Other pieces of mitigation include:

•A robust snow fence for noise mitigation.

•Money for community engagement to inform everyone of the project over the three years.

•Repaving Fourth Street. •lighting improvements under the Bridge after the project is completed.

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Forbes Park Plan Approved by ZBA

Forbes Park Plan Approved by ZBA

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 major re-designs.

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 point.

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.

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Smart Growth Zoning Wins Unanimous Council Approval

Smart Growth Zoning Wins Unanimous Council  Approval

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 table.

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 spring.

Vidot said that parking will be addressed in the TIF.

Corcoran is proposing 226 on-site parking spots, with an option to lease another 50 parking spots nearby.

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