A Tortilla Factory in Historic District not the Way to Go

The businesses in the historic part of the waterfront on the western side of the Meridian Street Bridge are made up of the Fitzgerald Shipyard – which remains a working shipyard – and which is of no impact to the cozy, quiet, almost quaint, brick and wooden row house community which is home to some of the oldest, most aesthetic and best kept residential buildings in the city and home as well to long time Chelsea residents.

The oil tank farm at the lowest end of Broadway remains what it is, what it might always be, an impediment to a great little neighborhood – an ugly giant, an oil terminal located in the wrong place and doing, at this point, nothing whatsoever for the city except paying their taxes, which are substantial.

Now comes the effort to locate a tortilla factory in a commercial site on Winnisimmet Street. While we can’t move the oil farm, there is something we can do about this, the locating of a tortilla factory on a historic, cobblestone street with great residences and a fabulous view of Boston.

The general thinking about the proposed tortilla factory among those who care about it – realtors and lawyers – is that nothing else has worked so why not go ahead with the only plan on the table? The problem with this kind of thinking is that it will lead to the wrong type of use for the former Kayem site.

Arguably, the Chelsea Zoning Board of Appeals has been put in a difficult position. The former factory complex, essentially a giant refrigerator with a three story brick office space, hasn’t seemed right for those wishing to purchase it.

Two real estate developers gave up on it in recent years. But in reality, the Zoning Board of Appeals was absolutely correct in refusing to allow developments that were simply too dense for the area. Now the Zoning Board of Appeals must be called upon, again, to maintain the integrity of the neighborhood and the integrity of

the board itself by refusing to allow a tortilla factory to go into this space.

It is simply the wrong tenant in the wrong space in the wrong part of the city at the wrong time. A petition is now being circulated in the neighborhood. A lawyer has been hired to represent the wishes of those against the tortilla factory and frankly, this is the kind of public debate that is not needed in the best part of town when Chelsea is looking better than it has in decades.

The Zoning Board of Appeals is the real thing. It has protected neighborhoods against the wrong developments for many years. The request for a tortilla factory for Winnisimmet Street requires the Zoning Board to stand firm in the best interests of the entire Chelsea Waterfront. It will take a bit longer to find another tenant and purchaser for this property, but the wait will be worth it for the neighborhood in the years to come.

We urge the Zoning Board of Appeals to put the brakes on this development on merit. It simply isn’t the right use for the property in this historic neighborhood.

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