State Approves Next Phase of Urban Renewal Development

It would be hard to convince observers of development activity in and around the Everett Avenue Urban Renewal District that the economy is anything but roaring.  Fresh off last week’s announcement that Starbucks would be joining other national chains – including TJ Maxx, Home Goods, Radio Shack and Five Guys Burgers – at the Mystic Mall, the City has announced the District has received the go-ahead from state regulators for another potential development.

The much-talked about Crescent Court residential project on a 3.6 acre parcel on Sixth Street could represent the “trifecta” of new development projects City Manager Jay Ash and the Economic Development Board hoped to see under construction in 2012.

“We’re continuing to convert old into new while transforming the City’s skyline and tenant base,” said Ash. “State approval of the Crescent Court project, with the Marriott now out-of-the-ground and the FBI project readying for a construction start announcement, helps us continue our efforts to remove the blight that once told a story of a tired and decrepit district and instead solidifies the Everett Avenue corridor as a major regional commerce, hospitality and residential area.”

“The (Economic Development) Board and Manager Ash have been working the Everett Avenue Urban Renewal District plan for almost 15 years, so the success is not happening overnight but is, instead, the result of tireless planning and the solid implementation of those plans,” said Richard Pantano, Chairman of the ED Board. “Much of what has already been accomplished, like removing all the junk cars and substandard buildings from the district and replacing them with new developments like the Wyndham Hotel, allows for us to consider the undertaking a success. However, when you add on what is under construction now and what will be breaking ground over the next six to 12 months, it’s hard to look at the district and the adjoining Mystic Mall as anything other than a rousing triumph.”

The 230-unit, market-rate, Crescent Court rental housing development still has a major hurdle to overcome, that being securing private financing for what is anticipated to be a $40 million project.

Ash said news is encouraging on that front, with the success of the last three major residential projects, those being Parkside Commons, One Webster and Jefferson at Admiral’s Hill, giving investors the positive signs they need to consider a new residential investment in Chelsea.  However, with the added influence of the Marriott, FBI and Starbucks projects, Ash says that the eyes of the investor community are becoming much easier to attract to Chelsea.

“There’s something special here, and those of us who’ve been here as long as we have, have always known that,” said Ash. “To the rest of the world, though, we’ve had to prove ourselves over and over again. That proof is no longer in our pledges to be a great place for investment, but in the longer and longer line of first-class developments and national and internationally known businesses that are now equally as proud to call Chelsea their home.”

Regarding the Crescent Court project, the State approved the sale of the former industrial properties that bordered Sixth, Spruce, Maple and Heard Streets by the ED Board to Chelsea North for $3.8 million.  Ash said the agreement also calls for another $5 million in payments to the City upon future sales of the property.

“We spent nearly $9 million in acquiring the old wrinkle-tin buildings that looked like a good wind was going to blow them down,” said Ash. “That was during the mid-2000’s when property values were much higher than they are today. We’ll have to wait to get most of our initial investment back, but, once the residential development moves onto our tax rolls, we’ll triple the annual taxes we get from the site, up to $450,000 per year, and have yet another success story that will no doubt help us land the next big project down the road.”

Council President Leo Robinson said, “You have to give him credit for having both a vision for what could be down there and the smarts to figure out how to get it financed. Fifteen years ago, he sold us all on that vision, although many were skeptical that it could actually ever come to fruition. To be standing here today, having been to the Wyndham a thousand times and getting more and more excited about the Marriott, FBI and now Crescent Court, I’d have to say we’ve been very lucky to have the right guy at the helm steering this incredible economic development effort that is transforming the city right before our very eyes.”

Chelsea North, headed by the Boston-based development team of Mark Robinson and Mark White, has been very successful in Chelsea. Among its successes have been the Massport garage on Central Avenue, the Pre-Flight lot on Eastern Avenue and the Wyndham Hotel.  Robinson, who also coordinates the Chelsea Boys & Girls Club’s biggest annual fundraiser, says Chelsea is, indeed, a place that has caught the attention of many in the development community.

“City government, from City Manager Ash, to the City Council, to all the land use boards, really gets what it takes to nurture business relationships and find creative ways to help those of us who want to add to the Chelsea success story to make projects happen,” he said. “We couldn’t be prouder of our relationships in Chelsea and look forward to delivering a first-class housing development that will continue to signal to each and every passerby on Route 1 that there’s no better place than Chelsea to be. And, like everyone else, we can hardly wait to see what’s next.”

Ash said the “what’s next” is major infrastructure improvements that will be taking place on Everett Avenue and Spruce Street.

“We know we have to keep up with infrastructure and, this spring, we’ll be doing the next phase of work, thanks to state funding…as well as contributions of funding and land from Market Basket and others. In the meantime, yes, we’ve got another project or two up our sleeves and will continue to trade out the relics of the past for further evidence that Chelsea’s rejuvenation has taking hold here and is continuing on strong.”

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