Projecting a New Image: as Port Park/Salt Storage Project Nears, Designer Has Already Gotten Attention in More Ways Than One

Huge projections of tree silhouettes and giant walking signs have showed up at night on the old Coastal Oil Farm tanks in preparation for what will be an innovative new working industrial area and public recreation space. Demolition on the tanks is to begin next week, and projections onto the tanks will remain until all the tanks are gone. A third round of projections is forthcoming, project designers said.

For some time now, Chelsea has been projecting a new image of itself, but at the anticipated PORT site on what is now an old oil tank farm, such projections are happening in the most literal sense.

As a prelude to the upcoming development – for which demolition of the tanks will begin next week – the PORT design team has been projecting large-scale images of landscape-themed designs on the old tanks during the night hours.

Anyone who has driven by after dark has seen three-story tall tree silhouettes lighting up the old, white tanks, or even gigantic projections of the ‘walk’ sign commonly featured at crosswalks.

It’s all part of a prelude to the coming development, said designer Dan Adams.

“In preparation for the demolition we’ve been working with Eastern Salt/Rock Chapel Marine to install a series of large scale light projections on the tanks that will continue throughout the period of demolition,” said Adams. “These changing projections are themed by ideas of what new activities will occur at the site. The first projection installations were large-scale tree silhouettes, which referred to the future plantings at the PORT area. The second installations, entitled ‘Giants,’ allude to the future improvements to the streetscape and PORT space, which will hopefully encourage more people to come down to the waterfront to the new landscape. We are still deciding what the next projections will be.”

The PORT has been seen throughout Greater Boston as an innovative way to accommodate public recreation on the waterfront alongside an expanding active industrial seaport. The PORT will accommodate brand new park space where the oil tanks now sit, and in return for that space, it will also allow the old salt pile to expand. Additionally, during the summer months when there is less salt on site, the PORT park will grow to accommodate basketball courts and walking tracks on a concrete surface.

Adams said that one of the most innovative features of the PORT is that it will rely heavily on recycling and re-using existing industrial features.

“Next week the demolition team will begin the demolition of the actual tanks themselves, and nearly all of the material of the tanks will be recycled either off-site or re-used in the new park space,” said Adams. “For example, steel from the dikes around the tanks will be used as planter walls in the park, and the tank roofs will become shade trellis’s over areas of the landscape…Nearly all of the former site architecture will be recycled, the steel structure of the buildings will be recycled at the Everett scrap yards, and the brick and concrete will actually be broken down and used as fill agregates on site to help re-grade the site for better drainage.”

Already, demolition crews have started cleaning up and taking down old buildings that were on the site, formerly used as offices and to store asphalt.

It is expected that the old tanks – long a barrier between residents and the waterfront – will start to come down one-by-one over this month.

City Manager Jay Ash said he will be happy just to see the water again from that vantage point, something he hasn’t been able to do all of his life.

“Getting the oil tanks down, which had asphalt being stored in them, is a big enough deal,” he said. “I used to drive down there as a kid and had no idea the water was on the other side of those tanks. With those tanks down, I’ll be able to see more than just the water; I’ll be able to join hundreds and thousands who will recreate in what promises to be a spectacular waterfront park, the likes of which I bet people from around the region and world will want to come and see. That’s what the McNamee’s and their architect, Dan Adams, have set out to do for Chelsea. I am sure the results will be unbelievable.”

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