New $40 Million Housing Development Breaks Ground on Vacant Lot

One North of Boston, a 230-unit, market-rate, rental housing development has broken ground in the City’s urban renewal district on Sixth and Heard Streets, which is currently vacant property.

The $40 million project will feature 48 studio, 123 one-bedroom and 59 two-bedroom units, and amenities like a lounge, cyber café, club room, media room, fitness room and outdoor pool and deck.

“It’s another great day with another terrific project getting underway here,” said City Manager Jay Ash, the chief architect of the City’s efforts to transform the formerly blighted urban renewal area into a showpiece of higher end development. “This residential project fits into our master vision for the greater Everett Avenue area and will be another significant signal to the world that something very special is happening here in Chelsea.”

Ash praised the Chelsea Economic Development (ED) Board for its focus and creativity in bringing another project to the urban renewal district.

“Yes, it’s been an interesting ride,” reflected Rick Pantano, the chairman of the ED Board. “We thought we had this parcel developed six years ago, only to be served a major setback by the economic downturn that caused so many projects to fail. We’ve persevered, though, and found a way, despite less than favorable economic conditions, to get this project going.”

Developer Mark Robinson of One North praised the City for making the project possible.

“There aren’t very many of these types of projects happening, so, when they do, you have to ask ‘why here and why now?’  The answers are that Chelsea is a great place in which to invest, and City Manager Ash, the Economic Development Board and all those in support roles have done incredible work helping us to find a way over the many hurdles that are holding projects in other communities back,” said Robinson.

“And right back at him,” responded Pantano. “The One North team, particularly Mark and his partners, Mark White, Kyle Warwick and Damian Szary, have met and exceeded our every challenge and are promising to bring a truly outstanding project to us in a most important and visible area of the city. We can all be grateful to have such a team focused on a great project and helping to enhance our great community.”

Prior to the City’s 2006-08 acquisitions of the eight parcels that comprise the One North development, marginal industrial uses, half-full warehouses, contractor yards and vehicles sales, parts and storage services occupied the site.

The buildings had asbestos or wrinkle tin siding, and almost all were in such a state of disrepair that they were officially deemed to be “substandard” during a consultant’s review of the properties.

The One North project that is replacing those blighted properties is expected to be completed in 18 months. The building will be a 5-story building, including 1-story of podium parking and 4-stories of wood framed residential construction.  The exterior will be modular masonry panels and metal elements, primarily comprised of blue, tan and white colors.  It is being financed by East Boston Savings Bank, a lender for which Ash had high praise.

“Plain and simple, this project is not happening right now if not for East Boston Savings,” said Ash. “They financed the One Webster project before this one, and saw what a good bet Chelsea is. With that project being a success, they stepped up and are making an even bigger financial commitment to Chelsea, frankly when no other lender would. They know what they’re doing and understand what the developer and the City is seeking to accomplish.”

While recognizing contributors to the project’s groundbreaking success, Ash said the City Council, the city’s legislative delegation and the Patrick-Murray Administration also came up big.

“This is a razor thin project with very little room to carry any offsite costs.  Yet, anyone who has driven around that area knows how tough the infrastructure is. So, public infrastructure dollars were necessary to seal the deal, and the City Council provided CIP (capital improvement program) support, while Reps. (Eugene) O’Flaherty and (Kathi-Anne) Reinstein and Senator (Sal) DiDomenico made sure an already favorable Patrick-Murray Administration committed state grant money to augment what the City was bringing to the table,” said Ash.

The result is that $2.5 million will be spent on streets, sidewalks, drains, water and sewer pipes to support the new construction. In return, the City anticipates receiving nearly $700,000 in one time fees and $400,000 in annual tax revenues. Additionally, the developer is paying $3.8 million for the land.

“We spent a great deal to acquire and demolish the various properties, so it will take us eight years or so to make all that we spent back. However, from that point forward, we’ll be generating hundreds of thousands of dollars more annually than the old warehouses were providing, and will be creating even more momentum for real change in that neighborhood and elsewhere in the city,” said Ash.

In the end, Ash said, the revenues will balance the budget and the new investment in the area will improve home values and forever remove a blighting industrial presence that was hovering over the neighborhood.

“This is a big winner for all of us,” concluded Ash.


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