The long anticipated project to bring the FBI regional headquarters to Chelsea passed another significant milestone this week, as the 250,000 s.f. office building to be constructed on Everett Avenue, between the Wyndham Hotel and the MGH Health Clinic, received the approval of the Zoning and Planning Boards.
The approvals came in a whirlwind double meeting of both boards, which considered the application jointly in order to speed things up and prevent another month’s delay.
“This is a game changer,” said City Manager Jay Ash at the joint hearing.
Patricia Simboli, principal of ACS Development, presented the development plans to a packed hearing room in City Hall. She told those assembled that the building would have one floor of parking underground, a lobby and more parking on the first floor, and then eight floors of office above it. The building would also be surrounded by surface parking, and could be expanded or another building built, if the need arose. She described the project as being built for a “federal user.”
“We’ve all signed confidentiality agreements, so I can’t divulge all the details at this time,” revealed Simboli, who did not utter the term FBI during her 45-minute presentation, but never corrected all those who did. “What I can tell you is that we are proud to be bringing this federal user to Chelsea, and proud to be building a spectacular office building that will complement all the other development that has made the Everett Avenue area so successful.”
Simboli went on to provide details of the development.
The eight floors will have 14’ clearances, meaning that the building will have the size of a typical 12 story building. It is the first Chelsea office building to be that tall, and the first to have parking underground. More than 400 people are expected to work there, which is actually fewer people than a typical 250,000 building.
Simboli said that means there will be less traffic impact.
The plans Simboli was able to share with the boards showed a rectangular building whose long side paralleled Maple Street. A high security fence, similar to that of the MITC Building on Arlington and Spruce Streets, will encircle the property. The main entrance will be off of Maple Street, with employees entering on Beech Street. A minor emergency exit will be designed for Everett Avenue.
“Those entrances and exits ensure that almost all of the traffic generated will be directed onto secondary streets and then into intersections that can handle the extra traffic,” Planning and Development Director John DePriest said after the meeting. DePriest is also the City’s Zoning Board chairman, and has overseen the permitting process, a point Simboli recognized.
“We have a lot of people to thank for getting to this point,” she said. “John DePriest and Maggie Schmidt of the Planning Department have been great, as have all of the board members we’ve interacted with. And Jay Ash has been a huge asset to us, sharing both his development experience and political expertise to help us win this highly competitive bid, the largest ever for this region.”
Ash returned the compliments when he took the floor.
“Lesser developers would have given up on this project years ago and proposed a single story retail development or a two story office complex,” he said, referring also to Anthony, Sr. and Anthony, Jr., who have shared the project responsibilities with Patricia and who have together developed more than 250,000 s.f. of office space already in Chelsea. “The Simbolis have once again demonstrated their talents and commitment to Chelsea by hanging in there and working so very hard to bring what is a truly remarkable project to Chelsea.”
In her presentation, Simboli said that the project would take almost three years to complete – nine months for design and 24 months for construction. In response to a question from Rich Pedi of the Carpenters Union, Simboli said the project would be a prevailing wage job.
“I’ll ensure that local residents, including kids looking to get their start in the union trades, will be on the project,” said Pedi, as part of his inquiry about the construction job being a union one.
Prior to the vote by the respective boards, Ash congratulated the boards, the Economic Development Board and others, including his staff and the City Council, who have contributed to the development environment that made the FBI select Chelsea for what he calls “a crown jewel” in any community’s development portfolio.
“Without first doing the Wyndham Hotel, and the Residence Inn, and all that has happened at the Mystic Mall, and the residential project across the highway on Sixth Street, the FBI project wouldn’t be possible,” he said. “You all deserve great praise and should be quite proud of the development environment we’ve created here; fair and cooperative with the development community, while making sure that the very best projects go forward for Chelsea.”
Simboli suggested that further refinements were required of the proposal, and that she would work those through the City to ensure the final project plans continued to represent what City officials want to see happen.
“We’re ready to continue to act,” said Rick Pantano, Chairman of the Economic Development Board, who Ash singled out for his work on the Everett Avenue Urban Renewal District that has attracted so much development activity.
Ash closed out his comments by reminding those in attendance what was once on the 5-acre parcel prior to the City adopting its urban renewal plan.
“Remember that there used to be a used car parts business with junk cars in the back, an old motor storage building that was falling down and was about to be ordered down by the City, and a janitorial supply company,” he recalled. “Tonight, we’re talking about permitting a project that every other city in New England wishes it had coming to it. We’ve come a long way, through much hard work. There’s plenty to be proud of and even more that we can look forward to happening.”