Detours and Developments A Summer of Construction Grants Have Laid the Framework (And the Streetscapes) for Development:Second in a Series on Developments That Will Take Shape This Summer and Transform Areas of the City

April 23, 2015

It seems as if the City needs only to put in an application in order to receive the highly-competitive and coveted state MassWorks grant.

As the City announces this week that it has received its fourth MassWorks grant – by far the most lucrative so far at $6 million – it continues to wrap up work on the previous grant and to begin reaping the fruits of development that were laid by the first two grants.

As is often said in the development world, no one is going to make any investments where the sidewalks are cracked, the streets aren’t drivable and the utilities don’t reach.

Such problems have been addressed routinely with Chelsea’s MassWorks grants.

“They are very competitive,” said City Planner John DePriest. “Our story is compelling. These grants are tied to the production of housing or the creation of jobs. We’re routinely able to tie it to both.”

The most recent grant announced last week detailed $6 million worth of work that will concentrate on Phase 2 of Everett Avenue reconstruction work – most importantly replacing the roadway on the northern side of the railroad tracks where drivers are routinely barraged with kettle-sized pot holes and trenches.

The focus of the work will be Everett Avenue, Carter Street and Blossom Street.

“That will go out to bid in the coming weeks and we expect to get a start in June or July,” said DePriest. “We’ve already done the other side of the tracks and we’ll now do the northern side. That will also include streetscape work.”

While work on the fourth grant ramps up, the third MassWorks grant is still underway and won’t be finished until mid-summer.

If one has been near the railroad tracks on Spruce Street near MGH and seen the heavy equipment and detours, then grant number three has been front and center. The boundaries for that grant – which is a Phase 2 for a larger project – centers on all of Beech Street, and Spruce to Everett Avenue.

The major thrust of that Phase 2 deals with taking utilities under the railroad tracks and adding to the streetscape.

“The big part of that one was to get all the utilities under the railroad on Spruce,” said DePriest. “That was very difficult technically to do and expensive. That was a $3 million grant. It should be done by July.”

The second MassWorks grant was actually Phase 1 of the above project – or the third grant.

That $2 million grant funneled money into the Spruce, Maple, 6th and Heard Street area to support the One North development. It helped to improve utilities, fixed the roads (including the ramp to Rt. 1 North) and added streetscape improvements.

The first MassWorks grant went in tandem with the Market Basket development about six years ago.

The $1 million grant focused on improving Everett Avenue (south of the railroad) and Arlington Street. Within that project, Market Basket paid for the design of the work and some of the landscaping improvements.

All in all, the state grant has pushed some $12 million in state money into the Everett Avenue redevelopment district and the abutting neighborhoods at the conclusion of next year’s construction season.

DePriest said they would continue to seek funding for such projects, and said that while they do create some temporary traffic obstacles (such as now on Spruce Street), they end up improving the look of the city, the flow of traffic in congested areas and the ground work necessary for major development.