By Seth Daniel
The Chelsea City Council logged two votes to authorize taking and the payment for an eminent domain action on the former Salvation Army Store on Broadway – an aggressive move that City Manager Tom Ambrosino has touted for several months.
The Council voted 10-0 to authorize the taking of 440-448 Broadway by the Legal Department, and also voted 10-0 to authorize a $1.34 million payment from the Free Cash account for the property.
“The City strongly recommends the City Council approves this Eminent Domain taking,” said Ambrosino on Monday. “The building is in a critical location in terms of our efforts to revitalize the Broadway corridor. It’s been a blighted area for some time. That has not improved now that it has become vacant.”
He said he hoped to make the taking officially to eliminate blight.
Last month, a fair market value appraisal came in at $1.34 million and Ambrosino decided to go forward.
The Council agreed on Monday.
Eminent Domain takings are often contested in court and frequently the seller appeals the price paid, resulting sometimes in a higher price and sometimes in a lower price. That is typically a long, drawn out process, but there is no indication the new owner – believed to be the Rainbow Fashion’s owner – will pursue that path.
Ambrosino said he hopes to create a mixed use building with first floor retail and residential units – including affordable housing – on the upper floors.
At the same time on Monday, Ambrosino presented the Council with a request for them to use a new state law allowing them to make Broadway a “Development District.” Such a district comes with a “Development Plan” and is a similar idea to have an Urban Renewal District.
While the idea is to aid the City’s efforts in the Chelsea Prospers program and the Re-Imagining Broadway infrastructure project, one of the key advantages is streamlining the process for taking properties that are blighted.
“At this time, there is no specific target of property acquisition in the Downtown beyond what has been previously present to the Council (Salvation Army Store),” he wrote. “However, the ‘Development District’ designation provides the flexibility to engage in that process, with Council approval, if the need arises in the future.”
Another benefit of the District, he said, is for the City to be able to use the innovative infrastructure funding tool called the District Improvement Financing (DIF) tool. He said there are no plans for any DIFs right now, but it is a good tool to have for the future of Broadway.
Finally, he said the designation would allow the City a better opportunity to unlock state and federal grants for infrastructure projects in the Downtown district.
He said he would the Development Program to go along with the designation would be worked out over the summer and likely presented to the Council in the Fall.
The matter was put on file and will be considered when the Council resumes meetings in September.