Ask 100 people where the Mill Hill neighborhood separates from the Mill Creek neighborhood and one would probably get 100 different answers.
Neighborhoods in Chelsea have been loosely defined for decades, with some not even named at all, but now Downtown Coordinator Mimi Graney is looking to residents of Chelsea to define the City’s neighborhoods more precisely.
“It came up because City Planner Karl Allen has been working on a project by the Produce Center and he kept calling it West Chelsea,” she said. “Every time he did that, people would laugh at it. It brought up the question as to what do you call that area. It was the same thing for the Walnut Street Synagogue area. Then you have people talking about Prattville. We decided to try to figure out what you call the various neighborhoods of Chelsea.”
That started with a query of the Chel-Yea group last month, and during that event and with online follow ups, Graney said she got very impassioned responses.
People, she said, took it very seriously.
“Several people said everything was just Chelsea, but others had strong opinions about Admiral’s Hill and Prattville,” she said. “It has solicited a lot of interested conversations.”
Graney has produced a map with suggested boundaries and names. So far, they have included Prattville, Mayor’s Row, Chelsea High, Addison-Orange, Soldiers’ Home/Powderhorn Hill, Cary Square, Mill Creek, Mill Hill, Spencer Avenue, Eastern Ave Industrial Area, Box District, Bellingham Hill, Salt Piles, Waterfront, Downtown (including Chelsea Square and Bellingham Square), Williams School, Carter Park, Mystic Mall, Produce District and Admiral’s Hill.
It was difficult, she said, to find the real boundaries of the Soldiers’ Home neighborhood versus Cary Square, she said, and many said the Spencer Avenue area should be called Upper Broadway. Mill Creek, on the other hand, has been confused in some ways with the Parkway Plaza.
She said the exercise is one that moves beyond the fun of talking about it, and moving towards making it a place.
“The legacy of the fire in the Mystic Mall area sort of upended most boundaries there,” she said. “People are uncomfortable with the area beyond Carter Park and Chelsea High area. If it doesn’t have a name, it becomes this no man’s land. Naming a place has a power to it. I’m hoping people in these areas claim that power in that naming.”
Graney said they will continue to take input on the neighborhood boundaries, and will likely present something to the community in the near future.