The Innes Street/Central Avenue housing redevelopment plan has cleared its latest hurdle with the Planning Board, but will face a critical vote Monday night at Council on whether or not to allow them to have a ‘40R’ zoning designation.
The Council will consider the special zoning designation, which allows the mixed-income project to have its own, special regulations for parking and density and other requirements. At the same time, it also unlocks $5 million in state and local funding.
“It’s a critical vote,” said Chelsea Housing Authority (CHA) Director Al Ewing. “That is a very important ‘yes’ or ‘no.’ If we don’t get it, this project dies. It is our use it or lose it moment.”
The mixed-income development is in partnership with Corcoran Development, which will assist in developing the 330-unit community on the site of the current housing development. Those units will include the existing 96 public housing units, as well as 40 workforce housing units. The remaining 194 units will be market rate, and with the state and federal grants, will subsidize the replacement of the public housing units. Overall, the development would have a 41 percent affordable ratio, which is three times as much as what would normally be required by the City and double the state requirements.
It seems like a huge moment for residents like Jean Fulco, who is part of the Innes Residents Alliance (IRA).
“This will be a much better situation for the people who are there now,” she said. “The re-development would be so much better because the apartment conditions now are not very good.”
Resident Melissa Booth, also of the IRA, said she has a special needs child who cannot walk up the stairs, but they live on the second floor now.
“I usually have to carry my child up the stairs because there isn’t an elevator,” she said.
The new development is slated to have an elevator.
But one of the strangleholds in this second go-around of the mixed-income redevelopment – which had to be backed off two years ago – is parking. There are 226 spaces available on site, and another 50 spaces will be located off-site nearby.
Council President Damali Vidot said she does support the project, but she also lives in the area and understands that parking is already a mess. She said they have worked out a potential plan where the market rate units will not be able to apply for a residential parking sticker.
“Everyone says that these people who will live here will take the Silver Line and not have a car,” she said. “Let’s see them prove that. I’m ok with giving them the 40R so they can move forward, but when their Tax Incremental Financing comes up, I will let them know that I will not support the project unless they will enter into an agreement with the market rate tenants to not participate in the residential parking program.”
She said the decision is a tough one for the Council. While many have reservations, they also want to help the public housing residents improve their lives.
“I’m not in love with the project, but I know everyone is trying to do their best,” she said. “These 96 families deserve to live in dignity. I have family that lives there and no one should live in those conditions…If this is what I have to do to preserve the units for these 96 families, then we don’t have a choice really.”
Over the last several weeks, the IRA and the CHA and Corcoran have been pounding the pavement. They have had coffee hours, done personal outreach and have launched a website.
“We are in a competitive process and if this doesn’t get approved for whatever reason, Chelsea will not realize this opportunity,” said Sean McReynolds of Corcoran.