City Manager Thomas Ambrosino gave the annual State of the City address Monday night, highlighting residential and commercial growth, infrastructure improvements, and successes in Chelsea’s schools.
Ambrosino also called for Chelsea citizens to get involved with the upcoming charter review process and the census.
“This may turn out to be one of the shorter presentations I’ve made to the Council,” Ambrosino said. “That’s certainly not because there aren’t things to celebrate. In fact, I would say just the opposite – that perhaps the past year has been among the most productive in the City since I’ve been here as City Manager.”
Ambrosino said the City has made significant progress in the areas it has long identified as priorities – creating opportunity for beneficial commercial and residential development, investing in infrastructure, and supporting the school system.
“In 2019, we had an incredibly productive year in terms of approving residential development and making a real impact on our housing shortage,” he said. “In just the past twelve months alone, the city approved over 1,000 new housing units. That is certainly the most in my tenure here and perhaps more than any year in a generation.”
Chelsea has made great strides in housing, especially when it comes to affordability, according to the City Manager.
“In fact, we even improved upon our Inclusionary Zoning ordinance this past year, making 15 percent of units a mandatory number and requiring that affordability encompass a range of income eligible renters, including those making only 30 percent of Area Median Income,” Ambrosino said. “By doing so, this Council has ensured that, moving forward, the affordable housing we create in Chelsea is truly accessible to the people who actually live and work here in Chelsea.”
In 2020, Ambrosino said the City will continue to expand its affordable housing efforts, with a focus on affordable home ownership. During his speech, he proposed dedicating $1.5 million in General Stabilization money to support the homeownership efforts of the City’s Affordable Housing Trust Fund Board.
While he highlighted the residential growth, Ambrosino also pointed to several commercial development projects that have taken place over the past year, including expansion of the Acorda pharmaceutical manufacturing facility on Vale Street, the opening of a new Fairfield Inn on Beech Street, the acquisition and repurposing of the former Nancy Sales site on Willow Street, and the acquisition by a major commercial developer of the Anthony Simboli office portfolio.
“To me, each of these projects is further proof that Chelsea continues to be an attractive location for commercial growth,” Ambrosino said.
On the infrastructure front, Ambrosino said he is proud of the commitment the city has collectively made to take full advantage of its financial health and put it to work to benefit the lives of Chelsea residents.
“We’ve invested in streets, sidewalks, parks and public buildings,” said Ambrosino. “From the simple – like decorative night lights at City Hall and Holiday decorations in the downtown; to the much more impactful – like the New Clark Avenue Middle School. Calendar year 2020 will be no different. In fact, you have before you tonight the City’s most recent request for infrastructure investment, more than $24 million in new projects, the most I’ve ever proposed.”
The more than 40 proposed projects include the complete reconstruction of Broadway from City Hall to Revere, the complete renovation of Beacham Street, the continuation of a complete restoration of the Garden Cemetery, and a new playground for the Williams School Complex.
In the downtown, Ambrosino touted the plans to renovate the former Salvation Army building and the storefront improvement pilot program.
“Finally, to our final but by no means least of our priorities – the place we may have reason for the most optimism – the Chelsea Public School System,” the City Manager said. “The School Department has benefited greatly this past decade from the outstanding leadership of Mary Bourque. Those will be tough shoes to fill. But, I know that many who live in the City and care deeply about its school system, including Mary herself, feel confident that we have selected an outstanding successor in Dr. Almi Abeyta. All of us have been impressed by the passion and enthusiasm she brings to her new role.”
Ambrosino said he will be looking once again to collaborate with the School Department on the Bunker Hill Tuition program. For the past two years, that program has ensured that every Chelsea High School student has the opportunity to attain an Associate’s Degree at Bunker Hill at no financial cost.
“Shortly, I will be sending an appropriation request to the City Council to continue the program for a third year, so that we can continue to proudly say here in Chelsea that not a single public school graduate will have her or his college education dreams denied for lack of money,” said Ambrosino.
Finishing up the speech, Ambrosino urged residents to get involved with the City Charter review process and the U.S. Census, two issues that he said will have a long-ranging impact on the city.
“Even though participation in both of these efforts will be a challenge for 2020, I do have great confidence that we will succeed,” he said. “As I noted at the Dr. King Breakfast a few weeks ago, my experience here in Chelsea over the past few years is that whenever the need is great; the cause important; the issue critical; this community rises to the occasion, comes together and delivers. I have no doubt that will be the case in 2020 and that the State of this City will continue to be described and defined as one of remarkable success.”