A Boston company is currently in the City’s review pipeline for a proposal that would completely remake the Willow Street-Highland Street industrial area – building a brand new building that would house a 33-dock freight forwarding business consisting of three yet-unnamed tenants.
Seyon Management, of Newbury Street, is proposing to demolish the existing warehouse at 22 Willow Street, combine the lot with 250 Marginal Street (now a vacant parking lot) and construct a new 146,410 sq. ft. building with 33 loading docks for the purpose of airport-related freight forwarding.
There would be 202 parking spots on site, with a 48-car landscaped employee parking lot at the corner of Highland and Essex Street – a piece of property that is now derelict and vacant. The bulk of the parking spots within the project, however, would be on the 250 Marginal St. site (130 spots) – which is currently a parking lot. The remainder would be next to and around the new building.
The project is known as Chelsea Point consists of 8.61 acres of land in basically an entire block – excluding only the Carbone Metals operation. It is pegged as a $30 million buildout and could be started in February 2022 with a July 2023 occupancy.
Currently, the matter went before the Planning Board this Tuesday, and already has had a trip to the Zoning Board, where it will return once the Planning Board has completed its review.
Another vacant lot of land owned by Seyon, but not related to the project, is across the street at 212 Congress St. is likely to be used as a piece of mitigation. In the filing, Seyon indicated it had been working with GreenRoots to designate a use for the parcel, perhaps open space. However, Council President Roy Avellaneda said he has been in talks with them to gift the land to the City for the purpose of building affordable housing.
“I talked to the owner and that building that’s there could not be saved,” said Avellaneda. “It’s functionally obsolete. It made more sense to start from scratch…It looks like we’ll have that land in our control and looking for an affordable housing overlap project.”
He said he is not against the freight forwarding use, but does not necessarily believe MassPort has treated the City fairly when Chelsea so often agrees to house such businesses that are critical to the airport’s industrial flight operations.
“The airport overlay district has been on my mind because I feel we’re always locating things in our community that support the airport and it’s an area that MassPort would like to keep close…It’s not the use that I’ve been against, but what I resent is we’re helping them and they don’t recognize that.”
Councillor Giovanni Recupero, who represents the area and actually lives across the street from it on Essex Street, said he is in support because the developer listened to his input early on.
He said the original plan was to bring the trucks for the operation up onto Willow Street and other residential streets and he said that was a problem. The developer, he said, then agreed to purchase 250 Marginal Street and have the trucks enter and exit from Marginal – with all the loading docks also facing Marginal Street.
“The guy listened to what I asked him to do and I think this is a good thing,” he said. “The problem I had is he was going to bring the truck to building on Willow Street. I wouldn’t go for that. I asked him to have the trucks somehow come in and out on Marginal Street, so he figured out a way. He bought the lot in front of him. It was a lot of money…That building is operating in that way now, and he wants to build something new and bring in some jobs too.”
City Manager Tom Ambrosino said they are not necessarily against the idea of freight forwarding, and support this project. However, he said they are skittish of the Amazon warehouses and other “last-mile” proposals that have hit the Produce Center area and caused significant Amazon van traffic in Chelsea.
“I think we’re skittish of Amazon, but I’m not skittish of the industry here,” he said. “That’s an industry the City supports and we have a district by the airport for it. They’re knocking down a dilapidated building and will substantially improve the site. We’re hoping they get some good entities to come in as tenants. The Amazons of the world don’t bring good-paying jobs and do bring enormous van traffic. We really are trying to discourage that particular use, but the freight forwarding industry is one the City supports.”
The Chelsea Point project is likely to be on the June Zoning Board agenda.