Forbes Site Purchase Still in Play for GreenRoots and Partners

A group of local and regional nonprofits, along with affordable housing developers and the city are still all in on a plan to purchase the dormant 17.7-acre Forbes waterfront site to create affordable housing and a public, environmentally resilient waterfront area for residents.

As of this week, it was still up in the air as to whether the property will be auctioned off, or sold outright to a group consisting of GreenRoots, The Neighborhood Developers, Mystic River Watershed Association, and the Mass Audubon Society.

GreenRoots Executive Director Roseanne Bongiovanni addresses the audience about the project.
Chelsea Housing and
Community Development
Director Alex Train.

GreenRoots Executive Director Roseann Bogiovanni said the group is prepared to move quickly in either eventuality.

“We are all still actively raising funds to purchase the site,” she said.

The holder of the mortgage for the property, Shanghai Commercial Bank Ltd., foreclosed on the site, according to an article in the Boston Business Journal earlier this fall.

Bongiovanni said the current owner has agreed to hold off on auctioning off the property for the time being, but she said it is not clear how long they will hold off before putting the property up for auction. She also noted that the current permits for the Forbes site expire on Dec. 22, which could drive down the value of the site after that date.

So far, the partnership has raised about $10 million and is actively pursuing trying to raise an additional $5 million by the end of the year. Bongiovanni said State Senator Sal DiDomenico has committed to help getting state funds to help with the remediation and construction on the site if the purchase is ultimately successful.

Plans for the site include 10 acres of open space with nature and educational programming and access to Chelsea Creek and the waterfront.

“This really solidifies the message we’ve had for the last three decades that we need to have access to the waterfront, and we are trying to achieve that goal for our residents,” said Bongiovanni.

GreenRoots recently held a community meeting about the plans for the Forbes site, attended by DiDomenico, Senator Ed Markey, and other local and state leaders.

“For too long, communities like Chelsea have borne the brunt of environmental injustices,” Markey said. “Residents have experienced higher rates of air pollution and negative health impacts; the city is vulnerable to rising tides from climate change; and community residents have lacked access to the beautiful waterfront along Chelsea Creek. Access to green, waterfront space is a clear environmental justice issue; Communities of color are three times as likely to live in nature-deprived areas as white Americans.”

Markey went on to state that the Forbes Site serves as a unique opportunity to bridge critical environmental concerns with public access potential. 

“For the past several decades, this site has sat dormant, blocking Chelsea residents’ access to the water’s edge,” he said. “Walkways, interpretative signage, nature preserves, and outdoor educational programming would enable the public to make use of the Forbes Site in a way they have never yet been able to do. 

“Community event space would provide residents with the green spaces and waterfront access they have been denied for decades.”

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