Within the next month, the large, rusted circular oil tanks that have blocked beautiful waterfront views on Marginal Street for generations will be a thing of the past.
As the tanks begin to come down soon at the old Coastal Petroleum Terminal at 99 Marginal St., a long-awaited development that will include a new park and unobstructed views of the water will sprout up.
However, the project doesn’t look to be the typical, run-of-the mill redevelopment of the Chelsea industrial waterfront. The project – known as the PORT – will be an innovative development trade-off that will allow Eastern Minerals to expand their salt pile, but will allow the City to gain a national model for redeveloping dilapidated, old industrial waterfront property.
“I’m both anxious and excited to see the PORT project get underway and ultimately completed,” said City Manager Jay Ash. “I’m anxious because we have been working on the possibility of this park for several years and excited because PORT will activate that stretch of the Chelsea waterfront that has been closed to the community for generations. Eastern Minerals is really pushing the design elements to create what should be a park of national reputation. It plans on incorporating elements of a working waterfront and vestiges of the tanks themselves, while introducing us all to the splendor of our waterfront and the views across to Boston.”
In a filing with the City’s Planning Board, developers of the project indicated that they are now ready to begin after a long journey through the state environmental regulatory processes.
“We have constructed the new steel bulkhead at the MWRA Pipe Parcel,” read the filing. “We hope to complete the abatement of asbestos-containing materials this month or next, and also to obtain a demolition permit that will allow a contractor to begin removing all remaining oil tanks and certain other infrastructure. We hope to apply for building permits in mid-March.”
While results are just now starting to trickle in, the plan formed in 2007 when the late owner of Eastern Minerals, Leo Mahoney, proposed to site another salt pile alongside his long-standing salt pile adjacent to the Coastal site.
He eventually received approval for the new pile, but he also suggested and was pushed by the City to redevelop about 56,000 sq. ft. of the property into a unique publicly-accessible park.
This month, as the developers prepare for final local approvals, residents got a detailed peak for the first time at what the PORT will look like.
Designers have called for saving the steel skeletons of the old oil tanks and using them within the park design as shelters or design elements. They have also called for salvaging old industrial port equipment – one piece they will use as a converted outdoor movie screen.
Another piece of old equipment will be salvaged for use as a lookout tower.
That part of the park will be accessible year round.
The most western side of the park will not be accessible in the winter, when the salt pile will expand and cover up the part of the park that will contain basketball courts, street hockey rinks and bicycle paths. In the summer, though, the pile will be much smaller and those parts of the park will be open to the public.
“The challenge for Rock Chapel has been to design a working-waterfront access point that is attractive enough to serve as a destination point on the waterfront while not being so large as to compromise the vessel-unloading and cargo-handling mission mandated by (state law),” read the developer’s filing. “A second challenge has been to design an access point that is large enough to handle multiple goals – events, educational functions and recreation – while again not compromising or interfering with the overall marine cargo-handling goal. The third challenge has been to design an access point that will generate community pride and that will be a territory worth defending. Rock Chapel’s design meets these challenges.”
The developer, Rock Chapel or Eastern Minerals, also pointed out that the design was the product of many community meetings and public hearings over the course of the last five years.
One of the tank skeletons is envisioned as being the backdrop for a grassy amphitheater, while the other will be covering a play area.
The design also includes an upgraded, two-story office building on the footprint of where the old brick repair building now sits.
The design, which incorporates an innovative park alongside a working industrial port, is already being talked about as an award-winning project among architects in the area.
Meanwhile, Ash pointed out that one part of the project agreement has already been of great benefit to the community – that being the turf soccer field at Highland Park that Eastern Minerals paid for as mitigation for the project.
“Prior to laying down the artificial field, the soccer field resembled more of a soccer dust bowl,” said Ash. “Now our kids and the adult leagues that play there have a professional-quality surface, providing for great play and enhanced safety.”
On Tuesday, the City’s Zoning Board of Appeals approved the project modification, and the Planning Board still has to consider the final request of the developers on Feb. 28th.
Old oil tanks in the old Coastal property on Marginal Street will soon come down and make way for an innovative park space that will co-exist with a working port for road salt storage.
coastal rendering –
An architect’s rendering shows what the park will look like with the re-use of the oil tank’s steel skeleton reused as shelters and design elements.