Waterfront Development Plan to be Considered this Month

The ongoing process to begin considering development for part of the Chelsea Creek waterfront will be considered this month by the Economic Development Board and, likely brought to a vote, later this month.

Since earlier this spring, a local and state process has been underway to begin discussions about developing a portion of land on the waterfront from Willow Street to the Chelsea Street Bridge. The City has engaged since that time in an overall plan, and the state has also begun a longer process to remove the area from the Designated Port Area (DPA) district.

Planning Director John DePriest said the City is hoping to do a land swap.

Currently, the City owns 324 Marginal St. – a large swath of land across from the Creek that is now leased to Enterprise Rent-A-Car. The City hopes to make a land swap with a developer who wishes to build a large parking garage on the waterfront site – just next to the bridge where there is now a brick wall. The City hopes to be able to allow the developer to build the garage on the Marginal Street site off the water, get title to the waterfront parcel and open it up to hotel development and waterfront park access.

“We’re in the process of working up that plan now,” said DePriest. “We expect to hold an Economic Development Board meeting later this month to put the finishing touches on the plan and vote to endorse the plan…The plan is practical and shows how to achieve what we want. The end goal is a land swap to allow the City to gain access to a waterfront parcel. Our feeling is a parking garage on the waterfront restricts access to the water and the waterfront for a long time. It would be better on the other side and off the water.”

The Council would also have to endorse the plan, and a tentative date for the Economic Development Board is scheduled for July 23.

DePriest said a hotel developer has already expressed interest in obtaining a portion of that waterfront site to build another hotel. Word on the street is that the developer is Colwen Hotels, which has already built several hotels in Chelsea, but that could not yet be confirmed.

Another one acre site on the waterfront parcel, DePriest said, would be reserved for some sort of park or activation zone.

“We would really like residents to gain some sort of access to the waterfront, whether it’s a park or a building or something like that,” he said. “We don’t really have that access to the water now.”

On the state front, the DPA process is still ongoing and is separate from the City’s land swap plan.

The state is expected to issue a draft report on the DPA removal in October or November. That will result in a 30-day comment period, and then a Draft Final Report in December, with another 30-day comment period.

An overall Harbor Plan would likely come 12 to 18 months afterward.

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