Much of the public discussion over the Smart Growth overlay district for Central Avenue over the past several months has focused on the technical aspects of the zoning ordinance.
But Monday night, as the City Council unanimously approved the Smart Growth zoning – which will pave the way for the Innes Development project to move closer to becoming a reality – much of the talk focused on the human and community benefits of that decision.
As the final vote was made official, cheers and applause were heard from Innes residents, project development team members, and even City Planning and Development Director John DePriest.
“This will allow for new homes that all the residents of Chelsea can be proud to call their own,” said Ronnie Slamin, the project director for Corcoran, the developer behind the Innes Street/ Central Avenue housing redevelopment plan.
The special zoning designation, allows the mixed-income project to have its own, special regulations for parking and density and other requirements. It also unlocks $5 million in state and local funding for the project.
Corcoran Development will assist in developing the 330-unit community on the site of the current housing development. Those units will include the existing 96 public housing units, as well as 40 workforce housing units. The remaining 194 units will be market rate, and with the state and federal grants, will subsidize the replacement of the public housing units.
Overall, the development would have a 41 percent affordable ratio, which is three times as much as what would normally be required by the City and double the state requirements.
For many of the current Innes residents, and for members of the Chelsea Housing Authority, it is a major step forward to replace the current units, which are rundown and decades old.
“It is our dream to live in new apartments that are safe and decent for our children, elderly, and the disabled,” said Melissa Booth, co-president of the Innes Residents Association.
The Smart Growth overlay district will cover the current footprint of the Innes Development, and puts a premium on affordable housing and access to public transportation.
Chelsea Housing Authority (CHA) board member Bertram Taverna said the Innes redevelopment is the kind of opportunity that the City has not seen for decades.
“We are talking about an opportunity for these 96 families, as well as 40 more affordable housing units,” said Taverna. “Everybody is invested in this project and wholeheartedly all in.”
CHA Executive Director Al Ewing said the redevelopment will give the city the ability to deliver on its promise of providing a home where residents can be proud to live and raise their families.
“This is a win for the City of Chelsea,” said District 8 Councillor Calvin T. Brown. “Folks are going to see that Chelsea can do this and other cities are going to do this.”
Council President Damali Vidot said it’s been a long road for the Innes project to move forward. The Council voted down a project three years ago because prevailing wages for workers wasn’t on the table.
With prevailing wages now part of the development proposal, the only major issue that gained any traction over the past several months was, unsurprisingly, parking.
While the smart growth zoning is one major step towards getting shovels in the ground for the project, developers will be back before the Council for approval of a TIF (Tax Increment Financing) tax break for the project. That is expected to come before the Council later in the spring.
Vidot said that parking will be addressed in the TIF.
Corcoran is proposing 226 on-site parking spots, with an option to lease another 50 parking spots nearby.