If ever there was momentum for change in the downtown business district, then Friday afternoon was the showcase for that progress.
State Housing Secretary Mike Kennealy (who succeeded former Chelsea City Manager Jay Ash in that position) and MassDevelopment President Lauren Liss joined a host of City, state and business leaders at the Chamber of Commerce Friday afternoon for a short presentation and a tour of the downtown.
The visit was part of a check-up on the Transformative District Initiative (TDI) program that Chelsea has been a part of for the past 18 months, with Fellow Carlos Matos leading the effort in partnership with numerous business leaders and Business Incubator director Deise Paraguay.
“I will start by quoting Einstein in that he said, ‘Improvement is more important than knowledge,’” led off Matos in his presentation. “That just struck a chord in me because in the downtown the improvements create a vision of a better Chelsea and a better downtown district. That’s what we’re all working towards.”
Matos told the crowd they are working hard to create the backdrop for a revitalized downtown, in conjunction with the Chamber, the businesses and the City. He cited the public safety police walking patrols, the public art initiatives led by Chelsea Prospers, the Night Market and Pupusa Fiesta events and the simple color-coding of the old gazebo in Bellingham Square.
All of it has been coordinated with many moving parts and an identifiable branding that is colorful, appropriate and fun.
“With the Night Market, we wanted new memories there,” said the City’s Downtown Coordinator Mimi Graney. “It was no longer the crime and negative area of the past, but something positive and fun in the downtown that happened – like the fire jugglers or the skateboard demonstrations.”
Matos also announced they are in the preliminary stages of looking at a parking facility for downtown.
“We are in the very, very preliminary stages of looking to create a parking deck to spur development so the buildings could expand above and create more housing there,” he said. “We want to build bigger on top, but without the parking, the development would stall because they would have to knock down the buildings here to build parking.”
Kennealy said he was impressed with how many partners were acting in concert.
“It’s inspiring to see this level of partnership and collaboration,” he said.