To Survive, City Manager Says Downtown Needs to Be More Dense

City Manager Tom Ambrosino said he believes that if Chelsea’s downtown is going to survive COVID-19, it has to become a more dense area with more living units and businesses to serve those new residents.

To accommodate that, he is asking for a new parking program for residents of the downtown area, a plan detailed in a Council Committee on Conference late last month.

“I’m trying to get relief for developers in the downtown from parking,” he said. “I guess my philosophy is the downtown has been impacted by COVID-19 and I feel strong we have to build density in the downtown if we’re going to survive the COVID-19 era. I’m in favor of creating more density and making it easier for developers to develop in the downtown. Our barrier to that is this parking ordinance.”

That ordinance was one that was voted in and ordained in 2019, and took effect in January. It calls for any new development that needs a variance for parking to not be eligible for the City parking sticker program. Now, that is becoming a potential hurdle for developing in the tight downtown area.

Ambrosino said he is proposing a special downtown parking sticker that would allow residents to park in a special downtown lot from midnight to 5 a.m., perhaps in the new lots being constructed by the state under the Mystic/Tobin Bridge. That sticker would be different and would not allow those residents to park in the neighborhoods, but only in the designated downtown parking areas.

“I’m trying to create pedestrian activity downtown and I need to create residential parking downtown to get that,” he said. “One of these developments will be our own Salvation Army building.”

The petition will likely be before the Council in the fall.

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