Members of the Planning Department and Chelsea Prospers appeared before the Traffic Commission on Tuesday night to paint a picture – in the most literal sense – of fun outdoor events and improvements that are coming to Chelsea Square and Division Streets.
Ben Cares, of the Planning Department, and Mimi Graney, of Chelsea Prospers, detailed to the Commission all of the parklets, temporary parking zones, street murals and outdoor activities that they are planning for the summer months – with a push to activate Chelsea Square this summer.
One of the most interesting pieces presented is a giant street mural slated for Winnisimmet Street in front of the Apollinaire Theatre – a community project that would use volunteers to pull off the design in a Paint Day on June 21. Following that, the area would serve as an event space for outdoor dinner theatre and other events throughout the summer.
“Our plan for the area is to bring more things more toward Chelsea Square and not so much in Luther Place,” said Graney.
“We hope to have Saturday night events there,” she continued. “It’s meant to be like dinner and show where we’d have tables put out and a QR code to help participants order from nearby restaurants and there would be a stage there for the show.”
She said after the paint day on June 21, and they would have four events like that where there would be a road closure on Winnisimmet. Beyond that, they would also be doing a Silent Disco event on Aug. 14 in the space, and three live performances, one in June, another in July and a final one in September.
“That would be a space where you could stage cultural events right in Chelsea Square and downtown areas and really help support the restaurants and businesses there,” said Cares.
That will be enhanced by a construction project where the City plans to elevate the small part of Second Street between Broadway and Winnisimmet in a procedure known as “table topping.” That would entail raising the street in that section to the height of the curb, allowing drivers access during the day, but also being able to close down the stretch and help the Square feel like one continuous event space without a street seemingly cutting through it.
“That’s going to allow for better pedestrian safety, new ramps and ADA accessibility,” said Cares. “It’s an overall improvement to Chelsea Square for events and allowing people to pass through without there being a separation – while also reducing the issue of speeding that occurs in that stretch.”
Another exciting piece is an elaborate street mural and decorative crosswalks that will be installed all along Division Street as the City takes another step towards making that more of an bright, artistic pedestrian corridor and less of a dark, delivery truck thoroughfare.
“The reason for both of those is to help be a cue to drivers that this is dense area used heavily by pedestrians,” Graney said.
There would be three creative crosswalks installed, and the large street mural on Division Street as well.
Those improvements above are to be funded by a Shared Streets Grant the City won from the state Department of Transportation earlier this year.
Cares also asked for approval of parklets for restaurants in the area. The City is looking to support more and more parklets if restaurants want to take advantage of outdoor dining again this year. The approval streamlines the process and allows Planning to be able to approve the parklets without having to come to the Commission for each one that is requested.
Finally, City officials want to continue the five minute temporary parking zones that benefit restaurants doing take-out. Last year, several were approved, and those are to be renewed, while other new zones could also be proposed as well.