Construction Hits Halfway Mark for Innes Redevelopment

Chelsea Housing Authority officials, developers, and CHA residents are marking the half-way point of the long-in-the-works Innes Redevelopment project.

The public-private partnership has had a number of moving parts over the years since an initial request for proposals was submitted to the Chelsea Housing Authority in 2016.

Sean McReynolds, President of the Joseph J. Corcoran Corporation, Jennifer Corcoran, Project Director for the Joseph J. Corcoran corporation, Paul Nowicki, Executive Director of the Chelsea Housing Authority, Mary Davis of the John M. Corcoran management company, and Melissa Booth, President of the Innes Resident Association and resident service coordinator for HOU, discuss the progress on the redevelopment of the Innes apartments.

Recently, members of the development team and the CHA met to discuss the progress on the construction, which they said has reached the halfway point as they move toward overall completion of the project in 2025.

In total, the Innes project consists of 350,000 square feet of modernized housing and economic development. There are 330 total residential units, with 96 of those being redevelopment public housing units for the current CHA Innes residents. The project also includes 40 moderate income units and 194 market rate units.

All the current Innes residents will be able to move back into a new, modern unit when construction is complete, according to CHA Executive Director Paul Nowicki.

The CHA units will be identical to the market-rate units, according to Sean McReynolds, President of the Joseph J. Corcoran Corporation.

The extensive project team for the Innes Redevelopment project includes Joseph J. Corcoran Corporation, John M. Corcoran Company, and Marcus Partners on the development side; the CHA, the Department of Housing and Community Development, the City of Chelsea, the state Executive Office of Housing and Development, and the Innes Resident Association on the public side; Cube 3 as the architect of record; and Plumb House, Inc. as the general contractor.

In addition to the residential units, the other highlights of the project include an increased number of on-site parking spots in an above-ground garage; amenities including a fitness room, community room, and bike storage; a new daycare facility; new public greenspace including a playground; and 5,000 square feet of street level retail space.

“This first building will be delivered this summer, and then the next building will be delivered in two stages,” said McReynolds. “The first stage will be spring of 2025 … and then the final delivery is August of 2025.”

Nowicki said the project has been long needed for both the CHA and the city.

“The building was built in the early 1950s and the upkeep just got overwhelming,” said Nowicki. “So we made that decision in 2015 … to go with the partnership to expand housing opportunities and that was awarded to us in 2016, and then we went through the RFP process and selected the Corcoran group.”

Nowicki said the project was ready to go toward the end of 2019, with the CHA working with the residents and the property manager on the relocation process, but much like everything else in the construction world, the Covid pandemic slowed that timeline down.

He said there was a lot of communication done with the residents and the city during that time to keep everyone informed about the status of the project and to keep the enthusiasm up.

“There was kind of a never say die attitude that everybody had to have,” said Jennifer Corcoran, the project director for the Joseph J. Corcoran Company. “We almost started from scratch; we were originally a two-phase project, so residents would have moved out and back in two different phases, which would have made it longer. So we switched to a single phase, we took out the below-grade parking, which was unfeasible and we moved to a parking garage.”

Corcoran noted that there is also a lot of infrastructure work that has been done for the project that will benefit this city as a whole.

Currently, the roof is on the first residential building, which is 115 units, and the precast parking garage is constructed and waiting for utilities.

“We are about 70 percent through the framing of the second building, which is 215 units,” said Mary Davis of the Corcoran Company. “We’re starting drywall in the interior of the first residential building, a lot of windows are in, there is a lot of progress there.”

While Nowicki and McReynolds highlighted the importance of upgrading the affordable housing units, McReynolds said the mixed-income aspect of the project is crucial.

“Mixed-income is an important concept, where obviously we are doing market-rate units,” he said. “The impetus is that market rate helps pay for the replacement of the public housing units. Not only the replacement, but we are also wanting to do ongoing resident services, programming, and upkeep for the building as a whole.”

The market rate units will also help attract people to the city who will then bring in disposable income and spend money at Chelsea businesses and connect with the community, said Nowicki.

“That generates money for our economy, and that’s also important,” he said. “Affordable is very important in Chelsea, and those affordable units make up 29 percent of this development. Most development is around 8 to 10 percent.”

In addition, another 11 percent of the units are middle income/workforce development units. Those units will allow for residents who might see their income levels rise above the affordable levels continue to live in the development, as well as provide options for people who may work in the city but can’t afford higher rents.

“The other cool thing about the market/mixed-income model is that it will be a different experience for the public housing residents than really any other public housing/redevelopment that would be strictly affordable,” said Corcoran. “The level of amenities that we have in the space is built to compete with other market-rate buildings. Everybody has access to the exact same things regardless of your income level.”

Nowicki said the target is to have all residents in the new units by the fall of 2025.

Corcoran, McReynolds, and Nowicki all said the Innes redevelopment stands as a model for further affordable and housing authority redevelopment not only in the city, but in the region.

“It’s been a long time in the works, and we see as a state that it is really hard to upgrade public housing,” said Chelsea City Manager Fidel Maltez. “We need millions and millions of dollars that neither the states nor the cities have, so these public-private partnerships are a good vehicle to invest and rejuvenate our public housing properties. The Innes development is a model now that the Secretary of Housing really touts and really talks about as a model that is being taken by other communities.”

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