Saturday, November 20, 2010

LOCAL NEWS: Builders flocking to city parcels in Chelsea

A real estate firm, the Development and Marketing Group, is proposing to locate a 100-to-120-room national chain hotel adjacent to the Wyndham Boston Chelsea hotel in Chelsea’s Everett Avenue urban renewal district.

A Boston-based firm, Synergy Investment and Development, meanwhile, last month broke ground on One Webster, a $20 million project to build 120 units of market-rate rental housing and 5,000 square feet of retail on the site of two former industrial buildings at the corner of Eastern and Webster avenues.

And Boston-based Transdel Corp. is proposing to build 238 units of market-rate rental housing in the Everett Avenue urban renewal district, with plans for eventually constructing a comparable number of rental units in a future second phase.

Amid the gloom of a stagnant economy, developers are continuing to find opportunities to build in Chelsea.

“Chelsea’s proximity to Boston and Logan Airport and the track record of success we’ve had has meant that while projects are tougher to do because of the economy, they are still getting done,’’ said Jay Ash, city manager.

In other recent activity, AJ Wright, the Framingham-based clothing retailer, on Oct. 28 officially opened a new store on the former site of Market Basket within the Mystic Mall shopping center. The opening follows Market Basket’s opening last year of a 138,000-square-foot store — the largest grocery store in New England — on a different site within the center.

This past July, Mitchell Properties opened Atlas Lofts, a development of 53 loft-style apartments in a converted mill complex on Gerrish Avenue within the city’s emerging Box District.

Also opening over the past two years were Parkside Commons, a 248-unit rental development built on Stockton Street, and Jefferson at Admiral’s Hill, a 160-unit waterfront rental development on Commandants Way.

Chelsea-based Development Management Group recently reached a land-disposition agreement with the city’s Economic Development Board to purchase three former industrial properties within the urban renewal district and build a hotel there. The board oversees development within the 60-acre district. The Development Management Group is working with another firm, Chelsea Gateway Properties, on the project.

A new hotel would fit with the city’s strategy create a “hospitality node’’ within the urban renewal district “that travelers out of state would recognize as a place to stay when they are visiting Boston,’’ Ash said. He said the city believes the Wyndham would actually gain from a competitor hotel since “hotels can benefit by being identified as’’ part of a cluster.

Kevin Saba, managing partner of the Development and Marketing Group, said the firm will provide more details on the hotel chain involved and the exact number of rooms, once permitting gets underway in the next month or so.

Saba, a New Hampshire resident, has already been active as a businessman in Chelsea. The owner of Admiral’s Hill Marina, he also sold the land and undertook the permitting for Jefferson at Admiral’s Hill. And he built an extension of the city’s waterfront boardwalk from its previous terminus at the marina over marshland to a new city park.

“I’m a big fan of Chelsea,’’ he said. “It’s a gateway city. When you come to this country . . . Chelsea is a place you get to start. And it’s starting to be a place that is really well run. . . . I’m proud to be part of the fabric of that community.’’

David Greaney, president of Synergy Investment and Development, said his firm’s decision to build in Chelsea reflects its confidence in the market for multi-family housing in Greater Boston in general, and Chelsea in particular. Synergy has undertaken four housing rehabilitation projects in Chelsea, including one of a rental building on 4th Street and Broadway.

“The rental market in Chelsea is strong,’’ he said, noting that “we rarely drop below 100 percent occupancy’’ at the Broadway building. He said renters are drawn to Chelsea by the favorable prices compared to Boston.

“It’s a very viable option for people who want to work in downtown Boston or have easy access to the city,’’ he said, adding that Chelsea has “a lot of positive momentum.’’

Transdel recently reached a land disposition agreement with the Economic Development Board to purchase three acres in the urban renewal district for its proposed 238-unit development. The board had previously entered into an agreement with Texas-based JPI for a similar project, but the firm had to bow out because they were not able to finance it, Ash said.

Transdel already reached agreement with the board earlier this year for the intended second phase of the development, which would be on four adjoining acres.

Mark Robinson, part owner of Transdel, said the firm’s ability to proceed with the first phase is contingent on securing financing. “Opportunities are opening for us, but we are trying to find the right vehicle,’’ he said.

The company is familiar with Chelsea. The builder of the Massport garage, it also bought and capped a former oil tank farm site on Chelsea Creek, which is now used by airport-related businesses. And it partnered with another firm to develop the Wyndham hotel.

“It’s a great community to work in,’’ Robinson said. “It’s a wonderful environment for developers and for bringing new ideas and projects to.’’

© Copyright 2010 Globe Newspaper Company. John Laidler November 11, 2010

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