Grand plans for a long-neglected part of Chelsea’s waterfront might be running aground of one major harbor advocacy group and an organization of ship captains.
Vivien Li, executive director of The Boston Harbor Association (TBHA), said that her organization has watched the intriguing Marginal Street Pier over the past year and – contrary to their usual stances on public access to boating – are taking a cautious view of the proposed project.
Li told the Record that TBHA has some serious concerns if the new owner, Harold Kalick of Harbor Food Services, plans to offer recreational boating at the location.
Li said that, given the current amount of industrial tankers on the waterway and the larger vessels that will come when the Chelsea Street Bridge is concluded, they are concerned that there just isn’t enough room for both uses.
“Recreational usage would not really make sense at this location, we feel, just because of the size and length of the ships and barges that go down there,” Li told the Record. “Someone on the water enjoying themselves for the day would be very dangerous out among the large ships, which cannot stop quickly or turn quickly in that constricted area.”
On the other side of the coin is Kalick, who said he is just trying to do something good for the community.
Kalick grew sick and tired of looking out his Marginal Street office window at the old, dilapidated pier and dock next door on the Chelsea Creek, so he bought the property and rebuilt the dock last year.
“I used to look out at it every day and it was kind of an eyesore,” he said. “My goal was to buy it and rebuild the dock…We did that and brought it back to where it was.”
There aren’t a lot of specific plans at the moment for the property, but Kalick said they have thrown ideas around.
“We’re looking at maybe a ferry service or some type of commercial boating activity,” he said. “There’s not a lot of water there, as you can tell. It has to be some type of small boat like a charter fishing operation or lobster boats…We want to improve it and put something in there that maybe even the public can use.”
He also said they would be taking the old building on the property down.
Right now, Kalick is wading through the waterways permitting process, having been recently given a waiver by state environmental authorities that allowed him to move ahead.
Kalick’s business entity for the pier, 201 Marginal Street LLC, did file a Chapter 91 application on Dec. 21st, and written public comments from any resident of Chelsea must be received by the MassDEP within 30 days – in this case, Jan. 20th. More information on that process can be obtained by calling (617) 292-5500.
For many years, the property was an embarrassment to the city, and the brand new pier that currently sits behind a chain-link fence is far more attractive no matter what ends up occupying the space.
City Manager Jay Ash said that there is no specific use identified yet, but they are glad to see Kalick take such initiative in building the new pier and proceeding through the often-daunting waterways permit process.
“There are no current long term plans for the dock,” said Ash. “We are working with Harold to identify opportunities, and may engage in a planning exercise to look at both water and non-water dependent uses. In general, we are quite pleased that Harold has control of the property and has made the investment he has.”
Ash mentioned that the previous owners did not cooperate well with the City.
Additionally, state environmental officials pointed out that the previous owner didn’t cooperate well with state officials either.
When Kalick bought the property, it was under an enforcement order from the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection (MassDEP) and a court order from the Attorney General’s Office. Both orders prompted the previous owner to remove all water-dependent structures on the property that were built under a 1918 Chapter 91 license.
That previous owner never complied with either order, and so Ash said the City was glad to see Kalick assume ownership and undertake an immediate rebuilding of the pier.
“We had numerous compliance issues with the previous owner,” said Ash. “When Harold acquired the property, he pledged to address any compliance issues that were still outstanding. We are excited about the future of the Chelsea waterfront and that excitement is increased as a result of the Kalick investment and our subsequent discussions about our mutual desires to see the waterfront being a positive for the abutting neighborhood and entire community.”
Kalick said he hopes that the pier can be a benefit for the community and he plans for it to be part of an overall reconstruction of his area of Marginal Street.
“Our goal is simply to clean it up and make it attractive because I believe there is no other area of the Chelsea waterfront, per say, that could become an asset to the community,” he said. “We want to improve it and put something in there that maybe even the general public can use.”
Either way, the pier seems to be the nexus for a discussion on the future of Chelsea’s waterfront. While it seems that marine industrial uses are here to stay, it remains to be seen if the future of Chelsea Creek holds any space for those who might want to enjoy a relaxing day tooling about in a boat.