The headline about the FBI officially coming to Chelsea was much more than just a headline.
The entire story of how this development came to be is more like a long and winding narrative with ups and downs, with impossibilities and with impossibilities overcome. What began in 1997 when the city acquired a piece of land that had been virtually useless for decades – since the Chelsea Fire of 1973 leveled much of old Ward 2- is where the most substantial developments in the city are going on today.
The structure will be huge, more than 200,000 square feet. It will be expensive, estimated at more than $100 million. It will house 500-700 people daily and it is very likely to change the face of the city’s bustling commercial district.
The new stream of tax revenue to the city will be substantial. The business done locally during construction with merchants of all kinds is expected to produce a boost for dozens of local merchants.
Hundreds of unemployed tradesmen and women will work on construction of the new building.
In the end, this development, according to City Manager Jay Ash, is more about patience than anything else mixed into the blended pot of ingredients that lead to final success.
“ACS Development, the Chelsea Economic Development Board, the City Council and Congressman Michael Capuano all deserve a great deal of praise for making all of this happen. The Simboli family, in particular, have been tremendous boosters of Chelsea and, once again, they put all their money and energy forward to bring to Chelsea another prized development,” Ash said.
Ash believes this development will foster many new developments in the area. In fact, he guarantees it. He said he is already talking with a spate of new developers looking for a spot in the city.
“ Having the FBI in Chelsea is one of those game changers that all communities want to land, but very few succeed.,” he added.
Boston wanted the development and in the end vied with Chelsea for the bragging rights to the FBI’s Northeast Regional headquarters. Mayor Thomas Menino went to great lengths to persuade the powers that be to locate the headquarters in Boston. His claim was that Boston is a better place to house such a substantial government law enforcement operation. In the end, again, Boston lost out. For all his might, Menino was unable to outdo Chelsea’s location and attractiveness for the new FBI headquarters.
“The building will say volumes to hundreds of thousands of motorists about all that we have accomplished. The operations will require hotel rooms, catering, taxi service, printing and more, all providing spin-off benefits for existing business, and new opportunities for us to attract more. Adding hundreds of more employees in the area will mean more patrons to restaurants and shoppers to stores, increasing revenues and adding jobs around the building,” Ash said. He said the FBI presence will also serve as another loud warning to would-be bad guys that they are not welcome in Chelsea.
According to Ash, the revenue the FBI building will generate will help balance future municipal budgets and keep critical services, from public safety to education, adequately funded. The FBI presence on Everett Avenue will solidify Everett Avenue as a major commercial corridor and encourage others to become part of our burgeoning commerce center there. And, having the FBI located within Chelsea should improve the city’s reputation, he said.
Ash believes Chelsea’s streamlined permitting and application process made the Chelsea site more attractive. Permitting is always a process of major concern to developers. Chelsea had the FBI permitting done in 120 days. Ash believes the FBI development is a key that unlocks the door to nearly everything else that matters in this district.
“A significant impetus has been the other development taking place around the site. Hotels, the Mystic Mall, and the permitted residential development on the other side of Rte 1 have all contributed to the sense that this is a happening area with a brilliant future. Each project that is accomplished allows for the next project to take place. There is a synergy that is turning Everett Avenue into a significant regional commerce center, instead of its history as a secondary, or tertiary location with marginal commercial activity.”