By Seth Kinker,

The Chelsea Downtown Development Authority (DDA) focused once again on the Palmer Commons, both amenities and a parking discussion, and the municipal parking lot during their monthly meeting on June 20.

First, there was an update on the amenities ordered for Palmer Commons. Some prior discussed items like the raingarden, signage, and fence painting have been completed. Other tasks like the rest of the trees and waiting for the hydroseed to fully take are still in limbo.

One of the main bits of conversation with the amenities centered around the sail cloth that was a proposed purchase.


At the most recent city council meeting, the city decided not to take any action on budget amendment request and DDA member Jennifer Fairfield the council was concerned with the cost of the sailcloth. Fairfield asked the DDA if they should now be looking at other options for shade.

City Manager John Hanifan responded by saying Palmer Commons was designed for the sail cloth but could find out more information for a permanent structure as far as pricing for the DDA.

DDA member Charles Wisely asked how it would be paid for and Hanifan responded that around $79,000 remains in the bond fund. Wisely also brought up a past concern of his, the expected life of a sail cloth before it would have to be replaced.

When discussing the Palmer Commons, O’Reilly requested that Hanifan look into the price of a small temporary stage.

Finally, the DDA also discussed the north lot of the Palmer Commons. Hanifan noted it was on the agenda for clarification.

“When events are in play and that means whether it’s the Farmer’s Market, Sounds and Sights, or community based, we have a lot of those coming up this summer and fall,” said Hanifan. “The north parking lot, the original design, noted it was intended to be more of a pedestrian plaza to add to the experience.”

Hanifan touched on concerns heard about the north lot, that sits directly next to Palmer Auto, being closed during Sounds and Sights and the Farmer’s Market.

Hanifan noted it was closed to traffic for safety during scheduled events with a lot of foot traffic in the area during some of the bigger events. When not reserved, the lot is open, although the city still needs one-way signs that are planned to be installed.

Mayor Melissa Johnson voiced her concerns about pedestrian safety in the area and being able to enforce it with the hopes of turning into more of a plaza in the future to ensure pedestrian safety. Fairfield responded that certain occasions in the city called for more parking capacity which led to the decision and as the year goes on, looking back on the original plan might be an option.

O’Reilly said he had been frustrated up to this point to seeing the lot unused. He also encouraged doing whatever was needed to get the state to allow a pedestrian activated walk signal to address pedestrian safety.

DDA member Ron Livengood said public perception may be that the lot is blocked but after driving through it the other night, signage and instructions were clear.

Despite the city’s decision to not amend the budget, maintenance will still go on at the municipal lot between Purple Rose and Cleary’s in downtown Chelsea this summer. They were requesting $35,000 more be paid off of the Palmer Commons bond fund to free up monies for DDA projects, in this case parking lot and light pole maintenance.

The DDA still has $25,000 dedicated in the 2019-20 budget for parking lot and light pole maintenance. Hanifan reported they were in the process of getting pricing and should have a choice by Jul. 1.

Hanifan reported that a full closure wasn’t in the plans while they continue to look at the spots in most need of repair with the possibility of repaving the alley still in play.


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