Chelsea DDA Holds Work Session, Looks to 2019

By Seth Kinker,

The Chelsea Downtown Development Authority (DDA) met Jan. 10 for the first work session of 2019, as they looked to address priorities for 2019.

A big remaining decision to be made before the end of this fiscal year, which ends on June 30, is what to do with the remaining bond funds for the Palmer Commons Project.

There’s about $100,000 remaining, and that money can only be used towards the last installment purchase for the project or updates for the Palmer Commons.

If they were to put the money towards the installment purchase, that would free up funds to be used at the discretion of the DDA for the rest of the year. Allocating that money was a large portion of the discussion on Jan. 10 with the DDA also acknowledging saving that money for future opportunities and not spending it all at once is also an option.

Another topic addressed was the Federal Screw Works property which has sat vacant since the mid 2000s.

“One of the top priority items we didn’t accomplish yet was addressing the Federal Screw Works,” said City Manager John Hanifan when telling the DDA about how the city addresses looking at the new year in a similar way, identifying priorities. “Again, we don’t own it, there’s some environmental constraints, deed restrictions, certainly that area is a priority. Our city council will talk about that in February as well, how do we, short of us taking the property and liability, how do we continue to drive some sort of positive outcome there?”

A mixed-use zone is something that the City wants there, but it can’t be residentially occupied until the environmental clean-up takes place. With the property being privately owned, the owners cleaned up the property to a standard well enough for commercial use, but not enough for residential occupation.

DDA member Phil Tolliver asked if the environmental issues were resolved if the owners of the private property would be open to developing the land, or would they not want to work on the project?

Mayor Melissa Johnson responded saying that because of the residential component not available with the potential development, no offers have been made.

“It just seems that’s one of the biggest opportunities in terms of making a difference in the area we are responsible, for lack of a better word,” said DDA member Doris Galvin. “To do something that is going to change the landscape in a very positive way for this DDA district. I
don’t see anything else that is that significant within the boundaries we have in front of us.”

Parking and parking enforcement were also discussed during the work session. Johnson touched on the importance of having a parking management strategy. Parking has become more of an issue as the city continues to see growth.

One of the issues discussed was the enforcement of parking. With over 124 spaces added since the 2001 DDA Parking Study, there are still sometimes struggles with finding parking downtown.

Members of the DDA touched on the fact that many surrounding areas have parking problems as well, it’s not unique to Chelsea, but that a strategy for enforcement needed to be something that was looked in to, including parking rules in the area and available lots.

Parking apps to check spot availability were mentioned, while the need to resurface the municipal lot was something discussed near the end of last year as a priority heading into 2019.

Hanifan said patchwork could last between five and seven years but with heavy use, it could be earlier and is dependent on the weather over that time as well.

Seth Kinker

Reporter/Digital Media for The Sun Times News

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