Chelsea DDA – Palmer Lot and Master Plan

By Seth Kinker,

On July 19 the Chelsea Downtown Development Authority (CDDA) discussed a revised schedule to the Palmer Lot Project. Despite weekly project meetings with the developers, City Manager John Hanifan was informed on July 12 that the project wouldn’t be completed upon its original date of July 3.

Hanifan noted that there were no significant change orders that should have altered the project’s timeline. One variable noted from M.C. Smith, the contractor on the project, the weather was a factor.

Jennifer Fairfield, Vice President of the CDDA, questioned why weather was a factor when there hadn’t been any substantial rain in about a month. When Hanifan answered that there wasn’t a good explanation, Fairfield noted that she was hesitant to with work them or any builder moving forward without a penalty/clause for lateness.

Tim Merkel, President of the CDDA, asked if MC Smith had someone on the site, Hanifan responded that after the weekly project meeting had asked the direct question of “why not?” when being told that the Palmer Lot project wouldn’t be completed on time.

“(It’s) the biggest project the DDA has undertaken since I’ve been on the board in several years,” said Merkel. “While delays are not unusual, it’s still unnerving,”

There is hope that the project would be completed by the end of August, with a soft opening coming by the time of the fair parade.

After looking at budget updates for the project, the DDA collectively agreed that they wanted better communication from the developer moving forward.

The silver lining for the uncompleted project? Despite the frustration of the delays, Hanifan noted that the project is still on budget, moving forward in progress, and has no long periods of inactivity.

Strategic Outline

On July 12 the DDA met for a work session, outlining a new strategic plan for the CDDA. They identified items that needed to be addressed and prioritized. The discussion continued at the July 19 CDDA meeting.

Doris Galvin, CDDA member, talked about the need for balance. Understanding the debt schedule and prioritizing decisions, she noted that lack of sufficient funds shouldn’t mean a lack of planning. How to figure that out, coordinate, and still be relevant with the city planning process is something that she said still wasn’t clear to her or the city, but that it was very relevant in the symbiotic relationship that the CDDA has with the City.

Fairfield stated the importance of knowing what do with the money that comes in for the DDA funding before it gets to them.

Operations and maintenance were a heavy topic of discussion. Chelsea DDA members talked about sidewalks in need of repairs, city lights, trees, signage that need to be updated, adding more garbage cans, and other parts of town that they saw needed attention.

Hanifan noted that if there was anything specific that was a glaring issue, maintenance requests were available on the city website and that they would be addressed promptly.

With operation and maintenance being identified as something they’ll look at first, the CDDA planned to use the next 30 days to look around the city themselves and report back at their next meeting as they continue to work on strategic planning.

Seth Kinker

Reporter/Digital Media for The Sun Times News

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