What's Ahead for Chelsea in 2023? Leaders speak out.
The City of Chelsea presented its 2023 initiatives at the council's Visioning Session on February 16. The meeting was held at Silver Maples and open to the public.
City Manager Roy Atkinson is in his first year on the job and opened the meeting by thanking the council and city staff. "I want to thank everyone for their hard work. They're my rock, and we wouldn't be able to do our great things in this community without their efforts."
Here are a few highlights from the presentation.
Atkinson explained the importance of reactivating the city's Economic Development Corporation (EDC) as a catalyst to keep businesses engaged and attract new ones. He also wants to create an attractive corridor with public art, landscaping, and signage to draw visitors downtown from the expressway.
Mayor Pacheco noted ongoing conversations with peer communities with an economic development driver called "Main Street America" that promotes the downtown area. She also noted the Chelsea Chamber of Commerce's vital role in downtown development. "Our chamber has been really our de facto economic development organization," she said.
Chelsea has submitted a "Trail Town" application to the DNR. The designation would showcase Chelsea's quality trail town experience and highlights its strategic location to regional trail systems such as the Border-to-Border, DTE Energy Foundation, Mike Levine Lakelands, Great Lake to Lake, and the Potawatomi.
Parks & Recreation
Community Development Director Adrianna Jordan updated the Main Street Park initiative. The Main Street Park Alliance (MSPA) is working with the city and community leaders to redevelop the blighted Federal Screw Works property downtown into a city park. MSPA is applying for an EGLE grant to fund ground capping and remediation. The cost to replace the topsoil is approximately $700,00, the group's grant request. If granted, remediation would potentially begin in February 2024.
MSPA is vapor testing underground storage tanks to determine if they are filled with concrete or must be removed. The alliance is also completing phases one and two of a Baseline Environmental Assessment. MSPA and the city are working on a non-binding letter that, should the alliance complete cleaning the site, it could eventually be transferred to the city for recreational use.
Manager Atkinson updated the Timber Town Park project. In the works for the park are structural upgrades, paved parking, ADA accessibility, improved lighting and bathrooms, potential pickleball courts, and B2B Trail signage. The park has already been designated as an official B2B Trailhead.
Mayor Pacheco reported that two sites are being considered for a community center. 1) Construction of a new facility at the corner of Freer and Trinkle. 2) A community coalition effort for a potential redevelopment of the Chelsea Wellness Center.
"There has been a lot of activity going on in terms of new housing developments going through the planning process," said Director Jordan.
With all projects considered, Jordan explained the potential for 169 new "For Sale" units and 51 "For Rent" units by 2024. When the developments are completed in 2028, the projects could yield 372 "For Sale" units and 51 "For Rent" units for 423 potential new housing units.
"I think what is great about these new building options is the mix of housing types," commented Jordan. "All of these support a wide range of lifestyles and budgets."
Director Jordan reported on developing projects, beginning with the Rockwell Building project. The Rockwell Building is a 43,000-square-foot industrial building constructed in 1909. The historic building will be converted into 51 market-rate apartments. Rent will be set between $1,100 and $1,600 a month.
The Glen at Westchester development will have 96 market-rate condos with prices expected to be low $300,000s. Construction is scheduled to begin this summer.
The Wolf development on the corner of Old US12 and Freer will be a mixed-use development with 67 single-family units, 73 townhomes, and 32 ranch-attached units. Approximately 80,000 square feet of medical office space will be split between two buildings.
Heritage Homes is a six-phase, 231-unit condominium complex on 105 acres on the north side of Dexter-Chelsea Road. Jordan stated that before the final site plan was approved, the developers agreed to conduct a traffic impact study. If approved, construction is expected to begin this summer.
Lincoln Point is a cluster development of five single-family homes on 10.5 acres. Prices will begin in the upper $300,000s.
"We’re at an inflection point in our city’s history,” commented Atkinson. “We have so much interest right now in housing development. Smart growth is going to be absolutely important as we move forward.”
Mayor Pacheco added that a significant element of all development conversations is the impact on traffic, an issue in which the city is getting neighboring townships involved.
Speaking for School Superintendent Mike Kapolka, who could not attend the meeting, Atkinson said school enrollment has remained stable from the past year at around 2,300 students. Projections show that number will steadily increase over the next five years.
“One of the biggest challenges for the school district is to invite families in at a price point that they can actually afford to live in our community,” said Mayor Pacheco. “We’re constantly being mindful about the diversity of available housing.”
“We do have a unique, characteristic, vibrant community, and we want to maintain that,” added the Mayor. “We’re also surrounded by pristine agriculture and recreational gems. We want to preserve that. We need to be talking and coordinating with all stakeholders to have the best plan to preserve our natural lands and put density where it is best.”
Chelsea Utilities Director Ray Schmidt updated the group on the industrial park substation rebuild. It is one of the city’s three electrical substations and the last to be upgraded. The $3.25 million project will almost entirely be new construction for the substation, save for a few components.
“This will increase our capacity and redundancy,” said Schmidt. “This will be the first time in Chelsea's history that we'll be able to shut down one of the three substations and run the town with the other two.”
Manager Atkinson commented that the city would be commissioning a utility rate study. Chelsea residents have not experienced a utility rate increase for years. Atkinson noted that any increase would be incremental.
He also said the city would implement a smart water and electricity metering system. Instead of manually reading the meters, it could be done via computer. He expects a grant to pay for half of the $600,000 price tag for the new metering system.
Atkinson concluded his remarks with a general invitation to the public. “Bring us all of your ideas. Be creative. If it's a crazy idea, bring it. We want to hear it because that's how we get ahead.”
Councilmember Wiseley noted that it is a credit to Chelsea that such an invitation can be made. “I think we're down to small stuff like that because we live in a fantastic city in a good part of the world.”
“We are building on decades of people's hard work to make it that way,” said Mayor Pacheco. “We're shepherding that, and we are responsible for looking into the future, right?”
One audience member capped off the evening by saying, “We're all privileged to live in Chelsea, and Chelsea is an amazing place. That's why we all live here, and that's why it's super expensive to live here. But can we do better? Can we have a better place? Can we make everything the best it possibly can be? We can. We can always do better.”