Almost every five years or so, someone proclaims the imminent “renaissance” of Chelsea, or the renaissance of some other hapless city or neighborhood that, on a one-dimensional map, seems to theoretically have a lot of potential.
Remember all the old decades-long talk about how Central Square and Kenmore Square were on the cusp of a “renaissance” too? Central Square eventually got there, after a few decades of fits-and-starts improvements. Kenmore Square never quite got there, partly because of the disappointing T-stop renovation and the dizzying changes to the streetscape.
Revere, Everett and Lynn are other cities that always seem to be on the verge of a “renaissance,” but never get there.
But Chelsea? This time it might be different for Chelsea, an old industrial city that’s also had its share of “renaissance” predictions.
Why is it different this time? Because there seems to be an honest-to-goodness mix of development going on in Chelsea, as the Globe points out: A new FBI fortress complex, two new hotels, a handful of large apartment-building complexes – with possibly thousands of additional housing units on the way.
The biggest and most convincing argument that this revitalization is real and probably sustainable: The prices of housing in Boston, Cambridge, Somerville etc. are just too high and show no signs of easing up, while land and housing in Chelsea is comparatively cheap, though much of that land needs to be environmentally cleaned up after decades of industrial use.
Another big plus: Chelsea’s close proximity to Boston and its downtown attractions.
All of this won’t lead to a “renaissance” of Chelsea. It will probably retain a lot of its hardscrabble edge — which isn’t such a bad thing, btw — as only a few of its neighborhoods are transformed into an urban oasis for professionals.
But it is indeed a new real estate frontier that could end up producing thousands of desperately needed housing units in the Boston area.
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Updated: November 2018