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SUMMARY

The proposal to redevelop the 9 Chelsea site in East Boston’s Maverick Square highlights the
limitations of the city’s current approach to planning and development. Many East Boston
residents were initially excited about the possibility of redeveloping and revitalizing an
underutilized corner of Maverick Square, but quickly found that the 9 Chelsea proposal is

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inconsistent with the city’s stated planning goals. A large group of community members have
now mobilized to oppose the proposal and hold public officials accountable.

As the 9 Chelsea proposal illustrates, the city is struggling to implement its planning goals,
particularly when it comes to smaller-scale developments. It’s a problem that extends beyond
East Boston, leading to piecemeal erosion of neighborhood character and inefficient,
irresponsible, and unsustainable growth in neighborhoods across the city.

Below please find additional context and background related to 9 Chelsea as well as a
summary of the proposal’s current status.

Developer: Linear Retail
Current Status: Under BPDA review

The 9 Chelsea site is located in a historic, harborfront business district adjacent to a Blue Line
station. The following goals of the Imagine Boston 2030 Plan are relevant to the site’s
redevelopment:

• Enhancing neighborhood character and public space
• Preserving historic architecture and affirming neighborhood identity
• Encouraging mixed-use housing and job growth in transit-accessible areas
• Preparing for climate change

In contrast, the proposal for the site:

• Detracts from Maverick Square’s character and sense of place with a generic, two-story
retail building better suited to a suburban context than a vibrant, urban square.
• Requires demolition of the townhouses at 144-146 Maverick Street, two of the oldest
and best-preserved buildings in Maverick Square, and seeks to remove a Landmarked street
clock from the site.
• Does not include a residential component, missing an opportunity for mixed-use, transit-
oriented development at a time when additional housing is sorely needed.
• Adheres to the bare minimum energy efficiency standards required by the building
code, does not contribute to neighborhood climate resiliency, and does not mitigate the
increased carbon emissions associated with demolishing and replacing existing buildings.

The BPDA admits that the project does not align with the city’s planning goals, but have stated
that they cannot require the developer to undertake a more ambitious project, particularly with
the outdated, low-density zoning code that is currently in effect.

Community members are particularly concerned with the proposed demolition of the
townhouses at 144-146 Maverick (ca. 1870), some of the only remaining, intact 19th century
architecture in Maverick Square. These buildings provide the community with a connection to
the past and create a unique sense of place. They also have the potential to contribute to the
Square’s future economic vibrancy in ways that newer buildings will not.

Status of demolition proposal:

• Landmarks Commission determined that the townhouses at 144-146 Maverick are
significant and preferably preserved, invoking a 90 day demolition delay, which expires Nov.
20th.
• Boston’s demolition delay ordinance is significantly weaker than neighboring towns and
cities, most of which require a 12-18 month delay for significant buildings.
• Developer has proposed demolishing the buildings, not because they are structurally
deficient, but because they view them as inconvenient.

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• Developer has indicated that they will proceed with demolition of the townhouses upon
expiration of the demolition delay.
• Developer is seeking approval from the Landmarks Commission to remove a
Landmarked street clock from the site. If approval is not granted, the building will need to be
redesigned to accommodate the clock.
• BPDA has indicated that they will not approve the project until the clock issue is
resolved, which is unlikely to occur before expiration of the demolition delay on Nov. 20th.
• It is possible, therefore, that the developer will demolish the site’s historic townhouses
without having BPDA approval or a finalized plan for the site.
• When asked about demolition of the townhouses, Mayor Walsh stated that he will
“stand with the community” but it remains to be seen if he will personally intervene.

 

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