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Chelsea is a small city of 1.86 square miles bordering the City of Boston to the northeast. Immediate access to Chelsea is provided by the Mystic River Bridge which serves as a major thoroughfare to the cities of Revere and Lynn to the north. Chelsea has a current population of approximately 27,000 persons in relation to a 1970 Census level of 30, 625. Chelsea has traditionally served as a gateway for recent immigrant populations. Currently, the city's Spanish-speaking population is estimated to be about 5,000 persons. Chelsea has the second highest population density among all the cities and towns in Massachusetts; exclusive of the Chelsea Hospital land and the oil storage areas, Chelsea may have the highest density in the State. The Chelsea municipal facilities such as schools, water lines and sewer facilities require substantial upgrading, apparently well beyond the current tax capacity of the city.
The Chelsea Naval Hospital (established in 1823) has served as a regional hospital for all Defense activities in the Boston area and as a specialized teaching hospital for the Navy. The Navy Blood Research Laboratory is located at the hospital. At the time of the closure announcement, 321 DoD civilian personnel were employed, of which 50 were residents of the surrounding city itself. The closure of the Shipyard and other Boston area activities will affect another 92 civilian employees resident in the city of Chelsea. The closure announcement reflects a December 1974 termination date. Actual patient care will be provided through May 1974, with the actual closure occurring as early as September 1974.
The closure impact from the Naval Hospital is an integral element in the overall Boston regional impact and will be treated further in the Boston area analysis,
At the request of the mayor, EAC representatives met with the City Board of Aldermen on May 7 to explain the adjustment process in detail. The City of Chelsea will be represented on the Boston Area Task Force of the Commonwealth Conversion Commission. EAC assistance to Chelsea will recognize
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the importance of securing optimum land use for the overall Boston area and in strengthening the tax base for the city, presently limited to 1. 42 of the city's 1.86 square miles.
Early release of 9,000 square feet of hospital space has been requested in behalf of the city for an outpatient clinic. An overall consultant land use study ($55,000) through EDA has been approved for the three major DoD properties in the Boston area. This study will address the most productive use of the non-hospital land at the Naval Hospital. A $10,000 consultant study is also being arranged for optimum civilian hospital use for the existing facilities. Staffing and planning assistance for the city is being provided through the Commonwealth Conversion Commission, using the EAC resources provided for this purpose.
Disposition of DoD Property:
Pursuant to Section 2662, Title 10, United States Code, the Department of the Navy has submitted a disposal report to the Armed Services Committees of the Congress which provides for the excessing of all 88.0 acres at the Chelsea Naval Hospital. Assuming no objection to the report on the part of the Congress, the excess land and buildings will be disposed of in accordance with the Federal Property and Administrative Services Act of 1949, as amended. The Chelsea Hospital facilities contain seventy buildings and supporting structures. Approximately 40-50 acres of undeveloped land are available at the Hospital. The Chelsea Hospital has been nominated to the National Register of Historic Places.
The availability of the Chelsea Naval Hospital facilities may represent a landmark opportunity for solving the major urban problems of the city of Chelsea. Heavy demand is expected for the residential development of the non-hospital land at the Chelsea site. Proper development could raise the overall tax base and basic income level of the city. The availability of basic hospital equipment as a related element to the physical structures will permit the early conversion of the Naval Hospital to civilian uses (under public benefit allowance to the city or State), despite the obvious age of the current structures.
The City of Chelsea, however, reflects a number of almost insurmountable problems. Virtually all of the city school structures were constructed prior to 1900. The most recent addition to the city high school (constructed in 1926) was damaged last year by fire and a portion has simply been closed off to use. Approximately one-third of the city fire hydrants do not have sufficient water pressure to contain a major fire. Approximately 25 million gallons of oil are moved through the city daily, thereby compounding the fire hazard. The city water lines are in disrepair and substantial upgrading will be required in order to develop the non-hospital land at the Chelsea site. Ina dequate tidal gates and sewage treatment facilities have permitted the dumping of approximately 125,000 gallons of sewage into the Mystic River daily.
An initial adjustment staff has just been retained by the Conversion Commission for the city of Chelsea. The city has received a number of inquiries from developers interested in the non-hospital land areas. A full EAC team visit to the Boston area is scheduled for October 1973 following completion of the major land use study and the Chelsea Hospital re-use consultant studies. During this visit, the specific community development requirements necessary for the conversion of the Chelsea Hospital facilities will be addressed in detail with the city and the Boston Area Conversion Task Force.
Chicopee is located in southwestern Massachusetts, bordered by West Springfield and Holyoke on the west, South Hadley and Granby on the north, Ludlow on the east, and Springfield on the south. These communities form part of the Springfield-Chicopee-Holyoke, Massachusetts - Connecticut SMSA. Chicopee is 93 miles from Boston, 140 miles from New York City, and 90 miles from Albany, New York.
The announced closure of Westover Air Force Base (located partly in the City of Chicopee and partly in the Town of Ludlow) by June 1974, will cause dislocation of 4,014 military and 492 civilian jobs. The loss will tend to worsen an already serious unemployment situation in the area. Unemployment in the Springfield labor market area stood at 6.8% in December 1972 and at 7.2% in March 1973.
In addition to the employment impact, it is anticipated that the closure of the Base will also have an impact on the local housing market. Some 1300 military households reside off base, about 5060% of these in the City of Chicopee, and the departure of these families is expected to have an impact on an already soft rental market. At the Base, 864 housing units out of a total of 1,568 units of military family housing are expected to be added to the supply of civilian housing in the area.
At the request of Congressmen Boland and Conte, the Office of Economic Adjustment and Air Force representatives met with the Congressmen, other representatives of the Congressional delegation, Mayor Edward Ziemba of Chicopee and other area leaders in Washington on April 18, 1973 to explain the Air Force action contemplated at Westover and to outline the economic adjustment assistance available to Chicopee and other communities in the area through the President's Economic Adjustment Committee. It was agreed at this meeting that an early EAC team visit to the area would be scheduled. A partial EAC team, consisting of representatives of the Office of
Economic Adjustment, Air Force, the General Services Administration and the Department of Health, Education and Welfare, visited Chicopee, Ludlow and Westover Air Force Base on May 10-11, 1973. The team met with officials of the City of Chicopee and the Town of Ludlow, and representatives of other cities and towns in the area were also represented at the meeting in Chicopee. A combined reconnaissance visit and EAC team visit is scheduled for July 25-27, 1973.
The program is still in the organizational and planning stage. A seventeen-man task force has been appointed by the Governor to represent the region in determining the nature of the economic adjustment program to be undertaken in cooperation with the EAC, including utilization of any excess DoD property at the Base. To assist with the planning function, EDA FY 73 funding in the amount of $45,000 has been arranged for the City of Chicopee on behalf of all of the communities in the area. The technical assistance fund will be devoted primarily to a reutilization study for excess portions of the base and an industrial district plan.
The team visit to the Chicopee area on July 25-27, will initiate economic analysis of the area by the Office of Economic Adjustment and provide the first opportunity for the EAC team to exchange views with the regional task force on the nature of the economic adjustment program to be undertaken.
Disposition of DoD Property
The April 17, 1973 DoD announcement called for closure of Westover Air Force Base, except for Reserve activities and some limited active Air Force requirements. In the course of the May 10-11 EAC team visit to the area, the Air Force gave local leaders a preliminary view of the land and buildings that would probably be declared
This preliminary view indicated that about one-third of the Base acreage, consisting of two parcels one at either side of the Base and located partly in Chicopee and partly in Ludlow - might become excess and be reported to the General Services Administration for disposal. Final determination of the on-going military requirement for property at Westover is expected by the end of July 1973.