A Community Connects in the Chelsea Box District
Sep 11, 2013
Chelsea’s Gerrish Avenue used to be a dangerous place, a street mothers told their children to avoid. Run-down homes and vacant lots dotted the landscape, and next-door neighbors were often total strangers. Now, the neighborhood is thriving thanks to one developer’s commitment to affordable housing and one bank’s commitment to connecting the developer and its tenants to financial services.
Chelsea Box District was named for the box manufacturing companies that opened at the beginning of the 20th century and closed in the 1950s. In 2005, The Neighborhood Developers (TND) started to revive the area. They built affordable homes and created a sense of community. Eight years later, TND has constructed 110 apartments, and a public park, a place where mothers encourage their children to play, and brought in a private developer to build 152 apartments.
TND Executive Director Ann Houston believes that neighborhoods start with housing, but thrive only when communities do. “People are isolated,” Houston said. “And everyone's hungry for connection. And so, we began to understand that the foundation of really stable, strong neighborhoods was that connection – neighbor to neighbor.”
Bank of America has been a partner to TND since the company’s founding in 1979. Most recently, the bank worked with the developer on its newest multifamily housing development, Highland Terrace, which created 32 affordable rental apartments for families. It’s the third property the bank has financed for TND and the first in Chelsea Box District.
Bank of America’s involvement didn’t stop at financing. The bank also supports TND’s signature program, CONNECT, which provides residents with job training and placement services, as well as financial education. Another program, Neighborhood Circles, encourages residents to invite 10 of their neighbors to a series of dinners, so everyone knows who lives next door.
The connections TND forged with partners like Bank of America helped it to endure the economic downtown. “When your banker is someone who you know fundamentally shares the value of creating good community, it makes it possible to work through those hitches together,” said Houston. Today, TND is credited for turning a downtrodden neighborhood into a symbol of Chelsea’s revitalization.
“You can put up bricks and mortar, but that’s bricks and mortar,” said Elizabeth Gruber, TND’s Client Manager at Bank of America. “It’s really more about the connections that people make when they have the opportunity to do so. Having safe, clean, affordable housing is really the building block for what happens next.”