North Bellingham Hill Action Plan – Chelsea, MA

More from MA

Project at a Glance

  • Issue Area Economic development, Housing, Neighborhood improvement
  • Engagement Approaches Community conversations/dialogues, Engaging non-English speakers
Project Description

This content is available to members only. Members, please log in below to view! Not a member? Join us now to unlock this and other exceptional content.


Using the assets of the community to bring in outside financial capital and begin to redevelop in a way meaningful to the residents to combat the foreclosure and housing crisis.


Strengthen the partnership between residents, the city and other stakeholders to build upon its new leadership to encourage the physical and social transformation of the neighborhood.



The Neighborhood Developers (TND), a community development organization overseen by residents as the catalysts for rebuilding of the entire Shurtleff-Bellingham neighborhood and the bringing of social and financial capital to its residents. Assist residents with needs they identified through various civic engagement strategies.


Civic Engagement Strategies

TND utilized NeighborCircles as a strategy to build community and increase civic engagement. Those NeighborCircles have and continue to successfully engage very diverse neighbors and have served to bridge cultural and language divides in a neighborhood which is 2/3 minority. When the recession and the related home foreclosure crisis hit the neighborhood, TND heard from residents organized through NeighborCircles that foreclosed and vacant properties were destabilizing their strained neighborhood even more.  As the foreclosure rate climbed to 10% of the units in a four-block sub-neighborhood, known as North Bellingham Hill, fears were that the entire neighborhood would be overrun with the multitude of problems foreclosures bring upon properties and neighborhoods.

The North Bellingham Hill Action Plan was crafted emphasizing a bottom-up participatory methodology, dedicated to engaging low-income and minority residents in municipal and community decision-making on issues that matter to resident quality of life.  Ideas and initiatives were generated by residents and community leaders at a series of four participatory charrettes, conducted in multiple languages, which provided an engaging process for residents to share their opinions and to hear the concerns of others. Those concerns about vacant buildings harboring illegal activities soon turned into a community-wide discussion about household financial stability, parking, safety, trash, speeding cars and the need for open space.

In total, 100+ diverse stakeholders representing residents, CBOs, TND, the City (including the city manager and a majority of the City Council), and the Police Department (including the police chief) participated in jointly forging the North Bellingham Hill Action Plan.  The final plan was a community compact with action items that each partner committed to implement.

Outcomes Summary

The TND-initiated North Bellingham Hill Action Plan in 2009 secured resources which led to improvements of the streets, sewer and water, lighting and trees, a neighborhood park, traffic calming, cleaner streets, recycling, housing quality and civic engagement in North Bellingham Hill. It also had a spill-over impact in the adjacent sub-neighborhood, fostering two programs (CET & CONNECT). CET has organized and implemented the community cleanliness campaign which included community organizing, community education and outreach, and local advocacy to change trash and recycling procedures and outcomes in Chelsea.  Six community organizations co-located to form CONNECT, a financial opportunity center to provide services for neighborhood residents to increase their financial stability and economic security. Results are high for participants when financial coaching plus two other services is accessed, 76 percent see increases in at least one key financial milestone.

The results were many and included:

  • The investment of $12 million in public and private money in housing, infrastructure improvements and services that directly align with resident priorities;
  • The civic engagement of residents by joining City-sponsored Trash and Traffic Task Forces resulting in new parking, traffic calming and trash collection policies and ordinances for the neighborhood and the entire community;
  • The undertaking of a City-conducted, geographically-targeted code enforcement pilot to address quality of life issues and building code violations. The effort led to a 90% cure rate in ticket citations and is now the basis for a permanent enforcement plan for the entire community and being studied for implementation elsewhere;
  • A resident-driven cleanliness campaign implemented by the Community Enhancement Team (CET), comprised of residents who gained great confidence in their effort to impact their neighborhood and community, resulting in those residents becoming more engaged in other community activities. (A success of CET is that one of its lead activists was hired by the City and he has coordinated a citywide trash and recycling effort which has improved the city and earned him an “All-Chelsea Award.”); and
  • The creation of CONNECT, a one-stop financial opportunity center that increases at least one key financial milestone for 76 percent of participants


Local Contact:

Additional Resources:

Explore More Innovations From Communities Across the Country and Down the Road

See All Projects
View All

Thank You to Our Key Partners