By Seth Daniel
While 2016 was filled with heart wrenching events worldwide, in Everett it was a very hopeful year with scores of uplifting and exciting stories. It was a year that many believe will one day be known as the point in time when the fortunes of the City turned and Everett became not just another neighbor of Boston, but rather a destination for visitors and an exciting address for long-time residents.
As Mayor Carlo DeMaria said at the outset of 2016, and then many times throughout the year, “It’s finally Everett’s time.”
Below are the Independent’s Top 10.1 stories of 2016, with a few honorable mentions thrown in due to the fact that so much happened here in the last 12 months.
- Wynn Boston Harbor resort casino begins construction.
When 16 to 20 cranes began appearing on the Wynn Boston Harbor construction site in early August, things for the casino really began to change. After an exciting construction commencement celebration, work officially starts on Aug. 4. Wynn had inked a contract with general contractor Suffolk Construction on Aug. 3 to complete the $2.1 billion project in 34 months. Crews tore through the slurry wall foundation portion and the digging/cleanup of the underground parking garage – completing that work in early November. Steel was set to arrive on site before the end of the year, with Dec. 27 slated as the day to begin erecting steel. At this point, crews predict they can have the tower done and enclosed by next December.
- The Everett High football team wins the Division 1 Super Bowl.
Casinos and transportation and development might have become hot topics in Everett this year, but nothing in the whole wide world can trump high school football in this city – and that devotion paid dividends this year when the Crimson Tide marched all the way to another Division 1 championship. When August came around, many Tide fans were very optimistic with Senior quarterback Jordan McAfee leading the charge. However, two early losses to Xaverian and Billerica had many wondering. The Tide hit their stride midyear with a gigantic win on Homecoming over St. John’s Prep, and then bringing home another Greater Boston League title. That was followed up by a decisive march through the playoffs, beating teams such as Central Catholic and Andover. They finished strong with a powerful victory over Xaverian in the Division 1 Super Bowl at Manning Field in Lynn on Dec. 3, winning 21-7.
- Slaughterhouse issue baffles, ignites community.
Few people knew at the beginning of 2016 that one of the quirkiest and most important issues of the year would be trying to defeat an animal slaughterhouse on the Parkway. But that’s just what happened.
In October, several contentious City Council meetings unfolded after a proposal to put a slaughterhouse to butcher live chickens and other animals become a very public issue at the Council. Councilors were uniformly against the measure and City inspectors indicated that some rules had been broken in the early going of the project. Councilors eventually voted it down, and are now seeking to change the zoning for the Parkway to prevent any animal slaughterhouses from attempting to locate there in the future.
- Parkway comes alive, maybe leaving behind scrap yard past.
In April, principals of the enVision Boutique Hotel on the Parkway hold a blockbuster ceremony to kick off construction of the new hotel, which figures to restore an old industrial building (formerly Gold’s Gym) into a top-flight, and very unique, hotel. Things didn’t end there, though, as Batch Yard developer Andy Montelli returns to Everett in July with plans to develop the old Boston Harley building into a 284-unit luxury apartment building. The plans are unique in every aspect, inspired by a long trip to Portland, Oregon by the development team to see what is being done there and bring it to Everett. The transformation continued in August when Wood Waste’s ownership proposed to scrap the long-time construction waste yard and replace it with a 660-unit mixed-use campus-style development in its place. That project is still moving through the City’s approval process, but all of them together figure to change another long-forgotten part of Everett. It will be a story to continue watching in 2017.
- Wynn Boston Harbor building permit unlocks $5 million for Everett.
May 6 was the day that the first of what will be millions of dollars started to come to Everett. Following the issuing of the first building permit for the Wynn Boston Harbor casino on May 6, in a small ceremony, Mayor Carlo DeMaria hands over the orange permit, and Wynn Boston Harbor President Bob DeSalvio hands over a $5 million check to Everett. As part of the Host Community Agreement, Wynn was to pay Everett $5 million at the issuance of the permit. The next payments won’t come until 2019 when the doors to the casino open. Much is discussed about what to do with the $5 million, but in November, Mayor DeMaria and the Council agree to give it to the taxpayers – using it all for property tax relief during the setting of the tax rate.
- Fire Chief changes.
Fire Chief David Butler retired in May after 16 years as chief of the department – guiding the City through a very important post-9/11 period where more security and safety measures for Everett’s industrial port become extremely critical. In June, Deputy Chief Tony Carli is elevated as the new chief of Everett Fire.
- Somerville, Boston lose legal fights against Wynn, Everett.
In January, Boston and Wynn Boston Harbor sign a surrounding community agreement (SCA) that ends more than a year of stalemate and ugly litigation between the company and Everett’s neighboring municipality. Strong words are exchanged during the course of 2015 between Wynn, Boston Mayor Martin Walsh and Everett Mayor Carlo DeMaria. All ends well in January 2016 when an agreement is hashed out and Walsh agrees to move on and stop the legal fight.
Just when the hurdles seemed to be cleared for Wynn and Everett with Boston’s surrounding community agreement in January, Somerville enters the fray and files an appeal of the Wynn Chapter 91 Waterways license on Feb. 12. Somerville cites numerous reasons for the appeal, including traffic and environmental concerns, but many believe the move is simply to put a cog in the wheel of the casino. That it does. Wynn halts all construction activities and puts on a hiring freeze in late February that continues all summer long. Some in Everett call for a boycott of Somerville businesses in response. After a series of administrative hearings with the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP), the DEP Commissioner Martin Suuberg sides with Wynn – granting the license in late July. Somerville agrees later to drop all litigation.
- Santilli Highway becomes a place people actually want to go, not avoid.
So many stories have been told about how long-time Everett residents were told to avoid the area along Santilli Highway and Air Force Road. Going there was understood to be hazardous to one’s health. Now, however, the area is one of the most popular spots in Greater Boston – enlivened by the emergence of several breweries and a distillery in the area, not to mention the growing Teddie Peanut Butter Company and the popular Northern Strand Bike Path. While one brewery had been there before, another opened and the distillery became better known. The convergence of all of those things led to numerous exciting events in 2016 and the emergence of a cool spot in Everett that locals flocked to and visitors traveled to from long distances.
- New City Council features new faces, youth.
The Everett City Council had some new faces, and some returning faces at its inauguration in January. Surprising everyone, except his core supporters, was Councilor Wayne Matewsky returning to the Chambers after having topped the at-large ticket. Meanwhile, Councilor Anthony DiPierro and Michael McLaughlin provided the voice of younger people on the Council as well. Councilor Leo McKinnon also was noteworthy in winning re-election despite a tough campaign against Carmine DeMaria, the mayor’s brother. All in all, it was an exciting new group of City leaders that ended up working well together and with the mayor under the leadership of President John Hanlon.
- The Malden River suddenly becomes an important resource.
Few things emerged from out of the blue in 2016 than the newfound advocacy for the Malden River in Everett. The attention to the river began as an offshoot to the activities being discussed on the Mystic River with the Wynn casino. Just around the bend, everyone suddenly remembered, was the picturesque – but contaminated and long ignored, Malden River. Mayor Carlo DeMaria kicks off the effort in January when he proclaims that he wanted to be able to swim and kayak in the river in his lifetime without worry. Advocates in Everett, Malden, Medford and beyond unite in newfound cooperation to begin pushing landowners along the river to open up access. That effort culminated late in the year when the DeMaria and two other mayors unite in calling for National Grid to open up access to the river on its property abutting the river on the Everett/Malden line.
10.1. Tom Stella retires from Everett Public Schools.
Assistant Supt. Tom Stella announced his retirement after more than 40 years with the Everett Public Schools. Stella, a trusted educator in the city and Supt. Fred Foresteire’s right hand man, makes the move official at the end of the year in June.
- Wynn Everett changes its name.
In March, Steve Wynn visited the area to unveil the new name of his Everett resort casino and show off the new, full-scale model of the building. He introduces that the name would go from Wynn Everett to Wynn Boston Harbor. That change was met with more than a little disappointment in Everett, but residents and supporters quickly warmed up to the concept and the new branding.
- Village Fest becomes a major event.
After the inaugural Village Fest in 2015 – which was a reconfigured version of the old City Fest – the new Festival in a newly hip area of Everett (Santilli Highway) grew to draw thousands of people to the family celebration and the musical acts – including headliner Eve 6. The event showed great collaboration and great synergy between Wynn Boston Harbor, the City and the breweries and distilleries that have come to call Everett home in recent years. Mayor Carlo DeMaria promises that next year will be even better.
- Charter Environmental reports to the old Monsanto site, now the Wynn Boston Harbor site, in January to begin the environmental cleanup of the long-polluted site. Work on the cleanup of the worst portions of the contamination proceeded rather quietly, but productively. The clean up of the “hot spots” is done by May.
- Wynn Boston Harbor opens its dynamic construction field office – and future warehouse/greenhouse – on Charlton Street, while also holding a ceremonial steel beam signing.