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CHELSEA, MA-A $100-million ecologically friendly mixed-use project is bringing residents, businesses and nature back to a once contaminated factory site on the Chelsea waterfront. The site, once home to a nine-building printing plant, was contaminated with oil, ink and debris that was killing off birds and fish along its shoreline when Urban Design & Development bought the property in 2004.

Today, after several million dollars in remediation work, including the planting of saltgrass along the tidelands, the heron and egrets are returning and the salt bass that spawn along Mill Creek and the Chelsea River can be seen jumping offshore. By the summer of 2008, the site will also be home to an eclectic mix of environmentally conscious residents.

“It’s been somewhat inspiring,” James Bill, who heads up Urban Design’s sales and marketing team, tells GlobeSt.com.

The biggest change, however, will come in just over a year when the Somerville architectural and development firm, a specialist in brownfield redevelopment, wraps up construction on the first phase of Forbes Park. The mixed-use project will eventually put 350 residential units and about 20,000 sf of office and retail space on a small plot of land off Chelsea’s shore.

Some of the old factory buildings have been demolished to create courtyards for the complex and a freshwater canal system will connect the others. The buildings will be outfitted with ecologically friendly systems, including an electricity-generating turbine and passive heating and cooling systems, that will make the complex almost entirely self-sufficient.

“Everything we build or add has an element of sustainability,” says Bill, noting that the building’s brick and beam interior will feature thermal mass construction to keep the building warm in winter and cool in summer. Specially designed windows will create “air scoops” to cool the summer heat even further without the need for air conditioning.

Aside from its environmental construction, the complex, whose studio one- and two-bedroom units will sell from $250,000 to $400,000, will also offer environmentally friendly transportation via a fleet of electric cars, all powered with free electricity provided by the on-site turbine. A ride-sharing program and shuttle bus to a nearby MBTA station will also be offered and Bill says a water-taxi to take residents to downtown Boston is under consideration.

To help finance the units, Bill says Urban Design will partner with New England Moves and Mass Housing to offer “green mortgages” that allow buyers to qualify for mortgages by counting income that would have normally gone to utility payments.

With environmentally friendly buildings and financing, the project is already gaining interest among buyers, Bill says. So far, he notes, 10 of the first 64 units have been pre-sold.

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