To begin to understand Chelsea, Massachusetts, take a drive from the McArdle Bridge down Marginal Street, past major industries that block views and access to the Chelsea River, known locally as the Chelsea Creek.
Along the water’s edge, you’ll find remnants of industries past transformed into urban beauty. In a swath of green, children are playing in view of tugboats coming up the river. The kids are darting about beneath a metal canopy made from material reclaimed from the oil tanks that used to sit here.
Beauty in the midst of industrial grit. It’s an apt metaphor for a city that was bankrupt two decades ago and nearly annexed by nearby Boston, yet now is tackling urban challenges with innovation and heart. Grassroots activists and policymakers, police officers and business owners, health care officials, and high school students—all are working together to make inroads against substance abuse, pollution, obesity, homelessness, and violence.