Chelmsford business owners at crossroads over anticipated Central Square redevelopment

CHELMESFORD – Diana Seremet, owner of Beadles Bead and Crystal Shop, is moving out after 16 years at her store in Central Square.

Seremet said leaving the storefront would be challenging if she had packed “thousands of pounds” of crystals, beads and other merchandise.

“It was very emotional,” Seremet said. “Jack (Handley), the former boss, was like a second dad to me.”

Seremet is one of several business owners in Chelmsford Central Square who need to make a decision: stay or go. That’s because the strip’s new owner, Bobby Moulton of Black Rhinestone Real Estate LLC, has ambitious plans to redevelop 15-22 Central Square, which could force the temporary relocation of shops there.

The initial building concept in August included the creation of 10 residential units on the second floor and two separate spaces for a retailer, restaurant and offices on the ground floor. The planning committee voted last month that the village center footprint was suitable for the project.

“It’s going to bring a whole new concept of community back into town with new businesses, new sidewalks, new green space, all kinds of things,” Moulton said.

The Beadles at 18 Central Square will leave Chelmsford in November. 30. Seremet is shipping her inventory across the border in Nashua, New Hampshire, where she has a store across from the Pheasant Lane Mall. Her new address is 295 Daniel Webster Highway, Unit 5A.

When she heard the news that the building was being sold, Seremet worried that rents would go up, especially after reviewing the project plans. She said her rent is going to go up 25 percent next month, from $2,000 to $2,500, and the construction timeline for the project is unclear.

That’s when, she said, she decided to work on her own time without worrying about possible “diggers” or business interruptions.

“Honestly, my anxiety level got too high to have to make a decision because they had all these different schedules… The thing is, I got tired of not being told the schedule because even though they weren’t building It’s 10 years, and then I’m 10 years older,” Seremet said. “By then I was 50 and I couldn’t move things anymore.”

Handley, who runs Chelmsford gift and card shop at 15 Central Square, will downsize by moving into the Beadles location, which Moulton said is about half the size. Moulton added that the poker store space had the potential to become a brewery because of its “high ceilings, solid foundations, open spaces and good waterways”.

Moulton said he doesn’t intend to hurt existing business owners by increasing rents, saying the company “is not going to raise rents for those tenants.”

“We want (our tenants) to live there long-term, we have no plans to relocate or raise rents … Obviously rents have gone up, but we don’t plan to increase rents significantly based on what we paid for the revitalization of the area,” Moulton said . “We want all of our tenants to be happy and stay the way they are.”

Luciana Calvin runs the photography studio that bears her name at 21 Central Plaza. While she’s in a potential rebuilding zone, Calvin said she’s not too concerned. However, the current building is quite old, so Calvin said she expected a building with a more modern look would in turn cost more to tenants.

“Not sure how much it’s affordable for the price,” Calvin said, “but I hope to stay there after the renovation is done because I think it’s going to look really, really nice.”

Calvin added that the redesign could attract more foot traffic and potential business. She stayed there for about four years.

Since acquiring the building in February 2021, Moulton said he and his team have worked hard to create something “in keeping with the New England charm of central Chelmsford”. A “native-born” Chelmsford resident, Moulton said he hoped the ambitious project would become a reality despite hesitation from some residents.

The projected completion date is unclear as plans are currently stalled — the town’s sewer suspension is posing a challenge, Moulton said.

Chelmsford community development director Evan Belansky said the next step was for the applicant to submit a “comprehensive and detailed proposal plan” to the planning committee, including landscaping, parking, lighting, civil engineering, drainage and more.

“Conceptually, what is proposed is consistent with the master plan on a conceptual level,” Belensky said of the project. “Introducing mixed uses, highlighting the creek, creating brick walks. From a zoning standpoint, the overlay provides that opportunity.”

Belensky said he could not comment specifically on the “tenant relationship” at 15-22 Central Plaza.

Seremet said on Facebook Live that the Beadles’ new store has more than 160 parking spaces and she’s excited to start over in the north.

“It’s a really nice space for us, and it’s really big,” Seremet said of the Nashua location. “We’ll be able to have everything we need in there and then some.”

Handley did not respond to multiple requests for comment.

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