, Gloucester, MA

February 4, 2013

Letter: Let state fish pier be model for I-4, C-2

Gloucester Daily Times

---- — To the editor:

It may be surprising to many living in “America’s Oldest Seaport,” but as a community we own next to no property on our Inner Harbor.

Without any such public infrastructure, it is therefore very difficult to effectively influence — if not lead — this port’s economic future.

Fortunately, the 2010 acquisition of the 1.8-acre I-4, C-2 property on Rogers Street between the Building Center and The Gloucester House restaurant has put us into a position to demonstrate unambiguously how to enhance jobs and the tax base in this port with 21st-century opportunities. For the first time in decades, this community can leverage this premium piece of public infrastructure to aggressively determine our ocean-centric future by helping incubate again and again advanced ocean-centric ventures to spread all over our Inner Harbor.

How or why to do this? Use the well-established model of a publicly-owned mini marine-industrial park:

The state-owned and vital Jodrey State Fish Pier complex:

Is publicly owned and managed;

Was built via a collaborative funding stream;

Has a continuing mission to serve the Inner Harbor’s economic interest;

Contains a complex of industrial structures on land, along with a dedicated commercial-fleet-only marina (actually like I-4-C-2’s smaller docking space). Both of those elements are accessible by matching marine-industrial and scientific ventures and projects, under short- and long-term lease-conditions.

Has the state retaining active public control over it to help guide the port’s future.

The Inner Harbor would seem inconceivable today without this publicly-owned infrastructure asset, with both buildings and marina typically well booked across the cycles of this port economy. Yet, downtown, on a footprint that is actually unmatched on the Inner Harbor, a multi-purpose ‘I-4, C-2 ocean innovation campus approach would very much follow this well-established legal and operational precedent. Our city-owned facility could:

Offer a large unobstructed water’s-edge floor plan on which to pursue a range of mid-size to large boat- and other many other marine-industrial and -scientific construction-projects;

Be supported by laboratory and office spaces;

Feature vocational-technical capabilities to train the next generation toward ocean-centric careers;

Offer a unique working-port tourism observation deck above the industrial pursuits;

Include a roof-top community park overlooking the Inner Harbor.

This site is the sole such property on Gloucester’s working waterfront that offers us the unprecedented ability to actively help address the 21st-century needs of ocean-centric industries. And the smarter those marine-industrial and scientific initiatives, the greater the jobs and tax revenue we stand to yield.

To have this community effectively lead our Port’s future with advanced initiatives, the State Fish Pier Mini-Industrial Park is the proven publicly-led economic development model for I-4, C-2.

Using this template immediately reduces the challenges of putting together multiple potent funding-streams, particularly in these austere times. This approach allows us to build a business plan with state and federal partners to make that site serve this port economy in ways possibly more intriguing and potent yet than the state fish pier.

While some believe that someone somewhere will hopefully come forward to ‘help us’, the obvious alternative is for us to actively ‘hands-on’ shape the future of this port ourselves by using this rare piece of public infrastructure to draw in ocean-centric R&D funding, -start-ups, building a reputation as the “go-to” port.

Instead of looking for so-called bankable proposals for I-4, C-2, let’s use the proven state fish pier model as the least risky and most controllable and thus most effective approach for the future of I-4, C-2.

The port’s future is at stake.