GloucesterTimes.com, Gloucester, MA

October 21, 2012

Letter: A marine 'campus' option for I-4, C-2


Gloucester Daily Times

---- — To the editor:

Owning I-4, C-2 is a unique opportunity for this community to demonstrate unambiguously to the world that Gloucester is indeed a port economy moving forward in the 21st century.

Between downtown and the harbor, and with its broad footprint featuring over 220-feet of working waterfront right on Harbor Cove, it is Gloucester’s best location for a dedicated marine-industrial and marine-scientific “ocean innovation campus.” Here in the port’s heart, ocean-centered jobs training, all levels of related research, and most importantly well-paying full-time jobs have to be pursued with determination by all of us.

Between Gov. Deval Patrick’s emphasis on boosting vocational- and community-college training, and our schools’ growing STEM-curriculum (science, technology, engineering, math), an I-4, C-2 ocean innovation campus would offer a dense industrial cluster of concurrent vocational and commercial work actually unique in this commonwealth.

For sound fiscal sustainability, a significant part of the site would be dedicated to building advanced fuel-efficient boats, first for the nation’s fishing-operations, then whale-watching and party-fishing-boat owners, governmental research-craft, and finally this the world’s largest pleasure-boat market.

Drawing on these industrial manpower demands and its opportunities for direct hands-on full-immersion training, that site could become the North Shore Vocational Technical School District’s “saltwater campus,” offering right on this working waterfront a broad ocean-centric curriculum for internships, apprenticeships, life-long careers.

Collaborating with the state under the Designated Port Area guidelines, this 21st-century re-establishment of a vital port industry would in-source jobs and income, add industrial diversity and tax-base to the port – and become a distinct working-port tourism attraction.

What would such a facility look like? On the City’s website under the Community Development tab, and then under the I-4, C-2 design submissions, you’ll find the “Boatyard” proposal with renderings illustrating every detail. It was conceived by Phil Bolger & Friends Inc., boat designers of Gloucester since 1952, and drawn by Michael David Rubin, Harvard-trained Architect & Planner, CSI/LEED-AP, also of Gloucester and a long-serving volunteer on our planning and permitting boards.

Across four levels in one larger building we combine boat construction — and related training — of hulls up to a lean 150 feet on an open, unobstructed shop floor plan of nearly180 by nearly 120 feet, with two office/laboratory suites upstairs, and multi-level facilities for tourists to observe all stages of building boats — with all this covered by a community rooftop garden full of volunteer-based botanical displays, art-installations, small performance spaces and solid security after hours, all overlooking the harbor.

This innovation magnet on I-4, C-2 would attract like-minded scientists and entrepreneurs to Gloucester and produce multiple spinoff ventures on now under-utilized properties along the Inner Harbor, eventually making Gloucester a go-to ocean-centric commercial and scientific destination where you’d exchange 5-to-7-plus-digit payments for advanced craft and scientific expertise. And right on the Harbor Walk, it would indeed be a working port tourism destination unique on the East-Coast.

How to get this off the ground?

The other day, during her keynote address at the Gulf of Maine Research Institute’s Conference on “Innovations in Fisheries,” Mayor Kirk mentioned the recent model of collaboration between the federal government (the Navy) the state (the Department of Marine Fisheries), and the city in order to distribute fiscal burdens and the inherent risks of the experiment of building a modest but advanced boat with local untrained labor.

Here on I-4, C-2, linking voc-tech-training to ongoing, serious ocean-centric commerce and science invites pulling together a broad coalition of interested agencies to first establish the campus, and then see it come to support itself by a growing client-base ordering boats and drawing on ocean-centered scientific expertise.

SUSANNE ALTENBURGER

Atlantic Street, Gloucester

Phil Bolger & Friends boat designers