By Steven Fletcher
Roughly 18 percent of the buildings among Gloucester's industrial properties sit either vacant or only partially utilized, according to a property survey done by the city's Economic Development and Industrial Corporation.
Now, the city is working on a plan to fill them.
In its study, the EDIC, a quasi-public corporation that founded and developed Blackburn Industrial Park, among other projects, found roughly 100 vacant or underutilized industrial properties from Blackburn to the working waterfront to the Cape Ann Industrial Park on Kondelin Road.
That's out of the city's total 554 industrial properties, according to minutes from the City Council Planning and Development committee.
The survey was undertaken with an eye toward indexing available properties, said EDIC Vice Chairman Barry Pett, and help companies that want to set up or expand in Gloucester find a place to do so.
"We were looking at where the city could possibly go to expand commercial and industrial tax base and job base," Pett said.
The EDIC conducted the vacant properties survey at the request of Councilor and Planning and Development subcommittee Chairman Bruce Tobey.
The survey's numbers, said Pett, still need to be refined. And right now, said Pett, vacant industrial lots are virtually non-existent in the two industrial parks.
But the survey, he said, looks at what space is open, and found a number of buildings with vacant space to hold additional businesses.
The EDIC's second initiative, he said, is looking at creating industrial space behind Cape Ann Industrial Park. But, he added, that would seem to require an exit from Route 128, and a state study to see if such an exit would work.
The industrial space, which could be a third industrial park, would provide space for a major company, something the size of Varian Semiconductor Associates or Gloucester Engineering. Right now, Pett said, the city doesn't have room to accommodate an incoming industrial company of that size.
"Without a way to grow we stagnate," Pett said. "We can't do it just on the waterfront (tax base.)"
Filling current space, said Tobey, will require some aggressive followup with owners. The city and the EDIC he said, have to come together with a plan to reach out to the property owners and businesses looking to fill the space.
"(We need to say), 'We're here to worth with you, engage with us,'" he said.
Gloucester set up the EDIC in 1977 and the corporation is tasked with promoting economic development in the city by attracting new industries and expanding the industrial capacity of the city.
EDIC Executive Director Alan "Chip" Hagstrom could not be reached for comment on this story. But, at the Planning and Development Subcommittee meeting on April 4, Hagstrom reported he has sent a letter to industrial property owners about the survey and will work them into the database.
When the EDIC compiles the database, Pett said, it will use it as a resource to connect companies with real estate agents and property owners.
The EDIC, he said, doesn't have any intention of getting into the real estate or marketing business.
Steven Fletcher may be contacted at 1-978-283-7000 x3455, or email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter at @stevengdt.