With the former Birdseye building still largely derelict on Commerical Street, city officials said Tuesday they're hopeful that the site's new owner, a limited liability corporation headed by New Balance shoes founder and Bay View resident Jim Davis, will breath some life into the historic industrial property.
The company, Beach Front Gloucester Commercial LLC, does not have any plans in motion for the property — yet — said Sheree DeLorenzo, the LLC's project manager for the site and chief proprietor of Cruiseport Gloucester. But the company trucked out a few storage tanks and other material last week, and DeLorenzo said the company was cleaning up the building.
While Beach Front Gloucester hasn't announced any development plans, she said, Davis and Co. look forward to working with the city.
"We would like to work with the neighborhood and the city of Gloucester to bring about positive change," she said.
Beach Front Gloucester bought the property in July for $6.5 million from Gloucester developer Mac Bell. Bell purchased the site for $2.25 million in 2009. He turned the property over after a year-long sparring match with residents in the Fort neighborhood and with city government,
The site stretches along the west side of Commercial Street from Commercial Court — effectively the driveway into the Cape Ann Chamber of Commerce parking lot, to the intersection with Fort Square. And the deal includes all sections of the Birdseye building. Nancy Papows, the city's principal assessor, said the deed didn't include any additional property. Bell's office declined to comment on the matter.
Bell's Pavilion Mercato LLC and Davis' Beach Front Gloucester Commercial LLC, had reached a tentative agreement for the historic industrial site in early June. Now, DeLorenzo said, Beach Front Gloucester aims to turn it into a multi-use development that could have a hotel and other commercial space, provided the area undergoes a re-zoning to allow a hotel. The site is currently zoned for marine industry, and proposals to rezone the site are the primary concerns that have stymied both Bell and the previous owner, Peter Maggio.
A multi-use facility, open to conference centers and hotels, is exactly what some city officials are looking for.
A facility like that would offer another incentive for marine research and development companies to build along the city's waterfront, said Gloucester's community development director, Sarah Garcia.
"They want to bring people in and showcase their work," she said.
She said she'd like to see the project aimed at business interests, rather than tourism, for what it could bring to the city's harbor.
Garcia said the Birdseye building is suited to touch on and boost all three legs of Gloucester's economic tripod — built on fishing, maritime development and tourism.
"It makes sense to have a downtown location with a large property that could accommodate small business groups," Bob Hastings, executive director of the Cape Ann Chamber of Commerce, said Tuesday.
He said the development group behind the Birdseye property this time around clearly has a successful track record.
But, just as the city and company wait for the project plans, the community's waiting as well.
Ward 2 Councilor Ann Mulcahey — who strongly opposed the mixed-use proposal advanced by Bell, said she won't take any action until there's a plan to act on, and then she said she'll look to meet with her constituents.
"I'm waiting on them to make their decision," she said.
Mulcahey initially opposed the project when news of the tentative sale agreement was reported in June, claiming that she already had three council votes lined up against any potential hotel plan.
Hastings said he found that position appalling, given that no plans had yet been moved forward.
Now, he said, he's looking forward to what could come.
"It's the prefect property for Gloucester to step into the future," he said.
Steven Fletcher may be contacted at 1-978-283-7000 x3455, or email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter at @stevengdt.