Three months to the day after the City Council lifted zoning impediments to construction of a hotel between Commercial Street and Pavilion Beach, the developer — Beauport Gloucester LLC — filed architectural plans with the council Wednesday for hotel complex with 101 guest rooms, a restaurant and two function halls.
By the most optimistic estimate, the facility would not be ready for occupancy until 2014, but if and when it does, it will make real a dream held by many in Gloucester — including Mayor Carolyn Kirk, and her predecessors John Bell and Bruce Tobey, now a city councilor — to turn the nation’s oldest fishing port from a summer getaway into more of a four-season destination.
The plans outlined Wednesday by Beauport Gloucester LLC attorney John Cunningham and company partner Sheree DeLorenzo show a four-story structure designed to fit into the scale of the neighborhood, set back from both Commercial Street, with surrounding walkways. The plans also emphasize that a “more accessible” Pavilion Beach will continue to be “available to the public as well as hotel guests.”
While the footprint of the existing Birdseye plant, essentially vacant for years, covers some 49,000 square feet, the ground level of the new hotel – the reception area and covered parking — will cover just 37,000 feet, and two floors of hotel rooms at the top will be just 25,000 square feet as the hotel tapers inward as it rises upward.
“I wanted this to look like it’s been here forever,” said DeLorenzo, who operates Cruiseport Gloucester. She and New Balance owner Jim Davis are principals in the Beauport Gloucester limited-liability company formed for the development of the new hotel at 47-61 Commercial St., in the city’s Fort neighborhood.
“I want this to be something the city is proud of,” DeLorenzo said. “We’ve thought of the city and its people all the way through (the planning process).”
As they were approving the zoning overlay proposal May 8, city councilors promised to put the overall concept and aesthetics under intense scrutiny during the special permit process, which also includes review by the Planning Board which must give a site plan approval, the Conservation Commission, and possibly the state Department of Environmental Protection.
“This is going to take a while,” project attorney Cunningham said, adding that the permitting alone was expected to extend to and perhaps through the end of the year. Groundbreaking to grand opening could take anywhere from 13 to 16 months or even longer, DeLorenzo estimated.
The Boston office of the Chicago-based architectural firm, Perkins + Will — whose Boston clients include Partners HealthCare and Spaulding Rehabilitation Hospital, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Harvard University, the Sanford-Burnham Medical Research Institute, Philips Electronics and Microsoft — developed the plans for the project, to be built at a projected cost of some $20 million-$25 million, Cunningham and DeLorenzo indicated.
A major issue recognized by both the city and the developer is the hotel’s need for modern infrastructure — water, sewer, drainage and electrical upgrades as well as pavement of one of the city’s most heavily worked industrial streets.
The work, as Mayor Carolyn Kirk has repeatedly said, will be an opportunity to modernize the services to the entire Fort community, which gave waves of immigrants their first home in the United States for centuries and was where the Sicilian-Italian fishermen and their families encamped in the early 20th century. Much opposition to the hotel and the approved hotel overlay zone that opened the door to it in May has sprung from worry about gentrification of the neighborhood, and a loss of the area’s marine industrial character.
How the improvements are financed is an uncertainty that Cunningham readily acknowledged would take much thinking and negotiation.
The proposed beachfront hotel echoes Gloucester’s heyday from the late 19th-century through the mid-20th when shingled, summer complexes housed the swell and wealthy set that arrived to stay for a month or two in grand style. The hotel era ended abruptly in a series of fires just before the Interstate highway system and post-war prosperity brought waves of day trippers in their stead.
The exterior of the hotel on Commercial Street will be ersatz clapboard and face outward toward the Dog Bar Breakwater. Cars will enter with a right off Commercial Street into a exposed parking lot with 45 spaces, then reverse direction to the main entrance and lobby. Past the lobby will be ground-level parking for 102.
From the lobby, an elevator will deliver guests to the main registration desk On the Commercial Street side of that level will be two mid-sized function rooms, separated by a deck. Beachside are plans for a large deck that surrounds an outdoor pool which leads to the restaurant.
The two floors above that will house the guest rooms.
The facility is designed for a height of 61 feet, in a city zoning district that allows 40 feet, so special permission must be obtained for the variance.
The existing Birdseye tower, which rises 75 feet, will be replaced, with plans to build a replicate, through not to the same height, Cunningham indicated.
DeLorenzo said she estimated very roughly that the project would produce 65-100 jobs, but both she and Cunningham noted that could vary seasonally, and DeLorenzo noted that she underestimated the workforce required to operate Cruiseport.
Cunningham said the state Department of Environmental Protection was “analyzing” whether the project fell under the auspices of Chapter 91, the Public Waterfront Act, which exists to see that any loss of access to the waterfront is offset by the private developer.
Richard Gaines can be reached at 978-283-7000, x3464, or at firstname.lastname@example.org.