GloucesterTimes.com, Gloucester, MA

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December 5, 2012

Sale deal expires for Essex Ave. hotel

The three-year-old, purchase-and-sale agreement has expired for acreage on the Annisquam River, where the City Council had approved plans for a 92-room Hampton Inn & Suites.

Without an extension — and time to resolve an abutters’ suit and clarify sewerage engineering — the project is as good as dead, the development team said Wednesday.

In a letter to the editor in today’s Times (See Opinion, Page 6) and in a telephone interview Wednesday, developer David Hill of Easton, Md., and his spokesman, Suhail Partawi, said they could not continue the effort without an extension of the option on the property negotiated with Jerry and Carol Hill.

The chance of seeing a Hampton Inn & Suites on the river have dimmed less than a month after the state also dealt a setback to the city and the development team of a 101-room Pavilion Beach-front hotel on the former Birdseye site on Commercial Street by excluding Gloucester from 2012 funding in the MassWorks infrastructure program. The city had submitted an application for $5 million to modernize the drainage, sewage and water systems in the historic Fort enclave, and was surprised to have been zeroed out in the competition. The state approved $38 million for 26 communities.

Mayor Carolyn Kirk has supported both hotel projects, but as the Beauport Gloucester Hotel gathered momentum — passing a major hurdle in June with the approval of a hotel overlay zone that made the marine Industrial site legally viable for a hotel — attention was diverted from status of the Hampton Inn project.

The local Hills — now of Key West, Fla. — are the longtime former owners of the Yankee Fleet, which had been based on the Annisquam River, at the Cape Ann Marina, property just south of the 50 acres optioned to to Hill Hospitality LLC.

In 2008, Jerry and Carol Hill sold the fleet, featuring five boats of 75 to 100 feet in length to employees and retired. Jerry Hill, then 79, had done his first charter as a teenager in 1943 — accepting $2 to take swimmers on his small sailboat for a tour of the Little River -- and organized the business in 1944. It was believed to be the first deep sea fishing and charter business on the East Coast and grew into an Cape Ann economic engine, with as many as 90,000 customer trips a year beginning in early spring and ending in late fall with customers coming from other states to fish and look for whales.

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