A total of 17 "idea developers" have each been granted a $2,500 stipend to explore their proposals for finding the best uses for the city's I-4, C-2 property on the Rogers Street waterfront.
The grants, announced by Mayor Carolyn Kirk's office, were awarded to individuals, groups and corporations, and cover a wide range of potential projects.
Kirk said Monday that the grants aren't designed to actually seed any of the work on a specific development for the long-dormant property site the city acquired for some $1.5 million with state assistance this past summer. Instead, the grants are targeted for those who brought the plans forward to get some help in projecting development costs, and their projects' viability on several fronts, Kirk said.
"We wanted some professional expertise brought to the process, not only for design, but in terms of understanding of the zoning," Kirk said. "Then, we wanted to get a sense of financial wherewithal as to what something might cost."
Those receiving grants include some of the projects that have drawn early attention — including City Councilor Paul McGeary's suggestion of an aquarium aimed at education, research and tourism; Susanne Altenburger's proposal related to a boat building facility, off more streamlined and environmental designs advanced by her late husband, Phil Bolger; and Celebrate Gloucester promoters' Peter and Vicki Van Ness' idea of incorporating performing arts/entertainment space.
But just as Kirk raved about the interest shown by the raising and exploration of 17 projects, she also noted there may not prove to be one big winner.
"I think, if I were to make a prediction," Kirk said, "what will happen is different individuals and organizations that are putting forth ideas will find synergy wit other organizations.
"One idea might emphasize the waterfront itself, another might emphasize the building, still another might emphasize parking," she said. "So it might take a couple of individuals or organizations working together to come up with the financing for the overall picture that might include all of those things."
The waterfront property has been marked for months by a sign touting the site as being "under idea development," one of Kirk's favorite descriptions of the process. The awarding of the grants marks a step toward bringing those ideas to the next level, she said.
She added, however, that any such proposals must be incorporated into the current zoning for the site. That also means within the state's Designated Port Area mandates, which — while eased over the last year under the city's approved Harbor Plan — still require that 50 percent of the site be used or open to marine-related uses.
"This project here will be a real test of whether that zoning flexibility has gone far enough," Kirk said.
"People need to go into this with eyes wide open. We need to move form the pie-in-the-sky stage to the reality stage, so when it comes to actually submit the RFP (Request for Proposal), we'll be in the real deal phase."
Kirk said the deadline for presenting specific versions of the development ideas is Dec. 15, with the city hosting a reception aimed at revealing various designs in the days following that.
Those designs, she said, will then be displayed for several weeks.
"We'll just take the best of the best ideas, factor in the criteria — like the DPA — and go for there," the mayor said.
"Our goal is for this parcel to showcase the economic future of Gloucester Harbor," she added. "Future jobs and investment will rely on the fishing industry, the maritime economy which includes the creative economy, and the visitor-based segment. All are compatible with Gloucester's heritage and strengths."
DEVELOPING I-4, C-2
Grant recipients for professional services aimed at advancing projects for the I-4, C-2 site off Rogers Street. Each of the grants awarded by the city is for $2,500:
David Lincoln, Gloucester.
Robert Beard — Highliner LLC — Gloucester.
Peter and Vicki Van Ness — Van Ness Group, Inc. — Gloucester.
Alexander Sachs — Community Preservation Association — Arlington.
Dan B. Goodenow — Off Peak Architectural Services — Gloucester.
Robert Mitnik — Robert Mitnik, Architect — Gloucester.
Susanne Altenburger, Gloucester.
Craig Toftey, Gloucester.
Paul Johnson — Paul Johnson, Contracting — Gloucester.
Douglas Cook — Landesign — Gloucester
Carmine Gorga — Gloucester Community Development Corp. — Gloucester.
Bob Alves, Gloucester.
Charles B. Norris — Norris & Norris Associates, with Urban Harbors Institute — Cambridge.
Mary Beth Vogel — Mary Beth Map Lab, Inc. — Boston.
David Bergeron, Gloucester.
Elizabeth Neumeier — Gloucester Stage Company — Gloucester.
Paul McGeary — Gloucester Aquarium Committee.