By Steven Fletcher
The heads of the limited liability company that acquired the Birdseye property last June and is now pursuing a rezoning and a proposed hotel for the site have also purchased three other properties along Gloucester's waterfront over the last two years through different corporations, the Times has confirmed.
Last year, Back Shore LLC — a corporation that, like Beauport Gloucester LLC, is headed by Jim Davis, the founder and owner of New Balance athletic apparel, and managed by Sheree DeLorenzo, who runs Cruiseport Gloucester — purchased 417 Main St., according to the filings in the Essex County Registry of Deeds in Salem.
In 2010, the company also purchased land with a house on Rocky Neck.
But the two purchases, DeLorenzo said Wednesday, have nothing to do with the Birdseye development. And the companies do not have plans to buy any other buildings within the city.
"I have no interest in anything else," she said.
DeLorenzo said she, through Back Shore LLC, purchased 417 Main St., a property previously owned by Joy Properties LLC and Rose Holding Co. LLC, for extra dockage space.
She said the LLC bought the site for $1.65 million.
She said that several commercial fishing vessels dock at Cruiseport and the dock space there could not accommodate all of them; commercial boats, she said, use some of the storage sheds on site for fishing gear as well.
"The reason I bought the property was because I needed to expand dockage for commercial fishing boats," DeLorenzo said, adding that the company does not have any further plans for the site, which sits within Gloucester's Designated Port Area.
The site encompasses eight parcels, home to the former A.D.E Food Co., and some land belonging to Rose's Oil Service.
Cruiseport and its property, meanwhile, are owned by Gloucester Blue Water LLC, another company run by Davis and DeLorenzo.
The companies Back Shore LLC, Beauport Gloucester LLC and Gloucester Blue Water LLC list Davis as the primary signatory; they do not list DeLorenzo, who is a partner at Cruiseport and manages all of Davis' local properties. Davis is a summer resident of Bay View.
Beauport Gloucester LLC purchased the Birdseye property on Commercial Street from Gloucester developer Mac Bell for $6.5 million last July. The company is advancing plans to build a 102-room hotel on the site, provided the city approves a hotel overlay zoning district. The Birdseye building sits in the city's Marine Industrial zone, which now prohibits residential and hotel uses.
Last September, Beauport Gloucester LLC also purchased a three-story building in the center of Fort Square owned by Lucette White for $900,000, more than twice the assessed value of $423,100. DeLorenzo had said the site would be used as an office to oversee the hotel development.
In 2010, Back Shore LLC purchased, for $750,000, a house on Rocky Neck that dserves as DeLorenzo's residence.
Some who have questioned the Fort rezoning plan and Beauport Gloucester LLC's motives say the use of the other properties raise questions as well.
While commercial fishing boats make use of the dockage at 417 Main St., the building has a lot more potential, said Susanne Altenburger, a local boat building entrepreneur and waterfront activist.
"No one considered doing something on that property," she said, "because of the uncertainty" through both regulation and the city's commitment to Marine Industrial endeavors.
She said that, with the overlay proposal, both the Marine Industrial zone and the Designated Port Area are under a cloud. That uncertainty, she added, leaves property owners hesitant to lease or sell to marine industries.
She said sites such as 417 Main St. should be places for "innovative" marine industry, but if the city wants to take that route, she added, it has to encourage it.
"Things may change," Altenburger said, "so folks continue to wait."
Steven Fletcher may be contacted at 1-978-283-7000 x3455, or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter at @stevengdt.