Given the City Council's approval of the new hotel overlay zone covering the former Birdseye property in Gloucester's historic Fort neighborhood, it's no surprise that any talk of sale regarding a nearby property is going to draw all sorts of speculation.
As we noted previously, the city of Gloucester is certainly doing the right thing in putting is own Fort property — located at 110 Commercial St., the end of the road — on the auction block.
But Mayor Carolyn Kirk and other city officials are also absolutely right to enter the auction with a mandated condition for sale — that the property will remain zoned as a marine industrial site, and that it will have to be developed to that end.
The mayor and Chief Administrative Officer Jim Duggan's assurances that the city would insist on a marine industrial use for the site came after the issue was rightfully raised by Councilor At-large Sefatia Romeo Theken. Theken noted the need for the city to show support for the Fort's marine industrial base and the fishing industry.
She also noted that ensuring the city would protect the property — especially in the wake of the overlay controversy — "shows the city's not out to make the Fort a resort, supports the fishing industry ... and speaks to the rumors."
Those rumors, left unsaid, no doubt include the idea that the city selling the property to the highest bidder could indeed bring greater gentrification to the Fort — one of neighborhood residents' worst fears. The fact that the city is now ensuring the site will remain marine industrial should go a long way toward quelling those concerns.
But it should do something else as well; it should provide either a new option to a marine industrial businesses looking to move into the Fort, or for local businesses that are already in the Fort and looking to expand — such as Neptune's Harvest, whose chief operating officer, Ann Molloy, has talked of how the bidding for the Birdseye site essentially blocked her from acquiring the property and expanding her business there instead.
In a way, the city's ensuring that the 110 Commercial St. site will remain marine industrial should answer at least one more concern of those who have opposed the Beauport Gloucester LLC hotel project.
That makes it a good move the city and its residents.