, Gloucester, MA

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November 14, 2012

Editorial: Grant rejection cannot halt Fort utility or hotel projects

It’s certainly disappointing to learn that the state’s MassWorks infrastructure program has turned thumbs down on Gloucester’s $5 million request for a grant to provided badly needed infrastructure improvements beneath the city’s historic Fort neighborhood.

And we hope that, as Mayor Carolyn Kirk suggested Tuesday, state Rep. Ann-Margaret Ferrante and state Sen. Bruce Tarr can press for answers as to why a project that’s obviously tied to, though not dependent upon, Gloucester’s most important development project in years somehow didn’t pass muster with one of the lead agencies of the state’s development and investment framework.

But it’s also good to hear that — while, yes, there are now questions as to how the city will cover the cost of all this – the mayor and Department of Public Works Director Mike Hale are committed to going forward with a project for which the engineering work is already underway. The reality is, improved underground infrastructure at the Fort has been overdue for decades, and remains so regardless of whether the planned Beauport Gloucester hotel ever becomes reality.

The ideal scenario for the city and its residents, of course, is that the hotel — sought and set to be developed by the Beauport Gloucester LLC firm headed by New Balance owner Jim Davis and Cruiseport Gloucester’s Sheree DeLorenzo — becomes very real and provides the kind of economic boost and jobs that the city certainly needs. And the hotel project, which remains in the permitting process and is pegged for the city’s new hotel overlay district covering the former Birdseye industrial site, has given a sense of urgency to the Fort infrastructure work.

Indeed, Hale was right to recognize the need to speed scheduling the reconstruction of pipes and other utility infrastructure beneath the Fort from an initial target date of 2015 up to 2012-13 once the hotel project came into play — recognizing it would make no sense to allow construction of a hotel, and then tear up the street and utilities again just two years later.

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