Wednesday was a day to celebrate for the many local business leaders, city officials and residents across Gloucester who have pushed and prayed for City Council approval of the proposed hotel overlay zone for the former Birdseye property in Commercial Street.
Yet, for all the economic promise seemingly brought by the Beauport Gloucester LLC hotel project — which took a giant step forward Tuesday night — one of the city's best bits of economic news may have come hours before City Council gave the overlay zone its important green light. Ironically, it involved the property right next door.
The news that Endicott College plans to lease space in Mac Bell's 33 Commercial St. building and launch what amounts to a satellite Gloucester campus beginning next September holds immense potential for Gloucester and its port economy.
That's because the addition of students to the community and the advancement of higher education programs specializing in fields from marine science and biotechnology arts to creative writing should fill a void in the city's profile, while also adding the kind of research and study components that Mayor Carolyn Kirk and many others have long sought for Gloucester, especially along its waterfront.
An ironic twist is that at least some of those who have opposed the Fort hotel project on the former Birdseye property have suggested that site could be better used for a marine science education or research center; the move by Endicott to 33 Commercial St. should now answer many aspects of that need.
As Kirk noted, the addition of an Endicott campus answers one of the goals of last November's Maritime Summit, hosted by the city, the Metropolitan Boston Planning Council and the economic development arm of the U.S. Department of Commerce.
It will certainly add an important new component for, as the mayor put it, the city's "vibrancy" and "renaissance" as a whole. And, as Endicott College President Richard E. Wylie said, it will open new doors for the Beverly-based school as well, with Wylie, who began his career in education teaching in Gloucester, allowing students and staff to collaborate with city officials, residents, and business leaders to "provide educational leadership and innovative community activities on Cape Ann," as Wylie put it.
It is, in short, a true win-win proposition for Gloucester and Endicott alike.