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March 10, 2013

Editorial: A 'yes' vote for Fort hotel is a vote for city's future

It’s been eight months since Gloucester’s City Council, on a near-unanimous vote, rightfully approved creation of a hotel overlay zone that added flexibility to the Fort neighborhood’s longstanding marine industrial zone, and opened the door for one of the truly landmark development projects in Gloucester’s history.

Tuesday night, that same council will be asked to approve a series of special permits needed to see that project through — a 101-room, four-story waterfront hotel that will pump an estimated 150 jobs, new tax revenue and a new spirit to the city’s struggling waterfront. And the council’s vote should essentially be the same.

A “yes” vote on the Beauport Gloucester LLC’s hotel permits Tuesday night, expected after a 7 p.m. public hearing in City Hall’s Kyrouz Auditorium, will not simply provide the decisive green lights for going ahead with this project. It will stand as a commitment to welcoming investment in our city, and in that sense, will truly stand as an investment in Gloucester’s future.

A lot of things have happened since last June’s council vote to approve the hotel overlay zone. We have, of course, continued to see opponents of the project — mostly Fort residents and a few businesses — raised a number of red flags for why the hotel should not be built.

Yet, at each and every turn, Beauport Gloucester — headed by Cruiseport Gloucester’s Sheree DeLorenzo and New Balance owner Jim Davis, a part-time local resident who has a home in Bay View — has responded by tweaking its plans, and by stepping up to address issues they’re not required to tackle. That’s especially included boosting what started as a $600,000 commitment toward a roughly $7 million project to improve water and sewer infrastructure throughout the Fort neighborhood to covering some $2 million of that project. And even last week, it included installing temporary scaffolding on the roof of the current, eyesore Birdseye building to show, not just tell, residents that the height of the planned hotel will actually be lower than the white tower that’s graced the old industrial building for decades.

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