The $800,000 in federal grant money presented last week to the city and to the nonprofit Ocean Alliance that owns the iconic Paint Factory site on Rocky Neck represents an important investment by the Environmental Protection Agency in a number of projects important to Gloucester's future.
But while the Alliance is, by all counts, already moving forward and looking to move its headquarters into one of the old Tarr & Wonson Paint Factory buildings by the end of this summer, it's up to the city to accelerate the use of this money and carry out its environmental cleanups to move forward on its properties as well.
The EPA money, all aimed at providing help with the environmental cleanup of so-called "brownfields" sites, is divided, with $400,000 going toward the ongoing cleanup of the Ocean Alliance property, and the other $400,000 to Gloucester officials for cleanup assessment work needed on the I-4, C-2 site and on the city-owned properties in the Fort neighborhood — notably the 110 Commercial St., site that remains piled high with lobster traps and other commercial seafood equipment.
The track record already shown by Iain Kerr and his Ocean Alliance bodes well for the effective use of this government grant toward revitalizing the Paint Factory site — and that will be a very positive revival for the city and its waterfront.
But the city has seemingly gone and gotten nowhere with the development of its I-4, C-2 property since the city's initial "request for proposals" failed to draw a single response from a developer earlier this year.
The widely held perception is that the property's developmental restrictions — thanks to the state's continued inclusion of it in its Designated Port Area — has discouraged developers. But the environmental viability of the site also looms as an obstacle, and this grant should help alleviate that.
The bottom line is that the money for cleaning up both the I-4, C-2 site and the 110 Commercial St. property should spur new interest in these important development opportunities.
With the cleanup dollars assured, let's hope the city gives these projects the fast-track attention they need.