Local developer Mac Bell's Pavilion Mercato LLC has acquired several parcels on Beach Court.
And the purchases — combined with acquisitions by New Balance athletic apparel owner Jim Davis for a hotel complex at the former Birdseye site — has neighbors and tenants worried about the future of Gloucester's historic Fort neighborhood.
But Bell told the Times on Tuesday night he is "committed to no changes, at this stage" in his newly acquired properties — while conceding "you never know" in the future.
Bell's company bought 9 and 11 Beach Court and the empty lot at 5 Beach Court last month, paying some $1.2 million for the properties overall.
His purchases come seven months after Bell's firm sold the Birdseye property to Beauport Gloucester LLC, owned by New Balance founder Davis, for nearly three times what Bell had paid for it less than three years ago.
"We're in the real estate business, and we were able to take advantage of some tax savings by acquiring some property," Bell said. "Plus, we've been in the property business now for some 30 years; I raised my first three children on Beach Court, and feel a real attachment to the neighborhood."
The latest deals have also come as Beauport began proposing a hotel overlay district for the Outer Harbor side of Commercial Street, roughly from Beach Court to Fort Square, meaning that Bell and Davis now control the vast majority of the Fort's Pavilion Beach waterfront.
Neighborhood residents said Tuesday they believe the two development companies are working together.
But both Bell and Davis's local project representative deny that's the case.
Sheree DeLorenzo, Cruiseport Gloucester proprietor and lead partner with Davis in the Beauport Gloucester hotel project, said that Beauport isn't working with Mac Bell — and that Tuesday's call from the Times marked the first notice she has had about the Beach Court acquisitions.
"I hadn't heard anything about it," she said.
Asked point-blank whether he was working in any way in tandem with Davis or DeLorenzo, Bell answered, "No, except that we have similar interests in doing right for our neighborhoods, doing right for our businesses, and doing right for our community."
Property records show that Bell sold the Birdseye property to Davis' company for $6.5 million last July, after his effort to develop the property floundered amid neighborhood opposition. Bell bought the property for $2.25 million in 2009.
Fort resident and former City Councilor Ann Mulcahey said those purchases, and Beauport's purchase of a half-acre parcel and former studio on Fort Square for $900,000 in late 2011, have made area residents nervous about their property values.
Some residents, she said, aren't opposed to the potential Beauport Hotel on the Birdseye site. But rapidly rising values, she said, mean rapidly rising property taxes — taxes that few residents in the area, Mulcahey added, could afford. Most people in the area, she added, don't want to sell or move out of the Fort.
"If they come in with an overlay that includes the residences, it moves us up into another tax bracket," Mulcahey said.
The Fort is zoned as Marine Industrial; the proposed overlay would allow for hotel uses on 22, 33 and 45 Commercial St., effectively the Birdseye site, the parking lots between it and the Chamber of Commerce Building, and the Chamber of Commerce building itself. Bell also owns the chamber building, and a multi-family home behind it, according to the city assessors office.
Fort resident James "Jimmy T" Tarantino said the two companies look like they're trying to acquire enough property to stall an abutter's petition. A similar petition stalled Bell's project a few years ago.
"They seem to be acquiring just as much property as they need to void the abutter's petition," Tarantino said.
Mulcahey said the acquisitions would also allow the proposed hotel needed road space to manage construction and traffic in the neighborhood.
Beauport rolled out its zoning proposal last month, and the proposal is on its way to the Planning Board and City Council in the next few weeks.
Bell, meanwhile, closed on deals acquiring homes on 11 Beach Court from John Tarantino for $400,000, according to the quitclaim deed. His latest purchase also included buying 9 Beach Court and the lot at 5 Beach Court from Lisa Loiacano for $660,000.
The families in those two buildings, James Tarantino said, are planning on moving now that the ownership has changed hands,
Steven Fletcher may be contacted at 1-978-283-7000 x3455, or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter at @stevengdt.