With a rezoning plan for the city's Fort neighborhood aimed at bringing a hotel to the former Birdseye site facing a Monday public hearing, movement is stalled on two other planned hotel projects that, at one point, were on track to have been open by now.
Developer Sam Park's plan for a hotel at Gloucester Crossing has the permits it needs to move forward, but Park told the Times Tuesday he's waiting for the verdict on two other hotel developments before moving forward with his.
Park said his project, which calls for a Holiday Inn Express, is planned and ready to go. He took out a foundation permit two Decembers ago, said Planning Director Gregg Cadematori, but nothing tangible has happened since.
Meanwhile, another hotel project — a planned Hampton Inn and Suites — permitted for Essex Avenue is hung up in Land Court.
Mayor Carolyn Kirk said the city would like to see both projects move forward.
"Both projects are fully permitted and we would like to see them built," she said.
But, Kirk added, the market, not the city's administration and leadership, will determine how many and what type of hotels get built in Gloucester.
"For us, it's always been market driven," she said.
Park said that, with three hotels in the works — two of them possibly serving similar markets — it doesn't make sense to move forward with his at this time.
He said that, from studies his company has undertaken, the city can support around 80 to 100 limited service hotel rooms. Anymore, he added, and the motels and bed-and-breakfasts in the city would take a hit.
If a hotel on the Birdseye site, he said, is a full-service hotel, complete with a restaurant and conference space, etc., it wouldn't conflict in the same way. The full-service type, he said, draws tourist traffic. His project, he said, would be more designed to cater to business travelers, including those visiting companies at the nearby Blackburn Industrial Park.
The limited liability corporation run by New Balance founder Jim Davis and Cruiseport's Sheree DeLorenzo that owns the Birdseye building has put forward a hotel overlay zoning district plan for the site. That plan is up for a public hearing before the Planning Board and the City Council's Planning and Development subcommittee Monday at 7 p.m. in City Hall.
Park said he's watching the Essex Avenue project. If it comes through, he said, he'll look to build something other than a hotel on his Crossing site; if it doesn't, Park said his company will start construction.
While he added that development in general will do the city good, the additional hotels might saturate the business travel market. At the very least, the other projects will keep his up in the air for a while.
"It's very difficult to make an investment with three hotels on the market," said Park.
The Essex Avenue Hotel project, put forward by Maryland Developer David Hill, remains entangled in Land Court, battling an abutters' appeal of the Conservation Commission's order of conditions and the City Council's decision to grant a special permit for the project.
Gloucester attorney Mark Nestor, who represents the abutters, says the Department of Environmental Protection's resolution on the appeal could come in May. But, he said, a final verdict could would come as late as the end of the year.
Hill's firm, Gloucester Hotel LLC, is permitted for a 92-room Hampton Inn on the former Yankee Fleet site, next to the Cape Ann Marina. And the appeals aren't the only challenges the Hampton Inn project faces.
Nestor said the project can't be built until the city signs off on the sewer line, a line that has a litany of engineering concerns, and causes residential backups.
"Nothing's going to happen until someone signs off saying the problem's resolved," said Nestor.
Last year, the city requested the Santec engineering firm to investigate the line which, in part, connects Essex' sewers to Gloucester's sewer lines. The city is now preparing a second study that should take another look at the entirety of the line, not just the lower portion, said Public Works Director Mike Hale.
Steven Fletcher may be contacted at 1-978-283-7000 x3455, or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter at @stevengdt.