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February 6, 2013

Boat developer urges city push on I-4, C-2

A waterfront activist says she has plans to transform the long-empty Rogers Street I-4, C-2 lot into an industrial park in the same model as the state’s Jodrey Fish Pier, but concedes that her proposal lacks financing and what she says is the necessary city backing.

Susanne Altenburger, widow of globally-known boatbuilder Phil Bolger and now a leading partner in Phil Bolger and Friends Inc., has created elaborate plans to build what she calls an “ocean innovation campus” on the city-owned waterfront lot, which has failed to attract a commercial developer through its formal request for proposals, or RFP.

The campus would be a working boat building facility for fuel-efficient vessels, where high school and/or community college students could come to learn about boat innovation and work on real projects.

”We need to be building a sense of pride in collaboration with the schools here,” Altenburger said. And, she said, the ocean innovation campus would ignite that historic maritime pride.

The city published a request for proposals for the I-4, C-2 lot in late 2011 and received no bids. That first request mandated that an applicant must prove they could generate $75,000 in tax revenue.

Now, Mayor Carolyn Kirk has submitted a revised request for proposals to city councilors for approval, but at least in the mayor’s draft, an applicant would need to submit a down payment of $10,000 simply to apply — and Altenburger has not mustered that.

”That would be pretending I could pull a project off financially, which I simply can’t,” Altenburger said.

Instead, Altenburger is proposing the city request state funding for her plans, making the city a facilitator, or the go-between, for state funding and what would still evolve as a private industry project along the lines of the current fish pier.

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