Cape Ann Brewing Company's move to the former Doyon's building on Rogers Street, considered by many a breakthrough in harbor redevelopment, has now gained City Council approval and is on the verge of construction.
Without any of the neighborhood opposition that marked the brew pub's tenure on Commercial Street in the Fort, councilors last week gave the brewery a special permit in a unanimous vote.
More than just the relocation of a pub to more hospitable area, the brewery move has been watched closely as a test case for the city's new harbor plan and the measures within it to give the owners of properties within the state-regulated Designated Port Area greater flexibility.
The building had been vacant for five years, since the state nudged Doyon's television and appliance store off of the waterfront for not complying with DPA rules for water-dependent uses on the harbor.
With no direct water access of its own — the wharves to the harbor side of the building are owned by the city — prospects for redeveloping the property at times seemed dim and many thought the state would never allow a restaurant or bar there.
But last month the Department of Environmental Protection gave the brewery project its blessing as a marine "supporting use," and cited the new Gloucester Harbor Plan approved last year, which allows DPA properties to have up to 50 percent non-marine use instead of 25 percent. The brewery would cover roughly 42 percent of the parcel.
Although anti-gentrification group Citizens for Gloucester Harbor had asked the state to reject the proposal, on Monday DEP spokesman Joe Ferson said the appeal period for the brewery expired last Friday and there was no sign yet of an appeal.
Ferson said the agency would wait at least another day or so before declaring the decision appeal-free to account for the possibility that something sent Friday is still in the mail.
Another reason city officials have been watching the Doyon's property is its similarity with the now-vacant municipally-owned lot known as I-4,C-2 further to the east on Rogers Street.
The city, which acquired I-4,C-2 for $1.5 million this year, wants to eventually sell or lease the property to a private developer who can return it to a revenue-generating, tax-producing state.
But whether any developer will want to touch the property — which sat vacant for 40 years after the plans of the previous owner were stymied by a number of legal hurdles, including the DPA — remains a significant question.
Councilor Joe Ciolino, chairman of the Planning and Development Committee, which vetted the brewery plan, said Monday that progress on the Doyon's property should give hope that DPA parcels even without their own water access can be developed.
"This shows it can be done," Ciolino said.
City Community Development Director Sarah Garcia agreed.
"The successful permitting of this site illustrates the new flexibility in the regulations that allows for diverse commercial uses along the waterfront," Garcia said. "This decision sends a positive message to those seeking development solutions with mixed uses."
One major difference, of course, between the brewery plans and any proposal for I-4,C-2 is that the brewery could move into an existing structure, where a building will have to be constructed from scratch on I-4,C-2.
The move from Commercial Street to Rogers Street will give Cape Ann Brewing Company more space and the ability to significantly expand the restaurant side of its brew pub, with a new kitchen and outdoor deck dining area. The new space will also provide space for new brewing equipment.
To maximize its "marine industrial" utility, the brewery will keep space available next to the docks for the storage of lobster traps.
The permit came with only one new condition — that the pub fence off its garbage dumpster. That came on top of conditions that there will be no full liquor license in the new establishment and take-out food cannot make up more than 20 percent of sales.
In exchange for allowing additional non-marine use of the waterfront, the Harbor Plan requires projects like the brewery to contribute to a city-administered fund to pay for improvements to marine infrastructure.
In this case the brewery owes the fund $20,000 over the next 10 years.
Both the city and brewery expect to benefit from the move away from Commercial Street, where the pub's presence with neighbors was never popular and past attempts to expand hours of operation were met with resistance.
Assuming there is no DEP appeal in the mail, the lone remaining hurdle for the brewery before it can move will be to get permission from the Gloucester Licensing Board, which is expected to hear their application early next month.
On Monday, Jeremy Goldberg, head brewer for Cape Ann Brewing, said he had been pleasantly surprised that no one had tried to block the move to the Doyon's building.
"For once," he said, "we are not fighting anyone."
Patrick Anderson can be reached at 978-283-7000, x3455, firstname.lastname@example.org.