Every kid growing up on Cape Ann has the 1623 birthright to an ocean-centric education, perhaps life-long fascination with the sea, if they so choose.

Whether they’d go fishing, pursue marine-scientific research, build boats, get deep into seafood processing and logistics, do coastal law enforcement, run sport-fishing charters and whale-watching businesses, even spend a life in worldwide naval duties, they do need to learn as much related to these lines of work as they can in our public schools here in America’s oldest seaport; we actually used to have a boat shop at Gloucester High School, and are running a Marine Corps JROTC. Under city-control only since 2010, located between The Building Center and The Gloucester House, our 1.82-acre (79,245 square foot) I-4,C-2 property presents the sole opportunity on Gloucester’s Inner Harbor for us to offer to our next generations a marine-industrial vocational-technical high school, an “ocean innovation campus.”

Our fishing fleet is in dire need in 2023 to finally enter the 21st century with advanced boats best built here in Gloucester, for which we need well-trained folks to build and run those types, with pleasure and research craft, etc. to follow. At 400+, Gloucester must reassert marine-industrial leadership towards another 400!

To that end, once I-4, C-2 became state- and city-owned, the city asked Gloucester for ideas. A marine-industrial vocational-technical high school was first presented at Kyrouz Auditorium, City Hall, on Dec. 15, 2010, as one of 22 perspectives on offer. We proposed this industrial structure to be built elevated flush with Rogers Street, well above the floodplain, with its core a wide-open hangar-style 180- by 120- by 33-foot high shop space, flanked by three stories of classrooms and labs, storage for boat-building materials and hardware, and administration offices, but also visitor areas, with lobster traps and nets stored securely under, free to flood.

This city-owned and city-run 56,000 square-foot facility would benefit from city, state and federal education funding for its initial construction and then long-term operations, performing five functions:

1. As city-run voke marine-industrial campus offering instruction in boat building, repair, maintenance, and alterations, in a range of materials; installation and maintenance of all sorts of drive trains, including hybrid and motor-sailing systems; hydraulics, electrics, electronics, and navigation, safety and communications gear; technical aspects, rules, and hands-on practices of boat operations across a range of craft; and the introduction of many other lines of work in this old-growth port economy.

2. As an ever-variable commercial area on that 21,600 square foot shop-floor for rent-paying boat-building projects brought in by our fishing fleet and Cape Ann’s four yacht clubs — both investing their money back into our port — and Greater Boston’s low-carbon boaters bringing their business, with scientists following, perhaps the military ... with room for sprawling oceanographic sensor-arrays and expansive fishing technology to be crafted on that large unobstructed shop floor. Most boats and these structures would be launched straight into Harbor Cove.

3. As a marine-industrial tourism attraction. Offering visitors the unique experience from higher up in the building via a wide window array to overlook folks on the shop floor building boats — from a safe distance, away from dust, effluents, noise — guided along by a gallery of pictures and videos of earlier projects and things yet to come.

4. As a downtown rooftop community garden. Since the roof over a hangar-style wide-open shop-space needs to carry New England snow-loads, it could the rest of the year carry seating and tables, planter boxes, water features, sun and rain shelters, for locals having a brown-bag lunch, visitors looking over the harbor, folks conducting wedding parties, poetry-readings, music performances, or just gawking at the night sky, all under 18- to 24-hour access, covered by CCTV security directly to our Gloucester Police Department down the road.

5. As a massive full-height 360-degree art installation, by covering this no-nonsense, affordable, but superbly-efficient least carbon industrial building by wrapping it in our local artists’ work, via a first competition on e.g. themes reflecting Cape Ann’s maritime history, expressed through large to multiple-stories high paintings, reliefs, installations, etc., to draw yet another clientele to and around all the corners of this building.

Unfortunately without offering any apparent initiatives to aide our fishing industry nor the ocean-centric aspirations of our next generations, there are those proposing that just more of our near 200-years-mature model of tourism, now dressed up as “destination tourism,” will somehow suffice, based on our familiar mix of restaurants, hotels, inns and motels, Main Street, the arts community, function halls, museums, our beaches, fishing and whale-watching.

However, since this Gloucester ocean innovation campus would certainly be unique in New England, it would actually boost our tourism industry by adding the lucrative year-round marine-industrial business of folks buying boat projects worth three to eight figures and those who would watch them across all four seasons being built right here on our harbor by our next generations — a unique experience anywhere! So, first we train our next generations, then offer them good work building that 21st century fleet and port economy. Many graduates will look at other harbor properties for spaces to start their own enterprises. All this revitalizing fleet and port jobs and tax base, boosting our unique brand of tourism. and unlike pulling in even more cars and buses, since most of these boats would leave by sea, no traffic jams associated with this much additional revenue movement.

Susanne Altenburger is the principal of Phil Bolger & Friends Inc, Boat-Design since 1952. For a 21-page presentation of this I-4, C-2 voke proposal contact philbolger@comcast.net

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