Wednesday, November 16, 2011

'Harbor renewal' can't come fast enough

James Tarantino is absolutely “right on”. Change is coming to Gloucester’s waterfront and the reality is, it can’t come fast enough! Since the 1960s we have witnessed our waterfront’s steady decline. For decades we’ve been assured of a coming resurgence in the fishing industry. Politicians, wives’ associations, and activists have lobbied positively for the industry over the years. Today our fishermen for the most part have been driven out of business. Our federal government has successfully imposed regulations and schemes by promoting a general mind-set of allegedly depleting resources; adopting ridiculous 800 lb. species quotas; limiting days at sea; instituting catch-share programs; and closing plentiful fishing areas, thus bringing about the current state of our local industry. To Mr. Tarantino, I say, the “fix is in”; no longer can we hope for fish-related harbor buildup and fleet renewal, the likes of the ‘40s and ‘50s. The world’s fishing industry has changed; the consumer has changed; the work force has changed; and Gloucester citizens must change their antiquated harbor attitudes also.

“Jim” Davis does have a plan for Gloucester’s premier harbor industrial park. Davis is a business man and a local (summer) homeowner, who is well aware of the economic free-fall that Gloucester’s waterfront has been experiencing for decades. He is stepping up, investing in our faltering waterfront. This isn’t a Chicago bank holding paper; this is a local resident with economic resources and a vision.
Mr. Tarantino asserts that Mr. Davis and other interested investors are taking business risks for personal gain! Isn’t that what private investing is all about? Return on investment is only one incentive; along the way our harbor will come alive, properties will rise in value, employment and tax revenues will increase. As the old saying goes, “a rising tide lifts all boats”.

“Jimmy T.” is “right again”. The Fort is a linchpin. I see the Fort as a jumbo economic egg about to crack wide open. A few non-resident Fort activists and even fewer Fort home owners should no longer influence the economic future of Gloucester’s entire taxpayer base.

For too long the anemic Fort area has gone unnoticed, out of the way, subsidized by the city’s taxpayers. This waterfront economic downward trend must be reversed. Properties have gone undeveloped, owners denied the right to invest because of regulations – zoning restrctions, D.P.A. restrictions, etc. This has to change. For too long the former Producers’ Fish Co., now city owned; Cape Ann Fisheries Co. property; and the former O’Donnell Usen Fish Co. parcel (all prime harbor front real estate); have been allowed to languish in economic limbo. This was brought about by a mix of federal and state regulations, coupled with declining fish landings, resulting in an absence of previous investor interest. The city’s economic development arm must intervene and work positively with these owners.

It’s interesting that Mr. “T” mentions the Cripple Cove area – that’s “Capt. Joe’s” property, formerly Gorton’s East Gloucester flake yard,skinning loft, smokehouse, and redfish wharf complex. When I was a kid, this property was meticulously maintained and employed 200 of my Ward II neighbors. Today, and for decades, this multi-acre property has been wasting away and currently employing only its two owners, handling one product, lobsters. Small boats tie to decrepit pilings on the periphery of this unimproved property; it’s a prominent, visible reminder of a bygone era, a decadent inactive waterfront, crying out for renewal.

Selected prime waterfront properties from Rocky Neck to Harbor Cove are presently undergoing ownership/development changes. Finally, harbor renewal is on the horizon!

Recent changes in our city council makeup, renewed awareness, and reenergized leadership from our proven forward-thinking mayor now promises monumental, beneficial change for our city.

No one cares more about Gloucester, its harbor, and our anchor industry’s heritage than I do. I wrote a book attempting to preserve a portion of our illustrious history. No one can reminisce more than this writer. I love the “old days”, but the reality is we have many books, first-class museums, and excellent city archives that do the remembering. The fact is, Gloucester must move forward and recognize this new wave of private investment as an opportunity. Gloucester is entering an exciting era

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