Monday, August 2, 2011
We are excited and pleased to announce the completion of the sale of the BirdsEye
We’re proud of the work we did on this project and we have no regrets about choices
made along the way. It was an honor to be the caretakers of this historic property,
however brief our tenure may have been.
The variety of imaginative and creative ideas put forth by the community was truly
inspiring, as was the fact that most of the people of Gloucester understood the vast
potential of this project and reacted to it in a positive, open manner. Your input resulted
in a number of important concepts for the use of the BirdsEye property, and we hope that
you will continue to provide the participation so necessary in a project of this sort.
This is potentially a great moment for the City of Gloucester. If Jim Davis’ team can do
for the BirdsEye site what they did for New Balance shoes, we’re all set.
Gloucester Daily Times
August 2, 2011
Birdseye deal spurs city hopes
By Steven Fletcher Staff Writer
With the former Birdseye building still largely derelict on Commerical Street, city officials said Tuesday they're hopeful that the site's new owner, a limited liability corporation headed by New Balance shoes founder and Bay View resident Jim Davis, will breath some life into the historic industrial property.
The company, Beach Front Gloucester Commercial LLC, does not have any plans in motion for the property — yet — said Sheree DeLorenzo, the LLC's project manager for the site and chief proprietor of Cruiseport Gloucester. But the company trucked out a few storage tanks and other material last week, and DeLorenzo said the company was cleaning up the building.
While Beach Front Gloucester hasn't announced any development plans, she said, Davis and Co. look forward to working with the city.
"We would like to work with the neighborhood and the city of Gloucester to bring about positive change," she said.
Beach Front Gloucester bought the property in July for $6.5 million from Gloucester developer Mac Bell. Bell purchased the site for $2.25 million in 2009. He turned the property over after a year-long sparring match with residents in the Fort neighborhood and with city government,
The site stretches along the west side of Commercial Street from Commercial Court — effectively the driveway into the Cape Ann Chamber of Commerce parking lot, to the intersection with Fort Square. And the deal includes all sections of the Birdseye building. Nancy Papows, the city's principal assessor, said the deed didn't include any additional property. Bell's office declined to comment on the matter.
Bell's Pavilion Mercato LLC and Davis' Beach Front Gloucester Commercial LLC, had reached a tentative agreement for the historic industrial site in early June. Now, DeLorenzo said, Beach Front Gloucester aims to turn it into a multi-use development that could have a hotel and other commercial space, provided the area undergoes a re-zoning to allow a hotel. The site is currently zoned for marine industry, and proposals to rezone the site are the primary concerns that have stymied both Bell and the previous owner, Peter Maggio.
A multi-use facility, open to conference centers and hotels, is exactly what some city officials are looking for.
A facility like that would offer another incentive for marine research and development companies to build along the city's waterfront, said Gloucester's community development director, Sarah Garcia.
"They want to bring people in and showcase their work," she said.
She said she'd like to see the project aimed at business interests, rather than tourism, for what it could bring to the city's harbor.
Garcia said the Birdseye building is suited to touch on and boost all three legs of Gloucester's economic tripod — built on fishing, maritime development and tourism.
"It makes sense to have a downtown location with a large property that could accommodate small business groups," Bob Hastings, executive director of the Cape Ann Chamber of Commerce, said Tuesday.
He said the development group behind the Birdseye property this time around clearly has a successful track record.
But, just as the city and company wait for the project plans, the community's waiting as well.
Ward 2 Councilor Ann Mulcahey — who strongly opposed the mixed-use proposal advanced by Bell, said she won't take any action until there's a plan to act on, and then she said she'll look to meet with her constituents.
"I'm waiting on them to make their decision," she said.
Mulcahey initially opposed the project when news of the tentative sale agreement was reported in June, claiming that she already had three council votes lined up against any potential hotel plan.
Hastings said he found that position appalling, given that no plans had yet been moved forward.
Now, he said, he's looking forward to what could come.
"It's the prefect property for Gloucester to step into the future," he said.
Gloucester Daily Times
August 1, 2011
Birdseye deal pegged at $6.5M
By Steven Fletcher Staff Writer
The limited liability corporation headed by the owner of the New Balance Shoe Company has closed on a deal to acquire the former Birdseye property on Commercial Street from Gloucester developer Mac Bell for $6.5 million — nearly three times what Bell paid for it back in 2009.
The companies, Bell's Pavilion Mercato LLC and Beach Front Gloucester Commercial LLC, headed by New Balance founder and owner Jim Davis of Bay View, had reached a tentative agreement for the historic industrial site in early June.
The sale of the site follows more than a year of Bell's frustrated attempts to convert the property — where Clarence Birdseye first developed the now-ubiquitous process of flash-freezing fish and other foods — into a multi-use development that could have, under a rezoning proposal, included condominiums, a hotel and other commercial space.
The proposed zoning change and Bell's other advances never got off the ground, however, thwarted by Fort neighborhood residents, local business interests and city government.
Beach Front Gloucester, according to a company release, has no plans to put condos at the site, according to Sheree DeLorenzo, the site's project manager and head of Cruiseport Gloucester
DeLorenzo made those comments when the two parties first reached an agreement on the site in early June; she added at the time, however, that a mixed-use property — a restaurant and/or conference center similar to Cruiseport, or a hotel would effectively fit the space. She could not be reached for comment Monday.
Beach Front's representative, George Regan, said Monday that Davis and the new corporation believe the parcel's well worth the cost.
"It's all about jobs," he said. "It's mixed use and has great potential."
According to the Essex County Registry of Deeds, Beach Front officially acquired the historic industrial property from Bell's Pavilion Mercato LLC, on July 12.
Bell purchased the property two years ago for $2.25 million, but put it back on the block after his protracted battles with Fort neighborhood residents, businesses and city government over a multi-use development proposal that would have included condominiums. He withdrew his bid in December.
"This is a potentially great moment for the City of Gloucester," Bell said Monday in a prepared statement to the Times, "If Jim Davis' team can do for the Birdseye site what they did for New Balance shoes, we're all set."
Bell could not be reached for further comment.
Beach Front has not yet filed any new plans for development with the city.
For now, the former cold storage space sits mostly vacant between Commercial Street and Pavilion Beach.
Gloucester Daily Times
June 6, 2011
Update: Hotel seen at forefront of new Birds Eye deal
By Richard Gaines Staff Writer
A limited liability corporation headed by Jim Davis, a summer resident and owner of the New Balance shoe company, has announced an agreement to acquire the two-acre Birds Eye property on Commercial Street, where industrial and residential interests organized to stymie the last plan offered up by current owner and would-be developer Mac Bell last year.
No terms were announced, and principals on both sides of the purchase and sales agreement, were loathe to comment today. However, Boston PR executive George Regan, who represents New Balance and Davis, told the Times that Davis “is involved as an investor.”
A press statement from Beach Front Gloucester Commercial LLC said “additional information will be forthcoming after the closing date approximately 30 days from now.”
The release also emphasized the elimination of condos from the mix of uses in any redevelopment of the marine industrial site, now dominated by a concrete block shell of mostly abandoned cold storage space, where Clarence Birdseye perfected flash frozen fish and revoluntionized the industry during the Roaring ‘20s.
“We have no intention of condos at this site,” Cruiseport Gloucester proprietor Sheree DeLorenzo said in the release, which described her as the “lead project manager” for the Birds Eye acquisition.
Without the condos Bell had wanted — and became a sticking point with the neighborhhood that helped block his efforts at rezoning — DeLorenzo said in the release that “the location is ideal for a hotel, restaurant and conference/function facility.
“We have shown with Cruiseport that it is possible to have successful mixed use projects that contribute jobs and revenue to the city,” she added.
But the development of Cruiseport involved infill development without the organized abutter and neighborhood opposition that Bell was unable to quell or neutralize in the two years after he acquired the Birds Eye site for $2.25 million from an Illinois bank that had foreclosed during the real estate and financial crash.
Dropping the condos and keeping the specter of a hotel on the block that features a row of fish processors down the Commercial straightaway to the elevated Fort Square houses and apartments wouldn’t soften the opposition, one of its leaders signaled.
Neighbors: ‘No hotel’
“Nothing has changed,” said Ann Mulloy, who heads the Neptune’s Harvest division of Ocean Crest Seafoods a bit farther down Commercial Street from the Birds Eye site. “Business and residents are speaking with one voice.”
She said they don’t want a hotel.
“They’ve gone for rezoning several times and failed,” Mulloy noted.
A downtown hotel, however, has been the elusive goal of the last two mayors and many residents and business leaders yearning to see Gloucester become a four season destination.
The release by Beach Front Gloucester Commercial LLC — for which Davis is the lone listed officer — said Mayor Carolyn Kirk was briefed by DeLorenzo.
In a telephone interview Monday, Kirk said, ”the right project, the right people and the right mix are going to work.”
“It goes without saying,” she added, “this property needs redevelopment. Maybe third time’s a charm.”
Gloucester Daily Times
February 14, 2011
To the editor:
Last week the Gloucester Daily Times reported the withdrawal of the BirdsEye zoning proposal from the City Council’s agenda.
We on the BirdsEye Team want to be sure that this withdrawal will not be interpreted as a surrender. We are maintaining our optimism and belief in the political process. We’re here for the long haul and are excited at the prospect of infusing this property with new life.
With that said, withdrawing was a step we deeply regret. It was brought about by the failure of the City Council to engage in the process of inquiry and discussion that is every applicant’s right. Instead they ignored the recommendations of the Planning Board (which supported the intent of our plan), and put forward a zoning proposal that had little or nothing to do with the original BirdsEye proposal.
Rick Noonan, chairman of the Planning Board, stated publicly, “We failed the applicant… Because at the end of the day, the council never took up the recommendation of the board that was charged with doing the zoning… [Bell] waited seven months to get to ‘no.’”
This is true, and it’s a shame. But the greater shame is that in this instance the City Council has failed all of Gloucester.
The magnificent BirdsEye property and the people of Gloucester deserve more than Ann Mulcahey’s “We don’t want things to change.”
The BirdsEye Team
February 8, 2011
Good Evening Friends,
Tonight the City Council accepted our motion to withdraw the BirdsEye zoning proposal.
This is a step we deeply regret. It was brought about by an inability to establish the process of inquiry and discussion necessary to move the project forward.
For reasons we are at a loss to understand, or explain, there has been a reluctance on the part of the City Council to engage in meaningful discussions concerning our zoning proposal. Instead they chose to ignore the recommendations of the Planning Board, who unanimously supported the intentions of our proposal. The City Council’s Subcommittee of Planning & Development put forward a zoning proposal of their own that had little or nothing to do with the original BirdsEye proposal.
In light of this development we felt we had no option but to request a suspension of the process for now. We are maintaining our optimism and belief in the political process.
In the future we will:
* continue working with the City Council to create the zoning changes necessary for the transformation of the obsolete BirdsEye facility into a revitalized complex.
* continue our relationship with Cape Ann Business Incubator (CABI) to help develop and nurture startup companies and furnish quality jobs for the citizens of Gloucester.
* continue to offer the BirdsEye facility at below market rates in hopes that an industrial tenant will step forward (as we have for the two years we have owned it).
* continue researching and developing other options for the best and highest use of this spectacular property.
If you are interested in the details of this lengthy and complex process we have attached a historical sketch of our relationship to the BirdsEye property to date.
Thank you for taking the time to read this e-mail,
The BirdsEye Team
February 8, 2011
BirdsEye History To Date..
No jobs, no taxes, no vitality. We are seeking to bring vitality to the BirdsEye parcel!
The City Council is meeting on Tuesday evening to discuss, among other agenda items, a zoning proposal which will help bring to life the plan for the BirdsEye parcel. This dynamic property overlooks our beautiful harbor from Pavilion Beach and serves as the transition between Stacey Boulevard and the Fort playground. The BirdsEye Team is led by Mac Bell, whose family has been working and providing jobs at 33 Commercial Street, on the Fort, since 1906. Bell purchased the adjacent BirdsEye property two years ago with a majority of it having been unoccupied since 2003. Allied Cold Storage, the building’s only tenant, which employed only two individuals, stopped paying rent and declared bankruptcy in the fall of 2009. Since purchasing the property, Bell has actively sought industrial tenants to rent the space at below-market rates with creative and flexible lease terms to facilitate any modicum of cash flow whatsoever. Despite Bell’s experience and success in the Gloucester marketplace, no tenants have yet been found due to the state of the economy (compounded by Gloucester’s uniquely challenging demographics), the building’s obsolescence, and the abundance of locally available industrial real estate.
While seeking out commercial tenants, both in the neighborhood and afar, the BirdsEye Team simultaneously began holding community input sessions, neighborhood meetings, and research and focus groups to establish a range of potential uses for the property. Ideas that came forward during these brainstorming sessions were as diverse as a museum that would incorporate an educational institution, a fitness center that provides swimming access in the harbor, a mineral/fish oil supplement manufacturer, a green grocer, an observation tower, a hotel and function hall, and residential units that would subsidize construction costs and thereby make these other uses financially viable.
On June 10, 2010, the BirdsEye Team submitted a petition for zoning changes for the BirdsEye parcel to the City Council. The BirdsEye Team proposed expanding the zoning parameters beyond Marine Industrial to incorporate Commercial and Residential uses. These new uses would be deed-restricted in order to embrace the sounds and smells of neighboring businesses. In this broken economy, the proposed expansion of zoning parameters provides clearly defined options for the BirdsEye team. The zoning is a necessary step so that the BirdsEye team can be successful in bringing investors on board to finance the transformation of the obsolete BirdsEye property into a revitalized, mixed-use neighborhood. On this day in June, the City Council referred the matter to the Planning Board seeking their guidance and recommendations.
During the summer of 2010 the Planning Board held six public meetings at which they heard community input regarding the BirdsEye plan. They then held two more meetings at which they deliberated carefully over further revisions to the plan submitted by the BirdsEye Team, considered the input from public comments, and heard recommendations from the Special Council to the City. The decision of the Planning Board, sent to the City Council on October 8, 2010, unanimously supported the intentions of the BirdsEye plan. The Planning Board also provided specific recommendations on how the City Council might make amendments to the plan but allow the requested zoning changes to move forward. Since this point in early October, the process has been derailed in discussions with the Planning and Development Subcommittee of the City Council. Only now is the BirdsEye Team given the opportunity to communicate frustration with the circumstances at hand.
The opportunities that this zoning would allow have been embraced by the community with a growing groundswell of enthusiasm and support since our beginning efforts two years ago. From downtown businesses to Lanesville residents and taxpayers throughout the city, the need for increased tax relief and new jobs in our downtown waterfront are prospects too important to allow a vocal few to hold hostage.
While waiting and hoping for forward movement in the realm of city leadership, the BirdsEye Team will continue to work with their longtime partner, and tenant at 33 Commercial Street, Cape Ann Business Incubator (CABI). CABI’s 8-year track record working with over 300 startup businesses makes them the ideal incubator operator for manifesting tenants to provide some of the diverse uses mentioned earlier, and many others imagined in focus groups. The challenge remains, how to create the vehicle for investment necessary to move this property forward into the future. To that end, we will continue to persevere.
Working together we can create a zoning vehicle which will serve our community’s best interest. Once clear zoning parameters are established the real work will begin. At that point we will have to devote six to twelve months to attaining the Special Council Permit in order to receive financing and a building permit. Investors will need to be brought on board, and their objectives and ideals will need to be synergistically met with the work of talented architects and engineers. From this process we will design an aesthetically pleasing complex whose form will follow its to be determined function. Time, money, and energy will bring the accessibility and beauty of the boulevard to the BirdsEye property, while transforming its obsolete dysfunction into mixed-use vitality.
Let’s Get a Few Things Straight.
When we purchased the old BirdsEye plant in April 2009 it was not with the intention of dropping a hotel onto that site. In fact, we outbid a large hotel chain in order to obtain the property. (Despite rumors you may have been hearing, Ocean Crest was a distant third in the bidding. We only found out later that they were even involved in the process.)
We already had an occupant in the huge freezer facility, and we immediately went around the neighborhood soliciting tenants, including Ocean Crest, for the remaining space in the old fish processing plant.
None of our neighbors wanted to rent industrial space at the BirdsEye property, even at below-market rates. This was probably due to the bad economy, and to the fact that more than half of Gloucester’s commercial/industrial waterfront space is already vacant. But no matter, the BirdsEye plant was paying for itself - just barely. We were prepared to keep it 100% industrial indefinitely, until we could arrive at the best and highest use of that beautiful site.
Then our tenant in the freezer went bankrupt.
No new tenants have approached us, even though we’ve continued to extend the offer of a five or ten year lease at below market rates to all of our neighbors on the Fort. Apparently, if they can’t buy BirdsEye on the cheap, they don’t want anything to do with it.
None of the righteous voices emanating from Commercial Street or the Fort, none of those would-be saviors of the working waterfront who have proposed boat-building shops, or marine research, or biotech, or re-training for fishermen, or schools, or parks - none of them have come forward with concrete proposals for the simple reason that their proposals are not economically viable. The fact is that in today’s economy commercial/industrial space costs more to build than it will return in rent. And what could we possibly do with more marine industrial space when we already have hundreds of thousands of square feet going begging on the Gloucester waterfront? The ideas put forth by those angry voices sound wonderful, but they’re fantasies. Just another way of saying, "Not in my back yard." Just another way of saying, "No!" - The easiest answer there is.
We have a plan that will work.
The Birdseye site presents a tremendous opportunity for the City of Gloucester, a chance to add decent jobs and significant tax dollars, to enhance public utilities, and to contribute to the vitality of the Downtown shopping district.
But without a zoning framework that will allow us a diversity of uses - including residential, retail, commercial and light industrial - we can’t move forward. Under the current zoning regulations, which allow only marine-industrial uses, the property will remain derelict.
The lovely BirdsEye site deserves better than that, and so do the citizens of Gloucester.
This letter was presented to the GDT but never published...
11/1/10 A Progressive Proposal
Good Morning Gloucester,
I’d like to start by introducing myself; my name is Jenny Doane. I was born and raised here in Gloucester, and moved back three and a half years ago after graduating from college. Today, I am writing in support of the BirdsEye project.
After watching the video of the 7/15 BirdsEye proposal to the Planning Board and the City Council’s subcommittee of Planning and Development (available here on Glosta.com) and reading Mac Bell’s recent post on his website entitled, "Walking the Profit Line," I felt inspired to involve my small business, Second Wind Sails, as his vision for the space and project as a whole, resonates with me and is a natural fit for my growing business.
As a young entrepreneur, I have found the biggest challenge for young adults like myself returning to Gloucester with college degrees, ready to settle down and begin a new independent life here, is the lack of employment opportunity.
It will be in the hands of my generation to develop these new jobs and continue the process of revitalizing Gloucester. The Birds Eye Project seems to be a rare opportunity to have a collaboration of the most skilled and talented residents working together under one roof towards the common goals Mac Bell proposes, and I think the results could be extraordinary.
Before starting Second Wind Sails, where I handcraft bags and home accessories from recycled sails from sailboats, I worked in Boston in the marketing department of a Whole Foods Market. The commute was brutal, but Gloucester is one of the most beautiful places in the world (and I’ve traveled many places), yet more importantly, Gloucester is my home and I was not willing to give that up. My time at Whole Foods, although short-lived, taught me two very important things; the first was to value the importance and impact locally handcrafted products have on a community, and the second was to do my part to reduce unnecessary waste in the environment- driving into Boston every day was the exact inverse of my own mantra. But luckily for me, there was room and opportunity for change, just like there is room and opportunity for change, for Gloucester, here. Like Mac Bell has said, "Opportunity has a lot to do with time, a lot to do with place." His proposal emphasizes the importance of implementing these two facets, a similar model which has led to insurmountable profits for Whole Foods and has the potential to do so in our community too. And if you need local proof I recommend popping in to a few of our own successful gems that this proposal is modeled after, such as Willow Rest, Alexandra’s Bakery, Turtle Alley Chocolates, Common Crow/Green Life, Blackburn Performing Arts Center, and Art Haven.
Let’s not scare our college graduates away. Let’s receive them with open arms
and jobs specializing in hospitality management, marine biology, engineering, business
administration, and fine arts, as this space promises to do.
Gloucester is at the "end of the line" so the impression we leave on our visitors must be lasting or we will lose their business forever. Do we want to be known as an impoverished fishing town haunted by the shadows of former pregnancy pacts and drug trafficking, or would we rather be known and recognized for our progressive efforts in incubating small businesses of various disciplines that specialize in locally handcrafted products in a green environment that is conducive to learning, sharing, and fostering artistic creativity. I, personally, would prefer being known for the latter.
We need to be the change we want to see in our society.
And to respond to the Fort residents who insist to " hold the Fort," I say, the greatest gift you can give your children and grandchildren is the gift of opportunity. Opportunity here ensures a brighter future and something your children can come home to. Sure let your kids go off and explore the world because that is incredibly important, but also let them know there is a viable economy here when they get back and we’d love for them to contribute to it. Instilling these values in our young ones now will ensure their return and allegiance to Gloucester in the future. We need to lead by example. And if your property values increase in the process due to revitalization of your neighborhood, I think that is something anyone would be grateful for, especially in this economy, as a house is the single largest asset most people own in their lifetime and the end goal should be it's appreciation not stagnation.
And to those concerned more for the welfare of our school system, many of Gloucester's major problems are cyclical. If we can revitalize our job market we will be pumping money into the system, and in turn, our schools, in the form of taxes. Mac Bell estimates Gloucester will see $200,000-400,000 in tax revenue annually alone from this one project. And this is just the start. The more parents we can put to work in our community the better off everyone will be, most importantly our children. Success in schools can be achieved through a healthy, productive, and supportive community.
And lastly, if you are worried about the height of the new tower, come for a sail with me, I’ll show you how the heights of the BirdsEye facility will vary in a similar rhythm to the Gloucester skyline. We should be proud to offer our visitors such a view.
I’m not saying the BirdsEye Proposal is be all or end all, but it is a start; a start in the right direction that I am confident will spur more creative and lucrative endeavors.
Some of the most influential achievements in our history have started with the stroke of a pen and ended with a stroke of a hammer. I think it’s time we put down the pen (but keep it handy, of course), pick up the hammer, and put some of our residents back to work. Let’s not let this opportunity pass us by.