Pavilion Mercato LLC

The BirdsEye September 19 Focus Group 1 Synopsis:

The group – a thoughtful, insightful and highly creative collection of individuals from virtually all of Gloucester 's neighborhoods -  weighed in heavily toward ocean research and lifestyle amenities in their assessment of “ ideal ” uses of the BirdsEye building.

  • Ocean research , along with a r e search and development cooperative of scientists and engineers, in areas related to fisheries and m any related disciplines, pulled in 17 votes;
  • A non-membership “ Pavilion Beach Club ,” with a Fishermen's Wives restaurant, and public beach access preserving existing beach uses (walking, swimming, kayaks, etc.) garnered 8 votes;
  • Meeting spaces drew 7 votes, with 4 going to a large, reconfigurable business conference center, and the remainder to lecture and social meeting spaces, with/without gallery or museum components;
  • Space for construction, launching and mooring European-style canal boats , or “peniches,” attracted 4 votes, with spirited discussion about the dual creation of boat-building jobs and unique “ waterfront hotel ” spaces being an interesting avenue Gloucester could pursue;
  • A cooking school with a celebrity chef, student housing, and an experimental restaurant space (potentially aligned with the Fishermen's Wives, see above) drew 3 votes, and a “ kitchen incubator ” – a shared commercial space for the testing of recipes (or as a kitchen space for building functions?) drew 2 more, for a total of 5 votes for culinary education and start-up;
  • Mixed uses geared toward neighborhood residential services , i.e. for people living in the Fort and downtown, including grocery, laundry, pharmacy, restaurants/coffee shops, offices and retail attracted 3 votes.  These votes were split between  mixed uses including housing and the same mixed uses excluding housing;
  • The following uses received 2 votes each:
  • a satellite art school connected to RISD or Mass Art or another post-secondary arts educational institution;
  • an aquaculture center ;
  • a training center for fishermen and merchant marines, operated by the Coast Guard;
  • research and development of alternative energy , including w ind, water, biogas and biofuels.

Some vote-generating ideas concentrated on general e conomic outcomes , rather than specific proposals, such as:

  • “maximize benefit to Gloucester waterfront….and every Gloucester neighborhood” (5 votes);
  • “val u e-added businesses” (3 votes);
  • “year-round employment with high wages”;
  • “complement current community profile: address needs”;
  • “cluster economic development – synergy”

A number of ideas generated by members of the group were conceptual in nature , rather than geared toward a specific use:

  • “industrial”
  • “water-dependent uses”
  • “linkage with schools”
  • “honor the past, preserve the present, and build for the future”

Parenthetically, the group initially struggled with the ir mission.  Because the question they were posed (“what would an ideal Birdseye development look like ?”) seemed to focus on the visual, they wanted to look at scaled drawings, elevations, floor plans, and even go on a walk-though at the site.  While we encouraged them to think conceptually about uses for the building , a strong urge to weigh in on the visual composition of the building lingered.  These points , raised by individual participants and not representing any kind of consensus, fell into that realm:

  • limit height to three stories;
  • create a central atrium
  • historic interpretive signage, with an areas specifically devoted to Birdseye history
  • historic preservation of the current architecture – save the tower
  • do a “green retrofit” incorporating existing architecture and targeting a goal of near-zero energy use for the building

It is important to note that the ideas generated in the focus group represented “ideal” uses and therefore were not necessarily supportable .  The discussion format was geared toward creative problem-solving (“What can we do with this space?”) and not whether the ideas were economically viable (“What combination of uses would generate adequate revenue to support the building?') , or beneficial to the community at large, or even socially desirable.

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