Good Morning and welcome to our BirdsEye symposium.
Thank you all for being here.
Renata Greene – Graphics, photography, web design
Geoff Thomas – Power point equipment
Richard Griffin – Architect
Walter Peckham, Bill Fonville, Patty Seitz, Sandra Martyn, MJ Boylan, Laurie Hawkins, Sousan Abadian, Gregor Gibson
This presentation will be about the past, the present and the future.
**Gregor Gibson – Antiquarian Marine Book Dealer, outstanding local author, quality husband, dad and special (smart) brother-like friend to me – will begin by taking us through Urban Renewal.
**MJ Boylan - Trained in law, advanced in theatre, evolved in love. A friend of Gloucester dedicated to improvement - Ch. 91, DPA and taxes – will share feedback from neighborhood focus groups and current day challenges.
**And in conclusion, I will do my best to share our collective vision of the future.
**Afterwards, you’re all invited to come by the BirdsEye property on Commercial Street for some hot mulled cider and a brief tour.
I’d like to begin with a brief retrospective of downtown Gloucester, from my own personal experience.
I was 10 years old, attending spring try-outs for little league at Budreau field. I had just arrived at the field when my glove was taken from me. I rode my bike home and with dried tears told my mom. She called the police. Officer O’Maley came to our home at 302 Essex Ave and got the story. I described my assailant—red hair, freckles, taller, stronger. Officer O’Maley and I rode in the police car to Fitz Hugh Lane, known today as Harbor Loop. Third floor porch— “Hello Mrs…., is Johnny home?” “Johnny, get out here. It’s the police!” “You got his glove?” Johnny left and returned with my glove. The area looked nothing as it does today. Lots and lots of apartments (2-300). Many with views. People living cheek by jowel.
When I was 12 years old…growing up in what is known today as the Wellspring House, bus fare to the waiting station was 25 cents. It was the summer of 1964. The Strand Theatre, located between Palazolla’s (then Sears & Robuck) and The Bookstore, was playing its last show—“Hard Day’s Night”. Connors Drug Store was located between what is now Passports and the Franklin Café. After the movie, I stopped and bought my first Vanilla Coke there (for 10 cents) while waiting for the bus home. Colored water in ground glass apothecary jars lined the shelves. John and Austin Connors were working the counter. (sidebar…Life is precious!) As many of you know, Austin Connors is unlikely to see the fruition of our work relative to the BirdsEye project. I’d like to ask everyone to send their silent prayers for hope, appreciation and love to Austin and his family, one of our community members who has given so much.
The summer after I turned 16…my mom and dad got an apartment at Beacon Marine. They were in transition from West Gloucester’s Combat Zone to a new life where sunsets became daily entertainment. My father developed an evening “vodka time with lime” ritual of photographing the increasingly amazing sunsets with his instamatic camera. They became the posters, labels and yet another piece of my father’s marketing genius for Mighty Mac. That sunset was big! Beacon Marine was a thriving beehive of various activities, in a laid back kind of way. It was a mixed bag. Apartments, a machine shop, a boat yard, a carpentry shop, chandlery/hardware store, a gallery, a sail loft and a marina. It was a waterfront property teaming with diversity, enveloped in a natural breath-taking beauty. In the past 20-30 years, I’ve referenced Beacon Marine on many occasions, as the only remaining example of mixed use on the harbor. Its diversity is no doubt the secret to its longevity, although there’s no question, it has seen better days as a result of limited resources. Public criteria and limitations of use on private property significantly inhibit one’s ability to afford the expensive necessary maintenance that waterfront property requires. Despite the inherent challenges, the Alexander family perseveres. Fortunately, the BirdsEye property isn’t in the DPA or Ch. 91 zone.
Fast forward, I was 19...and had been offered a berth on a Frank Elliot freighter to Sweden. But I was in love, and my GHS sweetheart had another year of school left.
So, instead of shipping out, I started the Glass Sail Boat on Duncan Street (natural foods, stereos, clothing and water beds. Go figure—the first to sell brown rice on the North Shore.
At 21, a close friend and lobsterman, Antonio Leopoldo Riccardi (Tony), who lived across the street in the Fisherman’s Institute building, was served with an eviction notice. We thought it preposterous! Saving the Institute became out battle cry. And Project Fish was formed. Fisherman’s Institute situation hazardous. Gregor Gibson, Martin Ray, Dorothy Cahill, Peggy Sibley, Rene Gross, Joe Garland, Geoff Richon, Robert Mitnick. We challenged the destruction and we lost. The wrecking ball took down the beautiful buildings of the institute and the courthouse—The last 2 of 168 buildings to be the victims of “progress”. People have said to me “we just want to keep things as they are”. I say, we want to embrace the past and bring back the diversity and vitality that mixed use once created in Gloucester.
Without further ado, Gregor Gibson.... Into the past, Gregor…
...(Gregor Gibson gives his presentation, followed by MJ Boylan)
...(Then Back to Mac Bell for Conclusion)