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November 18, 2010
Birdseye compromises target zoning, height
By Richard Gaines Staff Writer
The Gloucester Daily Times
Thu Nov 18, 2010, 10:42 PM EST

A City Council committee's new zoning approach for Commercial Street, aimed at controlling but allowing a hotel and residences along with parking and industrial uses on the former Birdseye property, drew praise Thursday from the developer and the mayor, but neighborhood opposition was not assuaged.

The proposal, which involves maintaining the existing Marine Industrial zoning while creating an "mixed-use overlay district" for the three acres on Pavilion Beach next to the Chamber of Commerce building, was introduced Wednesday night as a compromise by Joseph Ciolino, who chairs the council's Planning and Development Committee.

Ciolino said the approach will survive legal challenges against "spot zoning" — zoning to fit a predetermined project rather than a community or neighborhood's needs — and reserves for the council authority over what goes on the property.

Ciolino also said the proposal would allow one quarter of the square footage to reach a height of 76 feet — nearly double the 40-foot limit in the current Marine Industrial Zone, but significantly scaled back from the 125 feet proposed by property owner and developer Mac Bell in the zoning plan that emerged from the Planning Board last month.

Bell indicated Thursday he could work with the compromise, through he was also dealt a setback, his claim of ownership of that section of Pavilion Beach rejected by the city.

Bell, who acquired the property in 2009 for $2.25 million and has chosen to settle his options before seeking development partners, described the Ciolino proposal as something of a breakthrough — and a viable approach worthy of fine-tuning.

He had been pressing for a sweeping zoning change that would give the project effective pre-approval of a mix of uses including a hotel and apartments.

"It took 10 meetings, but we finally got a document we can work from," said Bell. "(Wednesday) night was an accomplishment." He was referring to seven meetings of the Planning Board and three, including Wednesday night's, of the Planning and Development Committee.

But there is clearly much work to be done on the zoning ordinance and the gnarly politics of the Fort, the city's traditional point of entry for fishing industry emigrants, now a mix of heavy marine industrial plants around a series of housing units that remain as non-conforming uses around Fort Square.

"No matter how you slice it, it still looks like spot zoning," said Ann Mulloy, marketing director for Neptune's Harvest, the fertilizer division of Ocean Crest Seafood, which occupies a prominent spot across Commercial Street from the Birdseye site.

Mulloy has been a leader of Fort residents and business people that helped overturn Mayor Carolyn Kirk's initial effort to loosen zoning on the stubby peninsula to ease the conversion of the Birdseye property into a hotel.

In an e-mail message to the Times, Mulloy made clear none of her objections to the redevelopment of the property had been removed in the Ciolino plan, and opposition was nearly universal within the Fort.

"I've heard one too many times that, without flexibility with our current rules and regulations," she said, "the project won't be 'viable' or 'feasible.' Maybe that's because this project does not fit in, in this particular area.

"If you have to make that many changes to our existing zoning to make this project work," she said, "that should be a red flag that this project will not work down the Fort, because it does not fit in down here."

Mulloy said, however, that "if this project can proceed without the residential component and the height variance, it will be fine, and won't need to be rezoned."

"Almost everyone who lives and works down here does not want this and Mac Bell knew that full well when he bought the property," she continued.

"He knew he couldn't do what he wanted to do, as it was zoned, and he bought it anyway," she added. "So I don't feel we as a city owe him anything to make his inappropriate 'vision' work in this spot."

Ciolino conceded the fate of the rezoning was uncertain.

"We have to send something to the City Council that's legal and best for the city," Ciolino said Thursday. "Our job is to send something we can defend. Whether it'll pass, who knows?"

Mayor Kirk attended the committee meeting Wednesday night, and, on Thursday, urged compromise.

"Meeting somewhere in the middle is the only way progress will be made on redevelopment of the Birdseye property," said in an e-mail. "Polarizing debate is not the way we want to do business anymore.

"Positive change is possible, and we see it happening more and more, such as with I-4,C-2, the Harbor Walk, the Economic Development Plan, and the Harbor Plan," she added. "I am optimistic that there is positive change coming for Birdseye."

Ciolino said the next step is for City Solicitor Suzanne Egan and Lisa Mead, Bell's project attorney, to work through the draft overlay ordinance.

Bell said he hoped to resolve the zoning at the Dec. 1 committee meeting, then to test the council waters Dec. 7.

At that, Bell said he expected the drafting of the special council permit to "consume 2011."

"That's where we'll get specific," he said. "We anticipate after zoning getting into establishing partnerships, so we can do high-quality work and presentations on traffic, utilities and green technology."

In a best-case scenario, Bell said, construction could begin in 2012.

Ciolino said the big difference in the zoning that came out of the Planning Board was the elimination of newly minted concepts such as "use clusters" and "planned urban development" zoning that give developers by-right options for mixing and matching uses within a parcel.

The overlay approach, he said, "makes (the developer) more accountable" to the council for needed special permits.

Meanwhile, the ownership of the beach claimed by Bell when he acquired the Birdseye property was bluntly challenged by Egan in a letter to Mead last Monday.

In it, Egan noted that the city has held rights to the beach "since at least 1833," which is the date of a map made by John Mason, a noted surveyor and cartographer, that marks Pavilion Beach as a "public beach."

"The ownership of the beach is secure," Ciolino said.

October 13, 2010
Editorial: Bell deserves chance to move revised 'BirdsEye' project forward

The Gloucester Daily Times Wed Oct 13, 2010, 10:47 PM EDT

The former Birdseye industrial property in Gloucester's Fort neighborhood is in dire need of major redevelopment.

It will not do anybody, from the city government to the local economy to the neighbors of the property itself, any good to leave it status quo and decay into dereliction.

But that redevelopment, to be viable, is not going to have fishing as its main focus. The three-acre property is not even included in the state's Designated Port Area, and there already seems to be too much industrial space available on the harbor for too little demand from marine service industries.

So while there remain a number of issues and questions surrounding the zoning change sought by Mac Bell for what he and his team are calling a new "BirdsEye" complex of hotel, housing and commercial space, the fact is, his proposal is the most viable the city has seen to date for that location. And he deserves to get a green light from the City Council's Planning and Development subcommittee when that body takes up Bell's zoning request tonight.

For one thing, Bell seems a good choice to take on the redevelopment of this site. He is local. He cares about the city. He will not be throwing up a development, grabbing a quick profit and getting out of town. He will be around to live with the results of what he is allowed to do, for better or worse.

He also has a track record in the city - the redevelopment of the Chamber of Commerce building next to BirdsEye, the redevelopment of Gloucester Mill into condominiums on Maplewood Avenue and others.

Not all of his ventures have fully panned out. A building at the front of the Walgreen's plaza off Rogers Street remains empty after a longtime brick "watershed" structure was torn down to allow its construction. And a permitted windmill proposed for a Bell-owned property on the Annisquam River has yet to take shape.

But that hardly taints his effort to take new strides in an area where, unfortunately, too many Fort residents still live under the delusion that "their" neighborhood will never change as long as they shout loudly enough.

A refusal to adapt to reality and the need for change in and around the Fort will simply continue to draw down the local tax base and stilt Gloucester's economic potential. And that cannot continue.

This does not mean Bell's proposal for an overlay zoning district - allowing a mixed-use development that could reach 125 feet high on part of the property - deserves carte blanche approval.

But the city's Planning Board, which just endorsed the plan with a number of caveats, has taken the right approach. Its members have supported Bell's overall concept, but called for some limits on the dimensions of the project and for the uses to be much more specifically defined.

The first thing that has to be sorted out is whether the overlay district could be vulnerable to a legal challenge on the grounds that it amounts to "spot zoning." A land-use attorney hired by the city has suggested it could be. Bell's attorneys have said that because it is being proposed as a "planned unit development," it is specifically permitted by state law.

Beyond that, however, the council should require Bell to be more specific about the mix of uses he is proposing, which include shops, offices, art studios, a hotel and apartments, and structures that could reach 125 feet in some places - 85 feet taller than the current height restriction. Without compelling evidence to the contrary, this is out of scale for the area.

But the idea to have commercial, industrial and shopping areas - possibly including tenants like the Ryan & Wood Distillery and the Cape Ann Business Incubator - on the first two floors and the residential units on the upper floors makes good sense. So does Bell's commitment to allow year-round beach access.

When the plan comes to the council's Planning and Development panel tonight, it will essentially mark just another step in negotiations.

But all sides - including neighbors - should vow to be flexible. And all involved should venture into this project bearing in mind a basic bottom line:

Gloucester, its economy and its people need an innovative development on this vastly underutilized site. And the vision and concept of Bell's proposal deserves an open door to become reality.

With proper protections through special permits, and with the changes the Planning Board has already advanced, this project is the best hope the city has had for realizing the potential this site holds.

It deserves to go forward.

 

October 12, 2010
'Spot' issue clouding BirdsEye Fort plan

By Patrick Anderson Staff Writer The Gloucester Daily Times Tue Oct 12, 2010, 11:09 PM EDT

The former Birdseye factory rezoning proposal has received a cautious endorsement from the Gloucester Planning Board, but still faces questions - including charges that it amounts to "spot zoning," as it comes before city councilors for the first time Thursday.

In a formal recommendation issued last Friday, the Planning Board said it "supports the general purpose" of the new BirdsEye overlay district and "believes mixed use zoning may be consistent for the area."

The zoning ordinance, proposed by BirdsEye owner Mac Bell's legal team, would legalize a mix of development on his three acres of marine industrial zoned land including apartments, which are now not allowed.

But while supportive of the intent and concept of the overlay district, planners in several areas called for the broadly permissive ordinance to be "scaled" with the size and possible uses allowed by the new zoning more clearly defined and controlled than the initial plan.

They are concerns likely to be repeated and amplified when the proposal moves from the advisory Planning Board to City Council, which must sign off on any zoning change.

The first challenge for Bell's team will be to silence the persistent suggestions that the overlay district could be vulnerable to legal challenge on the grounds of "spot zoning," which refers to a change made to benefit or harm a particular interest outside the intent of a broader zoning plan.

"What makes these three acres more special than any other down at the Fort?" City Councilor Joe Ciolino, chairman of the Planning and Development Committee, asked Tuesday of Bell's plan. "Do we start it on three acres and then add the rest? How do we do something that is not spot zoning?"

Ciolino raised the spot zoning concern after being alerted to the issue by Jon Witten, the land-use attorney hired by the city as an adviser on the BirdsEye proposal.

In a letter to councilors, Witten said the "singling out" of parcels for zoning changes always "raises the specter" of "spot zoning."

"The issue in the present matter is the same," Witten wrote in an Oct. 7 e-mail. "Does the City Council believe that there is support for the rezoning in general and the proposed ordinance in particular within any study or plan? And is the proposed rezoning rationally related to the purposes of zoning in the city, that is, the protection of health, safety and welfare?"

Witten's message came in response to a three-page legal opinion from Bell's lawyer citing several reasons the Birdseye proposal is not spot zoning, including that the mechanism for the zoning change, a "planned unit development" is expressly laid out in state law.

"This is not spot zoning," Bell told the Times Tuesday. "Joe Ciolino has not read the memo from the Planning Board. He has either not done his homework or is intentionally trying to kill something."

While Planning Board members discussed the spot zoning concerns, their recommendation focuses on making sure the zoning amendment did not create a blank check for Bell or any future BirdsEye owner to build something that would surprise the community.

Bell bought the mostly vacant and decaying former Birdseye factory for $2.25 million last year shortly after a city-sponsored plan to rezone the entire Fort and allow a hotel there was overwhelmed by neighborhood opposition.

To find financial backing for a project and break through where other Fort developments had failed, Bell chose to seek broad zoning relief, through an overlay district and planned unit development, before actually putting forward a formal proposal.

In the July public introduction to his zoning plan, Bell described a mixed-use complex including shops, offices, art studios, a hotel and apartments wrapped packaged in an eco-friendly building of a size and height beyond anything else in the neighborhood.

The changes to the zoning proposal recommended by the Planning Board were geared mostly to bringing the BirdsEye project back closer to the ground.

One of the most controversial aspects of the BirdsEye overlay proposal was the provision that would allow the top floors of a new building to be 125 feet high - 85 feet taller than the current maximum height.

Planners recommended keeping the current height limits as they are and requiring Bell to get council permission to go to 125 feet. They also called for the residential part of the development to be limited by density and dimensional requirements instead of simply allowing 75 percent residential.

Another change recommended by planners is to eliminate the "use cluster" concept in the BirdsEye proposal, which would have allowed the developer to swap a number of different uses without having to get a permit change. The recommendation also called for some of the uses allowed by the zoning proposal, such as "drive-through facilities" to be cut out.

Ciolino said he does not expect a vote on the BirdsEye zoning proposal Thursday.

The City Council's standing Planning and Development Committee meets Thursday at 6 p.m. at the American Legion building on Washington Street.

 

August 18, 2010

Birdseye goes video

Local film group hits big time with Guster video work

By Joann Mackenzie Staff Writer Staff Writer Tue Aug 17, 2010, 10:37 PM EDT

While Gloucester deliberates the future of the old Birdseye building, members of the city's creative community have quietly recognized in its vast, raw spaces a natural artist's habitat.

With site owner and developer Mac Bell's blessings, they are flying under the radar of public debate, and nesting in its nooks — and now churning out nationally commissioned work.

That includes a video collaboration between filmmakers from Production Blue, the high-end film division of Gloucester's Bait & Tackle ad agency, and local artist extraordinaire Jon Sarkin. And the video is a national-level presentation showcasing the alternative rock band Guster and commissioned by Universal New York's Music Group.

On a brilliantly sunny afternoon, Sarkin's dark, art-strewn studio space in an abandoned corner of the Birdseye site glowed last week with computer screens manned by an editing team from Production Blue — and lit with the faces of Guster, the three-man Massachusetts-grown band that's built an impressive following leading to this big-label breakthrough.

Rather than transport Sarkin's works to Production Blue's 3,000 square feet of film-making facilities in a former sail-making space in East Gloucester, the three filmmakers had transported their equipment cross-harbor. After some six weeks in development, they were finishing a rough cut of the music video due for viewing that night in New York by Kim Garner, a senior vice president at Universal.

If the local filmmakers were a bit weary, they were also confident about their work fulfilling its goal: namely, launching Gloucester's Production Blue into national orbit once and for all, and establishing it as an equal contender for assignments from major media platforms.

"It been a while coming," says Chad Carlberg, who — as founder and creative force behind Gloucester's award-winning Bait & Tackle ad agency — has been a one-man-whirlwind of digital filmmaking, with over 1,200 Gloucester-produced commercials to his directorial credit.

"Bait & Tackle has been my baby," he says, "from tiny, small budget local spots, we've built a national client base offering full-service integrated multi-media product. But it's time to leave the advertising end of things in other talented hands."

Carlberg, who honed his digital skills on Academy Award winning films at Visionart/Sony Pictures and MVFX/Warner Bros, wants to re-focus his energies on original film projects through Production Blue, and has one locally inspired project in mind.

"This music video," he says, "can take us where we need to be, both financially and in terms of visibility."

The video, for the lead track — "Do You Love Me?" — on the band's new album title "Easy Wonderful," was originally slated by Universal's Garner to go to a big director out of New York or Los Angeles.

"But," says Carlberg, an old friend of Guster drummer Brian Rosenworcel, "I said, just give me a shot at a pitch."

He got his shot and went into overdrive, wowing Garner and her Universal N.Y. team with five conceptual treatment demos, and winning out over big-name directors on both coasts.

Sarkin, who Carlberg had brought to the project to illustrate the album's cover, ended up as an integral part of one of Carlberg's pitch demos.

"Really," says Carlberg, "my initial involvement in the project was just by way of recommending Sarkin to Brian for the artwork. Then, when the pitch opened up, the opportunity opened up to use him in a demo — and, you know, his art just blows 'em away."

Maybe nowhere more so than in New York, where Sarkin's work has taken up regular residence on the pages of The New Yorker, New York Magazine and Vanity Fair.

And so, for Team Gloucester — including co-director Sten Bowen and editor Emile Doucette — Carlberg's concept of Sarkin actually using the video as a live-action canvas went, as they say in the film world, into "green light."

For Guster, the challenge was surviving the paint-spattered shoot with their famously droll good humors intact. This they accomplished, getting on with their music making front stage, while rear stage, Sarkin and his mad band of white coated assistants got on with their mural making.

In the end, the mural — an explosion of retro-psychedelic color built around the Guster logo — somewhat recalls Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band, the band's brand of tongue in cheekiness recalls the Beatles, and the final, fun takeaway doesn't giveaway the tedious, post-production technical timing issues Carlberg and his team wrestle with right down to the deadline in their dark, cluttered corner of the Birdseye Building.

Carlberg, Bowen and Doucette get down to work. And according to Carlberg, the work didn't wrap till 4 a.m.

For Production Blue, success isn't something coming out of the blue.

July 16, 2010

Bell's Birdseye vision: Developer's landmark plan for the Fort

By Patrick Anderson Staff Writer

The most sophisticated, complex and seductive waterfront development proposed for Gloucester in decades is being pursued by developer Mac Bell for the former Birdseye plant, a piece of land that's become a graveyard for audacious building plans.

The project — wrapping apartments, shops, a hotel, office space, art studios and light industry into eco-friendly new buildings — would be of a style and scale the city has never seen.

It would bring significant new activity to the Fort neighborhood and Pavilion Beach — one of, if not the, oldest public beaches in the country.

But the obstacles to bringing the project, outlined at a joint meeting of the city Planning Board and Council Planning and Development Committee, are sizable, and start in the idiosyncratic neighborhood Bell is trying to simultaneously embrace and change.

Just over a year ago, residents of the Fort beat back two versions of a city rezoning plan that would have opened up the former factory to a hotel.

And on Thursday, many of those residents and neighborhood business owners were back in white "Hold the Fort" t-shirts, frustrated that their victory last year may now be fleeting.

"I can't believe we are here again so soon after Fort rezoning," said Ann Molloy of Neptune's Harvest, the fertilizer company just down the street from the Birdseye site. "What makes anyone think they could do what they want when the neighborhood doesn't want it."

To build his project, Bell needs a comprehensive change in the zoning of the land he owns surrounding Birdseye, which right now does not allow any housing or hotel use.

Molloy said Ocean Crest, the seafood company that own's Neptune's Harvest, had tried to buy Birdseye last year in order to expand, but had been outbid by Bell, even though he knew he would need a zoning change.

Reprising arguments that successfully defeated the previous hotel proposal, other Fort residents and project opponents warned that putting housing on the waterfront would lead to gentrification, higher property values and a weakened industrial base.

"No one is against change — I am sick of abandoned properties," said Bill Johnson of Fort Square. "But we need more opportunities, not luxury spas."

Unlike harborside hotel plans dating back for years, the Bell plan offers a level of diversity, public access and community enticements that may push the project over the top.

More than just a hotel, the Birdseye plan promises jobs in a number of different areas. Tenants suggested for the project include Ryan & Wood Distillery and the Cape Ann Business Incubator, which says it will have space for machine milling, electronics, marine lab facilities, and shared commercial kitchen and conference rooms.

The project, Bell says, also trades on the idea of "smart growth" — urban development that combines living, working and shopping in close proximity, without the need for auto-centric sprawl. The Birdseye team has noted repeatedly that most of the Gloucester harborfront had a mix of houses and businesses before the urban renewal razings of the mid-20th century.

While some of his Gloucester projects may fall short of expectations, Bell's city roots give him a level of credibility that a national developer would not have.

"Development of the Birdseye parcel is inevitable — change will come to that beautiful parcel," said antiquarian bookseller and writer Greg Gibson, now a member of the Bell team. "Based on my experience with Mac Bell, I trust him more than any other developer to make the compromises that best take into account the concerns of the neighborhood and city, and that respect the aesthetics and history of the Birdseye site."

In his presentation, Bell touted his redevelopment of the Chamber of Commerce building next to Birdseye and the redevelopment of Gloucester Mill — the Maplewood Avenue condominiums where he introduced deed restrictions, acknowledging that the loud commercial activity of neighbors was part of living there.

Bell's Walgreen's Plaza on Main Street has been successful, although far less progressive, and a green office building plan on Emerson Avenue has been fully permitted, but unrealized for lack of demand.

Bell's Birdseye zoning proposal would create an overlay district on the sites three acres, taking advantage of state law for "planned unit developments," mixed-use projects approved as master plans with interchangeable use "clusters."

In addition to the uses already allowed in the marine industrial district, the new zoning would allow, by special permit, a marine trade school, recreation club or gym, hotel, live-work residences, multi-family apartments, assisted living homes, adult day care, micro-farming and medical center.

Some residents at Thursday's hearing were also surprised by the amount the proposal would raise height limits at the site.

Under current zoning, nothing can exceed 40 feet. But under the new proposal, Bell could build up to 125 feet high, as long as that height makes up only 15 percent of the total area, and 55 percent of the area can be 108 feet high.

The height would also have to be "tiered," so the high portions are on the interior of the complex, according to the proposal. The proposed rules also limit the hotel to one-third of the total floor area, and live/work space to not more than 40,000 square feet.

Bell has promised "multiple view corridors" through the project to the harbor and year-round beach access through a public "piazza" where the gravel parking lot next to the Chamber is now.

The plan calls for the first two stories to host the commercial, industrial and shopping areas, while the third story and up would have the apartments and condominiums.

Although it is always controversial, Bell has said including upper-floor housing is the only way to make building lower-floor commercial, industrial and public space viable.

On Molloy's comment that he had outbid Ocean Crest, Bell said he had actually swooped in at the last minute and beaten out a hotel developer with his bid of $2.25 million, while Ocean Crest had been nowhere close to that number.

He also said he had offered to either rent or sell part of the development to Ocean Crest and was close to a deal when owner Leonard Parco decided he would be better off waiting for a property with water access.

While it abuts the beach, the Birdseye property has no docks and is not part of the state Designated Port Area.

Although opposition to the Birdseye plan appears strong, supporters of the plan seemed to outnumber opponents, if only slightly.

"Every day I walk by that dilapidated building, and either something is going to be built there or it is going to fall down," said David Bianchini of Fort Square. "I am in support of this and hope you approve it."

"This is the most exciting thing that has come to this city in 25 years," said David Anderson of Middle Street. "(Bell) is taking a step when no one else is. We need growth."


Letter: Focus, not progress, at issue in Birds Eye plan
June 28, 2010
To the editor:

In the recent responses to my letter regarding the proposal to rezone all of Mac Bell's property on Commercial Street there is a lack of comprehension about the objections.

Having worked in the capacity as an economic aide to several U.S. senators and on a number of public policy issues, I can see clearly that this proposal would not make sense for any city to grant as asked. It is far too overreaching and without a clear focus or definitive development plan at the moment.

Such parcels are complicated affairs to develop; the United Shoe site in Beverly is a clear example of renovations for a former industrial to a more mixed use and transitional zone usage in urban planning.

No one is arguing for "no change" or saying "No" - nor is the objection without merit.

What was said to be the vision is very unclear in this proposal. It also seeks the ability to switch it up without returning for permitting. That is not good policy for any neighborhood or city.

Public policy is based in law, not mere opinions. Zoning laws were enacted to avoid damages, injury, and conflicts over usage rights of separate parties and abutters.

Back in the day, Fort residents lived and worked there. There was no conflict of interest nor vehicular traffic when that property was mixed use. A lot has changed since then - for one, the area was zoned Marine Industrial, the city's most expansive zoning.

It is easy to try to paint people as this or that, apply a label, and distract from the facts but the debate in this instance is on the proposal and its merits.

For the record, I'd like to see change and a productive use for the site that is well focused and bankable and one that has a strong chance of succeeding in creating more economy for the downtown of Gloucester.

I'm certain in more time Mr. Bell will focus his ideas of mixed use and scale and present something that can go forward and bring change within our planning and zoning practice structures.

ERNEST MORIN
Gloucester


Letter to the editor: Mac Bell's plan for Birdseye brings fresh winds of change
June 27, 2010

To the editor:
Kudos to Mac Bell for his response to Ernest Morin (Letters, the Times, Wednesday June 23; Friday, June 25).

The citizens of Gloucester are indeed fortunate to have local businessman Mac Bell willing and able to attempt the rescue of the Fort's Birdseye industrial site.

Bell, a local businessman with the guts and economic wherewithal to take on this challenging waterfront revival in today's economic climate, is downright commendable. Gloucester owes Bell a debt of gratitude for his vision and willingness to step up to the plate in this anti-small business climate currently spreading the breadth of America.

Mr. Morin and other anti-development cohorts in the Fort, entrenched as many may be in one of Gloucester's prized often unrecognized diamond-in-the-rough real estate section, will selfishly fight tooth and nail to preserve their world on Commercial Street at the expense of Gloucester's entire tax-paying community.

Mr. Morin, change - that hated word - is coming. You and your green friends, the residents hoping to maintain the status quo, are living in the past.

The days of "the redfish eatin' the keel out of the boat," in the words of Capt. Lloyd Campbell, are gone. The Fort - with its rundown, burned-out, prime wharfage; its defunct Producer Fish Co. property, reduced to lobster pot storage; and an ice company that formally produced 300 tons of ice per day - is history.

The true Blessing of the Fleet is only a memory. There is no real fleet.

Face it, our fish related waterfront is changing. Our federal government's National Marine Fisheries Service and their progressive big business philosophy guarantee the end to family commercial fishing as we know it. The boats are gone and the men, too. The Fort must and will change.

The I-4,C-2 parcel is on the verge of a renaissance and the town landing's former seafarer's union vacant building will finally become a legal, viable, functioning commercial contributor to the city of Gloucester. Change is in the air!

To Mr. Morin et al, there can only be so many non-profit marine-related whale watch societies, aquariums, fishery heritage museums and the like.

The time has come for Gloucester to invest in the future that Mac Bell envisions at the Birdseye property - you know, jobs and the hated development that threatens your world; growth that is so crucial to the very economic life of Gloucester.

Our city government must proactively embrace Mac Bell's goals. The Planning Board, Board of Appeals, et al, should bend over backwards to find ways to enable Bell to accomplish his vision for his Fort property and in reality Gloucester's very future!

As I wrote in my book, "An Island No More," the only constant is change and the only issue for the citizens living in Gloucester is will they control change or will change control them, for change will come.

RON GILSON
Gloucester


Letter: 'No' is no answer for Birds Eye site
June 24, 2010

To the editor:
Regarding Ernest Morin's recent letter about the Birds Eye project (Times, Wednesday, J-une 23):

Sometimes the easiest thing to say is "No!"

When this becomes a default position, it works against problem solving. Creative solutions are difficult. "No!" is easy.

The Birds Eye team has worked hard to envision a regulatory framework that will allow us the flexibility to make this project succeed in difficult economic times, while respecting the neighborhood and including the ideas put forth by the residents of Gloucester.

Mr. Morin raises a number of shadowy objections that, in fact, do not pertain to the particulars of this neighborhood, or to the economic challenges facing the city.

While we are in complete agreement with Mr. Morin's statement that, "we need to move forward in ways that don't destroy what is here and allow for sensible growth and new valuable jobs and synergy for the city" we don't see any details in his letter as to how this might be accomplished.

If he has a specific plan for the Birds Eye site that will enhance the economic and civic vitality of the waterfront and downtown areas, increase the tax base, provide jobs, improve the water/sewer/utilities infrastructure and afford something close to "net zero" energy use, while adding to "what is here" and producing a fair and reasonable profit for the developer, we invite him to bring it forward.

We are willing to listen to any and all concrete and specific solutions to what remains a difficult but exciting challenge.

"No!" is not an answer.

MAC S. BELL
Gloucester


Letter: Birsdeye plans don't fit the Fort
June 22, 2010

To the editor:

I am writing regarding the height and scale of the proposed building changes for the former Birdseye site that are being asked for and will be before Planning Board and Planning & Development a joint meeting July 15 at City Hall.

As a point of reference, the Ferris wheel now in place for this week's Fiesta approaches the 125-foot height tower being requested.

Is that really appropriate in this place? Is this what the neighborhood and rest of the city feel is desirable or necessary?

The proposal is also far too open ended and would be a disaster as a precedent to set for any neighborhood in the city or any developer in the future.

As urban planning it is not at all in line with any of the principles of new urbanism which incorporates lessons learned about the need for one full street of transition between industrial and residential or heavy commercial use.

It also seeks to add many more uses that are known to be incompatible with businesses in a Designated Port Area.

Cities like Portland, Maine, have learned not to do such projects in close proximity; it drives the businesses off the waterfront.

There is currently $80 million in business in the Fort, and it is far more valuable to Gloucester than the Fish Pier.

We are at a crossroads as a city - we need to move forward in ways that don't destroy what is here and allow for sensible growth and new valuable jobs and synergy for the city.

This proposal needs a real focus and solid business and market share plan for each use the city should not grant approval for anything of this size or scale that would not have either in place - one only needs to look at the old Filene's site in Boston, which is a real failure - to know what can happen when dreams are not grounded in the economic reality of the time.

This proposal amounts to asking for no zoning at all.

This we can not afford Gloucester.

ERNEST MORIN
Main Street, Gloucester


My View: Bell's outreach on Birds Eye site another positive sign for city
Published: August 18, 2009 05:45 am
Jim Munn

All but lost in all the justifiable hoopla over last weekend's spectacular Gloucester Triathlon was the lawn-chair meeting local businessman Mac Bell hosted last Saturday morning on the parking lot of the old Birds Eye building down on Commercial Street in the Fort.

I missed the meeting's musical opening act, arriving just in time to hear Mr. Bell, the property's new owner, turn the microphone over to those in attendance who wished to state publicly what they thought should be done with the site.

There was, by the way, a nice crowd on hand, somewhere between 100 and 200 people.

Naturally the ideas presented at the meeting were interesting and varied. They ranged from a cooking school, seaweed, sea salt, and Omega fish oil production operation, to artists' workshops, a marine-related research or educational facility, and farmers market, along with a dozen-or-so other equally good suggestions.

What came out clear from all the comments was that a multi-use facility of some sort was what everybody seemed to want. Which seemed fine and well with Mr. Bell, the individual who must shell out the the money needed to make such an important waterfront project work.

Being a pragmatist as well as a visionary, Mr. Bell can't be blamed for not wanting to see the whole Birds Eye revitalization operation go straight down the hopper due to some kind of built-in unprofitability factor.

"I think some real magic can happen here," Bell said, pointing to the venerable old building, with its crumbling, bone-white facade. "But when the rubber hits the road, it's got to turn a profit."

Mac Bell doesn't want to lose his shirt on the project. And who can blame him?

My own feeling is that something very special is going to happen now that Mr. Bell has committed to doing something that is both creative and economically viable with the building in which Clarence Birdseye revolutionized the world's frozen food industry.

There aren't that many people who could manage such a risky undertaking. Mac Bell, I believe, is one who can, for not only is Mac Bell a Gloucester guy through-and-through, he's also that rare mix of dreamer and hard-headed realist, qualities tailor-made for the innovative project he has in mind down there on Commercial Street, one of the most productive and interesting areas of the city.

Since that weekend, I've been thinking a lot about those two events: that Sunday's triathlon and Mac Bell's Saturday lawn-chair meeting.

Both, it seems to me, reflect the positive direction this city is heading as it strives to meet the challenges and demands of the new century — a century in which dreams and plain old-fashioned pragmatism combine to sustain and improve the quality of life for all who call this place home.

Jim Munn is a regular Times contributor and boys' track and field coach at Gloucester High School.


Letter to the editor: 'Inspiring' weekend shows Gloucester can get it done

Published: August 17, 2009 05:40 am

To the editor:

The weekend of Aug. 8-9 in Gloucester was truly inspiring.

At 9 a.m. that Saturday, a crowd gathered in the parking lot of the old Birdseye building to discuss possibilities for the property newly acquired by investor/developer/visionary, Mac Bell. For the first time since I have lived here, I heard progressive, innovative, sustainable ideas that made good sense for the city received with a sense of openness and optimism.

Many residents that have fought so hard to preserve Gloucester's history and dignity showed up, continuing to stand firm in that commitment. I was, and continue to be impressed by their fortitude.

Many thoughts were presented — my favorites being the Birds Eye building housing a Farmer's and Fish Market, along with other small vendors. The most important aspects, sustainability and economic/environmental viability, were clearly cited as focal points. This was encouraging and reassuring to me, given how heartbroken I and others have felt since much of our environment was recently destroyed in Gloucester for a very controversial shopping development adjacent to the Fuller School.

On Sunday, we witnessed the city's first-ever sprint triathlon. Janda Ricci-Munn and the organizers and volunteers did nothing less than an awe-inspiring job. The event left this city with not one sign of trash, in fact even leaving Pavilion Beach cleaner than they had found it.

Though I didn't participate in the race, I was so motivated watching it, that I plan to in the future. It was also quite uplifting to see the introduction of the race and elite athletes at the "podium," the stairs of the Birds Eye building, as if a harbinger of the vitality threatening to enthuse and inspire Cape Ann with projects it can be truly proud of. I hope this can signify that we are moving toward a healthy community with lots of energy and enthusiasm to build intelligently.

Perhaps this weekend can be a sign of brighter days to come. It is finally becoming clear we have what it takes.

Just like the triathletes know, it might not be easy, but, Gloucester, it can be done!

Annette Dion


SIGNS OF A GLOUCESTER RENAISSANCE

This is what Mayor Caroline Kirk had to say about the BirdsEye project in her column of August 15, 2009...

" There are rumblings of a renaissance in Gloucester. A resurgence. A revitalization. A reawakening — all words that describe renaissance.... The revitalization of the Bird's Eye building is nearing possibility under the ownership and community-based approach of Mac Bell. About 100 people attended the "lawn chair" discussion last Saturday.

I listened for a while and thought about the public floggings I took during the discussions regarding a proposed hotel for the site. But I also thought that the lawn chair discussion may not have been possible if we hadn't had a very public and transparent process about a possible development there.

The community absolutely made it clear what they don't want. Now, the community is stepping forward and dreaming about what they do want. And this time, unlike last time, they have the full ear of the property owner and developer. I am feeling very optimistic about the revitalization of the Bird's Eye building in a way as Mac would say, adds to Gloucester's "magic."


What should Birds Eye building be? Developer asking neighbors question at lawn chair meeting tomorrow
Published: August 07, 2009 12:42 am

By Patrick Anderson
Staff Writer
If the historic former Birds Eye factory building could be anything — an art studio, an office, a restaurant, an assembly line, a Greasy Pole hall of fame — what would you like to see there?

That's what the building's new owner, developer Mac Bell, wants to know. Tomorrow morning he is holding a "lawn chair and ideas" gathering in the Birds Eye parking lot to brainstorm and steep in the will of the people.

The gathering, starting at 9 a.m. with a warm-up performance by bluegrass band Old Cold Tater, is the first in what Bell said will be a series of community events to make sure that whatever he does with the Birds Eye factory does not meet the same anti-gentrification opposition other recent plans have faced.

"I've lived in the Fort, I own property there and I work there. I definitely have ideas about possible uses, but I am interested in hearing from everyone else," Bell said in a statement this week. "At the moment, there is nothing that's off the table."

Bell last month bought the 1915 factory, where Clarence Birdseye perfected the flash-freezing process, from a bank for $2.25 million.

Originally a light bulb factory, the building is now partially filled by a cold storage business and is covered by marine industrial zoning, which bars residential development in the rest of the Fort and much of the harborside.

Bell purchased the building after a plan launched by Mayor Carolyn Kirk's administration last year to rezone the property so it could be turned in to a hotel was clobbered by community opposition.

While all possibilities are officially on the table, Bell, in early discussions, has said he is interested in a mixed-use, live-work arrangement with commercial or industrial activity on the ground floor likely paired with residential above.

"It's so easy to operate from fear," Bell said this week. "If we can just embrace the optimism ... the less politics the better."

His press release on Tuesday added "after what happened with the proposed hotel, I think I have a pretty good idea of what people don't want."

As for the Birds Eye's unusual white tower, which has become a familiar landmark overlooking Pavilion Beach, Bell said he would like to keep it.

Joining Bell and Old Cold Tater in the Birds Eye parking lot, 55 Commercial St., will be Mary John Boylan, the facilitator of the event, and architect Richard Griffin.

Following tomorrow's event, a focus group meeting has been scheduled by the Birds Eye team for City Hall on Sept. 19.


Letter to the editor: Play a part in deciding what's right for Birds Eye site
Published: July 14, 2009 05:26 am

To the editor:

The residents of Gloucester rejected plans for using the Birds Eye property to build a hotel and bring that area into the 21st century. The proposal to change the Marine Industrial Zone to accommodate other uses was also opposed, as it would weaken the working waterfront of this unique neighborhood.

Fishing, mixed residential and fishing-related businesses are what made this part of Gloucester valuable in the first place. What happened at the Fort in the past and what occurs in the future will determine the future of Gloucester as it always has.

Destroy and replace in order to improve seems to be a recurring theme. Remember Urban Renewal? The Birds Eye building and adjacent properties do not need to be destroyed, they need to be utilized! The building is structurally sound and can be renovated to provide additional facilities where people can work, shop, eat, visit, be entertained and enjoy the diversification the Fort has always provided.

Mac Bell and other business associates have the "finger on the pulse" for the public feeling to maintain the operational facilities of Birds Eye and provide new life and preserve the history and heritage of the Fort.

Please watch the Times for an important meeting regarding the Birds Eye property. Plan to be involved by attending the meeting or sending your thoughts and constructive ideas by phone, e-mail, online, postal service or direct communication — somehow get involved in this project.

It is when we, the ones concerned with Gloucester and its future, decide what must be done, and direct our mayor and representatives and the Planning Board of our decisions, that government works best.

We must act now to help Mr. Bell and his associates in this effort to save the Fort, and preserve this national treasure.

Roy Spittle

By Terry Weber/Correspondent
Cape Ann Beacon
Posted Nov 18, 2010 @ 11:47 PM
Gloucester

Real estate developer Mac Bell and his team presented an update of the development plan for the Birdseye site last Wednesday evening during the Planning and Development Committee meeting at the Sawyer Free Library.

Bell and his team have been meeting with city planners since July and at a meeting in mid October, Councilor Joe Ciolino called Bell’s plan "complex" and asked that Bell come back with a "simpler" development plan. Throughout the meeting process, councilors also asked for several modifications of the original plan.

Bell’s vision is to transform the three-acre Birdseye property that sits between Commercial Street and Pavilion Beach in Gloucester into a mixed-use area which would include access to recreational water activities, space for special events, galleries, residential units, a hotel, restaurants, fresh markets, and a gym. The entire property would utilize environmentally friendly technology such as solar energy.

Bell’s team, including Attorney Lisa Mead, detailed modifications to the original plan including reducing the height of the proposed building(s) at Birdseye. Originally, the proposed height stood at 125 feet, but now the proposed height is 76 feet or six stories.

Others on Bell’s team included David McCarley from the Cape Ann Business Incubator speaking on the employment opportunities that the proposed development would bring; Timbah Bell speaking on the vision of Birdseye; Birdseye architect Richard Griffin; and Sandra Martyn, Bell’s Leasing and Property Manager who detailed why the Birdseye site needs a residential component in order to be financially viable.

Both supporters of Bell’s plans and opponents voiced their opinions after the presentations. The opponents, many of whom live in the Fort Square neighborhood surrounding the Birdseye property, cited concerns including increased traffic, loss of access to Pavilion Beach, outside developers not preserving the character of Gloucester, and zoning "favoritism."

One opponent, Sunny Robinson, spoke with the Beacon in a phone interview.

"The Birdseye property is in a marine-industrial district that prohibits residences of any kind including hotels, condos and apartments," said Robinson. "I firmly believe the economic future of Gloucester, particularly the waterfront area, depends on creating well paid, and skilled marine related jobs."

In order for the development of the Birdseye property to move forward, the city must consider approving zoning amendments that would create an "overlay district." Approval of an overlay district would allow for residential and other mixed uses of the property. Critics of changes to the Birdseye zoning call it "spot zoning" or favoritism - allowing one property to change its zoning without due cause.

Robinson cited examples of marine related potential and actual success stories. "Ocean Crest once tried to buy the Birdseye site to expand their business so we know there could be other interested parties; the Ocean Alliance is fixing up the old Paint Factory; and the city itself is investigating marine related uses for the I-4, C-2 plot they bought. The same can happen for Birdseye; they can develop their site for marine industrial use instead of residential or other uses."

Robinson also repeatedly voiced her opinion at the meeting that it appeared as though the Planning and Development Subcommittee was already favoring Bell’s plans despite the fact that the hearing process was not complete, and the committee had amended the original proposal.

"It is not the role of the committee to create a proposal that simply favors one developer’s opinion," said Robinson.

In response to Robinson’s comments, Planning and Development Chairman Joe Ciolino said, "Our committee is charged with recommending zoning that cannot be construed as ‘spot zoning’ to the City Council".adding allowable uses to the existing district through the established mechanism of an ‘overlay district’ can be defended in court by the city. We were well within our rights to amend the document."

According to Ciolino, the newest proposal gives the city and the neighbors more control as to what is developed on the site via the Special City Council Permitting Process (SCCPP). City infrastructure, traffic, view corridors, heights, and quality of the neighborhood would all be under consideration with the newest proposal via the SCCPP.

Also in a phone interview with the Beacon following the meeting, Mac Bell addressed some of Robinson’s and other opponents concerns.

"We have many ideas for recreational use of the waterfront area and we also continue to reach out to marine related businesses," said Bell. "I have had recent conversations with Ocean Crest, and others such as Neptune and Mortillaro. My door is open."

As for traffic concerns, Bell explained that the Birdseye team is only in the zoning process now. "We still have probably another year of permitting after we get zoning approval. After permitting, we will be hiring the appropriate persons to conduct traffic, impact, and infrastructure studies," said Bell. "The planning process is quite comprehensive and the neighbors’ concerns will be part of the process."

At the suggestion that Bell might hire developers who don’t have Gloucester’s best interests in mind, or have no appreciation for Gloucester’s history, Bell responded, "I am totally committed to working with quality local investors and developers. We believe the success of the project will be dependent on dedicated lovers of Gloucester and Cape Ann working together - for the revitalization of our community."

Bell went on to describe his commitment to keeping Pavilion Beach easily accessible to the public. "We are committed to Pavilion Beach being as public as the Boulevard. Our lifelong support of St. Peter’s Fiesta, our sponsorship of the Blackburn Challenge for the past decade, and our unwavering enthusiasm for the triathlon is proof of our commitment," said Bell. "The people who know us the best understand that we are completely committed to public access to the beach and the success of Gloucester as a whole."

Supporters of the Birdseye development included Gloucester resident Dave Anderson. "In my opinion, Gloucester should be seeking development opportunities, because of our desperate financial situation. We currently need millions and millions of dollars to fix our water supply, better our schools, fix our sewers, etc," said Anderson. "Just a hotel alone would bring in three different taxes: meals tax, property tax and lodging tax. And on top of that, we have Mac Bell, a local family guy who loves Gloucester. He’s not here to destroy us. Yes, we need to listen to and address the concerns of neighbors. There is room for compromise and discussion, however the health and wealth of the entire city of Gloucester should not be held hostage by 40 neighborhood people."

Bell asks for new zoning for Birdseye property in Gloucester
By Terry Weber/Correspondent
Cape Ann Beacon
Posted Jun 14, 2010 @ 01:02 PM
Gloucester

Mac Bell’s development plans for Commercial Street started the trek through the permitting process this week.

On Tuesday evening at the Gloucester City Council meeting, councilors referred Bell’s preliminary plans to revitalize the waterfront property known as the Birdseye building to the Planning and Development Committee and the Planning Board.

It is the first of many steps in the process of permitting a new development and could potentially change the zoning laws in the Fort neighborhood. During the process, the City Council will hold public hearings and eventually vote whether to move ahead with Bell’s plans.

For over a year Bell’s Birdseye team met with residents, local interest groups, city planners, architects, and engineers to identify the best and highest uses of the property.

The feedback from the meetings shows that residents favor a mixed-use plan rather than a single hotel or singular business. Residents also voiced support for the marine industry, research and development, educational, retail, office, restaurant and residences. The prevailing theme promoted space that pays respect to Gloucester’s history, its assets, and the preservation of access to the water.

To reach his goal, Bell filed a request for changes in zoning with the City of Gloucester last week. These new zoning changes are described in a document developed by Bell named the Birdseye Mixed-Use Overlay District (BMOD). (See link for copy of the details). Should the City Council approve Bell’s BMOD, he would still need approval of a "master plan" for the site, and he would need all special permits related to his changes in zoning.

"We will be seeking special permits that allow for the inclusion of uses not provided for by present zoning," said Bell. "Some examples are marine educational facilities, assisted living, adult day care, hotel, motel or motor inn, integrated medical center, parking structure, and other possible uses."

Bell is seeking overall flexibility in zoning. He says his plans will allow a diverse group of tenants, partners and investors that will revitalize and bring new energy to the downtown.

Bell also envisions a property that uses green energy that may include the use of solar panels and a wind turbine. On Bell’s team is architect Richard Griffin of Salem, who is already playing key role in the planning of green buildings. If apartments are built at the site, tenants may also have access to electric vehicles provided by the development. "There are so many great ideas that would help put Gloucester at the forefront of modern green development," said Bell. "But we need to make a profit, and when we do, we will contribute significant tax dollars to the city." Currently the Birdseye property contributes about $20,000 in annual taxes to Gloucester. With the recent closing of the freezer plant on the site, that amount could drop to as little as $12,000 this year.

"When fully developed according to the mixed-use criteria we envision, the Birdseye property will contribute $200,000 - $400,000 annually to Gloucester’s tax base at current rates," said Bell.

Bell also claims that as a result of the Birdseye development, sewer, water, gas and electric infrastructure will be significantly upgraded for all residents in the Fort and Beach Court areas.

"Yes, Mac Bell’s preliminary request will be studied by the planning and development committee," said Jackie Hardy, City Council President. "I am looking forward to the committee’s thoughts and the public hearings."


Mac Bell considers history in developing Birdseye property

Dawn Robertson/Correspondent
Wed Nov 25, 2009, 05:22 PM EST

Gloucester -

“He had me at the baseball glove,” one attendant confides, referring to Mac Bell's slideshow last Saturday morning at Gloucester City Hall. The hour-long presentation gave a solid outline of Gloucester's unique challenges and advantages on the waterfront throughout history. It contained Bell's vision for his newly acquired Birdseye building, Gregor Gibson's talk entitled “Finishing the Job: An Urban Renewal History,” and Mary John Boylan's presentation about the city's current economic landscape.

Bell opened the program with a childhood story about a stolen baseball glove and closed it with sweeping visions of prosperity. Using vocabulary like “magical, wonderful, breathtaking, and blessed,” he wove himself into the fabric of Gloucester, with references to Portuguese Hill, Fitz Hugh Lane, the old Strand Theater, ball games, sunsets and memories of the once densely populated Harbor Loop. He choked up when looking at slides of the lost courthouse and Fisherman's Institute, and when describing how the mayor housed his Jewish great-grandfather for three weeks in 1906 when no housing was offered.

He also described his past preservation efforts, business success, development success, and government involvement. The message was clear: Gloucester has been good to him, he is good at what he does, and he now has an opportunity to be very good for Gloucester with the right cooperation. The Birdseye building lies just outside the “Designated Port Area,” or DPA, so the state and federal governments have little control over its evolution. This gives Bell more flexibility, but he knows that without complete communication and transparency with the city, nothing will work.

Gregor Gibson then outlined the waterfront's history from 1885 to 1975, and the culture of improvement by destruction that led to the present vacant lots and sterile atmosphere. The waterfront evolved from an “organic fit of function and form” in the late 1800s to today's transitional space, hurting from abandoned plans and a sluggish economy. He identified several strategies (reiterated throughout the talk) that make a healthy Gloucester: adaptively re-use structures; utilize new resources; think big; and integrate commercial, residential, industrial space. The urban renewal drive of the 1950s had valid motivations of modernizing the waterfront and ending substandard housing, but their mistakes still haunt the waterfront.

Mary John Boylan then described Gloucester's unique challenges and gifts. While a low median income keeps the population modest, the powerful draw of the ocean is a key commodity. “We have lost over 5,000 of our husbands, fathers, sons, cousins, and friends,” she sympathized. “We understand that the loss of life creates a fear of change.” But she warns that the city must take advantage of the ocean's enriching effect on people, as it could tip the scales in favor of the city. The malls are not the face of Gloucester, but a small downtown residential presence may keep the world from knowing that.

The presentation left the listener with one big message: Mixed-use created a thriving waterfront in the past and it will do so in the future. Bell noted that his property is better suited for housing and public venues since there is walking access to a stunning beach but no room for industrial vehicles. “The current Birdseye cold storage facility contributes $21,000 in taxes to the town, but it could be as high as $300,000 with the right mix of public, private, and commercial use,” he stated.

Boylan noted that the waterfront need not be sequestered for industrial use, as there is already 250,000 to 2 million square feet of free space just off the water.

Bell closed the morning with a list of possible development ideas, culled from the posters still hanging on the walls from the previous meeting: a farmers market, mercado, theatrical space, public piazza, swim/sail/health club, observation deck, public pier, off-shore wind farm, artistic live/work space, green energy, and scientific education.

Of course gentrification is a valid point, as a superficial and ill-fitting facelift would fail as much as vacant lots and cold storage facilities. But Bell is confident that he and the city are on the same page.

“The city is concerned with schools, clean water, and sewers now; gentrification is not a concern. I originally fought condos myself but with the appropriate sensitivity, cool and eclectic residents could be found. And I would keep it affordable, especially in this economy.” He also showed a very clear disclaimer that all residents would have to sign, acknowledging that they accept all parts of a working waterfront.

In business, as in life, a period of untapped potential might proceed a slingshot into the forefront. “Newburyport and Gloucester both had urban renewal programs at the same time, the only difference was the leadership,” Bell points out. He exudes enthusiasm and would love the Birdseye project to be a forerunner of a larger waterfront revitalization. “I have trouble just focusing on the Birdseye building since I have so many ideas. I need to take everything one step at a time.”

 

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