Save Gloucester’s historic Fort Square


(via the OlsonNow site)

An emergency call to save Gloucester’s historic Fort Square

A group of people from Gloucester (David Rich, Peter Anastas and others mentioned further on) recently sent us the following material on new zoning and urban renewal/destruction plans for Gloucester, things that Charles Olson fought tenaciously against. Let us always remember that Olson’s legacy is as much on the ground, among the people of real places, as it is on the page. Think of any imaginative coalitions, venues for publicity so that this story can get off Cape Ann to a wider constituency.

Ammiel Alcalay

First e-mail from David Rich:

The local press and controversy on the rezoning has been intense and consuming. Much written, but nothing that’s made it off Cape Ann. Here’s an article written by art critic Greg Cook about photographer Ernie Morin’s advocacy through his art:

here’s an article from the Gloucester Times about the very heated and contentious city council meeting where Fort residents showed up en masse to protest the proposed rezoning:

On top of this, the mayor wants to lift the entire DPA: the designation that keeps Gloucester an industrial port, to transform the entire harbor into a recreational yachting and hotel center. For that she needs state approval, but to take Fort Square, which falls outside of the protected zone, she needs only a city council vote. We had a week’s worth of meetings in Gloucester with a power-point presentation showing us renditions of what a ‘renewed’ Gloucester would look like: there was nothing left! All boardwalks and pleasure boats and quaint shops.

I could try to dig up those articles, regarding the DPA, from the summer. Right now, the Fort is her most vulnerable target.

Two articles that Peter Anastas sent in:

Fort residents deserve better than city’s lip service

September 23, 2008 04:45 am
Gloucester Daily Times

To the editor:

This city is not a corporation that can be run by a CEO — and the rezoning of the Fort is a clear example of how not to conduct our business.

The residents and businesses were not consulted until September in a process that started in January and was conducted in an ivory tower. The city’s economic development office did not visit the largest business on Commercial Street, an abutter to the hotel site, until the day after my slide show presentation to City Council on Aug. 19.

As far as I know, none of the residents were apprised of the city’s work on the rezoning either. Posting something on a Web site for a neighborhood that is “old-school and offline” is not inclusive management.

An unprecedented 200 people showed up at a City Hall, organized, articulate, stating multiple times and for multiple sound reasons a strong and over-arching opposition to the hotel in a way that clearly was not merely a not-in-my-neighborhood stand, but one suggesting this would not be best for the city.

Yet, our mayor writes in her e-mail memorandum (The Times, Friday, Sept. 19), that “concerns raised about a potential hotel at the Birds Eye site I heard as questions — questions about traffic, coexistence, protecting the business interests, beach access, etc.”

That is a problem; you cannot dictate from above to residents and the strongest part of your working waterfront.

Kirk makes the claim “I still believe a hotel is the highest and best use of that property.” Yet the city has produced no financial data to back that claim — nor should it rezone based on one parcel’s best use, even if she were correct, which is a moot point.

A city is a community of people first. We are not employees. This is not how you conduct public policy. Harbor hearings where you have three minutes to speak about “your relationship to the water” are nice events, but when you cannot ask questions, are told not to speak about zoning, and cannot have rebuttal — that is not a forum for generating this type of public policy proposal.

The people of the Fort are not living in denial. They know they need some change. But they want slow change, responsible, compatible change. They want what is best for their families, their businesses and for their city.

They have contributed a lot to this city. They love Gloucester — they have to live with circumstances most of the city would never want to endure in terms of traffic, noise levels, fish smells, and Fiesta’s thousands of tourists — and they have learned to live and let live with the industry.

They deserve better from the city, and the city hasn’t done jack for that neighborhood in years. Go look at the sidewalks, ask about water pressure, ask about the age of the sewer line, ask about the contaminated land, ask about the utilities for the industry, ask about the dredging, ask about any number of infrastructure issues.

These issues go back 25 or more years. The city wants to solve it with a quick fix. Well, the cure may well be worse for the patient than the disease.

We do not need political spin, we need and deserve a real analysis before we grasp at the quick fix.

The people of the Fort do not deserve a mayor who does not hear them speak when they speak in 100 percent unison. Anyone in Gloucester will tell you how impossible it is to get conflicted parties to an agreement. Here you have them in agreement with industry in a neighborhood where they have argued with each other for years. That should speak volumes.

This neighborhood should have the right to self determine what is an appropriate rezoning. I have trust in the Planning Board and Planning and Development Committee. They will now allow for a real process and involvement at this stage.

Ernest Morin


Copyright © 1999-2008 cnhi, inc.

Fort residents on hotel plan: ‘No, no’, ‘no and never’

By Richard Gaines
Staff Writer

[Much more on the OlsonNow blog for those interested]

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  1. bill sherman says:

    this is sad; and typical of how things have been and are. only a “wintergreen ridge” effort can save it. over a year ago, when amazonian rainforest wood was going to be used for repair of new jersey boardwalks, i posted an e-mail address of the person heading the effort to stop it. not a single e-mail was received. it’s a lovely historic area, stage fort, as you probably know, pierre, but (and) working-class; big money talks loudly as always.

  2. Dan Wilcox says:

    Thanks for this; I hadn’t heard about it from my Gloucester sources. Hope the folks can prevail.

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