Gloucester: Some thoughts as we look to the future
April 20, 2015
- It is essential that we revisit, revise and update the city’s Master Plan, now fourteen years out of date, encouraging the widest possible citizen involvement. We must also identify neighborhoods, historic properties, ancient streets and by-ways, “magical places” that resonate in local memory and should be preserved, as essential facets of the legendary character of the city, which not only draws visitors but enhances the quality of life for local citizens. (The planning process must also take into account the importance of preserving Gloucester’s Civic Center, including the retention of administrative offices and meeting spaces at City Hall, as central to the life of the community, along with a vital Downtown, where residents and visitors can meet, shop, walk, talk, eat and enjoy an intimate “village square” atmosphere.) This process must be conducted in public and out in the open, not by committee or behind closed doors.
- We must complete restoration of Stacy Boulevard, the city’s “crown jewel, both the seawall and the boulevard itself; also Stage Fort Park. The city should be especially careful about renting our public park out for events that cause environmental and aesthetic damage, with concomitant costs to taxpayers.
- We should endeavor to develop the I-4, C-2 parcel in a careful and patient way that is consistent with the Harbor Plan and that will create economic return and contribute to the city’s marine-industrial-research needs, (marine-industrial research with a focus on sustainability and organic and non-polluting outcomes,) while also creating well-paying jobs with benefits, not seasonal work.
- Since the city appears to have given up on the renovation of Fuller School for academic use, we should work to bring the property back online for economic development. There should be maximum economic return for the city from the sale and adaptive re-use of the building and use of adjoining property. Of utmost necessity is the development of an assisted living facility, either at the Fuller site or at Gloucester Crossing.
- Continued efforts to preserve Dogtown Common as conservation land and a resource for passive recreation are also essential. Dogtown is a natural asset that few communities possess, a wilderness in the heart of Cape Ann. As civilization become more complex and stressful, places like Dogtown., where residents and visitors can walk, hike, ski in winter, pick berries, study nature and hunt in season, will be more necessary. The city administration and council must work to reinvigorate the mayor’s Dogtown Advisory Committee to oversee the Dogtown Management Plan and also work with the Gloucester Lyceum sponsored group that has been organized to raise consciousness about the value of preserving Dogtown, and is conducting important educational programs to that end. City ordinances that prohibit off-road vehicles of all kinds from Dogtown must be enforced.
- It is essential to revise the city’s arts policy requiring more citizen input into decisions that affect public art and the enhancement of artistic life in Gloucester. A must is the creation of affordable housing or live-work space for artists, if we are to continue to have a vital artistic community.
- Art should not be considered merely as another draw for tourists. We must separate art and tourism by embracing the production of art as an indigenous economic and aesthetic activity grounded in the life of the city, its history, its industries, and its natural beauty. Cultural districts tend to privilege one section of the community over another and should be re-thought if not abolished. What should immediately be abolished is the inane renaming of Gloucester’s downtown as “Harbortown.” Gloucester is a real place, not a Disney fantasy.
- Instead, we should work to enhance a human-scale, high quality tourism, inviting visitors to come and stay for longer periods of time (not the ephemeral day-trip tourism of bus trips and cruise ships). More importantly, we must understand that a community exists primarily for those who live in it, not for those who might visit or wish to exploit its resources. Creating the highest quality of life for residents, including excellent public education, affordable housing, real jobs with benefits not seasonal employment, retail and professional resources and opportunities, a clean, healthy environment, and a sense of belonging and well-being, of inclusion, will ultimately foster the kind of community that others will want to visit or even to live in.
- It will be essential to support non-profit cultural organizations like the Cape Ann Museum, the Rocky Neck Cultural Center, Gloucester Maritime and the Gloucester Writers Center. These organizations and their activities represent an important part of the social, economic and cultural fabric of the city, drawing many people to the community year-round, people who eat in local restaurants and patronize local businesses.
- Finally, but most important of all, the working waterfront must remain as the centerpiece of the city’s marine-industrial, economic, social and cultural life. The city must support all efforts to support and revitalize the fishing and ancillary industries, while restoring necessary infrastructure. To abandon the working waterfront to non-marine uses would essentially undermine the life-blood of the city and foreclose our future.