A few years ago the renowned art critic and historian Robert Hughes came to
Hughes, who grew up in
“This is a real place,” he said. “My God, it’s a real place. There are so few of them left today. You must do everything you can to protect it.”
These must come first. For it is the marine-industrial uses of the waterfront—and such uses include research and education facilities such as the Ocean Alliance’s acquisition and restoration of the Paint Factory, along with potential marine bio-tech and engineering enterprises—that will continue to be the principal economic drivers of a reinvigorated waterfront.
There are several approaches on the table now, including the original Draft Harbor Plan, which has passed through an extensive public process and has, to my mind, considerable value. Each has merits, but for me, any plan which begins in negativity, with the myth that “the waterfront is dead—fishing is gone forever—the future lies in tourism and recreational boating,” is a plan driven by desperation rather than by imagination and an objective understanding of how one reinvests in a priceless resource. Such a plan would also be based on the selling out of
I support tourism—most of us have become tourists as we travel and learn in the world—and I don’t oppose a hotel on the Fort, though I would love to see the original Birdseye building and its signature tower incorporated into the overall design. That would demonstrate some real understanding of
There are challenges. The fishing industry is in transition as stocks replenish. The city is facing economic hardship. The economy is in recession. However, these challenges must be seen as opportunities, demanding carefully thought through and creative solutions, rather than knee-jerk, crisis-ridden responses. We must not allow ourselves to be frightened or manipulated into selling out our waterfront “to save the city” by those who stand to gain the most from it. Individual property owners deserve respect and consideration; but the waterfront is also part of our joint stewardship as citizens of
In a recent interview in the Gloucester Times, my friend Lenny Linquata says he's convinced the city can once again be a bustling waterfront without losing a grip on its heritage.
"People who come to visit here, people who would come to [the proposed hotel on
I agree completely with Lenny. He and his family have deep roots in the fishing industry and an intimate experience of the waterfront—they know what they are talking about.
We have got to move slowly and carefully. Our waterfront is the most precious possession that we all share in
(This essay appeared as a My View column in the Friday, June 6, 2008 edition of the Gloucester Daily Times.)