City of Gloucester, Massachusetts
Gloucester Harbor (Massachusetts) is the center of one of the country’s most important commercial fishing communities; its docks are lined with vessels of various types and its waterfront is dominated by facilities and services associated with the seafood industry. In recent decades, as groundfish stocks have declined and management measures designed to rebuild the stocks have reduced the size and effort of the fleet, the infrastructure has deteriorated and businesses that depend on groundfish have struggled. City and state regulations effectively protect the waterfront for maritime industrial uses, but contraction of the fishing industry and consolidation of related shoreside infrastructure has left portions of the waterfront underutilized.
In 2009, the city and state adopted the Gloucester Harbor Plan and Designated Port Area Master Plan, which established regulatory strategies to diversify the city’s marine economic base. In 2011, the city had a Harbor Economic Development Plan prepared to guide future actions to retain the traditional maritime use while attracting emerging marine-based industries with growth potential.
The Community Visioning methodology and distillation of community values are necessary to guide plans. The waterfront land, infrastructure, and use inventories and assessments supported regulatory proposals and industry needs. Site plan review procedure is necessary for determining compliance with state and city regulations.
A community-wide visioning process created the community values used to guide the city’s approach to harbor development. The mayor established a nine-member Community Panel that held five listening posts around the city and distilled public comments into core community values.
Full Case Study Description
- Making the harbor a hub of economic activity, being flexible while respecting the working character of the port.
- Making the harbor a hub of community activity, providing access to, along, and across the water.
- Ensuring that harbor development respects the heritage of Gloucester: fishing, arts, the scale of the community, preservation.
- Approaching harbor development recognizing that: 1) the city wants and needs investment in the harbor; 2) the complex regulatory environment must be observed; 3) caution should be used so as not to lose the community’s character; 4) diverse uses provide added economic stability; and 5) a balance needs to be maintained between development and preservation.
- Support commercial fishing both directly, and by seeking to attract and expand the kind of businesses and industries that might build upon the existing marine assets and knowledge base of the community. Such commerce might include research, off-shore energy support services, or training in the maritime trades. This is an effort to diversify on the waterfront in ways that build upon and strengthen the fishing community.
- Provide greater flexibility for supporting commercial uses on waterfront property so that waterfront properties have more mixed-use investment options.
- Promote public access along the waterfront in ways that do not interfere with industrial uses, in order to create a more appealing environment for investment and to ensure the active use of the water’s edge around the harbor.
- Promote change that will benefit the downtown and other areas of the city.
- Provide infrastructure and navigation improvements.
- Enhance and focus the administrative resources of the city to support and strengthen the viability of the port.
- Strengthen the commercial fishing industry.
- Expand and diversify the Maritime Economy.
- Bring additional commercial investment to the waterfront that is compatible with and enhances the maritime economies in the port.
- Improve access and facilities for transient recreational boating and for public boating access to the waterfront.
- Highlight and make more available the cultural and historical assets of the waterfront.
- Maintain navigational channels to support port industry.
- Promote facilities and operations to ease traffic congestion.
- Actively promote investment in key underutilized waterfront locations.
- Diversify the harbor’s economic base by attracting new industry and supporting commercial uses while sustaining traditional industrial uses such as commercial fishing.
- Expand high-quality job and income opportunities for Gloucester residents.
- Stimulate property investment and minimize the number of vacant and underutilized properties.
- Enhance the area’s role as a center of community life.
- Preserve the area’s heritage and character.
- Make the area more accessible to visitors and residents.
- Broaden the city’s tax base while also supporting non-profit property uses that provide a foundation for economic growth and enhance the quality of life.
- City of Gloucester
- Massachusetts Office of Coastal Zone Management
- Massachusetts Seaport Council
Community Development Director, City of Gloucester
Director, Urban Harbors Institute
University of Massachusetts Boston
City of Gloucester Harbor Plan & Designated Port Area Master Plan, 2009.
Last updated 19-Aug-15