Harbormaster Building Committee
In February of 2017, a steering committee of City Staff, including the Harbormaster, Chair of the Waterways Board, the Director of Public Works and the Planning Director, embarked on the process of evaluating potential locations and programmatic uses for a new or improved Harbormaster facility and co-located visitor boating facilities within Gloucester Harbor. This feasibility study was initiated to establish the facility needs for the future, confirm the best location for these facilities, and provide cost estimates and related information to support future grant applications and capital funding. The study was conducted by Harriman, an outside consulting firm, and paid for by a grant from the Seaport Economic Council (SEC).
The Harbormaster and Visiting Boater Center Feasibility Study was completed and released in November of 2017. The findings were presented at a Public Hearing during a special meeting of the Waterways Board on December 5, 2017 and can be found on the Harbormaster’s page of the City website, Harbormaster Page.
Based on the comparative evaluations of the potential sites, the current location of the Harbormaster’s Office at 19 Harbor Loop received the highest ranking. The study found both physical and economic advantages of the current site including:
- Good landside access and visibility from Harbor Loop (walking distance to Downtown Gloucester);
- Excellent waterside access, and visibility from the Entrance Channel and Inner Harbor;
- Adjacent to the National Coast Guard facility;
- Newly constructed float system and pump out facility, providing dockage for all of the Harbormaster’s vessels, multiple transient vessels of varying size, and approximately 15 or more dinghies; and
- Cost of both leasing and improving current site is estimated to be significantly less than cost of building a new facility with waterside improvement on any of the considered City-owned sites or purchasing or leasing another site.
The steering committee, with the addition of the Community Development Director, has continued the analysis of investing in improved Harbormaster and visiting boater facilities over the past several months. This analysis has included an economic development perspective of the potential impact of improved visiting boater facilities.
Over the last two years, the Harbormaster’s Office has made significant efforts to increase visiting boater access to Gloucester, tapping into the tourist-based economy that plays an increasingly vital part of our economy. These efforts include:
- The implementation of an online transient mooring program and an increase in rental moorings to 26. The rental fee is $40 per night and includes launch/shuttle service to shore from 8am – 10pm, Memorial Day until Mid-September.
- Over the last 2 years, the City has seen a 140% increase in transient boaters averaging 650 visiting boats a season and increasing transient boater revenue to $43,000 in FY 17.
- Visiting boaters spend an average of $300 per night in port at local restaurants, retail establishments and tourist attractions.
- The City also invested over $230,000 to capitalize on an overall $1.2 million dollar renovation to the Harbormaster’s Office waterside facilities and marina. This project was supported by a Boater Infrastructure Grant (BIG), a Seaport Economic Council Grant and investment by National Grid.
- The marina improvement made possible an additional 190 feet of 4 hour short-term tie up to all boaters who wish to visit the port, making us more competitive with our neighbors to the north and south for day trip boating visitors.
- The Harbormaster’s office is increasing collaboration with Discover Gloucester on marketing boater accessibility and promoting local businesses, without increasing traffic landside.
Gloucester is home to the busiest boat ramp in the Commonwealth, with over 20,000 boats on our waterways per year. It is time for us to capitalize on the economic benefits of visiting boaters by providing the facilities, amenities and public safety support that are necessary to attract this type of tourist economy. Our neighbors to the north and south are currently making these investments and seeing the benefits.
Taking the above investments and economic benefits into consideration, the City recently re-engaged Harriman with the request to further refine the building design concept and cost estimates specific to 19 Harbor Loop. This effort included a site visit of the current facility and refined scope of work that includes ADA accessibility for the office and facilities, visiting boater facilities (i.e. showers, laundry), a centrally located visitor center and public bathrooms. Harriman concluded that the design and construction cost estimate for the current conceptual site layout and improvements is approximately $1,600,000.
Based on the findings of the feasibility study, economic benefits, and opportunities, as well as the current funding opportunities we recommend submitting a grant proposal for the design and construction of the Harbormaster Facility Improvements and co-located Visiting Boater Center to the Seaport Economic Council (SEC) by November 1, 2018. The SEC grant allows for an application of up to $1,000,000.00 with a required City match of 20% of overall project funding.