In Gloucester High School’s AP English Language and Composition classes, taught by Mr. James Cook, we had a final project for the school year in which we were to explore a cultural aspect of Gloucester that interested us. The project’s presiding inspiration was Charles Olson, whom we studied in relation to the ways we develop ideas and perspectives about Gloucester. We were to research our aspect, and develop a project in which we analyze our topic with relation to a “guiding question” which we chose from a list. I chose to analyze Gloucester Crossing in relation to the question of “how ‘us/them’ tension affects the community”, focusing on the proponents and opponents of the original development project.

This multi-genre project is given to AP Language students each year. Mr. Cook wrote an essay, “To Find out for Yourself”, about the big project. This can be read here:

The following is my project. I wrote an opinion piece analyzing Gloucester Crossing’s effect on the community. The second part of the project is getting our work out into the “real world” - be it through a newspaper, Cape Ann TV, or GoodMorningGloucester. I chose to share my work here, on the local forum.

Before the development of Gloucester Crossing began, the local residents opposing the project asked the question: how will Gloucester Crossing impact the community? Project head Sam Park, with the continual support of Mayor Carolyn Kirk, made Gloucester Crossing happen; any anti-Crossing answers to those questions had no substantial impact. Five years since the development and grand opening of Gloucester Crossing, maybe it’s time we examine the shopping center’s incorporation into the city, answering the question, how has Gloucester Crossing impacted the community over the past five years?

As I was a child at the time of Gloucester Crossing’s development, I can say that I’ve learned more about the controversial side of the project as I’ve grown. During the early Gloucester Crossing disputation, I didn’t understand the various perspectives on the project. My father worked in local PR and marketing for Sam Park, whom I met multiple times; he’s a very nice man. How my father would explain it to me was this: many liberal locals were for the project; they liked the idea of the mini-mall coming to Gloucester. Some radicals were adamantly against it, citing that local businesses and supermarkets will be shut down, and additionally that Gloucester’s identity, particularly with regards to tourism, would be shot. Through my years in the Gloucester Public School System, my thoughts and observations have developed. Ultimately I believe that Gloucester Crossing has been a great addition to our community. How has Gloucester Crossing impacted the community? The biggest component of Gloucester Crossing, Market Basket, has been a positive addition to the city for the majority of residents. Market Basket provides a cheaper, large grocery store for locals. I can name a handful of people who used to take the frequent trip to Danvers because the Market Basket there was cheaper than our local Shaw's or Stop & Shop. Now we have the option of these better prices, right here. Local Joey Ciaramitaro posted on his popular blog “Good Morning Gloucester” a comparison of prices at Shaw’s, Stop & Shop, and Market Basket, Gloucester’s current big three supermarkets. He compared the prices of five common items, finding that if a shopper bought the five items at each store separately, the Market Basket spendings would cost $9.19 less than at Shaws, and $5.12 less than at Stop & Shop. Market Basket is also accessible by many areas of Gloucester. Has Market Basket had a negative impact on the community? Those against the development project seemed sure that the addition of Market Basket would close the other markets - but it didn’t. Shaw’s and Stop & Shop are not booming with business, but this is unavoidable in large communities where business placement shifts. The stores maintain a presence. There hasn’t been a drastic shut down that many anti-Crossing adamants religiously predicted. I bet that most MB customers would admit to ducking into the other two stores fairly frequently, furthermore. I know that I’ve been into all three of the stores, in the past two weeks or so. Another big component of Gloucester Crossing is Marshalls. While those against Gloucester Crossing argue that Marshalls hurts local business and that chain businesses are only detrimental to Gloucester’s charm, look at the many advantages the department store has given the people of the city. Firstly, residents of Gloucester like having a store close by to purchase home goods; they don’t need to travel to Danvers to go to a Target or Marshalls. Don’t you like that ability? Secondly, when a consumer takes a weekend trip to the mall, they make a day out of it - they shop, eat, do some more shopping. By having a department store like Marshalls in a shopping center here, we’re reeling that business back in. Consumers stay close, livening the community and hitting more local businesses. Many people against Gloucester Crossing fail to acknowledge the fact that local businesses are supported by the city, and often “favorited”. Do stores like Marshalls and Market Basket affect Gloucester’s feel? If at all, limitedly. Do they affect tourism? They do not. They are isolated; they don’t impede on the downtown area. True Gloucester people know what Gloucester pride and tradition are, and where they are - and tourists are led to real “Gloucester” , too. I don’t see cruise-goers taking trips up to the Crossing; I see them downtown, at the Fitz Henry Lane House. I don’t see American tourists jumping off buses at Marshalls or Ace Hardware; I see them walking downtown or on the boulevard. I think there’s an easy conclusion to make: the conveniences of stores like Market Basket, Marshalls, and Petco far outweigh any insensible worry that Gloucester’s identity will change due to the addition of these isolated chain businesses.

During early debate, many of those against Gloucester Crossing mentioned the 1990s proposal for the addition of a strip mall in the downtown waterfront lot. Let’s take a stroll back in time. A situation similar to that of Gloucester Crossing, a development company wanted to introduce a strip mall in an empty downtown lot in Gloucester. The mall developers were driven out by the criticism from those radical locals against the project. Would that mall have impeded on Gloucester’s downtown? It would not have. Gloucester residents are loyal to local businesses. Today, the youth seems to already have chosen its favorites - all my class fundraisers take place at the popular downtown Mexican restaurant Jalapenos, and twice now, I’ve met with classmates to work on school projects at the local Pleasant Street Tea Co, at their insistence. These friendly, homey businesses are a major part of “Gloucester”. I’ve come to know that, and my peers certainly do. In the latest Gloucester High School yearbook, the Class of 2014 votes Cafe Bishco one of their favorite food spots. Every year, the Chamber of Commerce recognizes local businesses individually. Arguments against Gloucester Crossing, related to tourism being affected, businesses shutting down, and the identity of the city changing, have all proven misguided, over the last five years. This addition to the city was certainly substantial, but its impact wasn’t negative or outrageous. Radicals should learn to work better with changes without immediately deeming them big and bad. Likewise, then-supporters of Gloucester Crossing should not have had the mentality that they were always completely correct; both pro- and anti-Crossing community members would have largely benefited from speaking in a non-threatening way during the early debate and discussion of the project’s future. “Us/them” mentality is counterproductive; shouldn’t negotiations and best interest for all always be the highest priority in discussion? We’re a community. Gloucester Crossing debate was not the most productive.

In discussing how Gloucester Crossing has impacted our community, it is important to note that there were aspects of the development project that were never met, although they were addressed in the proposal. The proposal for Gloucester Crossing stated that restaurants and retail stores were to be built (this was mainly met, at least for certain points in time), “as well as 100 units of assisted living housing and a 100 room hotel”. Assisted living housing and the hotel were never built, for economic reasons. Furthermore, the complexity and debate regarding the Fort hotel and another potential local hotel have made this hotel proposal questioned more. It is reasonable for residents who were in support of Gloucester Crossing largely or solely due to the hotel or senior living, to be upset at the outcome.

While a complex subject, Gloucester Crossing, in my opinion, has undoubtedly been a positive addition to the community. This weekend I attended my brother’s graduation ceremony at Gloucester High School. I heard the usual adult crowd speak: the mayor, the superintendent of schools, and the principal. But most notably, I heard the class officers and high achieving students. I heard in their speeches the natural pride they shared in having the ability to call Gloucester their home. I heard in their voices a natural understanding of the true identity of their home city. Gloucester Crossing has had a positive effect on the community, and in no way is a detriment to the city’s identity; I know that my generation, at the least, has an accurate depiction of Gloucester in their minds, one that Gloucester Crossing had no impact on.