To the editor:
In the fall of 2004, former Beverly Mayor Bill Scanlon contacted Joe Leone, the owner of the Hamilton and Newburyport Black Cow restaurants, to ask if he would respond should the city put out a third request for proposals to attempt to acquire a restaurant user for the city-owned, defunct waterfront McDonald’s site. No one had responded to the city’s first two attempts and the mayor wanted to make sure that if they advertised the project again they would get at least one response.
Mr. Leone expressed interest, but had no detailed information about the challenges for getting permits to build on this land that was constrained by being “filled tidelands” needing a Chapter 91 permit, a Designated Port Area (DPA), and having been purchased under a grant from the state Department of Conservation and Recreation. To educate himself, Mr. Leone invested in a study by BSC, a Boston environmental consultant, to advise him of the permit challenges. The BSC report, in early 2005, stated that while most of the permits to develop the site as a restaurant would be challenging, but possible, the restriction of being in a Designated Port Area would be too restrictive in that it would limit restaurant use to just 25 percent of the site. With this information Mr. Leone hired my firm, who had worked with him on the design and construction of both of his Hamilton and Newburyport locations, to create a full response to the city’s Request for Proposals. This was filed in April of 2006 and clearly specified that it would be the city’s responsibility to remove the DPA from this site.
The Black Cow proposal was accepted by the city but some months later city officials indicated they would not eliminate the Designated Port Area and later in the approval process they reduced the restaurant size from 360 seats to 200. After much consideration Mr. Leone reluctantly agreed to proceed as their development partner with these new limitations.