The Herald News, Friday, December 16, 2016 – Page A1

By Kevin P. O’Connor

Fall River – A million dollars came sailing into town Wednesday, landing at the City Pier.

The Seaport Economic Council voted to grant the city $1 million to help pay for the redevelopment of the City Pier.

That cash will be coupled with a $1.6 million MassWorks grant awarded in November as well as $600,000 each from MassDevelopment and the city’s Redevelopment Authority.

That money will be used to prepare the pier for development.

“The public infrastructure will allow for the pier’s full environmental remediation and allow a fully-permitted 125-slip marina, marine service center and restaurant development to advance,” the announcement by the Seaport Council stated.

“The $3.8 million will allow us to move forward with sheet piling, underground corridors for utilities and capping,” said Ken Fiola, the executive vice president of the Bristol County EDC. Bristol County EDC is leading the project.

Bristol County EDC will go out to bid this winter for companies to install sheet piling – the steel walls that will make up the new perimeter of the pier. The piling will also allow the site to be capped by clean soil, covering the remnants of the soil on the pier that was discovered, in 2002, to be contaminated with PCBs.

“Once we get this going, we will start the permitting for a marina and a marine service center with a restaurant,” Fiola said.

“We hope to have the first phase completed in the fall of 2017.

“At that point, it could be moved along far enough to attract private interest to finish it. If that is not the case, there might be grant money or community development money we can find.”

Fiola said planners estimate it will cost another $3.7 million to complete the project.

The City Pier is located between The Cove Restaurant and Point Gloria. It is listed as 4.5 acres, but only about half of that can be developed. All of the pier land carries regulatory restrictions. Because it is built on reclaimed tidal land, any building to go up must be tied to a marine use. There are also size restrictions on buildings to be constructed there, Fiola said.

But it is a crucial piece of the city’s plan for the waterfront, Mayor Jasiel Correia II said. Correia is a member of the Seaport Economic Council. That experience has convinced him of the value of the city’s waterfront.

“In coastal communities in Massachusetts, waterfront piers and amenities generate $8 billion a year,” Correia said. “It is a growth market. It is an area we want to invest in.”

Part of the plan is to build transient docking along the west side of the pier to allow boaters to tie up and visit Fall River.

Transient dockage will allow boaters from Newport, Wickford and Providence to come into Fall River, tie off for a few hours and visit local restaurants or Battleship Cove before heading out again, Correia said.

The city is betting that the state will approve the final improvement of Route 79, from The Cove to the Veterans Memorial Bridge. That will move the roadway to the east and give the city another 10 acres of land along the waterfront for development.

Restaurant and hotel developers have shown an interest in that land, Correia said. Four developers have sent inquiries about the City Pier land, he said.

The city took over the pier in the late 1980s, with the intent of finding a developer to build a restaurant and hotel there. Those plans fell apart in the face of regulatory hurdles and the discovery of PCBs in the soil. PCB is an oil that was once commonly used, often as a cooling agent in electric transformers. It has since been banned because it is found to be both toxic and capable of causing cancer.

The PCB contaminated soil was scraped away. Capping the land with clean soil will eliminate any threat from traces of PCBs that might be left, officials say.

“The parcel was taken in the 1980’s,” Correia said. “It has been vacant for almost 40 years. It will be good to put it to use.

“We are right there, with development. We are right on the cusp of things. With waterfront development and our location, that is a recipe for success for the city.”