Sunday, July 6, 2008

Deja Vu Prediction

A very interesting article from the 1999 archives of Southcoast Today, recounts the tale of the Dockside Lounge. Here is an excerpt (but I recommend reading the full article):

"The Dockside was a waterfront bar on the city pier catering to what we can kindly call a 'subculture' frequented by yours truly, the late Joe Savitch and his entourage and assorted hard-digging and drinking pirates who purportedly scratched for illegal shellfish in the dark of night.

The fitfully raucous joint teetered on the water's edge, far enough not to infringe on the public's right to serenity. Patrons feeling their oats sometimes leapt from the roof into the river accompanied by moonlight and cathartic, blood curdling war cries. Now and then the pirates had a beef that led to fisticuffs. But the Dockside paid its taxes, contributing its share for public schools and infrastructure.

Along came the nearby Point Gloria condo development. If memory serves well, some said at the time that developers Robert and James Karam approached the administration of Mayor Carlton Viveiros saying they wanted the land for possible adjunct development as a marina or motel. So the Dockside, against the wishes of the owners, patrons and probably assessors who hate to erode the tax base, was acrimoniously taken by eminent domain and demolished. The Redevelopment Authority now has the land.

If that's the way it went down, it was arrogant and unproductive. It sunk a taxpaying business and expunged property from the tax rolls. That was about 20 years ago and the site hasn't yielded a cent in taxes since.

In essence, it gave the Karams control of the land via options without liability or paying taxes. Now, said Ken Fiola, executive vice president of the city's economic development office, the Karam option has ceased and nobody has first dibs on the land -- including himself as rumor would have it. But it still isn't producing tax revenue. "
Not only did this move rid the city of a viable tax producing waterfront business, but we now know that the land is a brownfield site that will cost the city $1-3.5 million dollars to clean before anything new can be built.

And where did the Karam's go? I am guessing they lost interest in the site when the possibility of a huge brownfield clean-up bill faced them.

With the renewed discussions of the state pier "revitalization," hopefully the city/Mayor Correia will not make the same mistake they did with the city pier by allowing the Karams to have a hand in any pier projects. Keep in mind that the Karams are Correia campaign contributors and Bob is very honorable when it comes to repaying his supporters.


Anonymous said...


Anonymous said...

There is a gap in that story and also a very recent update:

James Karam was not the original developer selected for Point Gloria and the City Pier. The original developer was a guy from Las Vegas. This was before any discussion about riverboat gambling or any other type gambling in the city. His proposal had a hotel and shops in a boardwalk type setting on the pier. Point Gloria was named for his daughter.

For whatever reason the guy never went forward with the project. The Redevelopment Authority put out another RFP and James Karam was chosen as the new developer. Karam asked for and received permission to build the condo portion first retaining the name Point Gloria. FROED went ahead getting derelict boats both on the pier and sunken in the water removed preparing it for development. Before development could get started the real estate market crashed.

Years go by and nothing happens with the city pier. There is still talk about a hotel but no more RFPs from the Redevelopment Authority. Fast forward to last year and in a radio interview about waterfront development as an aside Fiola mentions that the pier is contaminated with PCBs and FROED was seeking funding to clean it up. That is all that is said.

Now fast forward to the recent public hearing on Route 79. During the question and answer period Fiola reveals that the City Pier is filled tidal land and in Massachusetts unlike Rhode Island it can't be built upon. So the bottom line is whether the pier is cleaned or not there ain't never gonna be a hotel on the pier, not now, not ever, never! Any hotel will have to be built on land vacated by the relocated Davol St. and Route 79 whenever that happens.

Oh one last thing, I don't think that there is any private development included in the State Pier project. The new building is supposed to be funded by the Seaport Bond Bill.

shamrock said...

The evidence I have seen, including the following article link:
indicates that the riverboat was intended for the state pier (near the battleship area), not the city pier.

Additionally the brownfield information was known much earlier than last year (you said, “Years go by and nothing happens with the city pier. There is still talk about a hotel but no more RFPs from the Redevelopment Authority. Fast forward to last year and in a radio interview about waterfront development as an aside Fiola mentions that the pier is contaminated with PCBs and FROED was seeking funding to clean it up.) Doing a quick google search, I came up with information from the EPA circa 2001 that discusses the $75,000 grant Fall River was awarded to assess the nature and extent of the city pier brownfield site. Given this information, it would be inaccurate to say that Fiola’s mention of the brownfield/city pier last year was the first time this information was introduced to the public.

I am unfamiliar with the comments you say Fiola made at the public meeting regarding Rt. 79. If you have a link with that information it would be appreciated. All evidence I have seen indicates that the city pier land is just in need of a very expensive clean-up before any building can be done, but I would welcome any facts/links you have to prove otherwise.

Regarding private development at the state pier: The Seaport Bond bill may provide the money needed for development of the state pier, but the city will still likely be contracting out to run businesses at the pier. I don’t see Bob and his staff collecting marina slip rentals or serving cocktails.

Anonymous said...

Shamrock, on the gambling point I was only trying to indicate that there was no gambling component in the Las Vegas developer's plan.

On the PCB issue as you point out the information was public but the RA didn't publicize it. I don't think it was known by the average resident.

On the Route 79 hearing I only know about what Fiola said about the filled tidal land because I was there. There isn't a link for that specific comment but here is the link for the presentation that was given. On page 43 the hotel is included with the other new development on the newly created 8 acres.

Last but not least the state pier isn't actually run by the city but rather by the rarely mentioned Port Authority.

shamrock said...

Thanks for the info.

Anonymous said...


Were you able to open the link ???

Anonymous said...

From the city website:

Seaport Advisory Council Releases $1.1 Million for the Fall River State Pier 4-2-08


DATE: April 2, 2008 For release: Immediately

SUBJECT: At the request of Mayor Robert Correia, the Seaport Advisory Council yesterday released $1.1 Million for the construction of a floating dock at the Fall River State Pier.

FOR MORE INFORMATION CONTACT: InĂªs Leite, Mayor's Office, 508-324-2600


Mayor Robert Correia is pleased to announce that the Seaport Advisory Council yesterday released $1.1 Million from the Seaport Bond Bill for the purpose of adding a steel floating dock at the Fall River State Pier. The dock is part of the proposed South Basin improvements and overall construction of a Multi-Use Maritime Facility at the pier. The appropriation was approved by an unanimous vote during the Council's meeting held in Gloucester.

"The construction of a floating pier and dock is a key element of the revitalization effort of the State Pier, which will give Fall River the ability to grow its maritime industry and increase the attractiveness of tourism and recreational services for the public connected to the waterfront. The floating dock, located adjacent to the fixed layover pier, will provide full access for pedestrians and disabled persons to excursion vessels, passenger ferries, and small cruise ships using the facility while keeping passenger embarkation and debarkation separate from the State Pier when it is being used for cargo operations," stated Mayor Correia during his maiden speech before the Seaport Advisory Council.

According to Lieutenant Governor Timothy P. Murray, Council Chairman, Mayor Correia's participation was historic as it was the first time in the Council's history that a Mayor who helped create the Council and the Bond Bill ever addressed the Council. "Our coastal cities and towns are important economic development drivers for the Commonwealth," said Lieutenant Governor Murray. "Making smart, targeted investments in our harbors and ports to ensure they can accommodate growth in tourism, trade, and fishing, strengthens not only our coastal communities but also enables them to serve as a resource for residents and businesses across the Commonwealth."

"The floating deck allows us to maximize the use of the pier to its full potential and to provide good jobs for our residents. I thank and commend the Lieutenant Governor for his leadership in recognizing the value of this project and assistance in releasing the funding. I will continue working with the Council to periodically release the moneys necessary to make this project a reality," Mayor Correia added.

According to Karl Hammond of PARE Corporation, the engineering firm involved with the project, the dock is proposed to be comprised of "three 50 foot steel floats, 20 feet wide, connected by articulating rubber hinges, and supported by steel pipe guide piles. The floats will be provided with vertical and horizontal rubber fendering along the docking face, and will be accessed by a series of aluminum ramps, platforms and gangways. Electrical, water and pumpout services will be available at the dock."

At the urging of the Mayor, the Seaport Advisory Council has released a total of $1.74 Million for the pier since December of 2007. $640,000 was released in December for the Step 1 South Berth Repairs.

A start date for the estimated $40 Million project has not been established because not all of the funding is in place thus far.

Anonymous said...

Shamrock, I believe the city council was discussing some type of fee for abandonment properties-would this fall under that and could they billed back taxes on it???

shamrock said...

According to the article, the Karam's had control of the land without liability. I don't believe the land was ever officially in their names as owners, therefore, although they did abandon their development deal with the city, it doesn't appear that, legally, they abandoned the property.

I just hope a lesson is learned from the Karam's past actions and the city does not make the same mistake again.

Anonymous said...

Sorry folks, the URL for the Route 79 presentation should have pdf on the end.

Anonymous said...


I posted your article on fallrivertalks. See the comments
here :

What do you make of the exerpt below?

There are several non-public agencies that people often get confused about because they incude "Fall River" in their name. Above, a previous poster commented that Mr. Kortright, the Chamber President should remember which city pays him. Well, as a subsequent poster noted, Mr. Kortright is not paid by the City of Fall River because the Chamber is a private entity. Ditto for the Fall River Office of Economic Development - not a public agency. Although they are located within Government Center, FROED is not a city agency. Ditto for the Fall River Redevelopment Authority.

The previous practice was that FROED was not being charged rent for their space within Government Center. I think the reasoning was that it was beneficial to have them close by, and if they are trying to bring jobs and industry to the city, that the work that they do for the benefit of the city supersedes any rental income from office space.

Now, the same logic could be applied on a grander scale. The article states that the Redevelopment Authority had not paid any taxes on the city pier land for 20 years. Not sure if that was something the journalist actually researched or just wrote haphazardly.

The question of "Should the Redevelopment Authority pay taxes?" will probably illicit varying responses. This is the organization that has spent millions on the eminent domain for Meditech, and as owners of the city pier, would be responsible for doling out more $$$ for the cleanup of the city pier.

Now, one could argue that by charging taxes to the FRRA, that you are decreasing their available assets and actually hurting the city in the long run because with less $, the FRRA will be less capable of engaging in economic development projects. On the other hand, an equitable argument can be made that the Redevelopment Authority is not a public agency, and as a private entity should pay its fair share of taxes like everyone else.

The main point is that we have these 2 agencies FROED and FRRA that are private yet they control so much of what is going on in Fall River. As private agencies, they can do things outside the scope of public records law and codes of ethics governing public officials.

The Redevelopment Authority - I can't even name one person on that board and try searching on Google, its almost impossible to get any information.

To me, FROED has largely benefitted only 3 people in this city.

1) Robert Karam who was its initial President in 1978.
2) Anthony Cordeiro - former President - who should have the downtown renamed as the Cordeiro district since he owns practically every building.
3) Ken Fiola who earns nearly $160,000 annually and doesn't really seem to accomplish much.

shamrock said...

I usually agree with whatever Fall River Community (original poster of that comment says about the FROED.

The FROED is often referred to as a "quasi-govenmental agency" which to me seems like they are governmental when it suits them and they are not governmental when it doesn't suit them.

I couldn't agree more with FRC's top 3 benefactors of the FROED.

Faye Musselman said...

How timely you bring up this remembrance of the Dockside on the day Mitt Romney removes James Karam as a Trustee of UMass. (See Karam referred to the action as a "dangerous precedent". Sounds like a veiled threat don't it?

Perhaps the Karam brothers are losing some of their previous clout. Something's afoot. Think WSAR.

Anonymous said...

However, he was re-appointed by Deval Patrick so you know where
the fire chief petition is going
when shamrock calls the governor's
office- nowhere, again the fix is in.

Standard-Times staff writer
September 19, 2007 6:00 AM
BOSTON — James J. Karam is back on the UMass Board of Trustees, one year after being ousted as chairman of the board by former Gov. Mitt Romney following a contentious battle for a public law school on the SouthCoast.

Mr. Karam was reappointed Tuesday by Gov. Deval Patrick. It came a little more than a year after Mr. Romney failed to reappoint him to a second five-year term on the board.

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At the time, Mr. Karam called Gov. Romney's move payback for his push to merge UMass Dartmouth and the Southern New England School of Law. Former Gov. Romney opposed the public law school, which had broad support on the SouthCoast. The idea was ultimately defeated by the state's Board of Higher Education.

Mr. Karam also resisted pressure by Gov. Romney to fire former UMass President William Bulger, who ultimately resigned.

On Tuesday, Mr. Karam said he was excited to rejoin the board and was only looking forward. He begins his new term today, when the board meets at UMass Lowell.

"It feels good because I've got strong feelings on this university, being my alma mater, first of all," he said. "I was on the board for five years, seeing how higher education had really transformed lives across the commonwealth, and what it really meant to regions like New Bedford and Fall River and Springfield and Lawrence and Holyoke."

Mr. Karam doubted the law school would rise to a major issue as he rejoins the board, as it did two years ago.

"There are a number of front-burner issues that the university will face," he said. "Who knows what the future will bring?"

After Gov. Patrick's election last fall, the new administration asked Mr. Karam to serve on several of the governor's task forces on higher education. He was recently asked if he would like to rejoin the Board of Trustees.

"The governor has appointed some great people on the board," Mr. Karam said. "I have found this governor, in the last 10 months, to be more engaged in higher education than I saw in my position for five years in dealing with the previous administration. I'm thrilled with Gov. Patrick's focus on higher education. It transformed his life. I think he knows what it means."

Gov. Patrick filled five vacancies on the UMass board Tuesday. Other appointees include Dr. Kerri Osterhaus of Hudson, a physician; Henry M. Thomas III of Springfield, the president and CEO of the Urban League of Springfield; Ed Collins, a labor representative from Springfield, and Marshfield resident Phil Johnston, the former chairman of the state Democratic Party.

The reconstituted, 19-member board may choose a new chairman at its meeting this morning. The UMass board is currently chaired by Stephen P. Tocco of Reading, whom Gov. Romney appointed. He helped defeat the law school merger when he was chairman of the Board of Higher Education.

Mr. Karam said he would not accept a nomination for chairman if asked.

He had just been appointed to his third term as trustee chairman when former Gov. Romney replaced him. But Mr. Karam said he would be unable to make the time commitment as chairman because he is currently serving as chairman of the Caritas Christi Health System board of governors.

Rep. John F. Quinn, D-Dartmouth, who was sharply critical of Mr. Romney's decision to not reappoint Mr. Karam, called Gov. Patrick's appointment a good move for the SouthCoast.

"I think it's great news for the UMass system, and certainly Jim has brought a lot to the table to the entire system," said Rep. Quinn, a UMass Dartmouth graduate. "Parochial as I am, I think it's great for UMass Dartmouth and southeastern Massachusetts as well."