Shipyard Parcels Sell to Somerville Research and Development Company

Four parcels of land associated with the Fitzgerald Shipyard have sold for $6 million to Science Research Labs (SRL) of Somerville, a government contractor that has been in business since 1983.

A limited liability corporation (LLC) controlled by Dr. Jonah Jacob of SRL purchased the properties recently from Yankee Marine RET, which is held by Peter Fitzgerald of the Shipyard. The parcels are on Winnisimmet Street and Williams Street.

Several messages sent to Jacob via email and by phone were not returned, and no one is quite sure what the intentions are of the new ownership.

Sources close to the situation said they have heard there are no immediate changes planned, but a lot of the small businesses that operated in the Yard may not be operating any longer.

City Manager Tom Ambrosino said the City was aware of this significant purchase on the waterfront, but they haven’t heard from the new owner and have no idea what the plans might be.

“We are aware it was sold but no one has come to the City with any proposals,” he said.

Ambrosino said he believes part or all of the property might be in a Designated Port Area (DPA), but not the Chelsea Creek DPA. Rather, it could be part of the Mystic River DPA. He said the City has focused significant attention on the Chelsea Creek DPA lately, and are in the middle of a process there. However, they hadn’t yet focused on the Mystic DPA, and he said there are some options for any developer looking to change the use.

“This area was going to be our next focus,” he said. “In our waterfront district, you can do waterfront activities and you can build residential by right at 35 units per acre. I don’t know of any plan to transition that to residential, but it would be by right under those conditions.”

SRL is interesting in that it is a company with a long history of lab uses – with such uses being the hottest market in Greater Boston right now.

According to its website, SRL has established and led research programs for over 20 US Government agencies and various National Laboratories. Its breakthroughs have been the focus of several US Government (USG) published success stories and congressional testimonies. SRL has commercialized multiple technologies that have been developed under Small Business Innovation Research Grants (SBIRs), Small Business Technology Transfer (STTRs), and other government funding. These technologies include all solid-state pulsed power for driving DUV excimer laser, shock lines, intelligent drivers for laser diodes and sensitive interferometers capable of measuring very low absorption in gases and solids. SRL now focuses on photonics, thermal management, materials development and the analysis and assessment of technology development.

Ambrosino said that lab uses on the waterfront would be “interesting” to the City, and if that were a future plan, they would be willing to work with them.

“That would be an interesting use to us,” he said. “If there was a desire to do something like that, we might want to work with that developer. That’s an interesting use and we’re looking for things that bring economic development and jobs to the waterfront, but until someone comes to us with an idea, we can do anything and we haven’t yet heard from this new owner.”

The Shipyard has a long a glorious history that dates back to May 1631 when the first passenger ferry in the country was allowed to locate on the site. During World War II it was used as an annex to the Charlestown Navy Yard’s Naval operations, and after that it operated for 40 years as the Munro Shipyard. The Fitzgerald Shipyard ownership stepped in in the early 1990s and began restoring the property after it fell into disrepair following a failed luxury condo project.

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