Don’t tell Eden Milroy that the local seafood industry is dying.
Milroy is making a big bet on its future in Boston: a 200,000-square-foot seafood processing complex in the marine industrial park in South Boston. This project is but one of several additions to this part of the industry in Boston, as restrictions on fishing in local waters have prompted processors to focus more on preparing and moving fresh seafood flown in from around the world.
The Massachusetts Port Authority’s chief executive, Thomas Glynn, said it is more important these days for the fish processors to be closer to Logan International Airport than the nearby Fish Pier, where boats unload catches from nearby waters.
“The cluster is there because of their expertise and their original proximity to the Fish Pier,” Glynn said. “But now the Fish Pier is supplying a relatively small amount” of fish.
Though far from its glory days, the seafood industry in the Port of Boston remains an important economic player. A study of the port’s economy conducted for Massport several years ago found that seafood businesses combined for more than 1,400 jobs and almost $700 million in revenue, and the processor industry has grown since then.
Milroy has done work in the marine park before and has established ties to the seafood industry over time. His company, Pilot Development Partners Inc., won the rights about one year ago to 6.3 acres of a Massport-controlled waterfront property along Fid Kennedy Avenue in the Raymond L. Flynn Marine Park. Massport officials declined to disclose terms of the deal.
Milroy formally notified the city of his plans for the fish-processing complex just before Christmas. It would consist of a 48,000-square-foot building and a second building with nearly 60,000 square feet, as well as a 300-space parking garage, Milroy said.
Boston Sword & Tuna has already committed to the smaller building, Milroy said; the company’s employment has grown nearly 50 percent in the past three years, to 104 workers. He hopes to begin construction next summer.
The garage structure would include a 2,500-square-foot space that would double as a restaurant and seafood shop. The store would sell food that is processed on site or nearby, while the building may also have office space to accommodate a longshoremen’s union.
That part of the industrial park has other projects in the works. Millennium Partners and Stavis Seafoods are developing a 6.8-acre site, and Cape Cod Shellfish & Seafood has designs on a 3-acre site next door to that one.
The proposals are being floated at a time when the Boston Planning & Development Agency is examining ways to bring more nonmarine businesses and uses into the park. Many parcels in the park have been vacant for years, despite a building boom that has remade the surrounding Seaport neighborhood. The Walsh administration is hoping that broadening the mix of uses will encourage more private-sector investments in the park, which could be used to sustain its maritime industrial mission.
But Milroy said he’s comfortable pursuing a project dedicated to seafood tenants.
“The health of the industry is quite strong,” Milroy said. “The Boston area’s seafood industry has expanded internationally. . . . They’re growing. They’re hiring more people. They’re doing quite a bit of business.”Jon Chesto can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @jonchesto.