The Erie-Western Pennsylvania Port Authority promotes industrial, commercial and recreational opportunities on Erie's bayfront, according to its website.
The authority, located at 1 Holland St., is also a landlord to both a shipbuilder and a shipping facility and is the entity that ensures public access to the bayfront.
"I don’t think people know how expansive it (the port authority) is, and how much we really do," said Dave Zimmer, president of ErieBank and chairman of the Port Authority's board.
"Whether it’s as a landlord or as an operating company, if you take a ride down State Street today compared to what it looked like three years ago, the amount of development we’ve had down there is substantial."
While the port authority owns many properties on the bayfront, the majority of them are leased to individual tenants.
"We lease out the Bicentennial Tower to an individual entity, the Land Lighthouse to another," Zimmer said. "Bay Harbor East and West as well as Perry’s Landing Marina, the port authority owns those properties, but we lease those out to businesses as well."
Two of the most prominent leases include Donjon Shipbuilding and Repair and the Carmeuse Terminal. Donjon shipyard, 220 E. Bayfront Parkway in Erie, is only one of two dry docks on the Great Lakes capable of dry-docking 1,000-foot self-unloading vessels.
"They’re a little seasonal, but they’re doing work year-round," Zimmer said. "Sometimes these boats are so big they’re here for over a year."
The Carmeuse Terminal, 2 East Bay Drive, partners with other companies to bring in bulk material, lake vessels and heavy equipment for construction. In 2021, vessels delivered more than 780,000 tons of goods and materials — the equivalent of 39,000 20-ton truckloads — at the Carmeuse facility.
The port authority owns and maintains Lampe Campground and Lampe Marina, which Zimmer described as a year-round endeavor.
Transforming the bayfront
In addition to leasing out the port authority's numerous properties, Zimmer said the Authority has taken strides to provide more public access down on the bayfront.
"There’s much more public access today than there was 10 years ago," he said. "You see all kinds of access points on the bayfront for public use, from piers to places you can put your boats in the water, and I think it’s unique how well-utilized our bayfront is, and I think we take it for granted."
Zimmer said the Authority has been fortunate to receive grants that have helped them transform the bayfront, and looks forward to continuing improvements in the area as part of the authority's master plan.
"The bayfront is changing and we put in that Front Street road, that’s going to change the bayfront as well," Zimmer said. "We continue to improve the site. Now, we’re looking to eventually develop Liberty Park ... stuff down at Dobbins Landing, McAllister Place. We have a lot of plans to do what we want to do."
This article originally appeared on Erie Times-News: Erie Port Authority works to transform bayfront, provide public access