The asphalt slab that sits between a Portsmouth shipbuilding facility and a marina and juts into the Elizabeth River has sat empty and unused for more than a decade as city leaders and developers have envisioned apartments and a high-rise on the 2.5-acre property.
None of the ideas for the North Pier came to fruition, but its future is now clearer as the city has sold it to the business next door.
At its Dec. 8 meeting, the City Council approved a deal for Fairlead, a shipbuilding and repair company, to purchase the property for $500,000 from the Economic Development Authority.
Fred Pasquine, president of Fairlead, said the company bought the property next door in August of 2019 and immediately sets sights on the North Pier.
With the federal government’s plans for a larger Navy fleet, demand for Fairlead’s work is on the rise. Part of the company’s operation involves constructing sections of ships and sending them to companies like Newport News Shipbuilding as close to complete as possible, Pasquine said. The new facilities will allow for expansion of those operations.
The facility Fairlead constructed next to the North Pier is expected to create 200 jobs, and the North Pier will bring another 25. Pasquine said some engineering work needs to be done at the site before construction starts at the North Pier in about two years.
Robert Moore, director of the EDA, said there’s never been a building on the site. It had been a maritime pier before being fenced off.
Past proposals for developing the property involved a high-rise building and apartments with a parking garage.
But there were always questions about the soundness of the pier — a study in 2011 estimated it could cost more than $5 million to prepare the pier for development and officials wondered whether a high-rise or other major construction project would be feasible.
Still, in 2015 development company Breeden, which built the Harbor Vista Apartments in Portsmouth, had plans to build 187 apartments on the North Pier for $25 million, but the company never bought the land. Moore said the authority came to an agreement with Breeden to shelve the arrangement, mainly because of the structural issues.
The EDA will use half of the money from Fairlead’s purchase for repairs and improvements to the Atlantic Union Bank Pavilion.
Pasquine said the North Pier is where industrial properties meet recreation areas in the city, so once there’s a building there, the company wants to invite a local artist to paint the exterior with a mural, perhaps something that celebrates Portsmouth, the Navy and shipbuilding.
Josh Reyes, 757-247-4692, email@example.com