Off to one side, the working waterfront churns on, with battered fishing vessels dockside and warehouses full of forklifts hauling crawling lobsters. Off to the other side, Ten Pound Island Lighthouse and the mansions of Eastern Point glisten in postcard perfection.
Sheree Zizik, owner of the Beauport, clearly appreciates both. While her chic 94-room hotel brings to Gloucester a combination of glamour, service, and amenities unlike anything else on the North Shore, she clearly holds the generations that built the city in high esteem. In fact, one of the first things she’ll point out to hotel visitors is the historic photographs that adorn common areas and guest rooms. All licensed from the Cape Ann Museum, the black-and-white images depict the city around the turn of the last century, from beaches to fishermen to festivals. And Zizik’s successful conference and function facility, Cruiseport Gloucester, and sister restaurant Seaport Grille are a further testament to the charms of the working waterfront, improbably nestled as they are into the busy marine terminal, which welcomes luxury cruise ships and container ships with equal aplomb.
Bringing these two worlds together was no small task: It took some six years to turn the old Birdseye factory—dilapidated and abandoned for about 15 years—into the classic resort property.
“When we bought it, we thought it would be an easy fix, but it had to be rezoned, then there were appeals,” says Zizik. “But I never lost sight of the need for a hotel in Gloucester—especially a resort hotel.”
The Beauport is a resort hotel in every sense—from the sandy curve of Pavilion Beach, where guests can enjoy beach umbrellas and lounge chairs, to the outdoor rocking chairs around the fire pit and the glamorous rooftop pool and hot tub. With an expansive lobby decorated with comfortable seating areas and glistening ocean views, as well as 10,000 square feet of waterfront function space, no detail was overlooked. The charming guest rooms, with robes, slippers, and high-end bath amenities, boast nightly turndown service—a nicety even some luxury properties have done away with.
“I like to joke that when I [said] that I was building a hotel in Gloucester, people thought I was building a [motel] or something,” says Lee Dellicker, CEO of Windover Construction in Beverly, which provided full-service design and build for the project. “But now, people walk in and say, ‘Wow!’”
Getting to that “wow” was a long process and took a dedicated team, Dellicker says. “We had literally hundreds of subcontractor workers, from electrical to concrete,” he says, adding that during peak construction, they had between 250 and 300 workers on site every day, with more than 1,000 different workers in total involved in the project. “It was fast and furious,” he says, noting that the brutal winter of 2015 caused Windover to shut down work for a month, they chose to make up time with overtime when the weather was more favorable. At the start, they also had to contend with tides, working as they were right on the beach. The newly built seawall “is like an iceberg—you only see about 20 percent of it at the surface,” he says, adding that doing foundation work when the tide was low caused crews to work some odd hours.
Because of FEMA flood zone regulations, the first floor of the hotel is only parking—guests enter the lobby either via a grand staircase to the second floor or via an elevator. Arriving in the lobby, visitors are greeted with comfortable seating and a massive oval bar just beyond, beckoning with craft cocktails and the view—Zizik asked to enlarge the bar to 44 seats to accommodate more guests.
“[Zizik] wanted a very large bar, 40 to 50 seats, open to the lobby so that the lobby would be activated by the bar scene,” says John Olson, principal with the firm. “That idea got some pushback from our team, but it’s now pretty clear how right she was.”
Having spent more than 20 years working for Marriott Corp., ultimately serving as vice president of quality control, it’s no wonder Zizik had strong opinions about every aspect of the hotel, from the corridors (guest room doors are recessed, to avoid that bowling alley feeling) to ice machines (the loud, hot behemoths have been replaced by small freezers on each floor, stacked with bagged ice for guests). Instead of vending machines, each floor has a pantry area stocked with fresh fruit and snacks.
These thoughtful touches and many others are in part thanks to the delays that occurred as the team worked through community and environmental concerns, yielding extra time to perfect the design. The first pass at crafting the building, before Windover got involved, tucked the function space away from the gorgeous views and placed the pool on the same level as the restaurant, rather than on the roof.
With a laugh, Windover’s Dellicker says evoking the image of a guy in a Speedo striding past diners enjoying a gourmet lunch quickly convinced the team that the pool didn’t belong next to the dining deck. And dining is a critical part of the plan for the Beauport’s success, especially in the off-season. Zizik hired executive chef Michael Bates Walsh, whose pedigree includes the Cohasset Harbor Inn and the Equinox Resort in Manchester, Vermont, to craft the menu at the property’s 1606 at Beauport, an upscale yet casual restaurant. Both the high quality of the cuisine and the striking design, all polished wood evoking the inside of a yacht, have already garnered regulars from the neighborhood.
“Locals are our mainstay, especially since we’re seasonal,” Zizik says, noting that her staff is well versed in recognizing regulars, greeting them by name, and offering a warm welcome. “It’s important to offer hospitality, not only to the tourists, but to the locals.”
Connection to community goes well beyond a desire for customers, though. The hotel partnered with Action Inc., a Gloucester social service agency, to offer a hospitality training course, and guaranteed a job interview to anyone who completed it. Now, the Beauport’s team of employees, which tops 200 in the high season, includes several graduates of the program. In the gift shop, Manchester-based Mariposa baubles are featured, along with paintings by local artists. On the newly restored Pavilion Beach, which fronts the hotel, a partnership with Cape Ann SUP gives both locals and hotel guests access to paddleboards and lessons.
Not only that, but the beach itself is a shared public-private space—Zizik deeded it over to the city of Gloucester this summer. “That was very important to me, because I’m part of the community,” she says.
Reaction, from both locals and tourists from far-flung parts of the globe, has been tremendous thus far, proving Zizik’s vision was on point.
“I think the hotel has changed the perception of the town,” Zizik says. “People who stay here go to the museums, the shops, and the restaurants. It’s widespread.”