To the Editor:
Each day I grow increasingly concerned that we Hullonians are perceived by our neighbors as seaside yokels. I fear that there are many who think of us as a village of coastal bumpkins who are content to sit and fret about when the next stiff wind will knock out the electricity.
There are vultures all around Massachusetts who leer down at us in our little beach town, eager to tear off a piece for themselves. And so, they descend on Hull. They ride in on Range Rovers and Jeep Wranglers. They wear Patagonia vests and all sorts of branded apparel from local breweries and surf shops to send a clear message: “We’re not your father’s real estate developers.” They’re cool; they’re hip; they surf, man. They’re not like those suits who buy a property, erect some monstrous edifice, and skip town. Their ideas are brand new. It just so happens that those “new” ideas sound a lot like the old ones. Stop me if you’ve heard any of these terms before: reinvigorate, reimagine, redevelop, revitalize, and revive. The Five R’s of the Gentrification Apocalypse are thrown around Hull more than a frisbee on Nantasket Beach.
According to every developer who has come to Hull since the steamboats stopped running, the last of the elegant resort hotels was razed, and Paragon Park closed its gates for the final time, we’re just one project away from returning to our former grandeur. That pitch has become increasingly grating in recent years, but that’s not stopping one troupe from preparing their own rendition of that tired song and dance.
When Paragon Boardwalk first opened its doors in 2018, management and ownership certainly weren’t shy about heaping praise onto themselves. In one article that appeared in the Patriot Ledger, the general manager was quoted as saying: “This was a property that was in distress, and we’re really looking to inject new energy with the excitement that used to be here. … We want to create this family entertainment center where young, middle-aged and old can come down and make memories. We want to play a role in revitalizing Nantasket.” For a few years, it seemed they had succeeded. Even this past summer, with all the restrictions put in place to fight the pandemic, there always seemed to be a crowd at the boardwalk.
Then came The Boston Globe article in late December. Like many of you, I was shocked to learn that Hull’s beloved arcade and mini-golf course would soon be replaced with The Dunes, a 140-unit apartment complex offering the same charm and character as a Lego brick-built homage to Soviet-era brutalist architecture. In the Globe article, ownership was quoted as saying, “With the pandemic effectively shutting down our indoor business and people wanting to live in this part of town, we feel it is the right time.” Ownership now claims that the $32 million mixed-use development will be “a premier destination at the entrance of Hull.” Perhaps I’m confused, but it was my understanding that the revitalized boardwalk, with all its “new energy,” had already made this area “a premier destination at the entrance of Hull.”
I do wonder where that $32 million budget was when it came time to make upgrades to the existing arcade and mini-golf course. Surely $32 million is enough to repaint the arcade, replace the rotten, splintered siding, and repair the rusting awning. Maybe some of that money could have been used to upgrade the mini-golf’s aging, often illogical, obstacles and drought-stricken water features. Even the boardwalk itself, which bears a striking resemblance to an oversized, sun-bleached litter box, seems like something that could have been built by a few dedicated Boy Scouts in a single weekend.
This whole saga has aroused suspicion that, from the very beginning, the end goal for this property was the construction of a massive, mixed-use development. The ownership group, Nantasket Dune Holdings LLC, was incorporated in November 2017. If creating a “family entertainment center” was really their goal, then perhaps “Paragon Boardwalk Holdings LLC” or “Paragon Entertainment LLC” would have been more appropriate names.
I will say it is very convenient that the proposed apartments will be named The Dunes. What a coincidence!
I’m sure ownership knew that this proposal would be met with stiff resistance and criticism. So instead of proposing it in 2018, they made a half-hearted effort at running the arcade, mini-golf, and snack bar for a few years and now claim the creation of The Dunes is the only way to recoup their investment.
Do what you will with your property. But don’t spit in our faces and tell us it’s raining. Hullonians are smarter than that.