New Bedford Developments


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Nov 16, 2006
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I'm creating this thread for New Bedford (Pop. 93,000 and 1.6 Million Metro... it's included in the Providence, Fall River, New Bedford Metro) seeing as there isn't anything on it yet (I'm not surprised). I am currently wrapping up my fourth year of school in Portland, ME and will be moving into Boston as early as August, but the New Bedford area (Assonet to be exact) is where i grew up and have spent many years. Much of my family and many of my friends still live in the area which is why I keep myself informed on the happenings in the city.

New Bedford has a poor reputation among many who have been through (and to an extent, understandably so), however, the city retains a rich history. It was at one time the whaling capital of the world, rivaled only by Nantucket. Herman Melville used the city and many of it's landmarks (including the Seaman's Bethel... and yes, i still get a kick out of saying that) in his novel, Moby Dick. It was also home to abolitionist Fredrick Douglas and several city buildings and monuments are named in his honor.

Today, New Bedford makes headlines mostly for negative reasons. In spring, 2006, a man went on a shooting rampage in a local strip club killing three, and not too long before that, an 18 year old boy assaulted 3 (but killing none) people in a gay bar with a hatchet before leading police on a cross-country chase that ended in him killing a police officer and hostage before turning the gun on himself. In the early 90's New Bedford was the scene of a famous gang-rape in a bar and resulting trial that inspired "The Accused" starring Jodie Foster.

But not all is bad in New Bedford. It is and has been for nearly a decade, the most valuable fishing port in the nation in terms of value of catch. It's also a hub for getting to Cape Cod and the Islands via land ( it's the last heavily populated city along I-195), Sea (3 different ferry services including Steamship Authority and a high speed ferry), and air (Cape Air operates flights from New Bedford Regional Airport). The city is also home to a large Portuguese population and that's reflected in fantastic ethnic restaurants, bars, and markets throughout the city. The Portuguese festival every summer is a block party in which a few streets are blocked off and all sorts of Portuguese food and drinks (the wine and beer are fantastic) are available to sample for the duration of the weekend.

The New Bedford National Historic Whaling Disrtrict is 18 Blocks of preserved 17th and 18th century buildings centered around the New Bedford Whaling museum. The buildings house shops, restaurants, bars, and more.

Downtown New Bedford and the surrounding have been noticing a turn around in the past few years. an Increase in upscale and mid-level restaurants, the revival of the Buttonwood Park/ Zoo, and New Bedford's prime location near Fall River (12 MI), Providence (26 MI), Boston (48 MI), and Cape Cod make this a great (and affordable) alternative to Newport, RI, Hyannis, etc. With the addition of Commuter Rail service (proposed to be in place by 2016... we'll see about that) and interest in increased service from other Airlines (USairways Express, American Eagle, and even Delta) New Bedford seems to be in a good position to continue to grow and gentrify.

I will continue to update this thread with news on current/ future developments and photos (although at the moment, these photos are all from outside sources).

Some Pictures in the meantime:

Seamen's Bethel:

Whaling District:

Herman Melville Square:

**EDIT** More Photos:

St. Anthony's (of Lisboa)

Some sort of rally downtown:

Whaling museum Entrance:

Times Square, New Bedford (New York, you are not.)

Ugly Downtown Modern Art:

The Harbor:

Whaling Museum Lobby:

North End with St. Anthony's in the background:
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Since this is an architectural site and not a photo blog, i figured i'd start by posting something of substance (the South Station-New Bedford commuter rail project has already been beaten to death and it's in the transit and infrastructure thread where it belongs).

The Orpheum Theater lies vacant just south of downtown New Bedford. It closed in 1962 and has been unused and abandoned since. Recently, the renewed interest in New Bedford has caused some groups to turn their attention to saving the building (which although i think is beautiful, i think may have fallen closer to disrepair).

An article in the New Bedford Standard Times by Jack Spillane, March 26, 2007:

By Jack Spillane
March 26, 2007 6:00 AM

"What New Bedford doesn't need is another bunch of do-gooders trying to get the government to save another white elephant."

You can almost hear the local talk radio callers before the effort to save the Orpheum theater even gets off the ground.

It doesn't matter. There will be an effort to save the Orpheum and there should be.

For the Orpheum is like no other grand building from New Bedford's past.

Walk onto its sweeping, gargoyle-decorated balcony ? as it juts over a breathtakingly arched proscenium ? and it's like walking back into early 20th-century vaudeville. For sheer beauty and architectural achievement, the exquisitely detailed Orpheum makes the downtown Zeiterion Theatre look like a cardboard box.

When you're inside this gilded playhouse, you can almost imagine the dancing girls doing the can-can. Or hear the static and clicking of the silent-film projector, as when "The Birth of a Nation" once played here.

"After my first trip through, I had a hard time sleeping that night. I was wandering these halls," said Chuck Hauck, a city artist who is among a small group trying to get a preservation effort off the ground.

It won't be easy.

The Orpheum, built in 1912 in the once-vibrant South End commercial district, is now in the middle of a slum. The angelic faces of its once-electrically lit ceramic"muses" now stare down on rubble instead of a marquee.

The word "slum" may sound cruel, but that's what the part of the South End where the Orpheum is located certainly is.

The wonderfully bustling Central Foods Hispanic market on the theater's first-floor nothwithstanding, it's decay that now surrounds the old theater. At least until America figures out a better way to revitalize the poorest sections of its inner cities.

To the Orpheum's north are sickly housing projects; to its west and south are ghostly triple-deckers with long-smashed-out windows; and to its east, the final stages of a roaring six-lane highway (Route 18).

Planners in the 1960s once said a highway through New Bedford would bring the city new life by speeding cars through its downtown. What it did instead was cut off the inner-city neighborhoods from their very lifeblood, the port of New Bedford.

In its heyday, however, the Orpheum was a hopping place. Instead of Route 18 outside its front door, there was busy South Water Street with a hotel, another theater, a grocery store, and a five-and-ten.

Five thousand people walked through this theater's doors during its opening week in 1914, as the program alternated between silent pictures, an orchestra and burlesque shows.

"There's very few theaters like this left that are original of that period," said Mr. Hauck, whose group ORPH Inc., is hoping it can raise enough money to join the League of Historic American Theaters.

He notes that even the 1960s "urban renewal" planners couldn't bring themselves to tear down the Orpheum.

ORPH (Orpheum Rising Project Helpers) believes the influential national theater league can help it attract state and federal grants for a building that would easily qualify for a listing on the National Register of Historic Buildings.

To obtain those grants, ORPH first must negotiate a long-term lease with the Central Foods market operators, who own the entire building.

Raoul Diaz and his father, Ignacio, who run the supermarket, say that won't be a problem. They would like to see the theater building used rather than sit empty.

Mayor Scott Lang and economic development council head Matt Morrissey have toured the Orpheum, but the mayor ? perhaps burned by the challenging effort to save Fairhaven Mills ? says the preservation effort is going to have to be a private one.

Lisa Sughrue, executive director of the Waterfront Historic Area League, says that while the Orpheum is an "amazing" piece of architecture, its restoration will be a "multi-million dollar" project.

That doesn't mean the project is not doable ? if ORPH obtains a long-term lease, it should qualify for financial help from both the Massachusetts Preservation Fund and the Massachusets Cultural Facilities Fund, she noted.

And the fact that the theater includes an impressive ballroom, function rooms and even an indoor shooting gallery (once operated by the original owners, the French Sharpshooters Club of New Bedford) means the facility theoretically could provide its own revenue stream.

Mr. Hauck, an artisan who has built miniature models of both the Orpheum and Building 4 at Fairhaven Mills, says the old theater will be opened in stages.

"We realize this is going to be a major, major project. It could take forever if we start trying to do this project all at once," he said.

Architect Ricardo Romao Santos, another of the ORPH visionaries, says local theater groups like Your Theatre and Culture Park might find a home at the Orpheum.

"You can't justify investing millions of dollars required ... to get this place going without having real organizations interested in occupying the space," he said.

The ORPH folks say they've received a cautious reception from the city and other movers and shakers they've approached.

Chuck ? who does restoration work for a living ? doesn't have a hard time imagining a successful renovation of the Orpheum.

He lays it out for you with a burgeoning arts and antiques scene combining to make it all happen. He has you convinced ... at least for a little while.

"People would actually want to come," he says. "I mean, come to the city of New Bedford, see a show, go to the galleries, and then with the antiques coming into the South End here, they could really work hand in hand. New Bedford could be a leader in the arts on the East Coast."

Then Chuck Hauck pauses and makes a nod to the reality of the challenge.

"But I'm a dreamer," he said

Some Photos of the exterior of the theater and some interior shots from a walk-through sponsored by an interested group:


My other concern would be that the neighborhood (South End) isn't all that great and you can tell from some of the exterior shots that not too much lies around it. I hope they do something with it, i can only imagine what it looked like in its prime.
How does it compare to the neighborhood around the Zeiterion?

What keeps me coming to New Bedford every July is the wonderful Summerfest. It's not as well known as Lowell's festival, and therefore not as crowded, but the music is fantastic. The downtown area where the festival occurs is every bit as attractive as Lowell.
It doesn't. The Zeiterion is in Downtown, the Orpheum is in the South End. I know Downtown isn't anything special, but the south end is full of vacant lots, housing projects, and abandoned buildings. The theater used to be surrounded by commercial buildings and another theater (long before my day) but today sits in an grassy area with a housing project and run-down triple deckers. The theater could be fixed (although not cheaply), but the neighborhood is the big problem.

Summerfest is great. I am no fan of folk music with the exception of Maura O'Connell. Her voice is amazing. It's always in the Whaling District which is nice, but still needs some work (it is getting better though).
Would it make sense to deconstruct this part of the highway and return Water Street to the width and condition that it was before the highway was built?
I don't know too much about urban planning and the logistics of it, but i'd say that it wouldn't make much sense in this case.

Not because the volume of traffic is so heavy, but because there's nothing left of what once was (aside from the theater) to build around. The author of the article described the area as a slum and that's exactly what it is. the theater really is standing by itself, and i don't think the reconstruction of the area would help (at least not for a reasonable amount of money, and it'll be a while before a developer would be willing to spend that kind of money in New Bedford).

here's a shot of the theater from google earth (the theater is the black roof in the center), see what you think:

Now, That's not to say the South End isn't worth investing into. there are some areas that are working well on their own, Including the intersections of Rivet and Bolton streets which serve as sort of a neighborhood center with a large park, monument in the center of the intersection, and some nice restaurants and markets (including Adega which is Portuguese for celler, they have one of the nicest wine bars around, not to mention great Portuguese food). However, the area that was once water street is sort of a lost cause (although sprucing it up a bit wouldn't hurt).
Once you go further south, onto that peninsula, does the neighborhood improve? On a map that looks like it should be an attractive area, surrounded almost completely by water.

Since the expressway just dead-ends into the neighborhood and doesn't connect to anything else, seems like removing it would help the area a lot. This would also reconnect the State Pier to the city center again.
Sadly the peninsula there, New Bedford's "South End" is not all that great. I have been down there a few times as my family summers at Salters Point in South Dartmouth and it's disappointing to say the least. It's probably safe but other than that it's basically lower middle class with a lot of triple and double deckers and smaller ranch and cape style single family homes. The views of Buzzards Bay and the eastern shores of South Dartmouth, especially from the southwestern tip are great though they are somewhat mauled due to some UMass Oceanographic Institute monstrosity. I am going to be down tomorrow for a yacht club function, I'll go into New Bedford and take a few pictures if I remember to. There are some very interesting buildings downtown and as I said the views from the South End are quite good.
I look forward to some regular updates to this city and what is happening down there. I learned a lot from the introductory post. I've never been to any of the cities in New England that south of Boston, but would like to do some exploring someday. While reading about the theater, I was expecting to see Mr. Ron Newman post a reply or two. Definately a place worthy of restoring. I'm always surprised at how long places like that can sit unused.
One thing I see as a big problem for New Bedford trying to attract tourists: it has no hotels at all! There are plenty of empty lots near the city center where one could be built, or solid old buildings that could be converted to this use. The lack of something so basic puzzles me.
From what I've seen of New Bedford, the Urban Renewal days of putting highways everywhere really did a heck of a number on it. The first thing that needs to happen, in my opinion, is transforming Route 18 and JFK Highway into an urban boulevard with intersections and crosswalks so that it connects instead of bisecting the neighborhoods.
From what I've seen of New Bedford, the Urban Renewal days of putting highways everywhere really did a heck of a number on it. The first thing that needs to happen, in my opinion, is transforming Route 18 and JFK Highway into an urban boulevard with intersections and crosswalks so that it connects instead of bisecting the neighborhoods.

This would be a start. in fact, the "highway" isn't much of a highway south of the center of the city. It has traffic lights and frequent stops (and ends at cove road). It could be better served with a nice boulevard there and even some pedestrian bridges that cross it so the city will once again be connected to the waterfront. For those not familiar with the area, picture Storrow Drive with neighborhoods on one side and instead of park land, industrial warehouses and unfriendly piers (and i mean unfriendly in every sense of the word in this case).

Unfortunately, this is a dream. New Bedford (and much of the South Coast) has been ignored by the transportation department of Mass. since the beginning of the Big Dig (the "New" bridge over the Taunton River in Fall River has taken nearly as long as the entire Big Dig project and still has a way to go). The best thing in the near future that can happen to New Bedford is the Commuter rail (read this article it'll probably end up in the Transit thread, but it's intersting nonetheless). That will allow people from the Boston Metro to take a 1 hour train ride to visit the city and explore it(as well as ease access to Boston from the South Coast which is the real goal, but the reverse is true). Again, the core (Downtown and the Whaling District) of the city is a pleasant, pedestrian friendly place with some relatively fun Bars and Restaurants.

The key with New Bedford is to continue to improve the center of the city. I think the next step would be to ease access to the waterfront in the city center with new pedestrian bridges, or a plaza on a pier. The schooner "Ernistina" is operated by the DCR and open to the public, but unless someone told you about it, you would never know.

Once the center of the city reaches its potential, then they can work to improve the areas to the North and South (to the West is the Dartmouth Mall area and Buttonwood park with a small zoo). The North has the groundwork laid out for it Ashley Boulevard is a dense city street with some ethnic restaurants and a landmark church (St. Anthony's). This wouldn't take too much work to Gentrify further, but again, the Development in Downtown needs to continue.

The South End is a different story. Where the Orpheum is would take heavy cosmetic work after the highway was removed, and the Peninsula is absolutely "not all that great" (actually sort of an understatement). However, there is an area in the South End, that has seen some development recently and is home to Adega (seriously, if you're in New Bedford, go) and some other restaurants and is, in my opinion, the only place in the South End with real potential to grow in the near future without too much assistance.

Long story short, New Bedford needs to continue to develop in the city's core and hopefully that gentrification will spread North and South (with a little assistance of course). The lack of Hotels is something that amazes me as well. This needs to change.

In another thread, i did a lot of comparing NB to Portland, ME as New Bedford shares some similarities to Portland. If you've ever been to Portland, one of the few things you realize is that for such a small city, there are plenty of public parking garages, very few open lots, and ample hotels throughout the city center. New Bedford needs to do this. Parking in the city (despite the open lots) sucks. There are no hotels (Motels and small chains such as Best Western and Hampton in lie close by, but there is now downtown hotel), few public garages, and use the existing open lots to fix this problem. In fact, New Bedford Mayor, Lang pushed really hard to have the Middleborough Casino built on a large site in New Bedford, but the tribe chose the Middleborough site due to more land and access to 495 and 95 as well as 195. That's too bad, it would have helped draw some money into the city.

Another good point The Bostonian brought up was that Portland's public murals on the side of buildings is really welcoming and it really is. New Bedford has a large artsy community, so why not give the rights to the side of a few buildings to some of the artists to decorate? It can't hurt. There's plenty that can be done and lots of people are starting to take action. A little money and investment in New Bedford can go a long way.
I wonder to what extent New Bedford's woes are attributable to the focus of the state government on Boston. If New Bedford had the position or spotlight in state circles occupied by Providence, a city of similar size, it might have capitalized on what seem to be similar touristic assets.

Then again, Providence also has several colleges and universities, and a very healthy economy. New Bedford has...the Whaling Museum. It could maybe hope to draw Salem or Lowell level tourism at best.
DARTMOUTH ? The developers of The Village at Lincoln Park are nearing the start of construction for their mammoth commercial and residential project at the former amusement park.

But exactly when construction will begin is uncertain.

Town officials don't foresee final approval at the next authority meeting on Feb. 5, but feel it is not too far off.

Jay Williams, a partner in the development group, Midway Realty LLC, said they plan to start construction on a 15,500-square-foot, mixed-use commercial structure shortly after the permit board gives final approval of Phase I of the project.

Mr. Williams said Phase I includes five commercial buildings that will abut State Road:

The 15,500-square-foot multi-use building, which will be built first by the developers.
An 1,800-square-foot branch bank with four drive-through bays.
A 7,200-square-foot restaurant. Mr. Williams said there are three possible tenants.
A 15,500-square-foot building, possibly for a pharmacy.
A 10,000-square-foot building, possibly for a small market or perhaps a liquor store, according to Mr. Williams.

Developers want to begin construction of the commercial aspect of the project first, hoping it spurs interest in the residential portion. The Comet roller coaster, the centerpiece of the former amusement park, could be demolished in late spring or early summer, Mr. Williams said.

The development, which will include 205 condos and 112 apartments along with the commercial parcels, is what the state calls a 40R Smart Growth project, which encourages mixed-use development by providing financial incentives to cities and towns.

The Lincoln Park project has been on the drawing board for three years, but the only work completed has been the clearing of the land along State Road.

"We want to get the commercial started. The last two years, though, wasn't the best time to start the condos," Mr. Williams said, noting the slow housing market conditions.

Town officials ? who support the project, despite their concerns ? said it is a big undertaking because of its density and size, but want to give it due diligence.

Donald Perry, the town's director of planning, said it could be a couple of months before the project receives final approval.

"I think it will take a little more review," he said. "We need to know the details. It's a big project. We just want to make sure it all meshes.

"It could go very well. The success will come out through the details. That's why we're paying close attention to it."

"I think it's going good," Town Executive Administrator Michael J. Gagne. "I see the end in sight. I think it's making good progress considering the size of the project."

Roger L. Tougas, a member of the authority board and chairman of the Zoning Board of Appeals, said any drainage and traffic issues are surmountable, but he could not pinpoint when final approval will come.

"I have great anticipation for it," he said. "Something has to happen and something will happen, but when it happens is up for grabs."

The authority board is comprised of Kathleen Horan McLean, chairwoman of the Select Board; Planning Board member John P. Haran; and Mr. Tougas.

Mr. Williams said the bank and restaurant in Phase I could be completed this year after the multi-use building is finished, depending on tenant contracts.

In addition, there are plans for three buildings behind the five commercial structures. Mr. Williams said these buildings will require separate approval from the authority board.

Two of the proposed buildings are each 12,500 square feet with commercial tenants on the bottom floors and likely 16 units of apartments atop them, according to Mr. Williams. The third building is proposed for 48 apartment units.

"We feel there is a need for apartments in Dartmouth," Mr. Williams said, pointing to demand generated by UMass Dartmouth students.

Developers contend there is a need for more commercial space, since there is not much vacant space available on State Road.

Forty-one of the two and three-bedroom townhouse condominiums and 112 of the apartments qualify as affordable units under the state's affordable housing program.

Under the terms of the 40R smart growth development, Mr. Williams said the developers can change the configuration of the condo units between unrestricted and age-restricted units with the town's approval, depending on market conditions.

The town has already received a $350,000 one-time payment from the state, after Town Meeting approved the new zoning district for the project, and will receive an additional $3,000 from the state each time a building permit for a condo or apartment unit is issued, according to Mr. Gagne.

Mr. Williams said the developers will also contribute a $100,000 impact fee to Fire District 3 and $7,000 each time a building permit is issued for a non-affordable housing unit.

Mr. Gagne said the town will receive educational aid equal to the difference paid in taxes and the per-pupil expenditure for every child who moves into the development.

Contact Curt Brown at

I hate to point fingers, but I do think Mit Romney essentially ignored the South Coast in his terms as Governer. Infrastructure in New Bedford and Fall River (Taunton, Attleboro, etc) has been ignored for a while and it's taken it's toll. New Bedford is the only one of those cities that has shown progress on it's own. I think new bedford with some help could be on par with Salem and i think it could exceed Lowell's tourism. The big concern is lack of hotels but that will change. I think a nice development around the CR station in the city center could help a lot. Maybe it's just wishful thinking. Deval Patrick has promised some attention to the area, but we'll see. In my opinion, making sure Boston is taken care of first is a priority, but I don't like seeing anywhere in the state ignored like this.

In anycase, the above article is about a development in neighboring Dartmouth. I'll try and get photos of the renderings.

the developer's site:
Yes, yes, yes!

GUEST VIEW: Surround rail stations with pedestrian-friendly, green development

Mr. Cohen is secretary of transportation and public works for Massachusetts.
January 17, 2008 6:00 AM

Last April, Gov. Deval Patrick renewed his commitment to the South Coast Rail project, which will restore passenger rail service between Boston and Fall River and New Bedford. The Patrick-Murray administration is fully funding the three-year planning phase of the project, investing $17.2 million.

The people and communities of Southeastern Massachusetts have long awaited this project, anticipating an infusion of new jobs and easier access to Boston.

New growth, however, can bring some unwanted changes. Already, Southeastern Massachusetts is the most rapidly growing part of the Commonwealth in terms of population and housing. Much of this growth is in new homes sited on large lots in rural areas. This type of growth is eating up farms, fields and forests and eroding the historic villages and cities that help make the SouthCoast so special.

As the third-largest public infrastructure project in recent state history, the scale and geographic reach of the South Coast Rail project offer unprecedented opportunities to protect our communities and our natural environment, while finding ways to welcome and shape new growth. South Coast Rail will be a strong catalyst for the type of lasting growth that builds on our traditions, not a veiled invitation for more urban sprawl.

Clustering people and jobs near train stations helps us make new public transportation cost-effective. The more homes, offices, shops, and schools are spread out, the more people have to drive, and the less likely it is that a train will be convenient.

Building where people are already living and working also helps us protect our natural resources, guide new growth and create new jobs that generate local taxes. The Executive Office of Transportation and Public Works is breaking new ground by focusing on how best to build the train line to address the region's needs. For business leaders, South Coast Rail can bring new jobs and valued employees. For cash-starved communities, new growth means a bigger tax base. For residents, South Coast Rail provides a fast, frequent link between New Bedford and Fall River and Boston. And for environmentalists, thoughtful growth can preserve the area's natural resources.

Our approach is what's often called smart growth. We combine transportation, economic development, and environmental goals with old-fashioned frugality and common sense. We don't waste resources or land. We do not simply look out for the short-term. We plan ahead to preserve the long-term, global competitive advantages of the whole region ? the people and communities who live and work in the region, abundant water, and the traditional village and city patterns of development that are highly energy-efficient.

To put these ideas to work, we are asking cities and towns to partner with us to prepare for the train by developing an economic development and land-use corridor plan. This blueprint will guide new development of homes and jobs to places that make sense while helping communities preserve precious environmentally sensitive areas. We will be asking communities to help us:

* Draw a baseline of the economy and land use development patterns in 31 cities and towns;
* Identify economic development and environmental challenges, opportunities, and aspirations; and
* Prioritize places ripe for development and places with important natural resources.

Our hope is that when we weave communities' visions together, the sum total will be a smart-growth blueprint that will be useful to cities and towns for decades to come, and a rail expansion that will enhance mobility for the people of the region. In the coming months, we will be inviting residents to share their thoughts about the project with us at a series of events.

The South Coast Rail can be a green project that is part of the climate change solution. One can envision wind turbines at stations, parking lots roofed by solar panels, and trains that meet the needs of the 21st as well as the 22nd centuries. We commit to do what we can to integrate renewable energy, energy efficiency, and clean technologies into the project design.

But to make the project as green as possible, we require leaders at the local level to be open to local planning and zoning changes. We need initiatives to reinforce town centers, create new villages, reinvigorate our cities, and protect precious natural resources. We can achieve these goals if SouthCoast residents join us at every step along the way as we design the rail project and the accompanying smart-growth blueprint.
GOOD stuff. I like Bernard Cohen; what i've seen out of him so far show that he's very pro development. Development around the station would be perfect considering the location of the proposed station and the vacant space around it. As an added bonus, if done well, it could connect the city to the waterfront again (separated thanks to route 18). Here's a shot from google earth of the area. The center of the city is only a few blocks south of this spot, and could really benefit from development there.

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Workshop to plot city's Upper Harbor redevelopment

Standard-Times staff writer
February 11, 2008 6:00 AM

NEW BEDFORD ? City officials are trumpeting what they believe is a rare opportunity to reconnect residents to the Upper Harbor area along the Acushnet River and encourage economic development there.

The Upper Harbor Development District study area ? defined as the area bounded on the east by the Acushnet River, on the west by Acushnet Avenue, on the south by Interstate 195 and on the north by Wood Street ? will be the focus of a "public visioning workshop" this week.

Officials are staging the session to gather input from residents, property owners, business people and developers. The workshop is open to the public and will be held at Joseph Abboud Manufacturing Co., 689 Belleville Ave., starting Friday at 6 p.m. and continuing Saturday from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m.

Mayor Scott W. Lang, whose administration has been the driving force behind developing a cohesive plan for the Upper Harbor, said last week, "We have a (potentially) vibrant waterfront that has been closed for 100 years to residents."

He said one goal is to reopen access for residents and allow them to connect with the Acushnet River. "On one side is an industrial city, and on the other a salt marsh," Mayor Lang said. "It is a very protected, beautiful area."

Mayor Lang said possible recreational uses of the river include canoeing, rowing, kayaking and sailing small boats. Walkways along the river also are being proposed to connect to local parks.

In addition, the Upper Harbor can meet a second, complimentary goal of enhancing economic development and job growth.

"We want to prepare the city for the next several decades," Mayor Lang said. "This is like (creating) a road map; we get input and best ideas that we can employ."

Mayor Lang said the waterfront is known as one of the city's great assets, but the Upper Harbor area has been closed off for many years by industrial buildings and other impediments. Mill closings and reuse "provides tremendous opportunity," but not without addressing challenges such as blight and inappropriate activities that now exist there, he said.

"This is like breaking through a barrier."

The Upper Harbor planning is just one part of the citywide planning and development effort that is focusing on such resources as the working waterfront, airport and downtown, Mayor Lang said.

Mayor Lang said he intends to participate in the workshop as much as his schedule allows.

The workshop is an outgrowth of a partnership between the city, MassDevelopment and the Economic Development Council.

In announcing the workshop, the council said the port's working waterfront has always been recognized as important, but "historically, the upper river has been ignored as a significant asset for public access and future development."

Matthew Morrissey, Economic Development Council executive director, said 20 people were sent door-to-door during the past weekend in the directly affected neighborhoods to hand deliver flyers and encourage participation in the workshop. He said getting as much input as possible will help to determine how the city goes forward in balancing the needs to improve the quality of life for residents with generating economic development and maximizing the potential of the Upper Harbor.

"I grew up in the northern part of that neighborhood, and for 100 years it was not thought of as having a view of the river," Mr. Morrissey said. He said in preparing for the workshop, officials have talked with people as diverse as an employee of a manufacturer located there, a descendent of a family that has lived in the area for 125 years and developers who only recently purchased property there.

"Each has a unique perspective," Mr. Morrissey said.

While keeping a focus on the needs of current and potential future residents, Mr. Morrissey said, it is important to note that "buildings there are still employment centers and there are others we would like to see as employment centers."

Although at times in the process the resident access and recreational aspects of the planning seem to get more attention, Mr. Morrissey cautioned that the economic development component is critical.

"The city has no large areas for job creation," Mr. Morrissey said.

Pictured on a map, the area under consideration can be sliced from top to bottom into "verticals," Mr. Morrissey said. Moving from the river west, the verticals would be:

* Water;
* Water's edge;
* Mill buildings;
* Industrial space; and
* Neighborhoods.

Each vertical offers opportunities, potential challenges and needs to be considered in the context of the overall best use of the area.

Mr. Morrissey declined to put a price tag on what it might cost to do the maximum amount of development in the area. He said it is more appropriate to look at the components of the area, some of which are already being utilized successfully and some of which are in the hands of developers with firm plans for reuse. Those properties and development would total well into the tens of millions of dollars.

Mr. Morrissey said the city ? including the Planning Department which played a significant role ? NBEDC and consultants have been working on the Upper Harbor project for about 18 months, with highly focused attention for eight months and planning for the workshop during the past four months.

He said a report on the planning workshop should be ready about 10 weeks after it is concluded.

Contact Joe Cohen at


It's worth noting that route 18 has essentially cut the rest of New Bedford off from the waterfront since the 1960s. Until that's fixed, no amount of parkland will "reconnect" the city (although it'll beat vacant lots and old industrial buildings).
Why is Route 18 needed at all? Couldn't it just be removed, since it dead-ends in the middle of nowhere anyway?
My guess is that when the idea was conceived, the planners thought it would bring more life to the South End; the end results were the opposite. I wish it would be removed. It's not needed, 140 connects to route 6 west of the city center and is a quick ride in. If it were converted to a surface boulevard and remove a few lanes it would make it much easier to get from the city to the waterfront.

The only real question mark in the near future will be the new train station, but in my opinion, this would present the perfect opportunity to do some redevelopment around there.
Casino developer says New Bedford still in the game

Steve DeCosta
By Steve Decosta
Standard-Times staff writer
February 12, 2008 6:00 AM

NEW BEDFORD ? Gov. Deval Patrick's opposition to Indian gaming in Middleboro advances the possibility for a casino in the city, according to the developer who holds options on about 35 acres in the Hicks-Logan neighborhood.

"I view that as a major development buttressing the opportunities for New Bedford," Leon Dragone, president of the Northeast Group of East Longmeadow, said of the Patrick administration's 79-page letter opposing the Mashpee Wampanoag's bid to have about 540 acres in Middleboro taken into trust, which would allow the tribe to develop a tax-exempt casino on its own sovereign land.

While Gov. Patrick has welcomed the tribe as a potential bidder for one of his three proposed state-licensed resort casinos, he has taken direct aim at the Wampanoag's chosen site of Middleboro.

"Not only do we have the governor opposing their pursuit, but we also have the site coming under opposition," Mr. Dragone said, implying that it would be difficult for the governor to allow a commercial casino at a location he has determined would not be suitable for an Indian casino.

The governor's opposition to the tribe's plans focuses largely on its secretive deal with casino investors and a variety of issues that are open to negotiation, but he also raises "environmental issues relating to potential adverse impacts on wildlife and natural resources."

Gov. Patrick's casino-enabling legislation would give preference to Massachusetts' two nationally recognized tribes ? the Mashpee Wampanoag and the Wampanoag Tribe of Gay Head (Aquinnah) ? for state licenses. While the Mashpee repeatedly have said they prefer to operate on sovereign land under the authority of the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act, they have not ruled out the possibility of seeking a state license.

The governor's bill would license three resort casinos, one each in southeastern Massachusetts, western Massachusetts and metropolitan Boston. While the administration has said it expects hearings on the bill to begin next month, two longtime gaming foes ? House Speaker Salvatore DiMasi and Rep. Daniel Bosley, House chairman of the Committee on Economic Development and Emerging Technologies ? control the timetable.

The Mashpee Wampanoag, meanwhile, have a deal that would give Middleboro money for anticipated infrastructure improvements plus $7 million a year and additional revenue from a 4 percent hotel room tax. In exchange, town officials are bound to support the effort to place the land into trust.

Legislative approval of Class 3 gaming would be required before any full-fledged casino could open in the state.

"I'm feeling encouraged about what's going on in Boston," Mr. Dragone said. "The issue is now taking a larger focus."

The governor has ramped up his lobbying on the issue recently and last week landed the endorsement of the 400,000-member state AFL-CIO.

In addition to his plans here, Mr. Dragone also is leading the most obvious effort to develop a casino in Western Massachusetts. The Northeast Group owns 150 acres off the Massachusetts Turnpike in Palmer and has entered into an agreement with the Mohegan tribe of Connecticut to develop the casino there.

Northeast has partnered with Pennsylvania Real Estate Investment Trust, owner of the Dartmouth Mall, for retail development in both New Bedford and Palmer.

Mr. Dragone said he is "in active discussions" with potential casino developers for the city site.

"If I were a betting man, I would say it's going to be New Bedford in the Southeastern part of the state," Mr. Dragone said.

Contact Steve DeCosta at

I doubt it's likely the casino will end up in NB, seeing as Middleborough has better access to highways and Metro-Boston than New Bedford does. There's also much more space in Middleborough to build a massive complex on.

That being said, a casino would be great for New Bedford. The proposed site far enough out of Downtown that it won't effect the area negatively, but close enough so that the area can benefit from some of the added traffic. The best part of this deal would be the fact that it would give New Bedford a destination hotel; something no city can hope to draw visitors without.

Furthermore, it wouldn't rely on the asinine Route 18. A destination casino combined with the impending commuter rail extension to NB would be helpful in the effort to bring commuters down from the Boston area as well as bringing commuters from NB to Boston. I know there's a downside to gambling, and a rather large one at that; but New Bedford has dealt with much worse, and quite frankly, the positives far outweigh the negatives in this instance.

*Edit* Whoops, link to the original article: