A “Capitol” investment in New Bedford’s north end

December 8, 2019

NEW BEDFORD, MA – There may be no building more poignant on the urban streetscape than a former movie theater shorn of its original purpose and left to fend for itself in a world which has relegated it to oblivion.

These noble structures dot the landscape of cities across America as symbols of obsolescence – yet retain a powerful hold on the collective imagination and help form the emotional infrastructure of any given place.

The former Capitol Theater in New Bedford, Massachusetts is just such a building. Its position in the city’s history as a destination location and community incubator on the commercial corridor Acushnet Avenue is legendary.

But its role into the future has long been in doubt.

Until now.

THE CEDC BUYS THE CAPITOL THEATER

The Community Economic Development Center (CEDC), a non-profit organization dedicated to enabling opportunity for all segments of society, recently purchased the former Capitol Theater at 1140 Acushnet Avenue. The CEDC has entered into a partnership agreement with Waterfront Area Historic League (WHALE), which will rehabilitate the building for adaptive reuse. Together, the two will return it to center stage in the civic life of the City of New Bedford.

The project will see the Capitol Theater property repurposed into office space, affordable housing units, street level retail and a new home for the CEDC with enhanced economic development and vocational programming. When complete, the $5.7 million project will prove transformative in scope for this revitalizing north end neighborhood.

“There’s a reason theaters occupy a hallowed place in preservation history,” explains WHALE Executive Director Teri Bernert. “They were and are centrally located to have maximum impact on a city’s commercial and cultural well-being. The Capitol Theater is a perfect example of that in the past, and now into the future.”

An initial feasibility study for the project was funded with a Local Initiatives Support Corporation grant. LISC is one of the country’s largest organizations supporting projects to revitalize communities and bring greater economic opportunity to residents, according to its website, lisc.org.

The architectural firm, studio2sustain also performed two feasibility studies funded by the New Bedford Economic Development Council. Architect Kathryn Duff, founder of the firm, concluded that the building was not only structurally worthy of renovation, but desirable from a redevelopment standpoint, too. Its future financial prospects scored high.

When the economic resilience of the property was judged sound, the CEDC then secured Community Preservation Act Funding in 2019 in the amount of $350,00 to help purchase the Capitol building, which sold for $450,000. The application for CPA funding was the first in the City of New Bedford to utilize those funds for a project that includes affordable housing.

REPURPOSING HISTORY FOR THE FUTURE

WHALE’s mission is to foster historic preservation and continued use of the city’s architectural heritage to enhance community and economic vitality in New Bedford. The non-profit development corporation accomplishes this through the restoration and reuse of historic structures which provide commercial development, affordable housing to low and moderate income individuals and families, promotes arts and culture, and educates on the importance of the historic and architectural culture of New Bedford’s diverse people.

The Community Economic Development Center, currently located at 1285 Acushnet Avenue, fosters economic justice in the local economy through people-centered development, with a focus on community members who have recently immigrated here. They connect youth and adults to skill-building opportunities and resources. They also help foster community networks and collaborations to promote cooperative action for social change. The CEDC will relocate to a refurbished Capitol and expand their efforts when construction is complete.

“Ensuring that everyone in New Bedford is engaged in every facet of its economic and civic life is our primary goal,” says Corinn Williams, Executive Director of the CEDC. “With this project, we can realize that mission for years to come while anchoring Acushnet Avenue in the city’s future as well as its past.”

Preliminary plans include offering a mix of programs in an opportunity center that can accommodate demand and meet the needs of the diverse north end population. Uses under consideration for this center include textile and culinary incubator spaces, arts and culture studios and workshops, and vocational training programs in Spanish.

The greater Acushnet Avenue neighborhood has a large population of Central American, Latino and Hispanic residents who have brought a new vitality to the commercial corridor. The non-profit organization, Migrant Education Program, which currently shares space with the CEDC, will move into the building, too. So will Groundwork Southcoast, a group with a shared values mission.

The renovated building will also include six retail storefronts and six affordable apartments. Several of the retail locations have already drawn interest; future tenants may include a Vietnamese restaurant and an attorney’s office, joining an existing bodega.

Additionally, the CEDC is working with the City of New Bedford on a feasibility study to determine if some of the theater space in the Capitol can be utilized as a Resilience Hub community center to help the neighborhood adapt to climate change.

When complete, the project will, in effect, return the building to its former prominent place as a commercial, cultural and community destination in the north end of New Bedford.

Capitol history
The Capitol Theater building in the 1970s
THE CAPITOL TAKES CENTER STAGE ON THE AVE

The Capitol Theater building at 1418-1440 Acushnet Avenue was constructed in 1920. It was constructed for Allen-Charrette, Inc., a local theater company owned and operated by theater proprietors George W. Allen, Jr. and Thomas J. Charrette. Today, the building still bears their names in concrete on the facade.

The two-story structure was intentionally built to be multi-purpose, with street-level storefronts, second-floor office spaces, and a single-screen, 1500-seat movie theater. According to research compiled by WHALE, The Capitol Theater building contributed both to the growth and development of the twentieth-century entertainment industry and to the rapid early-twentieth-century development of the Acushnet Avenue commercial corridor, affectionately known as “The Ave” in New Bedford.

To acknowledge its contribution to city history, the CEDC was recently awarded a Wicked Cool Places grant from the City of New Bedford Arts, Culture and Tourism Fund to help activate the space during the renovation process. Historic photographs from the Spinner Publication archive highlighting Acushnet Avenue’s past will soon be displayed in the Capitol Theater building’s storefront windows, even as its future is being created.

Much of the block has been vacant since the theater closed in the mid-1970s, and the second floor of the commercial block has been largely vacant since the 1970s/80s. Some of the first-floor storefronts have been occupied until more recently, but four out of the six storefronts are currently vacant. A redemption center is located in one of the storefronts and uses the vacant theater as warehouse space, and a market is located in another storefront.

The commercial block section has undergone a patchwork of interior renovations, and the building has suffered overall from vacancy, lack of maintenance, and, particularly in the theater block section, considerable water infiltration. The building currently ranges from fair to very poor condition.

Still, the Capitol Theater is one of only a few surviving theater buildings in New Bedford. While over twenty theaters opened here during the first quarter of the twentieth century, the Capitol Theater building is one of only five surviving theater buildings in the city, and one of only two located in the north end. (The other is the former Strand Theater, now also under WHALE’s care and under renovation for use as a fully-functioning Cape Verdean Cultural Center.)

A Capitol Theater restoration requires a capital fund-raising effort, and 2020 will be devoted toward bringing this vision to life on “The Ave.” In addition to historic tax credits, additional CPA funding and other preservation funding, an appeal will be launched for private donations.

The CEDC is one of a handful of community development centers that was chosen by Massachusetts to receive tax credit allocations. What this means is that as a donor of $1,000 or more, you will receive a 50% state tax credit on top of the federal tax deduction. Effectively, a donation of $1,000 is reduced to an out-of-pocket $325 contribution due to this tax provision.

WHALE, too is a beneficiary of this tax credit. In partnership with the CEDC on the Capitol Theater project, a variety of fundraising measures and appeals will help each reach their goal of a restored Capitol Theater community hub for New Bedford’s north end within two years.

Original story here.

$10 million project slated for New Bedford historic district

Posted Dec 6, 2019 at 2:12 PM. Updated Dec 6, 2019 at 7:47 PM

NEW BEDFORD — If you’ve been dreaming of a downtown apartment with a view of the city’s working waterfront, your options could be expanding in the next two years.

The city’s Planning Board approved the necessary permitting on Monday for Franklin Hospitality Group to turn the Shuster Brothers building — which formerly housed the National Club bar, and the C.E. Beckman Co. buildings, and which currently house a Marine Wholesale & Service Station — into 28 residential units along with two commercial spaces.

According to the site plan review application, 25 of the residential units will be market rate and three will be affordable housing.

The estimated cost of construction is $10 million with a 24-month time table to complete the construction once its begins.

Franklin Hospitality Group is a corporation controlled by Lafrance Hospitality, a family-business run out of Westport by Richard Lafrance and his three sons and daughter.

Sean Lafrance is corporate director of facilities for the business and said their business is known for restaurant and hotel development, including Fairfield Inn and Suites Downtown and the Hampton Inn in Westport.

The transition from hotel development to this new residential/commercial project came about, Lafrance said, “Just because we like New Bedford, I think the project’s going to be great for downtown New Bedford” and going into residential is “new and exciting.”

In May of this year the company purchased the C.E. Beckman Co. buildings, located on Commercial Street across from the State Pier, for $1.5 million from Carl Beckman, according to public records

The three-story stone and wood-frame commercial buildings are connected and originally acted as a warehouse, according to the Planning Department’s staff report.

The stone buildings were constructed from 1842-45 out of ashlar granite blocks and the wood-frame section of the building was constructed a few years later around a c.1790 -1800 building that had been moved to that location.

According to the project narrative, the buildings will be renovated to create a total of 16 apartments, 10 townhouses, and one commercial space.

Lafrance said a barbershop is interested in that commercial space, which will be on the first floor of the wood structure.

The current condition of the wood building poses the biggest construction challenge, according to Lafrance.

“The biggest hurdle is going to be the wood building just structural-wise … we are hopeful we can shore it up and bring everything that we’re going to do up to code,” Lafrance said.

The Lafrance family purchased the National Club building, located at 24 Union St., two years ago, through the Franklin Hospitality Group, for $774,000 from Kevin Santos.

The building was constructed in 1927 as a produce warehouse and in later decades was the National Club bar, a hub for local fishermen and others to imbibe after days at sea.

The bar shuttered years ago and since then the building has been vacant.

Lafrance said after they purchased the Union Street building he installed a new roof in order to preserve the condition because the roof was leaking.

In March 2017, Lafrance shared the family’s plans to establish a restaurant at the site with The Standard-Times.

“It’ll be a food outlet, but we’re not sure of the concept,” Lafrance said, “We’ve tossed a few ideas around.”

Since then their plans have grown exponentially, but the plans for the commercial area of the National Club building are still restaurant-oriented.

“The first floor of the building will be a coffee shop or restaurant space,” Lafrance said on Wednesday.

In addition to the commercial space, the building will be renovated to create two apartments.

Lafrance said the residential units in all the buildings will all either be one- or two-bedroom.

It’s the family’s goal to retain as many historical aspects of the buildings as possible, according to Lafrance, who said they will work to preserve “anything salvageable that can be reutilized: windows, doors, some of the wood components of the wood building.”

The buildings’ location in the city’s historic district gives the Lafrances a few extra hoops to jump through when it comes to permitting.

The city’s Historical Commission has already granted a Certificate of Appropriateness during their combined hearing with the Planning Board this week, according to Director of City Planning Tabitha Harkin, but the project is still subject to approval from the Massachusetts Historical Commission and the National Park Service.

They are also due before the Zoning Board of Appeals for two special permits related to the Downtown Business Overlay District, Harkin said.

The revitalization of the city’s downtown is part of what drew the Lafrances to the project.

“As the surrounding neighborhood has seen significant revitalization over the past few years with an influx in restaurants, shops, hotels, and various other commercial users intertwined with an existing working waterfront, the applicant is proposing a much needed residential component to the area,” their project narrative stated.

Lafrance estimates they’ll be able to start construction on the project in 2020 and that it will take around a year to complete.

During the construction, Lafrance said the impact on the downtown area should be minimal because Commercial Street is not a high-use street and they own a separate parking lot where they can stage the project.

Original story here.

MassINC Loves The Ave

Published November 24, 2019

In an annual event that is now in its seventh year, the Boston-based public policy group MassINC recognizes individuals, groups and organizations who are employing innovative strategies to revitalize the state’s Gateway Cities.

This year, on Wednesday, Nov. 20, 2019, MassINC acknowledged the work of Love The Ave for its work along the commercial corridor Acushnet Avenue and in the City of New Bedford’s north end. Love The Ave was given a MassINC Gateway Cities Innovation Award at Worcester’s DCU Center for its efforts.

In recognizing Love The Ave, MassINC wrote, “Love the Ave is a community-driven group of engaged residents, dedicated local business leaders, and partner organizations working collaboratively with city officials to catalyze New Bedford’s revitalizing north end commercial corridor, Acushnet Avenue.

“To date, the effort has led to infrastructure and streetscape improvements, including wider sidewalks to accommodate cafes and provide space for benches, bike racks, and pedestrians, and improved lighting. Also, as components of a broad marketing campaign to brand Acushnet Ave’s ‘International Marketplace’, the Love the Ave team has organized two restaurant week promotions, created murals and other public art, and hosted cultural festivals.

“Building on this momentum, the Community Economic Development Center and WHALE are transforming the long-dormant Capitol Theater into a mixed-use resource hub for the community. Launched with organizing assistance from the Massachusetts Smart Growth Alliance’s Great Neighborhoods Initiative, this collaborative undertaking epitomizes the kind of multifaceted partnership needed to achieve equitable transformative transit-oriented development in Gateway City station areas.”

Traveling to Worcester to accept the award were team members Angela Johnston, of the New Bedford Economic Development Council (NBEDC); Corrin William and Brian Pastori of north end’s Community Economic Development Center (CEDC); the artist Tracy Barbosa of Duende Glass, Inc.; and Love The Ave Community Media Manager, Steven Froias.

Also representing New Bedford at the event, which consisted of policy panels as well as the awards luncheon, were Derek Santos, Executive Director of the NBEDC; Tabitha Harkin, Director of City Planning for New Bedford; and Colleen Dawacki resident, School Committee member and Working Cities Challenge Manager for the Federal Reserve Bank of Boston.

“Being recognized by MassINC was a terrific validation of the work we’ve been doing in New Bedford’s north end,” commented Love The Ave’s Steven Froias. “The goals of our group and their organization align perfectly.”

MassINC’s mission is to promote the growth of a vibrant middle class in Massachusetts, with a focus on its Gateway Cities like New Bedford. They seek to achieve impact by moving ideas to public policy through civic engagement.

#NorthEndNB Mission

Love The Ave personifies that mission in New Bedford.

Love The Ave is a committee of diverse community members dedicated to promoting the equally diverse commercial corridor, Acushnet Avenue and all of New Bedford’s North End.

Its mission statement states, “Love The Ave believes Acushnet Avenue has a beloved past, dynamic present and thrilling future as the heart of the North End.

“The commercial corridor and surrounding neighborhood is home to the city’s International Marketplace – a collection of cultures reflected in its many restaurants, businesses, services and opportunities – and vibrant Riverside Park among other unique destinations.

“Its residential population enjoys the area’s most walkable neighborhood. From dawn into the evening, The Ave, as it is affectionately known, is a hub of activity.

“Up and down The Ave and throughout the North End you’ll find a community of civic and private enterprises of all backgrounds working together to create a destination like none other on the South Coast.”

#LoveTheAve in New Bedford

Launched with the help of the MA Growth Alliance’s Great Neighborhoods program in conjunction with the CEDC, Love The Ave has brought public art to the walls and streets of the north end; sought to support and engage small business owners and social equality groups throughout the area; promotes cultural events celebrating a diverse community; and organizes an annual Restaurant Week to define the north end as a regional dining destination and promote New Bedford’s unique cuisine.

“Receiving this Innovation Award at this particular time is especially gratifying as 2020 will see Acushnet Avenue reach the tipping point,” Froias says. “Significant projects underway like WHALE’s renovation of both the historic Strand Theater, which will showcase the contribution of Cabo Verde residents in our city as the Cape Verdean Cultural Center, and the Capitol Theater, which will become a one-of-a-kind mixed-use community hub, will represent a new milestone for north end’s revitalization.”

Love The Ave welcomes any and all engaged partners to the group. You can follow news and events through its Facebook page here, and contact Angela Johnston at ajohnston@nbedc.org for more information about upcoming meetings.

Original story here.

Groundwork celebrates 5 years with expansion plans in New Bedford, Fall River

Posted Nov 16, 2019 at 8:00 AM. Updated Nov 17, 2019 at 11:16 AM

Groundwork is about the unique inspiration and creative synergy that comes from bringing people together.

You may be used to the traditional idea of an office: rows of desks of cubicles with company employees banging away at a keyboard.

But in the 21st century economy, “the office” for many means their kitchen table or couch or a table at a nearby coffee shop where the Wi-Fi is free.

But some of the workers are eager for some fresh air and fresh ideas. Not to mention some social interaction.

In its fifth year, Groundwork is creating a community within the community with a concept known as coworking, which has taken off across the country as more people work remotely or from home.

Groundwork has experienced enough success so that they are making plans to expand their New Bedford office and open another in Fall River in the coming year.

“Groundwork is a community-oriented environment of collaboration,” said Donna Criscuolo, executive director at EforAll, a local non-profit agency that has held a membership at Groundwork for four years and has played an important role in its development.

“It goes beyond just getting work done, you’re around other people exchanging ideas and socializing as well. It’s friendly, upbeat, and there’s good energy. There’s always something going on that’s meaningful.”

Coworking could benefit businesses from the interaction of its members along with the opportunities to socialize and start friendships, officials say. It can be a receptive and comfortable approach to networking into which entrepreneurs can immerse themselves.

“We strive to create a welcoming feel,” said Groundwork owner and co-founder Sarah Athanas. “You don’t feel that you’re in a stuffy office with cubicles and dropped ceilings — you just show up with your laptop. Everything’s here for you that you would want in an office and more.”

The New Bedford expansion will see Groundwork add more private offices with an announcement expected soon on the details surrounding that plan, Athanas said. “Our Fall River expansion will be part of the Creative Class project, a mixed-use development that will include residential units as well as coworking and other commercial space,” she said. “That is currently slated for the end of 2020.”

Groundwork provides members with free Wi-Fi, printer access and bottomless coffee, tea and snacks. There are “phone booths” for those people who want privacy for their phone calls.

In addition to traditional tables and chairs, there is a kitchen area as well as an art gallery featuring the work of local artists. There is a new opening at the gallery every month or two and the public is invited to attend the openings. Yoga classes are held each Wednesday.

Depending on your membership, you may have 24/7 access to the facility, with opportunities to use any of the three meeting rooms. They also offer private offices, a locking file cabinet and a personal desk via tiered membership plans.

There are also “soft seats” and tables for relaxation and conversation.

Located in the Quest Center building at 1213 Purchase St., the space boasts 6,000 square feet. It is spacious, well lit, polished clean with high ceilings that serve to create an open, airy environment.

“It’s a unique, beautiful space with a great vibe,” said Ed Craven, a regional marketer with the bookkeeping company Supporting Strategies. He has been with Groundwork for two years.

Groundwork currently has 85 members working in an array of industries. Clientele include a variety of professions in fields such as education, design, web developing, software and app development, real estate, legal work, accounting and financial planning. There are also consultants including one person in the spirits industry working with a vodka brand.

The organization also hosts a number of local non-profit companies. In addition to EforAll they work with Civic Support, Gnome Surf, Leadership SouthCoast, Southeastern Mass Agricultural Partnership (SEMAP), South Coast LGBTQ Network and the New Bedford Star Kids Scholarship Program.

Athanas said some companies will pay for employees’ coworking memberships.

“Large organizations will pay for people to do coworking because they see it making them more productive,” she said. “A lot of companies think that it’s a perk that helps with retention — employees are more likely to stay if they’re benefiting from being able to come into a fun environment.”

In an effort to bring people together, Groundwork hosts frequent events for both its members and the public. Athanas employs a time-tested approach to social interaction – food.

Some of Groundwork’s events include a trail mix social every Tuesday afternoon.

Athanas said “it’s very basic, but it gives people an opportunity to wander over from their desk and chat and interact.”

Each November during the week before Thanksgiving, Groundwork kicks off the holiday season with a pie contest. “We eat a ridiculous amount of pie and drink a lot of coffee,” Athanas said. “People are invited to bring their family and friends.”

A new event held monthly is called “Breakfast of Champions.” Breakfast is served to members that morning before listening to a member give a 10-to-15 minute “lightning talk” about their current project. The event serves to solicit feedback and support from other members.

Anathas said that “it helps people really understand what other people are working on and it can become a subject to discuss.”

Groundwork also hosts workshops that are available to the community for a small fee. The workshops are run by professionals and deal with topics such as using social media, marketing your business, legal issues, financial planning projections and being more creative.

The organization also opens its doors to the public on AHA! Nights every second Thursday of the month, allowing for free open house coworking. They also offer day passes.

Opportunities for non members also include being able to rent one of their three meeting rooms. They have seating for eight, 20 and 30 people and may include a whiteboard, a flat screen TV, a digital projector, a Polycomm phone, and a USB microphone. The offices are paid for hourly and may be rented for half days or full days.

But in the end, Groundwork focuses as much on the intangibles of interpersonal interaction as it does the hardware of the office space.

“What really excites me about this business is that it’s really about knitting the social fabric in society, something that has been missing with all of our digital communications and devices,” Athanas said. “The most important thing to see happen is when there’s some social interaction, when you see members talk to each other who’ve never interacted before. At the end of the day it’s about working together and developing relationships so that people care about each other.

“When people care about each other they work harder, they work together and everyone rises together.”

Groundwork is one chapter in an internationally expanding industry. According to the Coworking Resources website, these businesses have “unique features and, at the moment, are extremely successful. They are experiencing tremendous growth, utilizing various business models from franchising to more boutique, customized services.”

A native of Bourne, Athanas was introduced to coworking while living in Buenos Aries, Argentina and working as a freelance marketer and consultant. She has a degree in art from the University of California — Santa Barbara.

“When I returned to the U.S., I found myself working at home in the winter. I felt isolated,” she said. “I wondered how I could interact with peers or find people that are working in the same areas as me,” she said. “I thought ‘This is a need that really needs to be filled in this area.’ It was time for me to step up and do something.”

Mindy Wallis moved to New Bedford from the Chicago area three years ago. She was soon to be a member at Groundwork thanks to a suggestion from her realtor. She is an instructional designer for CareAcademy in Boston.

“I work from home, but I wanted to meet people,” she said. “I knew that if I didn’t find some place to work outside my home that I would have a hard time meeting anyone. I went to Groundwork hoping to find some people and it’s worked out great.

“At the time I started, they were having a holiday party and they said ‘Come along, it’s pot luck.’ I told them that we hadn’t even unpacked our dishes yet, and they said ‘It doesn’t matter, bring something or don’t, whatever works for you, just come on along.’ They told me to bring my husband even though he isn’t a member. They were exceedingly welcoming. It allowed me to get to know people rather quickly.”

Athanas co-founded Groundwork with Dena Haden, who left the company to become the program manager at the Co-Creative Center in downtown New Bedford two years ago. Early on, they approached the New Bedford Economic Development Council and earned their support.

They eventually received a grant from Mass Development to cover their startup expenses while the city offered them a discounted rent opportunity. EforAll was eventually recruited to become a member and they assisted with expanding the Groundwork community, mostly through small businesses.

Angela Johnston is the director of business development, marketing and communications for the EDC.

“The city invested in Groundwork and Groundwork is now giving back by lending their support to the coworkers and entrepreneurs in the region,” Johnston said. “They realized that folks who are coworkers come to a space wanting to feel a part of something, and they have created that something.”

Athanas is teamed at Groundwork with the full-time contributions of community manager Caitlin Joseph.

“Caitlin and I have a weekly meeting every Monday morning and one of the agenda items is our members,” Athanas said. “We spend a lot of time discussing in depth what’s going on with the people who do their work here. If someone is going through a hard time, perhaps they just had a surgery, we may discuss sending them a care pack. We really want to be there and provide them with what they need so they feel that they’re appreciated when they come here.

“We put a lot of effort into learning about each new member,” she said. “We’ll find some people to introduce them to who might have common interests, and we make sure to invite them to our social events. We want people to feel comfortable from the start.”

“With such a wide variety of people and industries every day is different,” Joseph said. “You’ll see a lot in a week.”

Original story here.

Port of New Bedford gets $50,000 from Vineyard Wind

Posted Nov 25, 2019 at 2:40 PM. Updated Nov 25, 2019 at 2:40 PM

NEW BEDFORD — The New Bedford Port Authority has received $50,000 from Vineyard Wind to help ready the port for offshore wind.

Port officials have heard that an additional 50 vessels could be coming in and out of the harbor each day during construction of the wind farm, according to Edward Anthes-Washburn, Port Authority executive director. He said the port will use the money to help identify ways to accommodate more boats, determine what new infrastructure might be needed, and figure out how the port can leverage its existing infrastructure to take advantage of the opportunity.

“We appreciate the partnership with Vineyard Wind,” he said in an interview.

Vineyard Wind said in a press release that the grant will support technical consultants and industry experts to conduct engineering studies necessary for growth and development along the waterfront.

Erich Stephens, chief development officer for Vineyard Wind, said Greater New Bedford is uniquely positioned to capitalize on offshore wind because of the city’s proximity to the lease areas, its skilled workforce, and its existing maritime economy.

Vineyard Wind was selected in May of 2018 as Massachusetts’ first provider of offshore wind energy. Its permitting has been held up by the federal government.

The 800-megawatt wind farm would be located about 14 miles south of Martha’s Vineyard.

Headquartered in New Bedford, Vineyard Wind is a 50-50 partnership between funds of Copenhagen Infrastructure Partners and Avangrid Renewables.

Original story here.

Women rule — the downtown New Bedford business scene

Posted Nov 9, 2019 at 4:00 PM

NEW BEDFORD — Women rule. Obviously.

And while you’re thinking of all the ways they do, here’s one more: They’re rocking the business scene in downtown New Bedford.

From cafés and clothing shops to fitness studios and salons, the compact center of the City that Lit the World has them all — many run by women.

“I always just wanted to be downtown,” said Lori Gomes, easing into an upholstered chair at Beauty Union, her salon next to Custom House Square.

A West End native, Gomes had a flair for hair as far back as high school, when she did hairstyling for friends in the bathrooms at New Bedford High. She got her first salon position in the city’s Times Square Building in 1989, and later went out on her own, opening L’Atelier Boutique Salone in a second-floor space above what is now dNB Burgers.

Still, she craved a location even closer to the city center, and a year ago, she moved to a first-floor spot on Acushnet Avenue, in the Co-Creative Center, under the name Beauty Union.

One of the things that surprised her about going into business was how much working capital she needed. A plumbing problem — a big deal at a salon — delayed her opening by two months, and she had already been paying rent on the space for three months before the delay.

Her stylists are young. Gomes likes the idea of giving them a chance to succeed in New Bedford, without moving away.

STRENGTH IN NUMBERS

With help from Elissa Paquette, who owns the women’s clothing shop Calico and is president of Downtown New Bedford Inc., The Standard-Times recently connected with more than 30 women making waves downtown. Most of them own businesses. A few lead cultural institutions, such as the New Bedford Art Museum.

Paquette first came to New Bedford one summer when she was a student at the Massachusetts College of Art and Design, in Boston. She sublet an art studio from a friend. They ate Mexican food at No Problemo and checked out the Solstice skate shop.

She felt awed to see local business owners in their 20s.

“I had never seen that outside Williamsburg (Brooklyn),” she said.

Paquette had dabbled in selling vintage clothing on eBay, and she decided to make a go of it with a brick-and-mortar store in the Whaling City. She opened Calico as a vintage clothing shop in 2005, in a second-floor location over a nail salon.

After three years, she moved to a first-floor shop. But filling the larger store with curated vintage merchandise wasn’t easy. So she spent $1,000 to stock new clothing in a handful of styles. People bought them right away.

“That’s when I knew I was on to something,” she said.

One of the best things about being the boss, she said, is creating a culture and being in charge. But it means you’re in charge of everything.

“It’s the best thing, and the worst thing,” she said.

She jokes with employees that if the store needs a new vacuum, they’ll have to ask corporate — which, of course, is her.

Although she loves her job, she said leaving behind a 9-to-5 schedule may not be as freeing as some people envision.

“It’s a lot of work,” she said.

Paquette and Standard-Times photographer Peter Pereira, intrigued by the number of women who own businesses downtown, organized a photo shoot. More than 30 people showed up. Twenty-five subsequently answered a Standard-Times survey designed to give a broader view of women’s experiences doing business in the city center.

UPS AND DOWNS

Jenny Liscombe-Newman Arruda, co-owner of the art and craft gallery TL6 the Gallery, opened the shop with a friend, Arianna Swink. They studied metalsmithing together at UMass Dartmouth. At first, they made jewelry in a basement studio and sold it at other shops. But when the former White Knight Gallery became available, they decided to go for it.

“We were like, ‘This is our chance,’” she said.

It’s a labor of love. Both of them have other jobs, Swink as a tax accountant and Liscombe-Newman Arruda as a waitress at a downtown restaurant.

She said she feels some disappointment that city government hasn’t done more to help small downtown businesses. She also wasn’t satisfied with last year’s holiday parking program, which only allowed free parking for two hours. Anyone who got ticketed for parking longer had to present a same-day store receipt to get the ticket forgiven.

“That’s not welcoming,” she said.

She does approve of the newly extending parking times downtown, and she said the transition from the old Holiday Shops event at the Whaling Museum to the broader Holiday Stroll has been a success.

“I am a positive person,” she said. “But if we don’t speak up about problems, they won’t improve.”

WOMEN IN THE LEAD

Leaders working together to do better is one of New Bedford’s biggest strengths, and women are in the vanguard of that effort, according to Margo Saulnier, creative strategist for the city. From the founding of AHA! Night 21 years ago to the consortium of 27 people implementing New Bedford’s arts and culture plan, “it is the female leadership who are generating that collaboration,” she said.

What follows is a small sample of survey responses from 25 of the women who make downtown click. Responses have been edited for length and clarity.

WHY NEW BEDFORD?

Abrah Zion, Miss Z Photography: I was born and raised in New Bedford. Downtown is a thriving hub. I wanted to be located in a central area and among other amazing business owners.

Cheryl Moniz, Arthur Moniz Gallery: Arthur (her husband, who died last year) and I were both born in New Bedford. We both loved the waterfront and New Bedford’s historical buildings and the rich history of downtown.

Cecelia Brito, Celia’s Boutique: I knew when I walked up and down Purchase Street, Union Street, etc., that I had to put “location” at the top of my to-do list. Location, location, location.

CHALLENGES YOU’VE FACED?

Lara Harrington, Boutique Fitness: Other people’s livelihoods are now dependent on our dedication to the growth of our business. This can be a challenge but also a motivator (and a wonderful thing to celebrate).

Jessica Coelho Arruda, Tia Maria’s European Cafe: Finding work-life balance, and figuring out how to finagle it all, has been a challenge. The first couple of years were the hardest, but as the business has grown, it has become easier to manage. I make it a priority to plan ahead, work efficiently and schedule time off.

Alison Wells, Alison Wells Fine Art Studio & Gallery: The biggest challenge for me is that in my career, I used to wear one hat: the artist’s hat. When I became a business owner, I suddenly had two hats to juggle, and it has been a challenge to balance them and not let one area suffer.

Elona Koka, Cafe Arpeggio: The amount of time the business requires, especially as a new owner, takes away from spending time with my family. I don’t really get to spend too much time with my daughter.

ON BEING A WOMAN IN BUSINESS

Caite Howland, The Beehive: I’m a mom, and making my own schedule is a great blessing. I get the chance to take some extra time while my kids are still young.

Val Kollars, New Bedford Tattoo Company: The tattoo industry is very male-dominated and very difficult for female tattoo artists. It’s what pushed me to have my own business.

Alison Wells, Alison Wells Fine Art Studio & Gallery: We often have to work harder to prove ourselves in gaining recognition and resources in the male-dominated art establishment. Having my own art business has helped me to carve out a role and niche for myself as a female artist of color. I have learned that being a business owner is about relationships and offering something more than the product itself, and this, in fact, is a unique strength women have.

Original story here.

Mitchell makes history, winning 1st 4-year mayoral term

Posted Nov 5, 2019 at 9:48 PM. Updated Nov 7, 2019 at 1:47 PM

Mayor easily topped challenger Moultrie

Incumbent Jon Mitchell swept to easy victory over challenger Richard Tyson Moultrie to become the first mayor in New Bedford history to win a four-year term.

In gaining a fifth term, Mitchell outdistanced Moultrie, 6,778 to 2,483, getting 72% of the vote to his challenger’s 26%.

All told, just 16.4% of the city’s voters went to the polls. “I know the weather might have played a role, but it’s extremely low,” Election Commissioner Manny DeBrito said, adding “It’s been a long interesting election season and I thank you all for your patience.”

For councilor-at-large, all five incumbents were re-elected but Brian K. Gomes, long one of the top vote-getters in the race, repeated his preliminary election showing, again finishing fifth among the five.

Mitchell will be most powerful mayor in recent history
In hanging on to his seat, Gomes beat Paul Chasse, the next closest finisher, by 936 votes.

Tops in the race was Ian Abreu (5,588), followed by Linda Morad (5,372), Naomi Carney (4,820), Debora Coelho (4,720), then Gomes (4,345). Totals for the challengers were: Chasse (3,409), Leo E. Choquette Jr.(2,309)), Lisa White (2,298), Michael Janson (2,049) and Carlos P. Felix (1,507).

In the contested ward races, Ward 4 was the only one without an incumbent and Derek Baptiste topped Joseph “Jo-Jo” Fortes, who previously served as councilor and was looking to return. The vote was 999 to 613, with Baptiste getting almost 62% of the vote to Fortes’ 38%.

Original story here.

Governor signs Zeiterion bill to allow long-term lease

Posted Nov 7, 2019 at 9:35 AM

BOSTON — Legislation that would allow the city to enter into a long-term lease with Zeiterion Theater Inc. has passed its final hurdle. On Thursday, Gov. Charlie Baker signed the legislation which had already been passed by the state Legislature.

Zeiterion Theater Inc. is seeking a long-term lease with the city because it is embarking on an $18 million capital improvement campaign to renovate the theater, and tax credits and bonds being applied for require applicants to have a 99-year lease.

“I’m thrilled that the governor and our state legislators support the city’s request to enter into a long-term lease agreement with the Z,” said Rosemary Gill, executive director of Zeiterion Theater Inc. “It means that the Z will be able to make very necessary and exciting improvements to the building and that’s going to have tremendous and long range implications for what our organization can offer to the community and what sort of impact it can have.”

Gill said they have already started conversations with city officials about the lease and said they’ll probably establish a working group with the city.

According to Gill, the group will then have to go before the City Council to negotiate the terms of the lease.

In May, the council voted to send a home rule petition to the Statehouse to pave the way for the long-term lease.

Mayor Jon Mitchell also supported the home rule petition and said on Friday, “Given the importance of the Zeiterion to the cultural life of the city, and knowing the ambitious plans to upgrade the facility, I was pleased to honor the Z’s request and work with the City Council to initiate this home rule petition.”

Mitchell said the long-term lease “unlocks access to millions of dollars of federal investment that could make the project that much more feasible.”

Sen. Mark Montigny filed the legislation for the lease and said in a statement that “It’s taken well over a decade of work in the legislature to provide state funding to the Zeiterion so it could successfully provide New Bedford and our entire region with world class performances and opportunities for children and families. Consequently, the Z has become an economic engine for downtown and we’re very excited for this next phase in its development into a 21st century performing arts center.”

Original story here.

The Butcher Shop celebrates family, friends and food in New Bedford

Posted Nov 2, 2019 at 8:17 PM

Joe Pinaretta is excited to share some details about a recent vacation he and his family took to Spain. The food, the sun, the cities — Barcelona, Madrid — the European lifestyle that encourages one to soak it all up at leisure.

But when he’s asked, at 70 years of age, if he’s ever really contemplated retirement, there’s an almost incredulous note in his voice when he answers, “No. I take a few days off now and I can’t wait to get back to the store!”

That may be because that store isn’t just any business. That store is The Butcher Shop on Dartmouth Street in New Bedford.

The Butcher Shop is a rare and precious thing — an independent grocery that’s up and close personal. It has evolved over almost 40 years into one of those quintessential and now iconic establishments that help define New Bedford. It’s no cliche to write that it’s roots run deep into the community. In fact, it is the community so many seek.

None more so than its owner. “I love the people who come here,” he says. “Both the old people and the new people,” just discovering the shop and its authentic flavor. They’re why he never seriously thinks about retirement.

The Butcher Shop features locally sourced meat and seafood. That translates to made-on-the-premises linguica, chorizo and ribs, for example, and New Bedford scallops, for another. Patrons have the choice of either shopping for the ingredients they need to indulge their own culinary ambition, or to select lunch or dinner from their hot prepared foods menu.

The shop is renowned for several specialty items. That linguica and chorizo for starters. It takes two days to fill and then smoke. Also, the hundreds of pounds of cacoila sold each week — in sandwiches, by the plate, in platters or by the pound. The aroma of both fill the air as you enter The Butcher Shop.

Augmenting either option is a carefully curated market. Its shelves are full of familiar and also slightly exotic items — with an emphasis on products from Portugal, but impressive in its eclectic global range. The shop sells beer and wine, too — and its wine cellar is as thoughtful as its pantry.

Knowing just what to stock is a matter of experience, says Joe Pinaretta. But, the experience of over almost 40 years of business at The Butcher Shop includes more than just food. It’s full of family and friends, too.

His wife Maria Pinarreta and sons Ryan and Eric all work at The Butcher Shop. His daughter decided to pursue another career. Something her mom did, too, as a top executive at Luzo Community Bank and Bank 5 before she did actually retire — to The Butcher Shop.

There, she rejoined her husband in an adventure that has characterized their life together since they met and married. It’s also where she makes the shop’s signature rice pudding as well as select other baked goods that entice customers as they pay for their purchases.

Joe Pinaretta was born on San Miguel and then went to Canada. It’s there where he met Maria, and from where the two immigrated to New Bedford to be near family.

At first, Pinaretta worked as a laborer in various capacities, but soon felt the urge to be an entrepreneur. Although, he didn’t care much for his first venture, a fish market in New Bedford’s North End, where he still lives. It lasted a year.

But then, The Butcher Shop on Dartmouth Street was soon born.

Its first location was at 87 Dartmouth St., where Hawthorne Florist & Gift Shop now resides in a building that Pinaretta still owns. That’s across the street from Vasca Da Gama Restaurant, which he also owns, though it is run by one of his sons now.

About 10 years ago, The Butcher Shop moved to its current location at 123 Dartmouth St., a corner store that provided more room for the business to grow. It needed it. Pinaretta says that last year was The Butcher Shop’s best ever, and this year looks to beat that record.

From 123 Dartmouth St., the crew of five in total not only runs the store but prepare an average of 40 hot meals a day for lunch and dinner take-out. They also cater special events, and even offer holiday fare such as prepared Thanksgiving turkey dinners.

Busy days now begin to blur together as the holiday season approaches. It is not uncommon for Pinaretta and company to begin one day at The Butcher Shop … and then see it turn into another before it’s quitting time.

The decades-long success of the business isn’t what Joe Pinaretta is most proud of, however. Nor is it the fact that he is almost a one-man neighborhood stabilization plan, due to his long commitment to investment on Dartmouth Street

For Pinaretta, it’s all about those people he longs to continue the conversation with every day at The Butcher Shop. Some of those customers have, over the years, come to feel as if they were family themselves, he says.

“There’s nothing like waking into The Butcher Shop,” he declares, “and hearing ‘Hey, Joe!’ from the people I know so well.”

“It gives you energy,” he says. “And I appreciate them every day.”

Original story here.

Offshore wind training facility lands at MMA

Posted Nov 3, 2019 at 10:49 AM

BUZZARDS BAY — With the pop of a champagne bottle, a new offshore wind training facility officially opened for business off the docks of Massachusetts Maritime Academy.

State officials gathered at the Taylors Point campus late last month to launch the facility, which will train workers including welders, divers and electricians, as well as academy cadets, how to work on future offshore wind projects.

State and academy officials called the facility the first of its kind in the nation.

“This is the start of something that is going to be very, very big,” Gov. Charlie Baker said. “It will ultimately affect job opportunities, not just here in Massachusetts, but in New England and all the way down the coast.”

It is expected that 250 to 300 people will be trained through the facility each year, according to Paul O’Keefe, vice president of operations at the maritime academy.

Located at the end of a pier at the edge of the campus, the training platform uses the same types of rails and ladders that would be found on a real turbine, O’Keefe said. A 64-foot Carolina Skiff has been modified to simulate work crew transfer to the craft, he said.

“In other countries you see just a swimming pool inside a building,” O’Keefe said. “We are trying to simulate the real thing.”

The training facility will follow the standards set by the Global Wind Organization, which is made up of industry stakeholders who set the training requirements.

Workers being trained through the facility will first undergo basic safety training. The six-day course will focus on first aid, manual handling, fire awareness, working at great heights and sea survival, O’Keefe said.

The heights portion of the course will take place in the academy’s newly constructed indoor climbing facility, and a sea survival course will take place at the crew transfer training facility at the end of the pier.

The academy has partnered with Relyon Nutec, the world’s largest provider of Global Wind Organization training, to help train instructors.

“This package we are doing here, we’re talking about jobs, energy and zero emissions — that sounds like a no-brainer,” the academy’s president, Rear Adm. Francis MacDonald, said. “But for some reason it has taken us a long time to get there in this commonwealth.”

The academy received more than $1.73 million in grants from the Baker-Polito administration and the Massachusetts Clean Energy Center in support of the training facility and basic safety program.

The training facility will help increase the workforce for the offshore wind industry. That includes those who will work on the construction and operation of Vineyard Wind’s 800-megawatt project planned for 15 miles off the coast of Massachusetts.

A study from the Clean Energy Center estimates that in the next decade, offshore wind farms will create 2,000 to 3,000 jobs and generate as much as $2 billion in the region.

But Stephen Pike, CEO of the Clean Energy Center, said “finding the right folks” to work on offshore wind projects is still one big challenge facing companies in the industry.

“It is a brand new industry in the U.S.,” Pike said. “Essentially no one is qualified to do the work that these companies need done.”

The state has to do a better job at connecting businesses to workers and those workers to training resources, Pike said. That way, it will create a pipeline of workers, he said.

In explaining the vision for the new training facility, U.S. Rep. William Keating, D-Mass., quoted an iconic line from the movie “Field of Dreams.”

“Build it and they will come,” he said. “That’s what this is all about.”

Keating believes there is potential for the state and the country to take a leadership role in offshore wind. But to do that, a greater investment must be made both in-state and nationally in the blue economy, he said.

During the next 30 years, the blue economy will be growing twice as fast as the global economy, Keating said. To tap into that now, he said, there has to be infrastructure in the ground, such as the new training facility.

“If we don’t have trained personnel for those jobs we are just not going to be successful,” Keating said.

Providing the tools to create more offshore wind jobs also will help fight climate change while providing well-paying jobs and preserving the ocean, Keating said.

“Let’s go forward,” he said.

Original story here.