Mass. sets specifics for second offshore wind procurement

Posted Mar 28, 2019 at 2:51 PM

BOSTON — The Baker administration and the state’s utilities are ready to go back to market and put another offshore wind contract out to bid.

The state Department of Energy Resources (DOER) and electric distribution companies Eversource, National Grid and Unitil have filed documents with state regulators to initiate a procurement of up to 800 megawatts of offshore wind power, with the goal of executing a final contract by the end of 2019.

A 2016 law authorized up to 1,600 megawatts of offshore wind power. Vineyard Wind secured the first contract and is advancing its 800 megawatt project.

The timeframe for the next procurement, which is subject to Department of Public Utilities approval, calls for bids to be submitted in August, project selection in November and execution of a long-term contract by the end of the year, enabling the venture that secures the contract to secure federal investment tax credits.

Administration officials say they are hoping to build on the new industry’s growing supply chain and aiming to ensure job creation at the local level — the bulk of wind energy development is happening in federally leased areas south of Martha’s Vineyard, with New Bedford angling to serve as a staging center.

The 2016 renewable energy law requires bidders to come in with lower prices in the second procurement, compared to the first, but officials said they are trying to build some “flexibility” into that process because they view Vineyard Wind’s winning bid as reflective of a very competitive price.

The offshore wind industry along the Massachusetts coast has the potential to be a more significant sector than “anybody ever imagined or appreciated,” Gov. Charlie Baker said this month, once energy-storage technology is further developed and deployed in tandem with clean energy from wind turbines.

The strategic opportunities to combine offshore wind and storage to make something greater than the sum of its parts are expected to be realized in the next three to five years, the governor said, in the early days of Massachusetts getting clean power from ocean-based wind.

“Storage has the capacity to turn wind into something that’s dramatically more important and significant than just another available energy source,” Baker said in his March 6 keynote address at a forum hosted by the Environmental League of Massachusetts (ELM) in partnership with the State House News Forum.

The request for proposals (RFP) addresses energy storage, with DOER general counsel Robert Hoagland writing that storage could provide increased benefits and reduce the costs of integrating offshore wind power.

In the planned RFP, the distribution companies seek to procure at least 400 megawatts of power, but will allow proposals from 200 megawatts up to 800 megawatts.

During last year’s campaign, Baker signed an ELM pledge committing to ensure delivery of the full 1,600 megawatts of offshore wind authorized under the 2016 law — including the second 800 megawatt procurement by June — and to complete a study by May 2019 of an additional 1,600 megawatts of offshore wind power that the Legislature authorized, but did not mandate, in a 2018 law.

Original story here.

New Bedford High School graduation rate climbs to new high

NEW BEDFORD — New Bedford High School’s 2018 four-year cohort graduation rate has increased to 76 percent, the highest in 12 years, based on the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education’s recent reporting on statewide graduation rates.

The 2017 four-year cohort graduation rate was 72 percent; the low was 61.4 percent in 2010, according to a news release.

“The entire staff is focused on preparing every one of our students for graduation, ready for college and other opportunities,” said Headmaster Bernadette Coelho in a statement. “I’m proud of our hardworking students and staff; it is because of their determination and diligence that we continue to see larger and larger graduating classes. It can only happen if every student matters, and as I’ve said before, we know that with a plan, every student can and will succeed.”

The state tracks an “individual cohort,” or group of students from the initial entrance into ninth grade through to graduation. For New Bedford High, the cohort consisted of 217 students, according to DESE.

The 2018 four-year cohort graduation rate for Massachusetts public high schools was 87.8 percent, a slight decrease from 88.3 percent for the 2017 cohort, according to DESE.

NBHS English Language Learners had the highest increase from 30.6 percent in 2017 to 53.5 percent in 2018, according to the release.

“This remarkable progress is a direct correlation to the recent budget investments made in our students’ future,” Superintendent Thomas Anderson said in a statement. “This reflects the dedication to the overall teaching and learning process that is supported long before students enter high school. This progress is something that all staff can and should be proud of, from the Pre-K teachers to every staff member in the high school.”

Anderson also expressed his appreciation to the willingness of all staff to work with students to provide opportunities for them to be successful.

SouthCoast Business Persons of the Year: New Bedford artists are serious about the business of art

Posted Jan 5, 2019 at 9:39 PM

On Tuesday, Dec. 18, 2018, New Bedford Mayor Jon Mitchell announced the release of the city’s first comprehensive Arts and Culture Plan.

“This is a big deal,” he said in opening remarks in City Hall’s Ashley Room during a press conference. He noted that the plan builds upon an historic association with the arts in the city, but helps prepare it for even greater achievements.

“It creates a sense of shared purpose,” he went on. “This creates the opportunity for a more vibrant community.” He specifically touched upon the plan’s recommendations to create new cultural districts in the North and South ends — and the chance to lure even more investment into the creative economy of the city.

The collaborative effort to write the plan, he said, sent a signal that the arts “are worthy of your investment” to funders and private businesses alike. “Great stuff doesn’t come free,” he added.

Almost a year in the drafting, the release of the plan to the public during the City Hall ceremony — attended by dozens of the artists who helped shape it — was the capstone of a milestone year for the arts in New Bedford.

Plumbers’ Supply is building one of the largest facilities in the New Bedford Business Park

NEW BEDFORD — Plumbers’ Supply’s footprint in the city is growing.

Motorists entering New Bedford from the north at night undoubtedly spot the neon glare of water spouting out of the faucet on the front of the Plumbers’ Supply store.

Further south on Water Street, the 19th Century version of Plumbers’ Supply is now apartments. In the North End, its warehouse is located on Church Street.

By the end of next summer a new 175,000 square foot building will be completed in the Far North End Business Park.

Mayor Jon Mitchell toured the construction site on Wednesday.

“For us, we have a lot of great employees and we didn’t want to stray too far,” co-owner Brian Jones said. “So when this opportunity came along, it’s a five minute commute. We don’t expect to lose an employee, that certainly appealed to us.”

In fact, the move and expansion should lead to the creation of at least seven jobs, Jones said.

“Our hope is we blow past that,” Jones said.

Plumbers’ Supply’s current warehouse measures 85,000 square feet with ceilings 16 feet high. The new warehouse will encompass about 155,000 square feet with about 30-foot ceilings. The remaining 20,000 square feet will be used for its corporate headquarters, which is already located in New Bedford.

“We want make use of every square inch of this park,” Mitchell said. ”… All this effort is about keeping and growing jobs but also fully utilizing what we have. New Bedford is fairly land constrained.”

Every parcel in the business park is either built on, under construction or under agreement, Mitchell said. The Plumbers’ Supply plot is the largest in the industrial park at 45 acres. Currently, the $18 million project is the third largest facility in the park. However, the company could potentially expand the warehouse to 300,000 square feet, which would be by far the largest, Derek Santos, executive director of the Economic Development Council, said.

“This gives us more than enough than we need in the near term,” Jones said.

Jones’ uncle, Jay, took ownership of the company in April 1977. More than 40 years later, Jay’s brother, his son, and three nephews are a part of Plumbers’ Supply. Development for the move to the far North End began in September of 2017. Ground broke earlier this summer.

“The city has been great to us,” Brian Jones said. “It’s three generations strong.”

Follow Michael Bonner on Twitter @MikeBBonnerSCT

New Bedford plan to ‘make the city a more vibrant place to live’

NEW BEDFORD — Laughter and head nods followed each descriptive noun used to describe those assembled within the walls of the Ashley Room at City Hall on Tuesday.

The group nearly spilled out into the hallways as dozens listened to Mayor Jon Mitchell announce the city’s new Arts and Culture Plan as well as 12 “Wicked Cool Places” grants awarded to community art programs.

“I mean this in the most affectionate way, this is a motley crew,” Mitchell said. “This is great. I can just feel the creative dynamism just in your presence.”

Tony Sapienza, president of the Economic Development Council, reminisced about 13 years ago when the idea to unite the arts and culture community emerged at an EDC meeting. The term used to describe the feat of collaboration was “herding cats.”

“So I can only say that to now be a motley crew, it is a big step up from herding cats,” Sapienza said.

The 200-page plan consisted of contributions by more than 10,000 individuals, according to Margo Saulnier, the city’s cultural coordinator.

The plan includes upward of 80 goals, which Saulnier is tasked with accomplishing. Not every goal coincides with the achievement of another, which drew the monikers at the press conference by Mitchell and Sapienza.

“We’re all in the same room, and there’s no way everybody’s going to agree with everything and that’s just as well,” Mitchell said. “Because that’s where the idea exchanges come from and the creativity comes from.”

Highlights of the plan include a sense of shared purpose for everyone to create cultural districts, more fundraising and more public art. Steps in accomplishing those goals included the $50,000 in grants announced on Tuesday.

The recipients included the 3rd Eye Youth Empowerment, SuperflatNB, Reggae on West Beach Series and Kite Festivals Workshops.

“In New Bedford, the creative community is an engaged and powerful partner inspiring social , economic and cultural growth,” Saulnier said. “In this authentic seaport city, each and every person enjoys an opportunity to experience a diversity of cultures. Art is everywhere. Encouraging fun, provoking thought and nurturing the soul.”

The Arts, Culture and Tourism fun, proposed by Mitchell in 2016, approved by the City Council last year and led at the state level by state Sen. Mark Montigny, provided the finances for the completion of the plan by Webb Management Services.

“This is really top notch stuff. This was not fly by night organization,” Mitchell said. “This is something that took a lot of work and a lot of planning.”

The timeline for the goals, which include creation of creative districts, collaboration with UMass Dartmouth and Bristol County Community College, range from a year to a decade.

Certainly new goals and ideas will be added with the city acting as a the beneficiary.

“This will make the city a more vibrant place to live,” Mitchell said.

Original story here.

Grant money will have ‘transformative’ effect on Port of New Bedford

Posted Dec 7, 2018 at 8:02 PM

Ed Anthes-Washburn can’t remember a larger grant awarded to the Port of New Bedford than the $15.4 million announced Thursday night.

The funding, which will be used to extend the port’s bulkhead and remove contaminated materials, represents the largest project by the city on the water since the 1970s, Anthes-Washburn said. Of course, New Bedford Marine Commerce Terminal was larger with a more expensive price tag, however, that was state operated.

“The upside is very transformative, we think,” Anthes-Washburn said.

This was the third time the Port applied for the grant.

The project, according to the grant proposal, will result in 898 new and permanent jobs with $65.1 million in additional wages and local consumption, which will also result in $11.5 million more in state and local taxes.

“The strength of our fishing industry and the ties potentially and the opportunity with the offshore wind industry are what put this over the top,” Anthes-Washburn said. “But it was our core industries, it was the commercial fishing that got us to the table.”

The funding from the Department of Transportation will create an additional site for offshore wind staging as well as provide room for 60 more commercial vessels. The proposal showed pictures of vessels lined up five wide from the dock.

The construction will occur north of the EPA Dewatering Facility.

As fishing ports along the East Coast continue to shrink, New Bedford consistently grows. Anthes-Washburn said the port’s year over year growth exceeded 125 percent.

“We’re becoming a hub of commercial fishing on the East Coast and that continues to happen,” Anthes-Washburn said. “That’s because of our strong fishing industry and the strength of the supporting businesses as well.”

The project will also remove 250,000 cubic yards of contaminated materials and provide the beneficial use of 130,000 cubic yards of sediment. The clean soil will be used as the backfill for the new bulkhead, which is funded by grants from the state.

In June, the Baker Administration awarded New Bedford $1.6 million for the design and permitting of Phase V dredging.

It’s an example of a multi-layered public project that also has private backing, Anthes-Washburn said. Each business that’s dependent upon direct water access and berth dredging will pay 20 percent of the cost of Phase V dredging.

The timeline for the project directly linked to Thursday’s grant was expedited because it involved cleaning up the harbor. Anthes-Washburn said the project is already fully permitted. Design should be done by the end of the spring with approval complete by the end of next year. Construction would commence at the end of next year or early 2020.

Follow Michael Bonner on Twitter @MikeBBonner

Original story here.

The Love The Ave dishes up community pride via North End Restaurant Week

Posted Aug 30, 2018 at 3:01 AM

Portuguese steaks and hot dogs. Oven-baked bread and pizza. Custard cups and clamboils. Lobster rolls and Cubano sandwiches. Antipasto and chicken Mozambique. Hamburgers and French fries. Egg rolls and conchas. Scrambled eggs and sweet bread.

It’s all on the menu at one unique destination in the city: Along Acushnet Avenue and in the North End.

Recognizing the city’s notable concentration of eateries from Coggeshall Street north is one goal of the Love The Ave & North End Restaurant Week, taking place from Saturday, Sept. 15 through Friday, Sept. 21.

It’s an effort that has grown out of the group Love The Ave, which is vigorously finding new ways to help promote economic development along the North End commercial corridor with public art and special events.

And in the process, is creating durable community infrastructure.

For the Love The Ave & North End Restaurant Week, a new website has been launched to spotlight all the eateries on and around Acushnet Avenue, lovetheave.com. It’s there that you’ll find a listing of North End bakeries, eateries and restaurants.

Many of them are, and will continue to be, featured in special posts through Sept. 21. Thereafter, lovetheave.com will be a permanent directory of the establishments as well as a means to share Love The Ave happenings and items of public interest.

On the group’s Facebook page, Facebook.com/lovetheave, all the posts are being shared — along with some mouth-watering pictures to whet the appetite for restaurant week.

The Love The Ave & North End Restaurant Week was dreamed up by Steven Froias, a member of the Love The Ave committee (and also a regular columnist featured in The Standard-Times).

Recognizing the sheer number of food establishments along The Ave and throughout the North End, he brought the idea for this special promotion to Angela Johnston at the New Bedford Economic Development Council. She also chairs Love The Ave steering committee meetings.

She loved the idea, took it to city hall, and got the enthusiastic support of the mayor’s office to move ahead with the project, which may be a pilot for a larger, city-wide restaurant week in the future.

Over the summer, Froias visited almost every place of culinary business along The Ave to lay the groundwork for restaurant week.

“It’s really been so much fun!” he said. “These are terrific small businesses which not only feed our bellies, but also our souls. They effectively function as community gatherings spots.”

It’s a diverse community, now, and that’s reflected in the food.

Alongside the many traditional Portuguese restaurants of distinction, and those highlighting New Bedford seafood, you find places like Dulce Mexican Restaurant and Sara’s Bakery, featuring cuisine that caters to a Latin American and Hispanic population.

They join iconic New Bedford eateries like Pa Raffa’s, which sits at the intersection of Ashley Boulevard and Acushnet Avenue and is the geographic end point of the restaurant week area, which begins at Coggeshall Street and runs from Ashley Boulevard west to Belleville Avenue east.

“Every time I post something about Pa Raffa’s, it breaks the Internet!” says Froias. “They’ve been great to work with and it’s fantastic that businesses that mean so much to so many are being acknowledged for what they represent in New Bedford with this week.”

In addition to encouraging residents and visitors to patronize Love The Ave & North End places during the week and more often afterward, the project is intended to create a sense of community and purpose among all the businesses.

“The bakeries alone along Acushnet Avenue — over a half dozen — lend distinction to the street. You can smell bread baking when you’re standing outside of Holiday Bakery or Padaria Nova Bakery,” points out Froias.

“Then, you have some of the best Portuguese and seafood you’ll find anywhere — all within a mile or less of each other! It’s really quite special.”

And, a destination in and of itself. Which is the whole point of restaurant week. Spotlighting what makes the area unique not only in the city, but in the region.

That, and of course, and the food.

“It hasn’t exactly been a heavy lift to spend the summer working on this project,” Froias said. “Especially when you also get to enjoy pumpkin ravioli at Cotali Mar; Steak Girassol at Girassol Restaurant & Cafe; French Dip roast beef at Endzone; tacos at La Raz; hot dogs at Dee’s; cacoila sandwiches at Cafe Portugal; bacalhau at Cafe Mimo; and many, many natas at Chocolate com Pimenta!”

Signature dishes and special restaurant week deals are all listed on featured posts on lovetheave.com and will also be shared via the Facebook page. Also, posters have been made available to all the places on which they can feature their specials during the week.

A goal of the entire Love The Ave project has also been to counter the perception that Acushnet Avenue faces a greater public safety challenge than other spaces within the city.

Walking up and down The Ave all summer, Froias said he didn’t find that to be true.

“All the places I visited were full of customers. All these people obviously don’t buy into the negative stereotype of The Ave,” he says.

He points out that the New Bedford Police Department started a “Walk a Block” program last year under Chief Joseph Cordeiro. That entails police officers parking the cruisers for part of every hour and visiting the small businesses along the street in order to make their presence felt.

“Any urban area can get gamey from time to time — The Ave is no exception,” he said. “But the reality is that it is a vibrant place full of people all day long. I term it ‘relentlessly urban’ — you get it all here and that’s part of what makes the area so interesting to so many different people.

“Last Saturday, I was sitting in Lorenzo’s Bakery — a fantastic place boasting Puerto Rican treats and sandwiches.

“As I was eating one of the best Cubano sandwiches I’ve ever had, I looked out the window onto the street and thought, ‘This is it. This is the urban ideal. Sitting in a neighborhood business like this in the company of people who make this city special.’

“Then I walked over to Lydia’s Bakery for a piece of cheesecake to savor the moment!.”

Again, information on the Love The Ave & North End Restaurant Week can be found at lovetheave.com. The week happens from Saturday, Sept. 15 through Friday, Sept. 21.

Original story here.

Tabor Academy puts New Bedford arts, culture and community on the curriculum

Posted at 3:01 AM

Tabor Academy sophomore students started the school year off right with a visit to the region’s arts and culture capital, New Bedford, this past Saturday, Sept. 8.

Roughly 130 students came to the city to kick off the new school year. Tabor Academy is located in Marion, but the New Bedford orientation project is now on its third year.

This year’s theme was “know yourself, know others, build community” — as seen through the prism of arts and culture. Accordingly, a panel of city arts leaders and tour guides was arranged to explore the topic and then downtown New Bedford. (Full disclosure: This writer was one of the tour guides.)

Zoe Hansen-DiBello, strategy advisor and founder of Ethos — a philanthropic education strategy consulting organization; www.ethosstrategy.org — explains how it all got started:

“Mel Bride, [Tabor] dean of community life, Tim Cleary, dean of students and myself came together three years ago and imagined what it would look like if we brought Tabor students to New Bedford for orientation as a way to bridge the two communities.”

Prior to the orientation, Bride and Hansen-DiBello had partnered to connect Tabor students to New Bedford Public School students through the community garden project, Grow Education.

This year’s arts and culture theme was selected because Hansen-DiBello, a city resident, believes, “In New Bedford, I find it intriguing that our public art is often rooted in the historical context of the city, always returning to our past to understand our present and imagine our future.

“In recent years, the city has been increasingly intentional in sharing the stories of those who are often overlooked — and so the panel and tour for Tabor students will recognize and honor New Bedford’s Abolitionists, thriving Cape Verdean culture, youth and hip-hop and the women leaders of New Bedford today but also the past as they are featured in the Lighting the Way Project.”

And, it certainly did.

The orientation tour began at the First Unitarian Church at the corner of Union and Eighth Streets. Two busloads of Tabor Academy students disembarked to enter the historic building and meet New Bedford arts and culture leaders and their tour guides.

The spoken word and hip hop artist Tem Blessed launched the morning with an energetic appeal to students to know themselves and what they’re all about. Blessed later closed the tour at Wings Court under the Cey Adams “Love” mural with another inspired piece of wordplay that concluded with everybody chanting “Tabor — Academy” and “New — Bedford” in unison.

Panelists at the Unitarian Church, Jeremiah Hernandez, Rayana Grace, Gail Fortes and Dena Haden amplified the tour’s theme: arts and culture is very much about finding and building community wherever you are, but especially so at this moment in New Bedford.

Hernandez referenced the magic of creativity as depicted in the Netflix series, “The Get Down” as a real-life entry point for people of diverse backgrounds to experience unique culture. The show chronicles the birth of hip hop, with a generous helping of street art, in the late ’70s Bronx.

His family — from the Bronx — brought both him and those aesthetic values to New Bedford and he says the art and music has essentially given definition to his life. That came to be manifested as UGLY Gallery, which he opened with friend and artist David Gaudalupe on Union Street and operated for several years.

Now, that same aesthetic can increasingly be found throughout the city — and Hernandez is still leading the charge as one of the founders of the public art group, SUPERFLAT, which was on the morning’s agenda.

From the church, the students were arranged in groups of 15 and sent out with their respective guides to experience arts and culture on the streets of downtown New Bedford.

Some saw the city’s nascent Abolition Row Park and neighborhood. Others checked out the 54th Regiment mural on the side of Freestone’s City Grille.

Everyone ended up in and around Wings Court, where the recently wrapped up first SUPERFLAT mural festival occurred. Well, maybe not entirely wrapped up…

In a bit of serendipity, Tabor students got to see artist Brian Tillett at work on his massive Jean-Paul Basquiat mural overlooking Custom House Square Park. Tillett is also a commercial fisherman in addition to being an accomplished artist.

When the day job at sea intervened, he simply put the art on hold to return another day to get back to work. That day was Saturday, and the sophomore class of Tabor Academy got to see the legendary face of Basquiat being applied to a downtown New Bedford wall.

It turned into a bit of a (recent) art history class, as many of the students were unfamiliar with the 1980s era New York City street artist. Which just reinforced the whole point of the orientation: to fuse diverse communities together across time and space.

Zoe Hansen-DiBello sums it up nicely. She says the Tabor Academy 2018 sophomore orientation was about “highlighting the vehicles of art and culture as a means to better know ourselves, to understand others, and to ultimately build community.

“The overall goal is for Tabor students and educators to be inspired by the examples seen here in New Bedford for building community through art and culture, and to return to campus ready to connect and create with one another.”

I would add that it’s also just plain thrilling to see the city’s arts and culture, and the people who practice it, making the grade as an inspiration for the next generation. An A+ gets awarded to this outstanding effort.

Steven Froias blogs for the coworking facility, Groundwork! at NewBedfordCoworking.com. Email: StevenFroias@gmail.com.

Original story here.

Acorn, Inc. wins 2018 APEX Small Business Award

Posted Sep 6, 2018 at 4:46 PM

The SouthCoast Chamber of Commerce has awarded Acorn, Inc. as the 2018 APEX Small Business of the Year, citing the company’s success in “turning unused but historically significant structures into bustling centers of residential life” in New Bedford.

The award committee noted that the Acorn had the vision to recognize New Bedford’s potential, and the desire to preserve its historic character with the development and management of the Lofts at Wamsutta Place, Victoria Riverside Lofts, and the Riverbank Lofts.

With nearly 500 units across 1 million square feet, maintaining above 98 percent occupancy rate, these buildings represent $100 million in private investment funds to the local economy, a press release from the company states. The properties proudly contribute over $800,000 to the city annually, create multiple job opportunities, and generate business for local vendors.

“We are deeply honored to receive this award,” said Quentin Ricciardi, CEO, “And of all our investments, the one that’s most important to us is our investment in our staff. As a family-owned and run business for over 70 years, we treat our employees like an extension of that family and as a result we have a team who believes in the mission of providing stunning and unique quality housing at reasonable rates. You can see this is the relationships they build with residents who contribute to canned food and clothing drives, and they way they give back to the community through Operation Clean Sweep and other community projects.” The majority of Acorn’s 30 management company employees reside locally and the company emphasizes the sourcing of operations and maintenance supplies to come from companies within the region.

Acorn was recognized for its commitment to sustainable and renewable energy as an example of their forward thinking, the release states. They currently have 2 megawatts of solar panels across the roofs of all properties.

Acorn Inc. is a Massachusetts-based real estate development and management company specializing in large scale, market rate adaptive reuse projects.  For over 50 years, the company has taken a holistic hands-on approach, through each stage of the process from development to construction and management.  Acorn, Inc. currently owns 3 million square feet of assets under management, primarily in Massachusetts.

Original story here:

DeMello, Lesley deal will bring ed degrees, teachers to city in innovative partnership

Posted Aug 14, 2018 at 9:27 PM

Cambridge-based Lesley University and the DeMello International Center have sealed their deal to offer bachelors and masters programs at the Union Street building in downtown New Bedford.

As one part of the arrangement, current New Bedford school district teachers who obtain a masters in education will be required to commit to an additional three-years in the district. Students seeking to obtain an initial license to teach through the masters program will be guaranteed a job in the school district with a three-year commitment.

“You’ve got to raise the skill level of this community if we’re going to be successful and be back to where we were, back in the whaling days,” said James DeMello, founder of the DeMello International Center where the partnership was officially announced Tuesday morning.

The program called Rising Tide Educational Initiative, geared toward working adults, will offer partial bachelors degrees in education and other interests. At this point, the programs are still being fine tuned.

The bachelors program will operate through a community college transfer model where students can transfer up to 90 credits which leaves only 30 additional credits to earn the degree.