Watch the 5 minute video below!
Watch the 5 minute video below!
By Peter Jasinski / Herald News
Posted Jul 2, 2019 at 5:53 PM
Updated Jul 2, 2019 at 6:18 PM
Tuesday marked the highly celebrated beginning of the South Coast Rail project’s southern expansion, bringing MBTA Commuter Rail Service from Boston south to the cities of Fall River and New Bedford.
The occasion was not the first groundbreaking for the project, which has been gestating in Massachusetts politics for roughly 30 years.
That point was not lost on MassDOT CEO Stephanie Pollack, who took a moment Tuesday to recall a 2015 conversation she had with Fall River state Sen. Michael Rodrigues.
At the time, Rodrigues warned Pollack of the shovels he had collected over the years from past South Coast Rail groundbreakings and said he didn’t want another one until construction was already underway.
“We’re here today because there is actual construction work underway,” Pollack said to an applauding audience of local and state officials.
Pollack and Rodrigues were joined by the likes of Gov. Charlie Baker, Lt. Gov. Karyn Polito, and many of the region’s state representatives for Tuesday’s ceremony. A total of 45 politicians and government officials plunged gleaming shovels into the symbolic mound of dirt positioned beside a set of Freetown train tracks at the ceremony.
The project has undergone a series of fits and starts since Gov. William Weld first asked the state Legislature approve funding for preliminary studies. A series of obstacles — including loss of funding and environmental impact concerns — have plagued the project since it began, but many of Tuesday’s attendees were confident that the proverbial trains would finally be pulling out of the station.
When asked what made him so confident that the project would be completed by its proposed 2023 end date, Baker said the project has two things going for it that it didn’t previously have: a completed construction plan and a designated funding source.
“Those are really the two big things it didn’t have before. It has a real construction and design plan and the second thing is a real capital plan. And that basically guarantees that it’s going to happen,” said Baker, explaining that $1 billion in funding has already been allocated in the state’s 5-year capital plan.
“We’ve already got contracts on this. People are doing work on it. We’ve already acquired property, we’ve got all the permits,” said Baker. “This is literally a groundbreaking held after the project had begun.”
Work already underway represents Phase I of the South Coast Rail project. Thus far, the project has seen culvert installation along the train’s proposed route being done in East Freetown, as well as track upgrades and bridge renovation.
The next four years of the project will see the commuter rail’s Middleboro Line being extended to New Bedford and Fall River, which will require reconstructing 17.3 miles of the existing New Bedford main line track and 11.7 miles of the Fall River secondary track.
Upgrades will also have to be done to 7.1 miles of the Middleboro secondary track between Pilgrim and Cotley Junctions. Two new layover facilities will also have to be constructed, as well as six new train stations. Representatives of the greater Fall River and New Bedford area were similarly optimistic that Tuesday about the project’s future.
Rodrigues, whose first South Coast Rail groundbreaking was over 20 years ago, praised the state’s most recent efforts and highlighted the potential impact commuter rail service will have on the region. “The communities of the SouthCoast deserve to be economically competitive with the rest of the region, and South Coast Rail is a large piece of that,” he said. “I applaud the Baker-Polito Administration for finally making this long-promised project a reality.”
Original post here.
City of New Bedford Official Website
Beginning this week, anyone with an idea to make a public place in New Bedford ‘wicked cool’ can apply to the city’s Wicked Cool Places (WCP) grant to help turn their vision into reality.
WCP is the City of New Bedford’s grant program for creative placemaking. It is funded by the city of New Bedford’s Arts, Culture and Tourism Fund, with additional funding by Bristol County Savings Bank, Mass Cultural Council, and MassDevelopment.
WCP seeks to enhance community development, arts entrepreneurship, and ongoing investment in the rich arts and culture of the city. New Bedford artists, cultural organizations and talented citizens are encouraged to apply for a WCP grant through August 16.
Applications can be found at NewBedfordCreative.org, the just-launched website for all things #NBcreative. For more information, email Margo Saulnier, New Bedford’s Creative Strategist, at firstname.lastname@example.org.
“The goal of Wicked Cool Places is to unite property and business owners with artistic and cultural groups, using arts as a tool to help transform New Bedford’s overlooked or undervalued places,” said Saulnier.
Wicked Cool Places began as a pilot program in April 2018 when it distributed $5,000 in grants as a test run to 3rd EyE Unlimited, SUPERFLAT NB, the New Bedford Art Museum/Artworks!, and Seaport Art Walk. This leveraged over $12,000.
In December 2018, the pilot program scaled up to distribute $50,000 in placemaking grants to 12 different artists or groups, investing in projects throughout the City of New Bedford, which leveraged an additional $180,000. A few of those projects include Tracy Barbosa’s Guatemalan Kite Festival Workshops, Brook Baptiste’s Reggae on West Beach, New Bedford Fishing Heritage Center’s Big Boat, Little Boat celebration of fishing culture, Southcoast Lessons’ Open Season Series, and Community Economic Development Center’s Vacant Storefront Gallery.
The official first round of Wicked Cool Places will invest up to $80,000 in funds for city-wide placemaking projects beginning this Fall.
The deadline to submit an application is August 16, 2019. Grants will be announced in mid-October 2019. Once a project is approved, the applicant will receive a commitment letter from the New Bedford Economic Development Council. Grants will be distributed as a reimbursement in full once final approval from that office is granted.
Any project or program within the City of New Bedford is eligible. Individuals and organizations are both eligible. However, Wicked Cool Places cannot accept applications for work that has already been completed, and work for grant-funded tasks cannot begin until successful applicants are provided with written approval.
All applications will be evaluated by the selection committee of the New Bedford Creative Consortium and scored on the impact of the project based on these criteria: quality, originality and creativity, community benefit and partnership, planning and budget.
So, for those who have a wicked cool idea ready to unleash on the world in New Bedford, visit Wicked Cool Places at NewBedfordCreative.org and begin the journey.
About: Wicked Cool Places (WCP) is the city of New Bedford’s grant program for creative placemaking, uniting willing property/business owners, artistic/cultural groups, design/preservation specialists, and business/development experts to help transform New Bedford’s overlooked or undervalued places. Wicked Cool Places enhance community development, arts entrepreneurship, and ongoing investment in the rich arts and culture of the city, and is funded by the city of New Bedford’s Arts, Culture and Tourism Fund, with additional funding by Bristol County Savings Bank, Mass Cultural Council, and MassDevelopment.
New Bedford Arts, Culture and Tourism Fund was proposed by Mayor Jon Mitchell in the spring of 2016 and approved by the City Council in June 2016, and consists of revenue generated from the city’s lodging tax, capped at a total of $100,000. Creation of the fund also required the passage of a home rule petition by the state legislature and the petition’s passage, led by state Senator Mark Montigny and signed into law by Governor Baker in January 2017. The purpose of the fund is to create a dedicated revenue stream to provide for additional planning, programmatic, and administrative capacity to allow the City of New Bedford to take full advantage of its cultural and tourism assets, and to catalyze and manage the growth of the cultural and tourism sectors in the years ahead. The New Bedford Economic Development
Council (NBEDC) has a three-year agreement to manage the fund for the City. This work is lead by the NBEDC’s Creative Strategist. Additional funding is provided by Bristol County Savings Bank, Mass Cultural Council, and MassDevelopment.
New Bedford Creative Consortium New Bedford Creative Consortium is the leadership group whose purpose is overseeing the execution of the citywide strategic Arts and Culture Plan entitled New Bedford Creative: our art, our culture, our future. The Arts and Culture Plan is a huge step forward in building a thriving creative ecosystem in our city, and these are the people dedicated to implementing it. This volunteer group is facilitated by the Creative Strategist, meets quarterly, holds 1-3 year terms, and is divided into three task forces: Public Art and Facilities; Placemaking and Community; and Fundraising and Distribution.
Original post here.
1420 WBSM New Bedford’s News & Talk Station
A New Bedford-based employer will receive over $114,000 to provide training to over 100 workers and establish new positions by 2021.
Senator Mark Montigny (D-New Bedford) announced Wednesday that Ahead USA, of New Bedford, will receive over $114,000 in workforce training funds from the Executive Office of Labor and Workforce Development. The grant totaling $114,800 will provide training to approximately 121 workers and help create a number of new positions by 2021.
“These grants provide the funding necessary for invaluable training of our local workforce. Such investments in our community allow New Bedford companies to flourish and remain competitive in the marketplace while creating new employment opportunities,” said Montigny.
AHEAD is a leading supplier of headwear to the USGA, PGA of America, Ryder Cup, and numerous PGA Tour events in addition to more than 5,000 green grass and resort shops throughout the world. AHEAD will use the grant to educate and train 112 of its employees.
In 1998 the legislature created the Workforce Training Fund to provide resources to businesses and job creators in Massachusetts to educate and train current and newly hired employees. The resources provided through the legislature boost economic competitiveness and generate job opportunities for residents. To date, thousands of workers and hundreds of business in the Commonwealth have benefitted from the Workforce Training Fund.
Original post here:
Downtown is well on its way to getting a noticeable addition.
A proposal to build a five-story, $15 million to $17 million mixed commercial and residential building at the corner of Union and North Second Streets has received the necessary permits from the Planning Board, the Zoning Board of Appeals, and the Historical Commission, according to City Planner Tabitha Harkin.
“It’s a project we support because it adds residential density to the downtown, will add some retail space on the ground floor, and it has an architecturally appealing design,” said Mayor Jon Mitchell. “It remains to be seen whether the developer can finance the project, but it’s certainly one that we support because it fits with what we’re trying to do along the Union Street corner.”
Constructing the proposed 42,650-square-foot building would require the demolition of several single-story buildings currently located at the site on the corner of Union and North Second streets. The demolition permit still needs to be approved, said Harkin.
“All the one-story buildings on the property are just old retail buildings; they have no historical significance to them and they are in very poor condition,” said Michael Galasso, executive director of the New Bedford Development Corporation and the project’s developer.
The five-story building constructed in their place would have 42 residential rental units with a cafe/restaurant and coworking space on the ground floor, according to Galasso.
The residential units will include microunits, studios, and one- and two-bedroom apartments, said Galasso, and five of them will be completely handicap-accessible.
“This project is intended to provide housing for the downtown workforce, that is our main market,” explained Galasso, “We see that as a growing market.”
One of the reasons the market is growing, said Galasso, is because more office space is being leased downtown and the offshore wind industry will be bringing in new workers.
The rates for rent have not yet been decided, but Galasso said a portion of the building is going to be affordable housing and the rest will be market-rate.
When reached for comment about the project in her ward, Councilor Dana Rebeiro said, “I’m interested to see if the affordable housing is forever or just for the first three years and what they consider ‘affordable.’”
In addition to the affordability of the housing, Galasso has to consider how the building will fit in with the historic nature of the city’s downtown.
Galasso said the brick facade, the size of the windows, the scale of the building, and material they plan to use are all in keeping with the downtown aesthetic.
“We wanted a building that had some modern feel to it, but was done in a very historic way,” he said.
The modern aspects of the building will include a contemporary design of the interior with a community kitchen and patio overlooking the harbor on the fifth floor, said Galasso, and microunits that are fully furnished with high-end amenities (including kitchenettes).
The design is also meant to encourage people walking by the building to come inside.
“It’s very important that the first floor is very transparent so people that are walking by would get excited and want to come in whether it’s the lobby area or restaurant,” Galasso said.
He referenced the Seaport District in Boston as inspiration for the design, that also includes outdoor seating for its cafe.
Another proposed modern aspect of the building is resident access to a shared electric vehicle and a bike-sharing program, said Galasso.
The current plan only includes the construction of one handicapped parking space, even though a residential building this size would normally require a total of 106 parking spaces.
The proposal received a special grant for reduction in parking, according to Harkin, because “there’s ample parking downtown” with the parking garages.
Rebeiro said she is also concerned about the effect of adding people in what she described as an already dense area, but she did say she likes the car and bike sharing ideas.
“I think it takes away from the problem of too many cars parking downtown,” said Rebeiro.
Mitchell said he doesn’t think parking will be a problem for residents, “The city in the weeks ahead will announce a new parking study that will really pave the way for better parking management in the long run, that will emphasize the use of the garages.”
Going forward the developer has to close the purchase of the properties on Union and North Second streets, which he said he expects to do by the end of this week, and look for financing for the project.
Galasso said the project includes redeveloping the Moby Dick building next door into 8 studio apartments and a restaurant. He still needs to go through the permitting process for that part of the plan.
Once the project is financed through a “combination of conventional financing using some tax credits and funds from the city and from the state,” which Galasso said will take six months, construction on the new building will begin.
Galasso said they’re aiming to complete construction by the end of 2020/early 2021.
“This is potentially a real catalyst for downtown to create millennial focused-housing… and activate a street corner that has been inactive for a long time,” said Harkin.
“We really wanted to set the mark high for future development in downtown and I think we’ve really achieved that,” he said.
Follow Kiernan Dunlop on Twitter @KiernanD_SCT
Original story here.
The dashboard measures three major categories: Permits and Licensing, Economic Indicators, and Roadways and Public Spaces, allowing residents to view the number of various licenses pulled, trends in employment and growth, roadways repaired, and more. More metrics will continue to be added that are relevant to residents and visitors, and NBCompass lays the foundation for future data reporting, according to the release.
Annual year-end performance management reports are also available through NBCompass.
The dashboard is available at www.newbedford-ma.gov/nbcompass/.
New Bedford’s finance team has also achieved notable landmarks this year. The City was awarded the Distinguished Budget Presentation Award (2018), for the third consecutive year, for its current budget by the Government Finance Officers Association (GFOA). Only 26 Massachusetts municipalities and districts, and 1,576 entities nationwide, received the award in 2017. Additionally, Standard & Poor’s Rating Service (S&P) reaffirmed New Bedford’s AA- bond rating, and the City has maintained the highest bond rating it has achieved in at least the last forty years. The AA- rating was first awarded to New Bedford in January 2014, and the reaffirmation of the rating puts New Bedford again among the top half of all issuers of municipal debt in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts.
In its report, S&P cited several factors to support New Bedford’s strong rating, including:
“New Bedford’s favorable bond rating is a continued reaffirmation of the hard work the City has done to properly manage our finances,” said Mayor Jon Mitchell in a statement. “I’m pleased that the City’s strong financial policies and practices were a key factor that helped to maintain our highest rating, and I’m grateful the work of our finance team was recognized as very strong.”
Chief Financial Officer Ari Sky said, “Securing – and maintaining – a AA- rating remains a very significant achievement for New Bedford, and it influences the City’s standing in financial markets. The rating yields positive results both for favorable interest rates, as well as the marketability of New Bedford for economic development.”
Original story here.
By Chris Lisinski / State House News Service
Posted Apr 22, 2019 at 1:10 PM
Updated Apr 22, 2019 at 8:14 PM
BOSTON – A project to renovate and expand commuter rail lines to the SouthCoast cleared important hurdles after receiving a crucial federal permit and full state funding, officials announced Monday.
Department of Transportation Secretary Stephanie Pollack, speaking at a MassDOT board meeting, said the long-discussed South Coast Rail program will now proceed “full speed ahead.” State employees have already begun relevant infrastructure work and acquiring land that will go toward construction of new stations.
The project’s first phase will extend the Middleboro line to New Bedford and Fall River, bringing six new stations and two new layover facilities into the rail network. Officials also plan to reconstruct almost 30 miles of tracks along the New Bedford main line and the Fall River secondary line and to upgrade the existing Middleboro secondary track.
“Today’s capital funding announcement by the Baker-Polito Administration is further proof that rail restoration is coming to New Bedford and Fall River,” said State Rep. William Straus in a statement. “I compliment the governor for staying true to our region and dedicating the resources needed to bring this critical transit option to the SouthCoast.”
In a statement Monday night, Mayor Jon Mitchell said “Although the residents of Southeastern Massachusetts recognize that the region’s economic fortunes will not rise or fall on the back of the South Coast Rail Project – especially the current downsized version – the Baker administration’s commitment to funding the project is now notably firmer, and for that I am grateful. A passenger rail connection between New Bedford and Boston will be one more good reason to live in either city.”
Pollack said Monday that the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers approved a final federal permit needed for the project to move forward and that the state’s capital investment plan covers the $1.05 billion price for the first phase of construction through bonding.
“Phase 1 of South Coast Rail will be funded one hundred percent by the Commonwealth and the MBTA will not be required to provide any capital funding or issue any revenue bonds that might otherwise impact the MBTA’s future operating budget,” Pollack said in a statement posted at the start of Monday’s meeting. “We are now well on our way to offering passenger rail service to the South Coast in a few short years with the financing secure, major permits in hand and infrastructure being built.”
While a previous estimate projected that Phase 1 would allow for passenger rail service between Boston and Taunton, New Bedford and Fall River to begin in late 2022, based on the consensus of the three independent reviews, the date for start of service is now projected to be in late 2023.
“The final permitting and financing plan for South Coast Rail is a welcomed development in this long-overdue project,” said State Sen. Mark Montigny in a statement. “We still have a long way to go to ensure proper ride times and schedules for New Bedford residents who have been more than patient in this decades-long wait. With this in mind, it is unacceptable to push the completion date back to 2023. MassDOT and the MBTA must stick to its 2022 completion schedule. Anything less signals that we should simply defer to the original Stoughton route with electric rail as Phase 1 was promoted as an interim, near-term solution only.”
During Monday’s public meeting of the MassDOT Board of Directors and the MBTA’s Fiscal and Management Control, the South Coast Rail is expected to become an MBTA project, however, the MassDOT Highway Division and Rail Group will continue to manage early action projects.
Several permitting milestones that have been achieved this year include this month’s final USACE approval and the issuance of the Chapter 91 License, MassDEP 401 Permit and the Mass Coastal Zone Management Consistency Review.
“Providing rail service between the SouthCoast and Boston will increase access to economic opportunities in both regions,” said Gov. Charlie Baker. “After decades of promised service, today’s announcement moves the project further than it’s ever been before, and our administration is proud to continue advancing South Coast Rail.”
The elements of Phase 1 of South Coast Rail include:
By Michael P. Norton / STATE HOUSE NEWS SERVICE
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.
By The Standard-Times
Posted Mar 27, 2019 at 3:24 PM
Updated Mar 27, 2019 at 4:17 PM
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.