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

By Steven Froias

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, has recently purchased the former Capitol Theater. The CEDC has also 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 impressive effort will see the Capitol Theater 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.

When the economic resilience of the property and project 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.

WHALE entered into the partnership with the CEDC after completing its usual feasibility assessment for any project. The conclusion was reached that not only was the project feasible, but also necessary to further promote the CEDC’s mission in the north end of the city.

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 are critical to stabilizing urban areas.

The entire project 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. When complete, the project will, in effect, return the building to its former prominent place as a commercial destination.

THE CAPITOL TAKES CENTER STAGE ON THE AVE

The Capitol Theater building at 1418-1440 Acushnet Avenue was constructed in 1920 in an early twentieth-century American commercial style. It is a two-story brick building and was originally designed as a multi-use building to include 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 late-nineteenth- and early-twentieth-century development of the Acushnet Avenue commercial corridor, affectionately known as “The Ave” in New Bedford.

As several mills opened to the north of the old city boundaries of development, hundreds of houses were built along the intersecting streets of the thoroughfare, and hundreds of businesses opened and developed in turn along “The Ave” to provide services and entertainment to the growing population.

The Capitol Theater 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 of the building.

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.)

The Capitol Theater’s location on Acushnet Avenue is significant as you travel the street. It’s renovation will have a large visual impact on the streetscape. Yet, it is the project’s social and economic impact which will make it transformative in this neighborhood, as WHALE well knows from its impeccable planning before beginning any project.

A Capitol Theater restoration deserves 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.

$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.

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.

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.

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.

$1 million more directed to boost local arts and culture

The arts community in New Bedford and Fall River is on the cusp of receiving another influx of cash. A million-dollar investment to be precise.

The Community Foundation of Southeastern Massachusetts, which has administered the Creative Commonwealth Initiative grants for the last two years, announced that the Boston-based Barr Foundation is looking to augment that fund over the next three years to the tune of $1 million.

“To receive the funds, the Community Foundation will need to raise an additional $220,000 from local donors,” a press release from the Community Foundation stated.

“Over the past three years, the Community Foundation has taken a very public and leading role in the promotion of the role of arts and culture as essential to the lives of the residents of and visitors to the cities of Fall River and New Bedford.

“From a deep investment in public art that has, in the past year, changed the visual landscape of our cities, to the support of cultural celebrations as diverse as this past weekend’s Fabric Festival in Fall River and Festival Tipíco in New Bedford the previous weekend, to a partnership with area non-profits that is building professional expertise and providing technical assistance, the first phase of the Initiative has been an exciting and impactful effort.”

Over two years, Creative Commonwealth grants have focused on funding public art projects and cultural projects, respectively. Additional funding through the initiative has helped area nonprofits build a stronger foundation to form boards, seek private funding and execute projects.

This new funding will help underpin those efforts, officials said.

“This additional funding will build upon lessons learned over the past three years of the effort,” the press release states. “Specifically, the Community Foundation will be investing more robustly in building the capacity of arts and culture nonprofit organizations in New Bedford and Fall River in order to create long-lasting and sustainable change. The focus of the Creative Commonwealth Initiative will remain on supporting culturally diverse communities, immigrants, and youth in both cities”

The announcement of this extension is the continuation of a 10-year partnership with the Barr Foundation and five community foundations throughout the state including the Berkshire-Taconic Community Foundation, the Community Foundation of Western Massachusetts, the Essex County Community Foundation, and the Greater Worcester Community Foundation.

While each community foundation has approached the past two years from different perspectives and through varied outlets, the ultimate goal is the same — to help deepen community engagement with and philanthropic investment in the arts. The initiative is dedicated to building bridges, developing leadership, and helping to create wholistic perception of arts and culture as an integral facet of the region.

“When we began this work in 2017, our shared hypothesis was straightforward: We believe arts and creativity are essential for thriving communities, that community foundations are well-positioned to catalyze more vibrant and sustainable arts ecosystems in the regions they serve, and that community foundation impact can be enhanced through strategies they design and pursue in their respective contexts,” San San Wong, director of arts and creativity and Jim Canales, president, stated in a recent Barr Foundation blog post.

According to John Vasconcellos, president of the Community Foundation of Southeastern Massachusetts, “This work and the investment from the Barr Foundation is a bold confirmation of the unique role that community foundations play, as match-makers between philanthropists — both locally and outside the region — and the great work that is happening in our communities. Community Foundations understand both sides of that equation and when thoughtful and innovative, can bring significant change, improvement, and investment into our communities. This Initiatives proves that.”

What started with community conversations in 2017 morphed into a two-year pilot phase with over $100,000 raised and over $360,000 directly granted to nonprofit organizations through grants and trainings. Public Art grants in September 2018 made a splash with nearly $200,000 being granted to arts and culture nonprofits in New Bedford and Fall River.

Installations, festivals, and murals brought arts to the streets of Fall River and New Bedford this summer and fall as a result of those grants.

January 2019 launched the beginning of a six-month capacity building series for arts and culture nonprofit organizations. Twelve nonprofits were trained on marketing and branding, finance, fundraising, and more. Shared learning opportunities will continue through the rest of the year.

Two large workshops were offered for free and open to anyone to attend, bringing national arts trainers Arts Midwest and Springboard for the Arts to the Southcoast.

Summer 2019 awarded $111,000 in cultural expression grants to almost a dozen organizations organizing and elevating the artistic expression of some of the cultural and ethnic groups that are often glanced over in the conversation about “mainstream arts.”

The Get Out and Art! Summer Program sought to address the obstacle of transportation and access to youth arts programming. Grants were awarded to the New Bedford Art Museum and Dream Out Loud Center for the Arts to lead their programs on site in community centers at two New Bedford Housing Authority locations.

“The vibrancy of arts and culture in the region is apparent and the impact that the Creative Commonwealth has had over the past year and a half has contributed to a shift of appreciation and investment in the arts,” the press release states. “Accessibility, networking, collaboration, outreach, and capacity have all been amplified amongst our grantees and the community-at-large. The Community Foundation has learned that while key additions can be put in place, community change happens organically. Ideas cannot be forced into neighborhoods and desired outcomes do not take place without input and shared learning.

“The next three years will take a deeper dive into further developing and strengthening the capacity of arts and culture nonprofit organizations; it will build upon the current work with the cities’ youth through Get Out and Art!; it will continue to work with donors to increase local philanthropy and ensure the sustainability of the Initiative; it will offer opportunities for community members to grow with and learn from each other; it will be representative of the cultural and ethnic diversity that makes Fall River and New Bedford unique. This is just the beginning of an exciting and meaningful journey. There is still much work to be done, but the future looks very promising.”

“The Community Foundation of Southeastern Massachusetts has been laying the groundwork for a stronger and more sustainable arts and creativity sector. Their investments in the effectiveness of grassroots arts organizations are already paying dividends in the community,” stated San San Wong.

“The Community Foundation is thrilled to continue this partnership with the Barr Foundation and other funders to grow and sustain investment in arts and culture in the region. Stay up to date on the Creative Commonwealth Initiative by ‘liking’ the Community Foundation on Facebook.”

Original story here.

MassDevelopment to pilot arts development program in New Bedford; announces TDI grants aimed at the arts

The Barr Foundation is well-known in the New Bedford arts community thanks to its work in funding the Community Foundation of Southeastern Massachusetts’ Creative Commonwealth initiative and partnership with the Karman Family Foundation to give nearly $1 million last year in unrestricted funds to The New Bedford Art Museum/ArtWorks!, New Bedford Symphony Orchestra and the Zeiterion Performing Arts Center via the Barr-Klarman Massachusetts Arts Initiative.

New Bedford takes center stage in this latest grant announcement.

On Tuesday, MassDevelopment announced it will create new arts-based programming through the agency’s Transformative Development Initiative thanks to a $500,000 grant from the Barr Foundation.

Transformative Development Initiative, better known as TDI, is a program for Gateway Cities designed to accelerate economic growth within focused districts.

MassDevelopment will use grant funds to provide two new tools for TDI districts: (1) a competitive grant program for art and other creative industry projects aimed at catalyzing economic development and neighborhood revitalization, and (2) additional capacity in New Bedford to support a planning phase focused on creative industry development and arts and culture infrastructure.

In New Bedford, grant funds will support a year-long planning phase with key community partners to create a strategy to best enhance the local arts and culture infrastructure as a mechanism for supporting economic growth.

The goal of this planning phase is to form the foundation for a more comprehensive set of resources that could later be deployed elsewhere, bolstering the revitalization of Gateway Cities and re-establishing these communities as regional centers for art and culture, a press release from Mass Development stated.

Grant funds will support the salary of two staff members that will be centrally involved in this effort, including Margo Saulnier, Arts and Culture Strategist for the City of New Bedford, and Dena Haden, Program Manager for the Co-Creative Center.

Additionally, grant funds will also be used to hire an external consultant to help the partners facilitate the process and undertake an initial community-led pilot project.

“There is significant momentum building in New Bedford centered around arts, culture, and our city’s emerging creative economy,” said New Bedford Mayor Jon Mitchell. “We are eager and grateful to work with MassDevelopment, the Barr Foundation, and other partners over the next year to explore opportunities to sustain and further amplify this momentum.”

In the first arm of the initiative, MassDevelopment will develop a two-year competitive grant program through which individuals and organizations in TDI districts can apply for grants ranging from $20,000 to $40,000 to support public-facing projects that serve to enhance local arts and culture infrastructure.

Current TDI districts – in the cities of Chelsea, Chicopee, Fall River, Fitchburg, Lawrence, Springfield, and Worcester (Main South) – as well as graduated TDI districts – in the cities of Brockton, Haverhill, Holyoke, Lynn, New Bedford, Peabody, Pittsfield, Revere, and Worcester (Theatre District) – are eligible to apply.

This grant program will complement existing MassDevelopment grant programs that support Massachusetts’ creative economy, including TDI Local, Commonwealth Places, and the Collaborative Workspace Program. The Collaborative Workspace Program has also received support from the Barr Foundation; in 2016 the organization provided a three-year $1,965,000 grant to the program to expand support for arts-related collaborative workspaces in the Commonwealth.

“The Transformative Development Initiative represents a high-touch, partnership-based approach to neighborhood development in Gateway Cities, and we are seeing firsthand the major role that arts, cultural assets, and the creative economy play in positioning these former industrial centers to be economically competitive,” said MassDevelopment President and CEO Lauren Liss. “We are thrilled to receive support from the Barr Foundation to provide new arts-based programming and assistance in these cities.”

During the program’s first three and a half years, MassDevelopment has invested $13.5 million in the TDI districts through tools such as technical assistance, real estate investments, grant programs, and fellows who work in the districts. That investment has directly influenced over $39.8 million and assisted an additional $80.6 million of public and private investments in the districts.

“Investing in arts and creativity generates so many benefits for communities,” said San San Wong, Barr Foundation Director of Arts & Creativity. “Not only is it a proven economic driver and way for businesses to attract and retain talent, it lifts up the voices and rich cultural expressions of our diverse neighborhoods. The arts and creativity help people build understanding and stronger connections — the ‘social infrastructure’ that is such a crucial feature of lasting economic and community revitalization. It is exciting to see MassDevelopment so fully embrace the potential for arts and creativity to enrich their efforts in the Gateway Cities, and it is our privilege to support this new work.”

MassDevelopment, the state’s finance and development agency, works with businesses, nonprofits, banks, and communities to stimulate economic growth. During FY2019, MassDevelopment financed or managed 316 projects generating investment of more than $2 billion in the Massachusetts economy. These projects are estimated to create or support 9,743 jobs and build or preserve 1,992 housing units.

Original story here.

‘Our link is just the creative community’: 3rd EyE Open Hip Hop Festival takes over Downtown New Bedford

If you were walking through Downtown New Bedford on Saturday, you might have been confused by what you saw. 3rd EyE Open Hip Hop Festival not only had break dancers, but also everything from graffiti artists giving demonstrations to farmers selling sunflowers to families playing miniature golf.

“Just the sight of alpacas walking around the hip hop stage is so cool to see,” Allison Faunce said.

Faunce is one of the founders of Southcoast Open Air Market (SOAM) and she teamed up with the organizers of 3rd EyE Open to host the market in Custom House Square during the festival.

While the combination of a hip hop festival and a market with alpacas; farmers; and vendors selling pottery, soaps, and other artisan craft goods may seem odd to some, to Faunce it makes perfect sense.

“I think our chain or link is just the creative community,” Faunce explained, “Creativity comes out in so many different forms.”

Wicked Cool Grant Applications available for Creative Placemaking

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.

Application here.

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 artsnewbedford@gmail.com.

“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.

Council approves $1.5 million for 17 Community Preservation Act projects

Posted May 12, 2019 at 5:10 PM
Updated at 9:39 AM

City Council voted to fund 17 Community Preservation Act projects last week, totaling $1.5 million.

The funding included $75,000 for the Sgt. Sean Gannon Memorial Playground at Campbell Elementary and $350,000 for the Capitol Theater restoration, which would help transform the 1920 theater into affordable artist-based housing with a community welfare center.

Two of the projects that were being funded were called into question by Councilor-at-Large Naomi Carney at Thursday’s meeting: $250,000 for the rehabilitation of the Butler Flats Light and $40,000 for a house at 29 Seventh St.

“Personally, I do have a problem when community preservation money goes to private individuals,” said Carney. “Not that their projects aren’t worthy.”

Carney asked the council to vote to cut the projects from the funding order.