Informational Briefing Proposed Advanced Manufacturing Campus November 24th at 5pm

11.12.2020

 

Staff Contribution

 
Update: If you were unable to attend the event, please view the presentation shared here. 
 

We will be offering an informational briefing session on November 24th at 5pm for the proposed Advanced Manufacturing Campus planned for a portion of the Municipal Golf Course.

 

The purpose of the briefing is to provide an overview of the proposed project, gain additional public input, and answer questions.

 

Because of the current COVID-19 restrictions, the meeting will be held virtually. To participate, please see the Zoom meeting information below.
 

Informational Briefing for Proposed Advanced Manufacturing Campus
November 24, 2020 5:00 PM EST
 
Link to Join:
https://zoom.us/j/91767376227
 

Meeting ID:
917 6737 6227
 

Phone:
+1 646 558 8656
 

New Bedford Transit Oriented Development (NBTOD) South Coast Rail Public Meetings

10.8.2020

 

Staff Contribution

 

The NBTOD Study Project Team is excited to announce two upcoming virtual public meetings in October! These events will include the team summarizing future build-out analyses, market data, and draft zoning scenarios for each South Coast Rail platform area and taking your comments.

Please note, due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and the required social distancing measures, the meetings will be held online only. The two opportunities to participate are:
 
Saturday, October 17, 2020 10:00 AM
Wednesday, October 21, 2020 6:00 PM
 
Both meetings will have identical content and options for participation. All supporting content for these virtual meetings, including links to register, will be posted on the NBTOD Study project webpage very soon.

Lastly, because public input is such an important part of this study and with so many different ways to submit comments, questions, or concerns, the project team put together this short video to clarify the options.

The informative video also highlights the contents of the project web page, ways to provide comment and stay connected, and summarizes the study’s purposes and previous work.

AHA! New Bedford announces campaign for A Community Thrives, part of the USA Today Network: Crowdfunding campaign needs to raise $6,000 in local support to be eligible for over $2 million in additional grants by The Gannett Foundation

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Contact: Candace Lee Heald, Director of AHA!
Phone: 508-965-4816
Email: AHACoordinator@southcoastcf.org
Website: AHA! New Bedford and A Community Thrives Campaign

New Bedford, MA — In 1997, the local newspaper, The Standard Times, convened a planning process to identify the SouthCoast as a regional hub. An Arts and Culture subcommittee had the idea to create a program that would celebrate the uniqueness of the region’s past, present and future: Art, History and Architecture, or AHA! Two years later, free AHA! Cultural Nights began every second Thursday of the month, and is now a long-standing tradition in New Bedford.

AHA! has a 20+ year history of offering free programs to the community, mostly located downtown, and collaborates with over 60 artists, cultural institutions and small businesses. When the pandemic hit in March, AHA! quickly pivoted to an online format and #VAHA! (virtual AHA!) brought the city’s rich arts and culture to an online audience and became a statewide model recognized by the Mass Cultural Council.

AHA!’s latest project, “Reimagining Resilience”, has been accepted to participate in the nationwide crowdfunding campaign by USA Today Network called A Community Thrives. A Community Thrives allows neighbors, friends, family and peers to show their excitement and support for community building ideas such as Reimagining Resilience. In turn, this support unlocks access to +$2,000,000 in grants to bring the project to fruition in 2021.

In partnership with the New Bedford Economic Development Council and New Bedford Creative, “Reimagining Resilience” will use AHA!’s existing framework of monthly virtual and in-person free cultural nights to connect community members to the resilience of New Bedford.

The plan for the project is to enlarge the current in-person footprint of monthly events with outreach to community neighborhoods, carrying the message that New Bedford is ready to create, regenerate and re-engage at all levels.

“Working together is what we do — that’s what makes us New Bedford. It’s how we got here and it’s how we will get through this pandemic stronger, with everyone supporting one another — residents, artists, galleries, cultural venues, neighborhood associations, and commercial enterprises,” says Lee Heald, Director of AHA!

From September 21 to October 16, AHA! needs to raise $6,000 in order to be eligible for over $2 million in additional grants by The Gannett Foundation. Visit the campaign page today to show your support.

###

MassDevelopment Brownfields Redevelopment Funding Now Open

08.25.2020

 

Staff Contribution

 
MassDevelopment’s Brownfields Redevelopment Fund finances the environmental assessment and remediation of brownfield sites in Economically Distressed Areas (EDAs) of the Commonwealth. The 2016 Economic Development Bill authorized $45 million over ten years from the Commonwealth’s capital budget for the Fund, a portion of which is being made available through this solicitation.
 
This solicitation does not replace MassDevelopment’s traditional process of evaluating proposals and awarding loans and recoverable grants on a rolling basis when the timing is urgent due to a clearly identified development opportunity.
 
This opportunity has been created to help municipalities and other municipal entities advance the redevelopment of sites where the development potential has been identified but an end-user has not yet committed to redeveloping the site.
 
Under this solicitation, eligible applicants may apply for up to $100,000 in site assessment funding, or up to $250,000 in remediation funding.
 
The deadline for application submissions for this solicitation is September 18, 2020.
Awards will be announced in November 2020.
 
For more information, visit MassDevelopment.com/brownfields, email brownfields@massdevelopment.com, or contact your regional MassDevelopment Community Development representative.

New Bedford Transit-Oriented Development (NBTOD) Study Update

08.24.2020

 

Staff Contribution

 
During the ongoing COVID-19 health crisis, the NBTOD study has continued to move forward, and the project team is excited to share those results very soon.

 
As part of that effort, the project team developed a new webpage for the study that includes many of the same features as the old page and some new ways to share your thoughts. Now, residents, business owners, and city stakeholders can share their comments and feedback in various ways:
 
Email nbtodstudy@gmail.com

Call or text call the project hotline (508) 293-1280

Submit a comment card via Google Doc

 

To stay informed about upcoming events, follow the project team on Facebook, Youtube, or join the mailing list.

 
Also, be on the lookout for the next virtual public workshop tentatively scheduled for October 2020!

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

By Steven Froias / Contributing Writer

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.