Lafrance Hospitality to open Merrill’s on the Waterfront in New Bedford

NEW BEDFORD — Merrill’s on the Waterfront is coming in early 2019 to the former Waterfront Grille, which was purchased by Lafrance Hospitality in June 2018.

The restaurant is in the works to re-open after renovations as Merrill’s on the Waterfront, located across from Lafrance’s Fairfield Inn & Suites by Marriott and Waypoint Event Center.

The name pays tribute to Captain Edward Merrill, who purchased the waterfront property in which Merrill’s on the Waterfront resides, in 1837. Merrill constructed the largest of seven wharves built between 1841 and 1849. The property remained in the Merrill family until 1905 but was renamed to Homer’s Wharf in 1920. The historical counting house, which Merrill built in 1847 still stands, according to a news release.

Merrill’s will provide guests a front-row seat into the country’s most valuable fishing port. Fresh, local seafood will be a staple to the dining and banquet menu, too. Merrill’s will have indoor private event space and an outdoor ceremony site that is to be designed for use for weddings next summer and fall.

“With Merrill’s on the Waterfront, Lafrance Hospitality is excited to further highlight the rich whaling history of New Bedford,” according to the news release. “You can expect to see printed history about this historic era of New Bedford along with more of Captain Merrill’s life adorning the restaurant.”

City officials welcome new fitness studio, the Barre New Bedford

Posted Sep 6, 2018 at 4:53 PM

Mayor Jon Mitchell and other elected officials and business leaders recently joined with owners Gigi Yassine and Kayla Gillespie Doyle to officially cut the ribbon at their new fitness studio, The Barre New Bedford, at 50 Union Street (above Moby Dick Brewing Co.).

The Barre classes utilizes movements that are inspired by ballet, yoga, and Pilates, set to fun and motivating music, a press release states. The full body method activates one muscle group at a time with small, controlled movements, also known as isometric movements, which are very effective for burning fat and adding muscle tone.

During the class, muscles are sculpted and strengthened, by working them to the point of fatigue, followed by a deep stretch to lengthen them out and create long, lean muscles. Each class begins with a warm up and then travels through the body from the arms, thighs, seat/glutes, abdominals and ends with a cool down.

For more information, visit www.thebarrenewbedford.com.

Original story here.

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

Posted at 3:01 AM

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And, it certainly did.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Original story here.

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

Posted Aug 14, 2018 at 9:27 PM

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

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

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

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

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

A ‘buzz’ surrounds New Bedford as Harbor Hotel officially opens

Posted Aug 1, 2018 at 6:18 PM

Lauren Liss felt a buzz emitting from the city as she sat at the bar at the Harbor Hotel on Tuesday night.

The CEO of MassDevelopment spent the night at the hotel to prepare for its grand opening Wednesday morning. The fresh paint, new furniture and maritime accents highlighted the city’s latest addition, and also exposed potential for the future.

“There is a buzz in New Bedford, a tangible, palpable buzz in New Bedford, this city is alive,” Liss said. “It’s thriving and the excitement that’s generated by projects like this is absolutely phenomenal.”

While the hotel actually opened on July 16, politicians, investors and community members filled the lobby for its official grand opening Wednesday.

Mayor Jon Mitchell referred to the moment as six years in the making.

“This place is going to be a shot in the arm for the downtown economy,” Mitchell said.

The 46,000-square-foot building at 222 Union St. includes a restaurant and bar, a banquet space and fitness center. It employs about 50 people, with 42 hailing from New Bedford.

In its long history, the building formerly housed a drug store and WBSM. While dormant, utilities hadn’t been updated to produce enough power needed for current amenities.

“Of course, we always thank the mayor, but this time it’s actually for real,” President of Columbus Group Shiawee Yang said with a laugh. “I don’t know if you know that our mayor picked up the phone, called that company, you know what, otherwise we still may not have power. You literally brought the power.”

In the two weeks since it opened, General Manager Dewan Kashem said the occupancy rate has been as high as 85 percent. Immediately prior to the grand opening, he said it was about 50 percent.

“We think August and September will be really good,” Kashem said.

As visitors enter the hotel after a valet service parks their car, a wall-sized photo of a vessel greets them at the entrance. Across from that, a piece of artwork highlights another wall as hundreds of photos of New Bedford residents come together to display a larger picture of a knot.

Many of the rooms feature ocean-themed artwork. A few offer exposed brick with the original wood ceiling and floors.

Those staying may not be Whaling City natives, but they’ll leave understanding New Bedford’s history.

“This feels like you’re in a big city space, and spaces like this shouldn’t be limited just to big cities,” Mitchell said. “Every city that’s successful should have a space that looks like this.”

Original story here.

‘Intense’ negotiations led to mixed-use options on State Pier

Tony Cabral joked that he hoped he didn’t wake his neighbor, Mayor Jon Mitchell, when he arrived home at 3 a.m. Wednesday after the state legislature passed a bill that could bring retail shops and restaurants to the State Pier.

“I heard (you), I thought it was a burglar,” Mitchell quipped back at the state rep.

The laughs and celebration for the economic future of New Bedford didn’t come without a bit of struggle to include language for mixed-use options at State Pier into the economic development bond valued at more than $1 billion.

“I’m pleased with the outcome. Obviously it was very contentious,” Mitchell said. “I hope that we can all put aside this matter and move on with the many other challenges facing New Bedford and the opportunities before us.”

The final language, which passed late Tuesday night, allowed for up to 20 percent of the square footage on the west side of State Pier, adjacent to MacArthur Drive, for “accessory uses.”

William Street Neighborhood Festival is growing

Posted May 17, 2018 at 3:01 AM

Spring is here and organizers are planning for this year’s 3rd annual William Street Neighborhood Festival.

Set for Sept. 15, the footprint of the festival will expand this year to include Eighth Street from William to Union. Organizers are also expanding festival hours with fun on tap from noon to 6 p.m.

The Festival is a celebration and collaboration between the three historic church buildings in the neighborhood — the First Unitarian Church, the First Baptist Church and The First Universalist Church (Gallery X).

“Although their past as houses of worship has dwindled, they are now active as centers for art, culture, community gathering,” a press release about the festival states. “Our goal is to show how vital these buildings can be and how much they all offer the Community.”

The second goal of the festival is to introduce area residents and visitors to local artists, performers and artisans. To achieve that goal, free booth space is available.

Original story here.

Sound off now on downtown New Bedford parking

SouthCoast Today: Our View
Posted Mar 1, 2018 at 8:20 PM

Find the survey at newbedford-ma.gov/ParkingSurvey.

Everyone has a gripe about parking.

There’s not enough of it. The meters run out too quickly and the fines are too high. Parking officers are mean. The garages are too far from my workplace. And on and on and on.

If you’ve been aching to sound off about parking issues in downtown New Bedford, now is the time to do it.

State and city planners want to hear your concerns, your user experiences and yes, your complaints. Think of it like this: If you don’t take advantage of the opportunity now, you might lose the high ground when you feel like complaining later.

The first way to make your thoughts known is by completing a survey. It’s sitting online right now, waiting to be filled out by visitors, workers, residents, business owners, students and anyone else with a reason to park, drive or do business in downtown New Bedford. Responses will be collected for three to four weeks.

The survey shouldn’t take more than 5 minutes to complete, and it’s filled with questions that get to the heart of the downtown parking issues:

• How long does it take you to find a parking space?

• Where do you park most frequently?

• Have you ever left downtown because you were unable to find parking?

• And this one — which might be everybody’s favorite: What else would you like to tell us about parking downtown?

But the survey is only one part of a comprehensive study. The second way to be heard is during two public workshops next Tuesday (March 6). The first is from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. in a roving tent downtown. The second runs from 5-7:30 p.m. in the conference room of UMass Dartmouth’s Star Store campus at 715 Purchase St. in New Bedford.

Jim McKeag, a fellow with MassDevelopment’s Transformative Development Initiative, says the idea is to look at parking issues from different viewpoints and find smart solutions.

McKeag and others have heard concerns about parking from multiple sources in New Bedford — business owners, customers, public officials and more. And with the understanding that you can’t take a serious look at a problem in one small area unless you put it into the larger context, New Bedford’s parking study will gather information on both the city’s waterfront and its downtown area.

MassDevelopment, which manages State Pier; the Harbor Development Commission, which oversees harbor facilities; and the city are sharing the $75,000 price tag. Results will be collected and analyzed alongside additional research by Stantec Consulting Services.

The study area will include all of the downtown area, bounded by Kempton Street to the north, Walnut Street to the south, County Street to the west, and Route 18 to the east — plus the school administration building on County Street. Waterfront areas include the Whale’s Tooth parking lot, Pier 3, State Pier, Steamship Pier, Homer’s Wharf, Leonard’s Wharf, and available space at the Eversource site.

So what happens after the info is collected? Well, we’ve been assured that it’s not simply to write a report and file it away in some three-ring binder.

McKeag says the survey dives deep into parking behavior — how people use the existing parking and why they park in one place instead of another. So the responses might lead to sensible adjustments that bring big results.

The city might need different regulations for different users. Or officials might want to change the time limits on some meters. Maybe the price could be adjusted between parking garages and downtown meters. And maybe there simply needs to be more permanent spaces.

Planners intend to share their results with the public when Stantec completes its research.

It all sounds good to us, especially with the growing links between downtown and the city’s working waterfront — ferry service, restaurants, the hotel and a growing tourism industry.

We encourage everyone with an interest in parking to fill out the survey and attend Tuesday’s meeting. The effort could bring meaningful results. Plus, you’ll get the chance to gripe about parking with someone who is actually listening.

Original story here.