$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.

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.

Zeiterion one step closer to getting 99-year lease

After study, New Bedford to implement parking improvements

‘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.”

Downtown business women boosting confidence and commerce at Shimmer and La Vie est Belle Apothecary

In the heart of downtown, two women are revolutionizing the way we think about beauty.

With the growing fad to use natural and ethical beauty products, two new store fronts have found a home in New Bedford, and thanks to the passion from their owners, they’re aiming to outlast any trend.

Wellness and happiness with one’s self is closely tied to beauty at each store, and the women who operate them each take their own original spin on the idea. The result? Two one-of-a-kind experiences where the customer is put at the front of mind.

Take Shimmer, located on 187 Union Street, owned and operated by New Bedford native Katherine Lowe. The store itself is fresh and minimalistic in nature, clean white walls and natural wooden shelving. Inside, Lowe has tactfully arranged her curated collection so that a customer new to the “clean beauty” trend does not feel overwhelmed, but rather captivated and excited to try something new.

“I wanted the room to reflect the products, clean and understated,” explained Lowe, who with a background in business came up with the idea for Shimmer after her sister developed severe allergies, and she began researching “clean” product options. Clean products are ethically sourced, never tested on animals, and made with our wellness and the environment in mind.

“I did so much research on what is actually clean, non-toxic, and ethical, and wanted to create a place where people could find these products and know that what they are using is safe,” said Lowe.

According to Lowe, as the concept of clean beauty has grown popular, the trend has not been particularly regulated, and just because something says “organic” does not necessarily mean it is ethical. “It’s really important to me that all the products I’m selling are things I would recommend to my sister,” she said.

In addition to beauty products, home goods such as laundry detergent and all-purpose cleaners are available at Shimmer as well. Lowe recommends and reminds her customers not to feel pressured to switch to all-natural products all at once, but rather try a few products at time to find what works best for you.

Just a couple of blocks down away on 30 North Water Street is La Vie est Belle Apothecary, owned and operated by Dr. Tammy Gleeson, a thoracic surgeon with SouthCoast Health.

The store is a romantic dream with a French eclectic flair. The dark wood, mirrors, and accent pieces like the fabulous pink sofa by the register transports customers back in time to the days of the original apothecary.

“My focus is to make people happy, and feel good about themselves,” said Gleeson, who has lived downtown herself for the past three years, after running her own private practice in Michigan for a bulk of her career. “I realized I’m not getting any younger, and it was time to do something different. You can’t take life too seriously,” she said.

La Vie est Belle, or “Life is Beautiful,” is the perfect name, and the tiny details made by Gleeson add to the store’s artistry.

The apothecary, which is described as a “fortress of relaxation and peace” on its website, features all-natural beauty products including perfumes, essential oils, and a table full of soap selections. Furthermore, Dr. Gleeson offers aesthetic medicine such as facials and botox, and will soon offer cool sculpting.

Expanding the treatment and wellness component to the store is a goal for Gleeson, who specifically researched skin-care products that could help with acne, scarring, and wrinkles. Everything available at the store has been researched and tested by Gleeson, including the all-natural dog shampoo, thanks to the help of her English bull-dog, Salvadaor.

Both Lowe and Gleeson explained that the support they’ve received from the downtown community has been wonderful.

“The small business community has been so supportive. There’s such a sense of community downtown,” said Lowe, who has deep ties with the community as her father is a long-time teacher at New Bedford High School, and her mother served as an admissions clerk at the Whaling Museum for 30 years. “I always knew I’d open a boutique downtown someday.”

“I love downtown New Bedford,” said Gleeson, who although is newer to the area, explained how much change and growth she’s seen just in the few years she’s lived there. “The neighbors have been extremely supportive. It’s been a fun adventure, and will continue to be as we grow,” she said.

“It goes hand and hand with the wellness industry,” said Lowe, sharing that a goal of hers is to one day offer make-up application and product consultation at Shimmer. “Younger generations are paying close attention to what is in their products, and how safe it is for their bodies and the environment.”

“When people leave the apothecary, I want them to feel comfortable, happy, and confident,” said Gleeson, who further explained that looking and feeling our best can boost our confidence and overall happiness. “They deserve to feel a step closer to who they want to be,” she said.

Original story here.

WGBH Open Studio with Jared Bowen: DATMA Puts Wind On Display In New Bedford

This week wind, science, technology art and culture are on full view as Design Art Technology Massachusetts, (DATMA) and their Summer Winds 2019 event begins.

Watch the 5 minute video below!

https://www.wgbh.org/arts/2019/07/17/open-studio-with-jared-bowen-datma-puts-wind-on-display-in-new-bedford

 

 

$15M-plus building slated for Union Street in downtown New Bedford

Downtown is well on its way to getting a noticeable addition.

A proposal to build a five-story, $15 million to $17 million mixed commercial and residential building at the corner of Union and North Second Streets has received the necessary permits from the Planning Board, the Zoning Board of Appeals, and the Historical Commission, according to City Planner Tabitha Harkin.

“It’s a project we support because it adds residential density to the downtown, will add some retail space on the ground floor, and it has an architecturally appealing design,” said Mayor Jon Mitchell. “It remains to be seen whether the developer can finance the project, but it’s certainly one that we support because it fits with what we’re trying to do along the Union Street corner.”

Constructing the proposed 42,650-square-foot building would require the demolition of several single-story buildings currently located at the site on the corner of Union and North Second streets. The demolition permit still needs to be approved, said Harkin.

“All the one-story buildings on the property are just old retail buildings; they have no historical significance to them and they are in very poor condition,” said Michael Galasso, executive director of the New Bedford Development Corporation and the project’s developer.

The five-story building constructed in their place would have 42 residential rental units with a cafe/restaurant and coworking space on the ground floor, according to Galasso.

The residential units will include microunits, studios, and one- and two-bedroom apartments, said Galasso, and five of them will be completely handicap-accessible.

“This project is intended to provide housing for the downtown workforce, that is our main market,” explained Galasso, “We see that as a growing market.”

One of the reasons the market is growing, said Galasso, is because more office space is being leased downtown and the offshore wind industry will be bringing in new workers.

The rates for rent have not yet been decided, but Galasso said a portion of the building is going to be affordable housing and the rest will be market-rate.

When reached for comment about the project in her ward, Councilor Dana Rebeiro said, “I’m interested to see if the affordable housing is forever or just for the first three years and what they consider ‘affordable.’”

In addition to the affordability of the housing, Galasso has to consider how the building will fit in with the historic nature of the city’s downtown.

Galasso said the brick facade, the size of the windows, the scale of the building, and material they plan to use are all in keeping with the downtown aesthetic.

“We wanted a building that had some modern feel to it, but was done in a very historic way,” he said.

117 Union Historic Comm Presentation by Standard-Times on Scribd

The modern aspects of the building will include a contemporary design of the interior with a community kitchen and patio overlooking the harbor on the fifth floor, said Galasso, and microunits that are fully furnished with high-end amenities (including kitchenettes).

The design is also meant to encourage people walking by the building to come inside.

“It’s very important that the first floor is very transparent so people that are walking by would get excited and want to come in whether it’s the lobby area or restaurant,” Galasso said.

He referenced the Seaport District in Boston as inspiration for the design, that also includes outdoor seating for its cafe.

Another proposed modern aspect of the building is resident access to a shared electric vehicle and a bike-sharing program, said Galasso.

The current plan only includes the construction of one handicapped parking space, even though a residential building this size would normally require a total of 106 parking spaces.

The proposal received a special grant for reduction in parking, according to Harkin, because “there’s ample parking downtown” with the parking garages.

Rebeiro said she is also concerned about the effect of adding people in what she described as an already dense area, but she did say she likes the car and bike sharing ideas.

“I think it takes away from the problem of too many cars parking downtown,” said Rebeiro.

Mitchell said he doesn’t think parking will be a problem for residents, “The city in the weeks ahead will announce a new parking study that will really pave the way for better parking management in the long run, that will emphasize the use of the garages.”

Going forward the developer has to close the purchase of the properties on Union and North Second streets, which he said he expects to do by the end of this week, and look for financing for the project.

Galasso said the project includes redeveloping the Moby Dick building next door into 8 studio apartments and a restaurant. He still needs to go through the permitting process for that part of the plan.

Once the project is financed through a “combination of conventional financing using some tax credits and funds from the city and from the state,” which Galasso said will take six months, construction on the new building will begin.

Galasso said they’re aiming to complete construction by the end of 2020/early 2021.

“This is potentially a real catalyst for downtown to create millennial focused-housing… and activate a street corner that has been inactive for a long time,” said Harkin.

“We really wanted to set the mark high for future development in downtown and I think we’ve really achieved that,” he said.

Follow Kiernan Dunlop on Twitter @KiernanD_SCT

Original story here.

Gone to the dogs: Pet store owner branches out in New Bedford with Union Street location

By Catherine Carter / Contributing Writer

Does your dog dream? If so, you can guess what fills his slumber — tasty snacks, fun toys, a snazzy bandana and a comfortable harness.

Now there’s a downtown location that fulfills all of these desires.

Woof Woof Pet Boutique and Biscuit Bar, located on Union Street in New Bedford, has just opened its doors to welcome you and your canine friends (leashed, please) with rack upon rack of carefully chosen treats, foods and playthings.

“We hand-pick all of our products and test them on our own dogs,” says owner and dog-lover Sherri DeChaine, who also operates a store at Woof Woof’s original location in Bristol, Rhode Island. “If a product doesn’t meet our standards, out the door it goes.”

While Woof Woof stocks a full range of stylish collars and leashes in fun fabrics like paw prints and skunks, they pride themselves on their selection of hardy, comfortable, adjustable harnesses, many with a lifetime guarantee. Customers are invited to bring their dogs in for a custom fitting.