New Bedford’s plan for business park include 1,000 jobs, 9-hole golf course

Posted May 18, 2017 at 2:18 PM

By Michael Bonner / mbonner@s-t.com

NEW BEDFORD — “A lot of work” still needs to be done before the city can transform part of the Whaling City Golf Course into a business park, the mayor said Thursday.

“It’s not a done deal,” Mayor Jon Mitchell said at an afternoon news conference. “There’s still a number of questions that have to be sorted through.”

The city and MassDevelopment plan to convert a 100-acre section of the golf course into a 1.3 million-square-foot commercial site that could create at least 1,000 jobs. The golf course would downsize to a 9-hole course, which was its original size in 1920.

The city targeted the course because of its sufficient acreage and access to highways, rails and airport.

The biggest hurdle to the project could be Article 97, which protects municipally held green space. Legislation is needed when working on protected land. However, Mitchell said only a portion of the golf course falls under Article 97 protection.

“The part that we’re building on is not protected park land,” Mitchell said.

State Rep. Chris Markey called the announcement “bittersweet” as he reminisced about playing all 18 holes as a child.

“I’m certain there are many other people who have great memories of being able to play golf at a cheap rate in the city,” he said. “…You need to make sure you take every opportunity as the mayor said and take advantage of every asset you have.”

Some residents in attendance voiced displeasure with the plans because the city would lose a green space. Those concerns reached the state level, too.

“It will be incumbent upon the city, but I will strongly suggest a very public process,” Sen. Mark Montigny said.

With proper public vetting, the New Bedford native backed the idea.

“When you look at the positive aspects, I think it has the potential to be a major job creator,” Montigny said.

The park could produce $2 million annually in property tax.

“Let me tell you, New Bedford needs to increase its tax base,” Markey said. “It has to. It cannot survive without that. It will never survive without that. The opportunity that this avails the city and the people of New Bedford is incredible.”

The projected cost for the project is $12 million. Funding, in part, is expected to come from land sales and state and federal funding. MassDevelopment announced a $300,000 grant during the press conference.

The city plans to convey the land to MassDevelopment based on sharing the net proceeds at completion.

MassDevelopment would inherit the cost for demolishing the clubhouse and the redesign of the course. The city would be responsible for constructing a new clubhouse.

The course would remain open through the project. Mitchell suggested the earliest any ground may be broken on the project would be in 2019.

“There’s a lot of work that needs to be done,” Mitchell said.

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SouthCoast Today – Our View: Dredge the Port of New Bedford to 30 feet

Fairhaven selectmen this week added their voices to the growing chorus looking for New Bedford Harbor to be dredged to its authorized depth.

Dredging to the authorized depth of 30 feet would open the port to more vessels and activity, and would allow the construction of more maritime infrastructure. It would bring millions of dollars of economic activity to the port and many hundreds of jobs. It could be undertaken cooperatively, so that state-authorized dredging and federal dredging for contamination and maintenance could enjoy efficiencies estimated to save about $10 million.

Despite federal programs to maintain ports like New Bedford’s, limited federal money presents a hindrance to their accomplishment. The commonwealth has picked up part of the effort.

Local legislators and public officials are right to raise their voices, knowing that 30-foot dredging hasn’t been done for 50 years. Every hint of momentum for greater economic activity acts as a prod to get more cargo ships, more docks, and new industries into port.

The only concern has been raised by Hands Across the River, which wants protections for people when sediment contaminated by PCBs is moved according to procedures being followed for Superfund dredging. A study released this winter, however, suggests that airborne PCB contamination around the Superfund site exists because of ambient emissions, not because it was disturbed during dredging. Nevertheless, HARC’s concerns aren’t to be casually dismissed.

Budget constraints never fail to change government’s plans, and we are far from confident regarding state revenue projections, which, as usual, continue to be estimated down. We understand those constraints and concerns, but because we do have confidence in the commonwealth to make wise decisions, we will urge the administration’s consideration of port issues — an undeniable priority, considering the lieutenant governor’s vigorous leadership of the Seaport Economic Council — to adjust its course enough to prioritize dredging of the rich, vibrant Port of New Bedford. The port is already delivering revenue to Boston beyond what one might expect from the population. Dredging will bring even more.

CoveWalk officially opens on New Bedford’s South End

By Michael Bonner / mbonner@s-t.com

NEW BEDFORD — Mayor Jon Mitchell welcomed back state Transportation Secretary Stephanie Pollack about a year and a half after their first discussion of the CoveWalk.

Pollack returned Wednesday to New Bedford with Gov. Charlie Baker to witness the fruits of the state’s $5 million investment for the official ribbon-cutting of the CoveWalk.

“When you walk over the walkway and take a look out and see what’s behind you, it’s an ‘oh, wow moment,’” Baker said. “It gives us all the ability to help people in this community remember where they are, which is sitting here on this beautiful harbor.”

Mitchell joked that when he and Pollack first discussed the CoveWalk, they faced even worse elements compared to the strong steady breeze they dealt with on Wednesday.

It’s located atop the New Bedford Hurricane Barrier on the west side of the South End peninsula on Clark’s Cove. The CoveWalk measures 5,500 feet, more than 2,000 feet longer than the HarborWalk, located on the east side of the peninsula.

“When people come to our city, from now on, we want people to think not only of the Whaling Museum and the fishing industry, but also the great public spaces like this,” Mitchell said.

The official opening of the walkway is the latest addition to “The Blue Lane,” a name the city labeled the walking and bike paths that span the city’s 11-mile shoreline.

Mitchell handed Baker, Pollack and their staff members commemorative “Blue Lane” water bottles before the ribbon-cutting.

“Everyone should have a chance to have something like this in their community,” Mitchell said. “New Bedforders have deserved something like this for the last 50 years. So that’s what’s most pleasing about it.”

Construction began on the hurricane barrier in 1962 and was completed in 1966. The barrier remains the largest man-made structure on the East Coast of the United States.

Until recently, they also blocked a view of the waterfront.

“While it does a great job of protecting everybody from Mother Nature’s worst days, the problem with that is you don’t have the ability without this type of walk way to appreciate what’s on the other side,” Baker said.

P.A. Landers and Seguin Enterprises completed the construction that included 2,230 cubic yards of concrete, 11,100 feet of aluminium railing and 44,300 feet of electric wiring to power the 230 light fixtures.

The 13-inch concrete foundation of the walkway actually stabilizes the the hurricane barrier, Mitchell said, making it stronger than before in more ways that one.

“There’s a lot happening here,” Mitchell said. “We think that in a few years you’re going to see continued private investment here.”

Follow Michael Bonner on Twitter @MikeBBonnerSCT.

 

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Mitchell believes an innovation district would bring the best, brightest to SMAST

NEW BEDFORD — A plot extending roughly 300 feet along Rodney French Boulevard in the South End will be the site of the “innovation district” that Mayor Jon Mitchell announced last week during his State of the City address.

The land extends south toward the wastewater treatment plant for about 200 feet. While it’s not an overly large piece of land, the city believes it’s vital to the future of New Bedford.

“The idea would be to utilize city-owned land to create an environment in which people can live and and be close to research as well as business innovation opportunity,” Mitchell said.

Similar projects also labeled as “innovation districts” have popped up and are being constructed around the world. Mitchell and City Council President Joseph Lopes traveled to Pittsburgh last November to analyze its districts. They’ll travel to St. Louis in April.

“You can learn so much more by having the discussion with those who have gone through it,” Lopes said.

The Brookings Institution, a nonprofit public policy organization that conducts research on new ideas for solving problems facing society, has provided Mitchell with research on innovation districts. The organization defines an “innovation districts” as “geographic areas where leading-edge anchor institutions and companies cluster and connect with start-ups, business incubators, and accelerators.”

In this case, UMass Dartmouth’s SMAST facilities would anchor the district. Mitchell said the project won’t affect taxpayers, but instead will focus on private projects.

“By creating something that has these different elements you create that the whole idea of the innovative district,” dean of SMAST Steven Lohrenz said. “Its creating this multipurpose site with a lot of different elements and there is synergy that develops and makes it more attractive to people.”

Mitchell said the district is still years away, but the research and planning underway allowed him to announce it in last week’s State of the City.

No official plans exist for what the district could contain, but Mitchell suggested, like most around the world, it might include housing, business incubators and retail and dining opportunities.

“We want to be seen as a place where ideas can be generated and commercialized,” Mitchell said. “Those ideas are key in having an urban environment in which entrepreneurs can thrive.”

Mitchell pointed to the success of Christopher Rezendes and his Internet connectivity company, IoT Impact LABS, as past examples of innovation within the city.

This project is different in that includes SMAST, which already houses an a core of potential innovators students and professors.

“It’s a way for the city and university to expand on an already good partnership,” said Derek Santos, the executive director of New Bedford’s Economic Development Council.

Mitchell said one of the issues surrounding SMAST is that many of the dwellings in the area of the two facilities are single-family homes, which limit the number of students and professors that can live near campus.

Mitchell, Lopes and Lohrenz agreed, though, any and all projects within the district would only be approved after consideration of the neighborhood.

“This is going have to be sized right,” Lohrenz said. “We’re not building the next strip mall. It has to be something that compliments the surroundings.”

According to the Brookings Institution, innovation districts can increase economic activity and help raise property values. The group states the increased revenue can be used to invest in infrastructure, public safety, affordable housing and schools.

Santos called Cambridge’s Kendall Square, the mother of all “innovation districts.” It combines growth around MIT and along with nearby institutions like Massachusetts General Hospital.

New Bedford’s district would be on a much smaller scale but contain the same ideas.

“You take academics and mix that with private sector,” Santos said. “And you create an environment that can be dynamic.”

Follow Michael Bonner on Twitter @MikeBBonner.

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Learn what offshore wind means for New Bedford

Events are happening so quickly as  the new US offshore wind industry begins to take shape that it’s hard to keep up. It’s harder still to know what is happening here in New Bedford, which will be home port for much of the work as the industry builds out. Just what will happen here, when will it happen and what will all of that mean?

You’ll have a chance to find out about what offshore wind will mean for New Bedford and southeastern Massachusetts businesses and workers at a Feb. 9 breakfast conversation hosted by the New Bedford Area Chamber of Commerce.

The discussion will feature a panel including:

— Paul Vigeant, managing director of the New Bedford Wind Energy Center;

— Derek Santos, executive director of the New Bedford Economic Development Council;

— Ed Anthes-Washburn, director of the Port of New Bedford;

— Matthew Morrissey, Massachusetts vice president for Deepwater Wind, one of three developers looking to build wind farms south of Martha’s Vineyard and Nantucket.

They’ll talk about what the building of an offshore wind industry will likely mean for New Bedford and other Massachusetts and Rhode Island coastal cities. Deepwater Wind recently began producing electrical power at its wind farm just off Block Island and is expected to bid next spring on  a contract to build 400 MW of power on leased federal ocean waters 15 to 25 miles off the Vineyard. The Port of New Bedford is home to the nation’s only Marine Commerce Terminal built especially to accommodate the assembly and shipping of enormous offshore wind turbine components, and the New Bedford Economic Development Council and the Port of New Bedford are deep into planning how best to accommodate and encourage the growth of the new industry.

The discussion is part of the Chamber’s popular Good Morning SouthCoast series and will be held at 7:30 a.m. at the Waypoint Convention Center at the Fairfield Inn & Suites, 185 MacArthur Dr, New Bedford. Contact the Chamber for reservations.

 

Officials celebrate $2.5M grant for downtown New Bedford

By

Lt. Gov. Karyn Polito attended a Thursday morning downtown news conference to celebrate a $2.5 million infrastructure grant coming to the city from the MassWorks program, an infrastructure improvement effort.

The grant will be used to upgrade and improve the lower section of Union Street above Water Street. East of that the street has already been transformed with period lighting and paving stones as part of the Route 18 rebuild.

The MassWorks grant will not buy paving stones but it will be spent on lighting, curbing, sidewalks and making the street comply with the Americans for Disabilities Act.

Mayor Jon Mitchell told the reporters that “downtowns belong to all of us,” and that they “evolve over time.” He cited the cases of some buildings having new uses as old industries like ship chandlers fade.

Six new restaurants in the downtown are in the works thanks to the improvements already made, said Mitchell.

The grant application process was very difficult, Mitchell said. In fact, last year the city’s application was denied. Polito said just 34 out of 114 applications were approved.

This time, the effort was so thorough that the mayor’s office was distributing copies of the entire document, which includes everything from written descriptions to engineering and conceptual drawings.

It’s all in the pursuit of a welcoming atmosphere. “Environmental clues tell a lot,” Mitchell said. And downtowns are where people connect, he said “It’s important to spend time and energy on them,” something that the city has been doing for more than a decade, with excellent results.

MassWorks, said Polito, is a $500 million multi-year effort to boost central cities, particularly “gateway” cities. These areas are being called Transformational Development Districts.” In New Bedford’s case, it is the arts and culture economy that has revitalized much of the city.

Polito also noted with approval the pending overhaul of State Pier, which will include air conditioning allowing it to work year-round and create even more jobs.

State Pier is the latest in a sequence of improvements all leading to a transformed downtown, starting with UMass Dartmouth/Star Store, Route 18 and finally State Pier. State Sen. Mark Montigny said Route 18 was “horrendous” before the rebuilding, which is not yet complete. It’s necessary to create a welcoming atmosphere for people who come to the city, he said.

Infrastructure improvements are something that the city’s elected officials agree upon with the governor.

But Montigny railed against the state giving General Electric $120 million in tax breaks to move to Boston, and the state’s decision to spend $10 billion over 10 years in biotech industries that are going to places that already have “zero unemployment,” he said.

The Union Street project has been in the design stage; next spring is the likely start date.

The conference was also attended by state Reps. Antonio Cabral and Rep. Robert Koczera, both of New Bedford.

Follow Steve Urbon on Twitter @SteveUrbonSCT.

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