$1M grant ‘a big step into the future’ for New Bedford waterfront

Posted Feb 13, 2018 at 5:30 PM

A $1 million grant awarded Tuesday will make life on the waterfront a little easier for New Bedford’s Police and Fire Departments as well as the Harbor Development Commission.

The Seaport Economic Council approved the grant, which will help the city build a 2,745-square-foot Central Command Center on City Pier 3 for the three departments.

“This is really, really critical,” Executive Director of the HDC Ed Anthes Washburn said. “Right now our operations are spread (out).”

Currently, the HDC is housed in the Wharfinger Building, with two assistant harbormasters located at Popes Island. New Bedford police marine unit is based in a small building near the Wharfinger Building, while firefighters are located on Pleasant Street.

The application for the grant stated the building would offer office space for HDC staff, space for police and fire as well as response and training rooms to provide streamlined communication among the three units during daily port operations and emergencies.

“By being able to pool everyone together and put them into one command center, the collaboration becomes very effective,” Police Chief Joe Cordeiro said. “It enables us to expand and share technology. It’s all in one center.”

Anthes Washburn pointed to the recent sinkings of the fishing vessels Nemesis and Dinah Jane as an example of how a Command Center is beneficial. While each arm of the city responded separately, if they were under one roof, the response would allow for a quicker reaction.

“This will get us much closer to our response assets,” Fire Chief Michael Gomes said. “And having the police marine security unit, the port authority, and the assistant harbormasters all in the same building and in same place will increase coordination.”

Gov. Charlie Baker’s administration awarded a total of $4.1 million to five marine infrastructure projects through the Seaport Economic Council. Mayor Jon Mitchell is a member of the council.

“The Seaport Economic Council is committed to helping communities effectively leverage their maritime resources, to create new opportunities for residents, tourists and businesses,” said Carolyn Kirk, the deputy secretary of Housing and Economic Development and vice-chair of the Seaport Economic Council.

The Harbor Development Commission stated it had outgrown its current building. Space will also be offered to state and federal authorities, like the Environmental Police and Coast Guard, if needed.

The new building will offer ample room for the HDC, police and fire to hold joint meetings, which wouldn’t be new, but are currently held in cramped space.

The $1 million grant will cover the majority of cost. The HDC will provide the remaining funds, which are yet to be determined, but Anthes Washburn said it would be at least $250,000.

The goal, he said, is to complete construction in June 2019.

“We really need a place to effectively manage traffic and manage the operations of a port like this,” Anthes Washburn said. “This grant from the seaport council is huge in having the port itself take a big step into the future.”

Follow Michael Bonner on Twitter @MikeBBonnerSCT.

Original story here.

New Union Street building introduces hub for creative minds

Tracy Silva Barbosa never tires of the feeling after she introduces friends to her home.

They visit, look at her glass art, perhaps dine at a restaurant downtown and always leave with the same reaction.

“I never knew it was so beautiful and all of this wonderful stuff,” Barbosa said of the recurring reactions.

Barbosa lived in New York City for a decade before returning to the state where she grew up. Like many of her visitors, New Bedford impressed Barbosa and her husband. The culture and ever-growing art scene attracted them to make it their new home.

In January it will also be the home of her new business. Duende Glass will occupy a space in a new 10,000 square foot unit on Union Street dubbed a Co-Creative space by WHALE.

Barbosa, like multiple others whether it be artists or “creatives”, will use the space to create art and also sell it.

“I think the Co-Creative Center is just another spore from that flower,” Barbosa said. “It’s coming out of people who genuinely care and want to bring out the wonderful character this city has and bring it out in a tasteful way.”

There’s three levels to the building sitting beside The Garden and running along Acushnet Avenue.

The second floor of the building will consist of non-profit office space, apartments, and artist studios, which are already leased. The third floor consists of a two-bedroom market rate apartment.

The first floor, where Duende Glass and People’s Pressed, a juice and coffee shop, will be located, will house a public creative space.

The plan is to utilize the area closest to Union Street as a marketplace. Behind it will be a learning area where classes can be taught by anyone in the community. At the back of the building, bordering a park, the area will be used as a creative space filled with up-to-date technology like fabrication equipment and computer stations as well as work benches.

“We’re hoping we can build a community of Creatives,” WHALE Development Coordinator Amanda DeGrace said.

The first floor learning space will act as a chameleon of storts, blending into whatever the community envisions its best use.

DeGrace said there are 15 classes currently being discussed that would be available for public participation. They range from graphic design, creative writing, visual artists, sewing and even jam making. The class list continues to grow as community members continue to pitch ideas.

“We need to open the doors and see what this community wants this place to be,” DeGrace said.

Below the “Co-Make” area is a basement geared toward more industrial and textile creating as well as storage for artists.

Much like Gallery X on William Street or the studios in the former mill building on West Rodney French Boulevard brought Barbosa to the city, the Co-Creative Center hopes to attract even more imaginative minds.

“Through the Co-Creative more diverse artists come,” Barbosa said. “You want to have some cross pollination and that’s what innovation is.”

Follow Michael Bonner on Twitter @MikeBBonnerSCT

Original story here.

New Bedford Regional Airport adds commercial flights to Florida

With FAA 139 certification, more commercial airlines will follow

NEW BEDFORD— A pair of propeller-powered planes parked on the runway behind Jon Mitchell on Wednesday. Another buzzed over the mayor’s head as he announced the game-changing impending arrival of commercial airlines at the city airport.

Propeller-power planes will be sharing runways with jet engines soon as the airport gained FAA 139 certification, opening its airspace to planes that can carry more than nine passengers.

“This is really a big triumph for the city and the region,” Mitchell said.

In order to obtain 139 certification, an airport needs a letter of intent from an airline to begin the process.

Airport manager Scot Servis confirmed one airline has committed to New Bedford, but wasn’t ready to state which one.

Once it’s official, Servis said flights should take off in about two months, then others could follow.

“A lot of airlines say ‘Once you get your 139 inspection, give us a call. We’ll take a look,’” Servis said. “Not a lot like to jump out ahead because they know it’s a long process.”

For now, passengers should be able to count the flights per week on their hand.

Servis estimated at the start, there may be only one or two flights per week. The destination will likely be New York City where travelers can connect to locations across the country.

“We think that local businesses can gain an advantage and we can attract other businesses by having an airport that allows for convenient travel from New Bedford to New York, in particular, and beyond,” Mitchell said.

The current terminal includes a restaurant and offers Budget car rentals. As the airport becomes more popular, Mitchell envisions a new terminal.

More commercial airlines may be months away, but the certification, which began on July 1 should instantly increase the volume of air traffic.

The attraction lies in New Bedford’s lower landing fees and cheaper gas.

“That’s going to help the city because when we sell fuel we make money,” the chairman of the New Bedford Regional Airport Commission Paul Barton said. “In landing fees the city’s going to make money.”

The 139 certification attracts private planes because it lowers insurance rates for incoming transportation. New Bedford is now one of 22 airports in New England that possesses 139 certification.

The airport held the certification in the past but it lapsed in the 1990s.

Re-obtaining it required an update of the main runway.

“Once the main runway got resurfaced it really opened us up to doing more,” Servis said.

The FAA looked into every aspect of the airport, including how it ran during the day and night, scanned through its records, and examined its fire equipment.

The addition of more commercial flights also requires a TSA checkpoint, which has been constructed and awaits federal approval. The city had no doubt it would be federalized and labeled the 139 certification a much larger hurdle.

“It is more expensive to run a 139 airport because the level of maintenance that needs to get done is higher,” Servis said. “But it also means it’s safer and better.”

The expansion should be felt within the city’s economy too.

“The ability to fly commercial and private aircraft will help boom the economy locally,” president and CEO of SouthCoast Chamber Rick Kidder said.

“If you were trying to get over the bridges this weekend, you’ll greatly appreciate the proximity of the New Bedford Airport and our ferry services.”

Original story here.

Can offshore wind revive America’s ports? This town hopes so

Benjamin Storrow, E&E News reporter

NEW BEDFORD, Mass. — This salt-caked fishing port has been flush with wind prospectors ever since Massachusetts legislators passed a law for massive wind development in the shallow waters south of Martha’s Vineyard.

Ed Anthes-Washburn, a local port official, estimates he gives five harbor tours a month to wind industry representatives. Planning for the industry’s arrival now occupies much of his time, alongside proposals to redevelop several old industrial sites and a Seattle-style fish pier.

“It started Aug. 8, the day the governor signed the bill,” Anthes-Washburn said, gazing out over the harbor here, where a mass of fishing trawlers, scallopers and clam boats formed a rocking forest of rigging and nets. “It’s been pretty consistent since then.”

States up and down the Atlantic coast are rushing to become the capital of America’s burgeoning offshore wind industry, hoping the massive turbines will breathe new life into ports mired by a shrinking fishing industry and a flagging industrial base.

Maryland officials last month approved renewable energy credits for two developments totaling 368 megawatts off their shores in a bid to transform Baltimore and Ocean City into the industry’s manufacturing and maintenance hub in the Mid-Atlantic (Climatewire, May 12).

Lawmakers in New Jersey are counting down the days until Gov. Chris Christie (R) leaves office early next year, when they plan to restore their own credits for offshore wind developments (Energywire, June 9).

In New York, Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) wants to bring 2,400 megawatts of wind power online by 2030 (Energywire, Jan. 11).

But few places are betting on offshore wind quite like New Bedford.

‘Diversification play’

This blue-collar city of roughly 95,000 people on the south coast of Massachusetts is the closest commercial port to one of the best offshore wind resources in North America, according to the National Renewable Energy Laboratory. And where offshore wind development has struggled in the past, the ocean is now open for business. Three companies have secured federal leases for projects 14 miles south of Martha’s Vineyard.

New Bedford officials have wasted no time positioning their city as the port of choice for the emerging industry. Massachusetts has invested $113 million in the New Bedford Marine Commerce Terminal, a 26-acre parcel designed to withstand the heavy loads needed to accommodate large wind turbines.

A consortium of local colleges has created a curriculum to prepare students for the day that specialized watercraft is needed to ferry technicians out to the hulking turbines. And state and local officials are busy hosting workshops intended to create an onshore supply chain to serve the growing industry.

There are even a few signs of the industry’s presence in New Bedford Harbor. On a recent day, the Ocean Researcher, a survey vessel belonging to the Danish wind giant Dong Energy, was preparing to cast off from the marine commerce terminal.

“This is the largest commercial fishing port in the United States. Our people know what they’re doing out in the mid-Atlantic. We have all those things going for us,” said New Bedford Mayor Jon Mitchell.

“For us, the offshore wind industry represents a strong diversification play,” he added. “This is an industry that will be around for the foreseeable future. It will be the source of a variety of types of jobs. And we want to play up our attributes and make the most of the opportunity. It isn’t an end-all, be-all. It’s more about diversifying our industrial base.”

Europe’s decaying fishing ports offer a tantalizing example of what New Bedford could be. Ports along the United Kingdom’s eastern coast have witnessed £400 million ($512 million) in investment related to wind development since 2011, according to a 2016 report commissioned by the Offshore Wind Industry Council.

Dong, the world’s largest wind developer, plans on investing £6 billion in the Humber region on the United Kingdom’s east coast by 2019. The company estimates its developments in the North Sea will create 1,600 construction jobs and 500 long-term jobs in a region that has been devastated by the fishing industry’s decline. Siemens AG recently opened a £310 million blade factory in Hull, one of the Humber’s largest communities, creating 1,000 jobs.

‘A new life,’ but risks loom

The appeal is obvious in a city like New Bedford, where fortunes rise and fall with the price of scallops and the unemployment rate stands at 7.2 percent, almost double the Massachusetts average.

“If you read their history, it’s like reading New Bedford’s history,” said Paul Vigeant, who doubles as Bristol Community College’s vice president of workforce development and the director of the New Bedford Wind Energy Center. “Once the proud whaling capital, then the fishing capital of the U.K. until they lost the cod war to Iceland. And now they find themselves the closest port to the offshore wind sites, and they’ve got a new life.”

But where Europe’s offshore industry has boomed in recent years, its American counterpart remains in its infancy. Europe has installed more than 3,500 turbines capable of generating about 12,600 MW of power, according to a report by WindEurope. Five turbines capable of producing 30 MW off Rhode Island represent the extent of the U.S. industry.

Few are predicting a boom in wind jobs here anytime soon. Turbine manufacturing is likely to remain in countries like the United Kingdom and Germany for the foreseeable future, with North American developers expected to import blades from Europe.

“If you look to European experience, offshore wind has been deployed from a number of port facilities in the North Sea, which have been transformed from sleepy shipping ports to thriving industrial centers,” said Deepwater Wind CEO Jeff Grybowski. “That’s not going to happen here overnight. We do not have enough scale in the region.”

Still, offshore wind represents a return of sorts to New Bedford’s energy past. The city was one of America’s leading whaling ports during 19th century, when whale oil was used for lighting and lubrication. Herman Melville famously embarked from the port on a whaling odyssey that became the basis for “Moby-Dick.”

New Bedford today can boast some bright spots. Coffee shops, brew pubs and art galleries line the cobblestone streets in the city’s historic downtown. And while the fishing industry has declined across the Northeast, much of what remains has consolidated along New Bedford’s warren of wharfs.

In 2014 and 2015, New Bedford’s fleet hauled ashore more than $320 million worth of fish, more than any other American port, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Scallops are responsible for much of that bounty, accounting for 80 percent of the value of New Bedford’s catch.

Big ideas fizzled. Will wind?

Still, the community has not escaped the maladies of other fishing towns. The groundfishing industry has been decimated in recent years. Local wages lag behind state benchmarks. And city officials must confront skepticism born from chasing past economic chimeras.

Plans for a casino and Olympic sailing, a proposal tied to Boston’s aborted bid to host the 2024 summer Olympic Games, have come and gone. This isn’t even the first time offshore wind has been tried.

The marine terminal was initially built to serve the ill-fated Cape Wind project in Nantucket Sound. But when the two utilities with agreements to buy power from the 130-turbine wind farm pulled out in 2015, the terminal was widely panned as a waste of taxpayer funds.

Then there’s the tension between New Bedford’s old and emerging industries. The city joined a lawsuit last year against an offshore wind development along the New York coast, saying the project was sited in prime scalloping waters. The city’s argument: Wind is good, but turbines need to be properly sited in order to coexist with the fishing industry.

“I think the fishing industry is naturally skeptical. In the last several decades, changes in regulations have not gone their way,” said Anthes-Washburn, the port official. “I think there are concerns about what will happen when the windmills go up.”

But there is noticeable excitement in the city, as well. At No Problemo Taqueria, where diners were lining up for tacos and burritos one recent afternoon, a sign hung in the window showing five turbines and the word “YES.”

Some of the skepticism in the community is understandable, Nuno Pereira said as he manned the cash register.

“This area has been down in the dumps for a while,” he said. Wind, Pereira added, could help turn that around.

“I think it’s the future,” he said. “Progress just plods along.”

State and city officials are similarly optimistic that this time is different. Unlike Cape Wind, which would have been visible from the shore, developments proposed today are at least 14 miles south of Martha’s Vineyard, where they cannot be seen by the naked eye.

The federal leasing process off the coast of Massachusetts was designed to address the concerns of fishermen, siting turbines outside prime fishing grounds, shipping channels and migratory paths.

Today’s turbines are also bigger, capable of producing 6 to 8 MW of power. That is up from the 3.6-MW turbines proposed by Cape Wind.

Costs are falling as a result. A University of Delaware study of Massachusetts’ wind proposals predicted that costs could fall from 16.2 cents per kilowatt-hour in 2023 to 10.8 cents per kWh in 2029, when accounting for transmission. Cape Wind, by contrast, projected costs of 24 cents per kWh.

New law requires wind

But by far the biggest change is the legislation passed in Massachusetts last year. It requires utilities to purchase 1,600 MW of offshore wind, enough to power a quarter of Massachusetts homes. The Massachusetts Clean Energy Center estimates that the turbines will reduce annual greenhouse gas emissions by 2.4 million tons.

Just as importantly, the law effectively creates a market for offshore wind at a time when many of the aging coal, oil and nuclear units that underpinned New England’s electric grid are retiring (Climatewire, May 30).

“The appetite and interest is there, and it’s real,” said Thomas Brostrøm, who leads Dong’s North American operations.

The proposed wind area’s proximity to load centers like Boston; the relatively shallow waters of the continental shelf off Massachusetts, where ocean depths range from 90 to 180 feet; and consistent wind speeds averaging more than 20 mph make the region particularly attractive, he said.

“It looks similar to northwest Europe. That can be a benefit to a region like New England. Others led the way,” Brostrøm said. “I am bullish.”

The Danish-based company is one of three developers that have leased tracts of ocean south of Martha’s Vineyard and are competing to win the Massachusetts contract. Vineyard Wind, a partnership of Avangrid Renewables and Copenhagen Infrastructure Partners, and Deepwater Wind of Providence, R.I., are the other two companies.

The three candidates are expected to submit bids for a first round of development consisting of at least 400 MW later this year, though they are allowed to also submit alternative bids ranging from 200 to 800 MW. State regulators will sign off on a final contract by Nov. 1, 2018. Operations are expected to begin around 2020.

New Bedford officials’ immediate focus is positioning the city as an operations and maintenance hub for the industry.

They are busy developing land-use plans to accommodate the wind and fishing industries in a port that already hosts 700 working boats. Economic planners, meanwhile, are rushing to ensure that the region is prepared to serve wind companies when construction starts. Bristol Community College is offering a new academic program for students aspiring to become wind technicians. And the Massachusetts Maritime Academy is updating its vessel safety curriculum to serve the industry.

“We’re in Titusville in 1810 where they found oil. We’re at the cusp of creating a new base industry for the United States,” Vigeant said. “Part of the exciting thing for this area is we’re closest to the biggest and best place in North America. So it’s kind of a good deal.”

Twitter: @bstorrow Email: bstorrow@eenews.net

Original story here.

State official calls new business park at Whaling City Golf Course ‘a no-brainer’

Posted Jun 13, 2017 at 7:03 PM
Updated Jun 13, 2017 at 10:18 PM

NEW BEDFORD — Jay Ash, the state’s housing and economic development secretary, looked out Tuesday upon the driving range at Whaling City Golf Course. He squinted to see the farthest distance marker at 265 yards.

“How many tries to hit it that far?” the imposing secretary nearing 7-feet tall said to those touring the course.

All kidding aside, the conversation quickly transitioned from golf to business opportunity, which appeared more feasible than a 265-yard drive.

“This is as close to a no-brainer as you can get,” Ash said.

Last month, Mayor Jon Mitchell announced an agreement between the city and MassDevelopment to convert a 100-acre section of the golf course into a business park that could create at least 1,000 jobs.

Ash could think of only two other sites in the state that have as much job-growth potential, are within a city and are near highways, rail and an airport: A former Naval airbase in Weymouth and vacant space across from Gillette Stadium in Foxboro.

“When the mayor first talked about this, some of the members of the legislative delegation thought, ‘Boy, this would be an awesome opportunity,’” Ash said. “It fits right into what our program is.”

When Gov. Charlie Baker came into office in 2015, he looked to Ash to promote a new state program geared at finding “shovel-ready development sites” that can spark job growth.

“I’m not aware of anything this south and attached to a city,” Ash said. “We’re seeing a great deal of investments come back to cities. New Bedford has benefited from that.”

However, the secretary said a business park in the golf course is far from a done deal. Mitchell and New Bedford Economic Development Council’s executive director Derek Santos agreed.

At the city level, public discussions need to be hosted. Plans need to be revisited. Land needs to be surveyed.

At the state level, Ash said there’s a need to understand what’s in the ground, the topography and speak with the private sector.

“It doesn’t happen overnight, so let’s not kid ourselves,” Ash said. “There’s still a lot of work to be done. You can’t get to develop a million square feet if you don’t have a site.”

From the golf course, Ash met with Mitchell to speak to investors and developers regarding other vacant space within the city.

Developers received informational packets and took tours of downtown and the mills in the South End.

“I think there’s tremendous opportunity in the city. It was really a great presentation,” said Rich Relich, who toured the city as part of Arch Community, a real estate developer.

Ash echoed those thoughts.

His job requires him to tour the state and at each function someone asks, “Where’s the next place to take off?”

“New Bedford is in that conversation,” Ash said.

Follow Michael Bonner on Twitter @MikeBBonnerSCT.

Original story here.

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.

Original Story Here:

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.


Original Story Here

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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