$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.

Proposal to turn New Bedford Armory into apartments

By Kiernan Dunlop

The city’s own castle, the New Bedford Armory, may have a chance at a new life after sitting unused for nearly two decades.

Winter Real Estate Investors has submitted a proposal with the Division of Capital Asset Management and Maintenance to turn the state-owned buildings into apartments and storage units, while maintaining their historical features, according to WREI President Gregory Winter.

The state held an open request for proposals for the property, 989 Pleasant St., that were due in April. WREI was the only company to respond.

The armory was opened in 1904; it consists of the castle-like headhouse, a drill hall, an operations maintenance shop, and a garage. The building housed some form of the Massachusetts National Guard for most of its history, but was closed by the state in 2003.

Since then, the state has put the building up for auction at various times, as previously reported by The Standard Times, but none was successful.

WREI’s proposal would redevelop the headhouse into nine apartments, according to White: two studios, three one-bedrooms, three two-bedroom, and one three-bedroom.

Winter said rent would range from $1,000 to $2,100 per month based on their size.

The drill hall and operations maintenance building would be transformed into self-storage facilities. The proposal states “the drill hall’s dimensions work very well for this adaptive re-use while allowing for the preservation of the historical exterior.”

Since the proposal was submitted, however, Winter has said, “we’ll be studying very hard during the due diligence whether self storage is in fact going to work.”

Due diligence is a 90-day period where the developer is allowed to enter the site and determine the feasibility of the plans.

Winter said during that time they will decide if the building can structurally handle the weight incurred by storage units and if the site is identifiable enough to draw in customers.

If WREI decides to move forward with the storage units, Winter said the two buildings would house approximately 270.

The garage would be used for parking for armory residents.

Since the headhouse was vacated in 2003, it has experienced significant damage to the interior, most of which was caused by a fire in 2009.

“Water has been soaking the wooden structure for over 10 years,” said White, “and that’s led to pretty significant concerns as to whether (we’re) going to be able to keep the structure or do a total gut rehab.”

Winter said they submitted a total budget of $8.7 million, but now says “we’re going to spend more than that by a pretty handsome margin based on what we’ve learned about the conditions of the building.”

When asked why he decided to take on the project, Winter, whose resume includes the renovation of the Prudential Center in Boston, said, “I think it’s a beautiful historic building and I like working on challenging projects; this project presents more than its fair share of challenges.”

Winter won’t be taking on those challenges alone, Cruz Companies will act as the construction manager, DBVW Architects of Providence as the preservation architect, and various others will act as engineers and consultants for the project.

John Cruz, the president of Cruz Companies, said, “for me this was a golden opportunity to start the base of the construction division in the New Bedford area.”

They plan to open up a construction office in New Bedford as part of a larger plan for the company to do more in the Southeastern region of the state, said Cruz.

He also explained that he loves working on historical buildings.“I particularly think that one of the reasons New Bedford is going to make a comeback is because it’s a city that hasn’t lost its historic fabric.”

The armory project will require working with the city and state to receive historic preservation, new market, and housing development incentive program tax credits, according to White.

White’s Permitting Attorney, John A. Markey Jr. explained it’s still too early to know what city departments will be involved in the process, but it could possibly include the Historical Commission, Zoning Board of Appeals, Planning Board, and City Council.

Markey said going forward they want to work closely with the mayor, City Council and state legislators.

State Sen. Mark Montigny has supported the redevelopment of the armory in the past and “is encouraged by the most recent developer’s interest,” according to spokesperson Audra Riding.

Mayor Jon Mitchell said WREI’s proposal is “good news” in a statement and that the armory “is an architecturally significant building that holds an important place in the city’s history.”

“I also appreciate the information Winter Real Estate has provided to city staff about their plans for the armory,” said Mitchell, “and we look forward to working more with them as the project progresses.”

If everything goes according to WREI’s proposal, the redevelopment of the armory could be completed as early as February 2021.

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.

Shimmer opens in downtown New Bedford

By The Standard-Times

A new addition to the downtown boutique shopping scene is open at 187 Union St. Shimmer focuses on “clean and ethical beauty brands, carrying a variety of cosmetic, personal and home care products,” according to a news release.

The store is open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday.

Katherine Lowe, proprietor, has roots in the downtown community. Her first job was working in the admissions department of the New Bedford Whaling Museum, which was run by her mother for almost 20-years. “Working at the admissions desk taught me everything I know about customer service, and as the epicenter of downtown, it gave me the opportunity to learn about the downtown community,” she said in a statement.

“I’ve always known I wanted to open my own boutique downtown and the time was finally right to venture out on my own,” says Lowe.

The curated collection ranges from organic bath salts to non-toxic mascara, and from non-toxic detergent to safe and reef-friendly sunblock. Shoppers can find brands that are health-conscious and environmentally-friendly, such as Clove + Hallow, Ginger June Candle Company, Lola Jane Naturals, and The Laundress, to name a few, according to a release.

“When my family was making the switch to clean products, we found it very difficult to distinguish between what was actually safe for use and what was simply being marketed as safe. I wanted to create a place where you knew all of the brands were clean and offered a variety of products. Switching to a clean laundry detergent is just as important as switching to clean makeup or skincare.”

For more information, visit www.shopshimmerbeauty.com.

Original story here.

Destination: NBAM – A plan to expand the New Bedford Art Museum is taking it step by step – to the second floor

Buried in a huge list of funding awards released two weeks ago as part of the Massachusetts Cultural Council’s Cultural Facilities Fund program is a relatively small entry of $30,000 to the New Bedford Art Museum/Artworks.

Compared to the $120,000 awarded the Whaling Museum, and the $180,000 for the creation of Abolitionist Row Park, also in New Bedford, the amount may seem small. But it represents a grand vision for the museum and the beginning of something big for New Bedford.

The vision quest for NBAM/Artworks is nothing less than turning the little museum that could into a bona-fide destination in the state and region.

Not that the art museum isn’t already in one sense. Indeed, for a facility its size, NBAM punches far above its weight. Signature special shows like the Audubon exhibit a few years back and the hugely popular Peter Souza exhibit of Obama-era photographs, still on display, have brought distinction — and thousands of patrons — to NBAM and the city.

Those marquee shows are the icing on the cake. Year after year, NBAM curates exhibits of local artists that are thematically interesting, visually arresting and sometimes socially provocative. To say nothing of the myriad other special events held at the museum – and the significant role ArtWorks plays in youth arts development.

But to truly fulfill its original mission and decisively enter the top tier of regional art museums, NBAM needs to grow. Specifically, it needs room to grow – and the $30,000 matching grant, as well as monies also recently awarded in city CPA funds, is a down payment toward making that a reality.

The vision, then, is this: to substantially renovate the museum and enlarge its footprint by annexing the second floor of its home at 608 Pleasant Street. Currently it houses offices not associated with NBAM.

That plan has been the focus of a sub-committee of the museum’s Board of Directors for some time – and is now gaining real traction and coming tantalizing into focus.

45 minutes to an hour…

AHA! Director Lee Heald is a member of the museum sub-committee, which is chaired by John Howland. She explains that in order to bring any cultural institution up to destination status, patrons should expect to spend at least 45 minutes to an hour at the location. Given the size of NBAM now, it falls short of that benchmark right now.

Of course, we know that whatever space limitations NBAM copes with, it certainly makes up for in quality, ingenuity and spirit. But still, to enable it to become what it needs to be for the city and region, it needs to grow. In fact, it’s actually part NBAM’s founding mission statement.

The City of New Bedford owns an extraordinary collection of art from the city’s gilded age onward. Much of it dates back to the mid-1800s. The original vision for the art museum saw it as a venue to bring this collection to the public.

An expanded NBAM would fulfill that vision and, according to Heald, realize the promise of public art as defined all those years ago. Gaining a second floor would allow room for the creation of a “City Gallery” in the space.

“Public art back in the 1870s meant exposing the public to art,” she says. “It was deemed as something important for the citizenry to experience.”

In the 19th annual report of the Trustees of the Free Public Library, which by default became a repository of art, it was written in 1871, “We have long cherished the hope, that in some future time, and that one not very far distant, a gallery of pictures, gathered through the enlightened munificence of the friends of art in our city, would be connected with our Public Library.

“The teachings of true art purify the taste, chasten and elevate the imagination, and give wealth and power of expression to the understanding, and afford to those who can have access to the works of genius, a pleasure that can never be exhausted and that never leaves a sting behind.”

One hundred and fifty years after the collection first began to be acquired by the city, it’s a goal of the committee working to expand NBAM to finally make that happen.

Upstairs/Downstairs at 608

Much progress has already been made on plans to expand NBAM. Much work – and fund-raising – remains left to do.

The $30,000 award from MCC, administered in conjunction with MassDevelopment, is a matching grant. No other state monies can count towards matching the $30,000, so the committee is seeking private and local public donations.

Heald says the City of New Bedford has been enormously supportive of the museum, and private donors have contributed, too. A campaign to reach or exceed their goal is underway.

Already, the architecture firm 3SIX0 in Providence has drawn up concept plans for an expanded museum. It sees the upstairs as gallery space devoted to New Bedford’s treasures. It builds upon the building’s unique character by opening up the two story high space in the center of the building, connecting it to the downstairs.

It also takes advantage of the beautiful windows on the second floor, which overlook Pleasant and William Streets. Naturally, infrastructure upgrades such as a new stairway and an improved elevator service are part of the plan.

Together with City Hall and the New Bedford Free Public Library, the buildings will form a graceful public square. Each historic building will enhance the other.

Besides fundraising, next on the agenda is using the grant money to hire key personnel to create an operational plan for an expanded art museum that’s financially sustainable into the future.

New Bedford’s larger role in MA arts

The effort to create a destination New Bedford Art Museum isn’t an accident of chance. It’s a reflection of the city’s reputation as a leader in arts and culture. Heald notes that the Massachusetts Cultural Council reached out to the museum about its expansion plans to learn more ahead of the Cultural Facilities funding decision.

The MCC is targeting the city in other ways, too. On Thursday, June 13, the council will hold a pop-up event in conjunction with AHA! New Bedford day and night. It will take place from 10 a.m. to noon at the New Bedford Port Society Mariner’s Home and Seamen’s Bethel on Johnny Cake Hill.

Carmen Plazas of MCC writes that they hold, “community pop-ups to reach new partners and grantees with its range of grant programs, services, and initiatives.” Individual artists as well as groups and organizations are welcome to come and learn how the council can assist them.

The trend-line is clear: Massachusetts is investing in New Bedford arts and culture as never before. And part of that investment is turning the city’s art museum into a true destination.

The New Bedford Art Museum, and ArtWorks, which merged in 2014, have brought distinction to the city. The museum is vibrant, innovative and of-the-moment. It’s been driven – and still is – by remarkable staff and dedicated volunteers.

It’s also made a big impact in the city’s rise to creative prominence. With a large vision that embraces the city’s unique history, it promises to leave an even larger footprint on its future.

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

It’s time for ‘Summer Winds,’ the new art exhibition soaring into New Bedford

“The summer wind came blowin’ in from across the sea

It lingered there, to touch your hair and walk with me

All summer long we sang a song and then we strolled that golden sand

Two sweethearts and the summer wind”

– as sung by Frank Sinatra

Okay — “Summer Wind” by Ol’ Blue Eyes has little to do thematically with “Summer Winds” the kinetic outdoor public art installation coming to Custom House Square Park this July 1.

But there was simply no way State of the Arts was going to miss an opportunity to tip a fedora to the original Chairman of the Board.

The Chairman of the new Board, of DATMA — the Massachusetts Design Art and Technology Institute — is Roger Mandle. And it’s hard to imagine that he lacks any of the romance Sinatra brought to the game of life since he and his associates are introducing the wild concept of DATMA and “Summer Winds” to New Bedford and SouthCoast.

DATMA is defined as a non-collecting “museum” dedicated to large-scale, site-specific art installations. It was founded in 2016 with a diverse, 16-member board of trustees led by Mandle.

His bio states that he has 40 years of experience in building museums around the world and is a major contributor to the STEM to STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Art and Math) education initiative championed by the Rhode Island School of Design (RISD), where he served as president.

If you need some context regarding what, exactly, a non-collecting “museum” dedicated to large-scale, site specific art installations actually is, you’ve come to the right place. Actually, let’s travel back to another time and place to explore the subject…

The Gates & “Summer Winds”

Back in 2005, New York City was still a little shell-shocked from the 9/11 attack on the World Trade Center. It was a city that was still licking its wounds.

In the middle of winter, from Feb. 12 through Feb. 27 of that year, public art helped facilitate some desperately needed healing in a way that most initially thought improbable or even downright ludicrous.

Just over 7,000 deep saffron-colored nylon fabric panels were hung from ‘gates’ across 23 miles of pathway in Central Park. That’s it. Just colored fabric floating gently in the breeze

The world-renowned artists Christo Yavacheff and Jeanne-Claude, known jointly as Christo and Jeanne-Claude, were behind The Gates, as the exhibit was officially called. Indeed, they had worked for decades to bring the project to Manhattan.

Kudos must be given to Michael Bloomberg, mayor at the time, for facilitating the project on behalf of the city (with the vigorous support of Deputy Mayor Patricia Harris). All billionaires aren’t created equally; some missteps aside, he was generally enlightened regarding the arts – and the value of the arts to New York City. Millions came to visit The Gates.

For everyone who experienced the grace and sense of tranquility this public art project brought to a city that really needed it — this writer included, who was living in New York at the time — The Gates will always represent a special moment in time.

The Gates alludes to the tradition of Japanese torii gates, traditionally constructed at the entrance to Shinto shrines. In 2005, people reclaimed a measure of faith … through a shared public art experience.

So, that’s the context of site-specific public art exhibition. Thankfully, many years away from 9/11, and in New Bedford, it’s a future written on the wind we’re embracing and making a shared creative space for in 2019. But like The Gates, it promises to be no less meaningful.

Silver Current Over Custom House Square Park

“Summer Winds” is a visionary project for the city, signifying a new vision of the city. Like The Gates, it will be a visual representation of a moment in time at precisely the right moment in a city’s history.

In this case, that moment is when New Bedford prepares to host the nation’s first attempt to launch a viable offshore wind energy industry. And for this moment, DATMA has recruited another world-renowned artist, Patrick Shearn.

Patrick Shearn and his outfit, Poetic Kinetics, are based out of Los Angeles. But they’ll be heading east to install “Silver Current” over Custom House Square Park this summer. In fact, Patrick has already been in New Bedford to prepare for this large-scale, outdoor public art exhibition that will bring distinction to the city.

“Silver Current” will be an 8,000-square foot kinetic net sculpture floating in the sky above the park from July 1 to Sept. 30 this year.

Press material explains that, “made out of ultra-lightweight metalized film, ‘Silver Current’ is the latest of the artist’s series of ‘Skynets’ that move and shimmer with the wind, from 15 feet off the ground to 115 feet in the air.

“The customized piece is comprised of approximately 5,200 linear feet of rope, 200 hand-tied technical knots, and approximately 50,000 streamers of holographic silver film on a monofilament net, forming an iridescent wind wave form. Harnessing available wind, the artwork rises high into the sky and gently cascades down again, undulating in a display that is striking from a distance and intimately immersive up close.”

“Silver Current” is a statement piece that will visualize the State of the Arts in New Bedford Now — and the state of the city itself. A city that’s embracing the future and unafraid to think large.

The larger “Summer Winds” collaborative effort will entwine many aspects of the city’s indigenous arts and culture. From kite flying — with a nod to New Bedford’s growing Guatemalan community, in which Festival Tipico de Guatemala is part of its heritage — to the annual Seaport Cultural District Artwalk outdoor sculpture exhibit, which this year has adopted the theme of “wind.”

And here’s the bottom line — even though it’s one that’s going to be floating above the horizon: thousands will experience this city because of all this effort. That’s the power of arts and culture; to bring a community and region together for a unique shared experience.

It happened in 2005 in Central Park. It will happen this summer in New Bedford.

And it will be a moment to seize and hold on to … before it’s gone with the wind.

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

New Bedford launches online dashboard, NBCompass

The dashboard measures three major categories: Permits and Licensing, Economic Indicators, and Roadways and Public Spaces, allowing residents to view the number of various licenses pulled, trends in employment and growth, roadways repaired, and more. More metrics will continue to be added that are relevant to residents and visitors, and NBCompass lays the foundation for future data reporting, according to the release.

Annual year-end performance management reports are also available through NBCompass.

The dashboard is available at www.newbedford-ma.gov/nbcompass/.

New Bedford’s finance team has also achieved notable landmarks this year. The City was awarded the Distinguished Budget Presentation Award (2018), for the third consecutive year, for its current budget by the Government Finance Officers Association (GFOA). Only 26 Massachusetts municipalities and districts, and 1,576 entities nationwide, received the award in 2017. Additionally, Standard & Poor’s Rating Service (S&P) reaffirmed New Bedford’s AA- bond rating, and the City has maintained the highest bond rating it has achieved in at least the last forty years. The AA- rating was first awarded to New Bedford in January 2014, and the reaffirmation of the rating puts New Bedford again among the top half of all issuers of municipal debt in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts.

New Bedford maintains favorable bond rating

BCC receives $200K for offshore wind training

Offshore wind training programs just got a boost in the SouthCoast. Vineyard Wind and the Massachusetts Clean Energy Center, on behalf of the Baker-Polito administration, announced six recipients of offshore wind workplace training grants at a news conference on Friday.

Recipients of the over $720,0000 in grants included Bristol Community College, Cape Cod Community College, Massachusetts Maritime Academy, UMass Amherst, Adult Continuing Education- Martha’s Vineyard, and Pile Drivers and Divers Local 56 trade union.

“As we prepare for the construction and installation of offshore wind projects, these grants will help establish a network of critical training programs in the Commonwealth to support local workers as they build this new frontier for American energy,” said Gov. Charlie Baker in a statement.

Speakers at the city’s Marine Commerce Terminal included politicians and representatives from MassCEC and Vineyard Wind, whose speeches all touched on their desire to make Massachusetts the epicenter of the offshore wind industry.

“This is an effort that started a while ago,” said MassCEC CEO Stephen Pike, “and the entire focus of Mass CEC over the last 10 years in terms of offshore wind is to ensure that we make New Bedford, Fall River, Somerset, and the Cape and the islands really the focal point for the industry in the United States.”

Council approves $1.5 million for 17 Community Preservation Act projects

Posted May 12, 2019 at 5:10 PM
Updated at 9:39 AM

City Council voted to fund 17 Community Preservation Act projects last week, totaling $1.5 million.

The funding included $75,000 for the Sgt. Sean Gannon Memorial Playground at Campbell Elementary and $350,000 for the Capitol Theater restoration, which would help transform the 1920 theater into affordable artist-based housing with a community welfare center.

Two of the projects that were being funded were called into question by Councilor-at-Large Naomi Carney at Thursday’s meeting: $250,000 for the rehabilitation of the Butler Flats Light and $40,000 for a house at 29 Seventh St.

“Personally, I do have a problem when community preservation money goes to private individuals,” said Carney. “Not that their projects aren’t worthy.”

Carney asked the council to vote to cut the projects from the funding order.