International Seafood Buyers Tour New Bedford

Over 45 international seafood buyers, mainly from Europe and Asia, participating in the 2007 International Boston Seafood Show, toured New Bedford to meet with some of the area’s leading seafood companies. With the group were members of the European seafood press and foreign trade representatives from the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

The International Boston Seafood Show attracts top-tier buyers and sellers of the seafood industry from around the world with 88% of the visitors having purchasing authority, 85% of the visitors planning to return, and 76% of the visitors planning to make purchases as a result of attending IBSS.

The touring group visited the Whaling City Seafood Auction and four New Bedford seafood companies before attending a luncheon at the New Bedford Whaling Museum featuring New Bedford Mayor Scott W. Lang. The luncheon was organized and sponsored by the International Trade Assistance Center and the New Bedford Economic Development Council.

The third annual visit was sponsored by Food Export USA, a non-profit export promotion organization, specifically to promote northeastern U.S. seafood exports and organized by the Massachusetts Export Center, part of the state’s Small Business Development Center Network and the New Bedford Harbor Development Commission. The Export Center provides a broad range of services to Massachusetts exporters and operates a New Bedford office.

“We look forward to our seafood industry doing more business with your companies, whether it be selling or processing. We will do everything to make doing business with New Bedford attractive and lucrative.” Mayor Lang told the group.

The New Bedford seafood industry which supports scores of working families has a tremendous impact on the city’s economy. The fishing industry, under severe restrictions, has an impact of $1.6 billion.

“I was very surprised that countries from all over the world and states like Florida, Maine, and Washington had a presence, but there was nothing to represent Massachusetts. We are missing out on an important opportunity. Meeting with the delegation here in New Bedford is one step, but we need to do more.”

Mr. Morrissey said the city of New Bedford is just beginning to work with partners like the Massachusetts Department of agriculture, Massachusetts Export Center, Massachusetts Office of Business Development, Food Export USA, Seafood Council, and the International Trade Association Center to build a greater presence for New Bedford in the international markets.

Other organizations supporting the visit include the New Bedford Area Chamber of Commerce, the Massachusetts Department of Agricultural Resources, and the Bristol County Convention & Visitors Bureau.

BCC Pitches Expansion Plan for New Bedford Campus

By David Kibbe
Standard-Times Staff Writer

BOSTON — Bristol Community College is hoping to at least double its student enrollment in New Bedford next year from 1,200 to 2,400 students under a $1.2 million plan for more classroom space that BCC President John J. Sbrega, Mayor Scott W. Lang and legislators pitched to House Speaker Salvatore DiMasi yesterday.

The city and community college are looking for state financial support to lease space in another building downtown, in addition to the 8,000 square feet BCC already leases at the Star Store.

The exact location and size of the expansion hasn’t been finalized, but Mr. Sbrega said it could be as much as 30,000 additional square feet. Mr. Sbrega said it would be within several blocks of the Star Store, where the college would continue to teach classes, and could be ready by 2008.

“It’s a very important project,” Mr. Sbrega said yesterday, after addressing a Higher Education Committee hearing on community college issues. “We really need it.”

Long-term, the Fall River-based BCC and the city will seek state bonding to open a permanent New Bedford campus, but it could take years to complete.

Mr. Sbrega, Mayor Lang, Executive Director of the New Bedford Economic Development Council Matthew Morrissey, the city’s legislative delegation and BCC officials met with Mr. DiMasi in his Statehouse office.

Most of the group also saw Rep. Robert DeLeo, D-Winthrop, the chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee.
While the House leaders offer no commitments, the New Bedford delegation said it was receptive to the idea. The funding would come either from money in the state budget or capital bonding.

“The most important thing was to try to make a strong presentation, to make a full-court press that this was something we were serious about, and the fact that this was an unmet need,” said Rep. Robert M. Koczera, D-New Bedford. “This is a way for our region to pull ourselves up by its own bootstraps.”

The House Ways and Means Committee will unveil its budget proposal in April. The final state budget is due by July 1.
Rep. Antonio F.D. Cabral, D-New Bedford, said the purpose of the meetings was “to make them aware of the need we have in terms of education, economic development and workforce development.”

“If a company is looking to move into New Bedford, one of the issues they look at is the level of skill, the level of education the work force has,” Rep. Cabral said.

Rep. Stephen R. Canessa, D-New Bedford, and Rep. John F. Quinn, D-Dartmouth, who represents part of the city, also attended the meetings.

Mayor Lang pledged to seek a downtown BCC campus in his State of the City speech earlier this month.
Mr. Lang said yesterday that a greater BCC presence was needed to help people attain their high school equivalency degrees and get fast vocational training to meet the demands of an employer, besides offering college degrees.
He said it also would spur economic development through downtown construction and make the city more inviting to new residents and visitors.

“I intend to have BCC have a very close alliance with our public school system in New Bedford, so we have the ability to have students who for whatever reason are not on that graduation track enroll at BCC, get back on board, and teach them vocational skills and make them productive members of our society,” Mayor Lang said.

If the money is approved, it could help BCC accept more students in programs that are booked up, including nursing, which has 1,000 applicants for 96 slots.

“At the other end of the spectrum, the hospitals and caregivers are all crying for nurses,” Mr. Sbrega said.
The push for a greater BCC presence in downtown New Bedford comes as Gov. Deval Patrick and state legislators are making higher education a priority. Later this session, a higher education reorganization and an aggressive, statewide construction and modernization plan are expected to be announced by Statehouse leaders.

Mr. Sbrega, speaking before the Higher Education Committee, said SouthCoast needs a renewed emphasis on education. Committee member Rep. David Sullivan, D-Fall River, agreed, saying manufacturing jobs are on the decline.

Mr. Sbrega also called for an advisory group to coordinate the state’s educational system, all the way from elementary school through college. However, he said it is crucial to retain local control of community colleges.

“The literacy levels in Southeastern Massachusetts and the educational attainment levels in Southeastern Massachusetts are very low,” Mr. Sbrega said. “We are attracting population into the region, but the literacy and educational attainment levels are low. I take that personally. It’s my job to fix that.”

Publication date: March 23, 2007

Cork Enlivens Downtown

Andrew T. Gallagher, Standard-Times special. Alicia Racine carries an order of Lobster Trio to a table in the downstairs lounge of Cork, the new wine and tapas bar in downtown New Bedford.

New Wine and Tapas Bar Enlivens New Bedford’s Downtown
Cork, a Wine and Tapas Bar, Offers a New Way to Socialize in Downtown New Bedford
By Jennette Barnes, Standard-Times Staff Writer

Step into Cork, New Bedford’s first wine and tapas bar.

Inside, the eye glides smoothly over dark wood and exposed stone walls.

Other nightspots hang their decorating schemes on colored pendant lights over the bar. Not here. Cork has the lights — in red — but they accent a richly designed room.

Opened three months ago in the newly renovated Joseph Taber building at 90 Front St., opposite the downtown waterfront, the lounge and bar occupy the basement and first floor.

A second-floor condo will eventually be used for private functions under the name Celia’s, after Celia Tommaselli, who owned the condo briefly after Peter DeWalt renovated the building. Mr. DeWalt continues to live on the third and fourth floors.

Right now, Celia’s has no liquor license and doubles as food preparation space and an office for Cork owner Richard Cardoza.

The first floor houses the main bar, where private tables are arranged alongside a long, bar-height communal table meant for mingling. Each place is set with an oversized wine glass, a tumbler for water, and heavy silverware rolled in a casual white cloth napkin.

Servers present an 18-page wine list, along with a smaller tapas menu of upscale hot and cold appetizers. As the menu says, tapas is “small plates of creative food.”

Trendy in cities, American tapas was borrowed from the Spanish tradition of gathering at bars to enjoy wine and small portions of food a few hours before a late dinner.

Dishes offered at the New Bedford tapas bar include marinated olives, tuna tartar with wasabi, braised beef with sherry and garlic, and a gourmet cheese plate. Food prices run from $3.50 into the teens.

About 200 wines are available by the bottle, and some by the glass. Glasses start at $4 and bottles around $18. Connoisseurs will find plenty to choose from, too, including the 1990 Chateau LaTour Pauillac for $625.

Since wine and spirits are Mr. Cardoza’s business — he owns three liquor stores — a bar with a vast selection of wines was his initial idea for the 170-year-old stone building sometimes called the “vine building” for the mass of ivy that covered it before the renovation.

The idea for tapas came later.

“What we’re trying to offer is a different style of dining that’s more about tastings than a full, sit-down meal,” he says.

Guests order wine and cocktails first, then plates of tapas to share. Everything is served on stark, square white plates, and servers bring each person a clean plate to make sharing easier.

Mr. Cardoza hopes to create an atmosphere unlike a bar or restaurant. When people eat at a restaurant, they expect to leave shortly after the meal. In a bar they can linger, but they have trouble finding quality snacks to accompany a drink.

Hence, the tapas bar. And hence Mr. Cardoza’s mantra of late: “It’s more fun to eat in a bar than to drink in a restaurant.”

On a recent Thursday night, Cork was starting to come alive by 6 p.m., an hour after opening time. Seats at the bar filled up, and Rep. Antonio Cabral stopped by to see and be seen.

The basement lounge, which was carved out of the earth by Mr. DeWalt’s renovation crew, is a shadowy, intimate room of tables and upholstered seating. It offers all the wines and cocktails of the main bar, with an abbreviated food menu.

Cork offers occasional special events, such as a five-course wine and tapas tasting, a special Valentine’s dinner with a five-course prix fixe menu, and a “night out with the girls.”

Judi Page, 53, an insurance agent who lives in the South End, has visited Cork four times. When it first opened, she would look into the softly lit windows each evening as she drove home from work on Route 18.

Finally she tried the new bar.

“I love it,” she said. “It’s really pretty, really nice. I’m glad the city did this. We need more like this.”

Cork sits a few steps away from two much older bars, the Cultivator Shoals on Front Street and the National Club on Union Street. The opening of the new bar, along with the planned demolition of the Cultivator for condominiums, signals the continuing transformation of that part of the city’s historic district.

Two other nearby bars have changed hands and gone upscale in the last few years, but Ms. Page said the area still makes some visitors uncomfortable because of rough characters hanging out outside some bars.

Tom Bianda and Paula Cabral, a Somerset couple in their 50s, normally go to Providence to socialize but have fallen in love with Cork, visiting eight or 10 times since it opened.

Aside from Adega, the Portuguese restaurant in Goulart Square, New Bedford hasn’t seen the opening of a new upscale eatery in “ages,” Mr. Bianda said.

“The bartender is very friendly,” Ms. Cabral said. “They’re very nice people. They make you want to come back.”

On-street parking can be a challenge, they said, but the Elm Street garage — usually free at night — is a few blocks away at the corner of North Second Street, and Cork offers valet service at the foot of Rose Alley, the small street that runs down from North Water Street.

Contact Jennette Barnes at or (508) 979-4446.
Date of Publication: March 08, 2007

New Bedford Makes it to Final Round in National Wind Test Blade Facility Site Selection

Patrick Offers Update on New Bedford sweep
State in Final Round for U.S. Turbine Testing Facility

Massachusetts and Texas are battling for a federally backed wind blade test facility, Energy and Environmental Affairs Secretary Ian Bowles said he learned today.

The two states were among six who applied to Washington, D.C., but Bush administration Secretary of Energy Samuel Bodman said in a meeting with Gov. Deval Patrick this morning that the choices had been winnowed, Bowles told legislators this afternoon adding that the facility offered “a chance for us to position ourselves as a leader in renewable energy.”

New Bedford is one of the Massachusetts sites considered for the test facility.

Mayor Scott Lang said, “This is very good news for the city. It moves us closer being selected for the wind test blade facility and one step forward in building our economy around jobs in emerging sectors like the alternative energy industry.”
Boston is the other Massachusetts site being considered.

For background on this story, see our January newsletter:  at City Builds Toward Alternative Energy Sector for Job Creation

A Vision for Short Sea Shipping

JOHN SLADEWSKI/The Standard-Times Kristin Decas, executive director of the city’s Harbor Development Commission, says State Pier could be an ideal spot to develop the short sea shipping industry in New Bedford.

New Shipping Method Could Bring $120 Million and Jobs
Serving as Freight Transfer Point Could Prove a Boon to New Bedford
By Becky W. Evans, Standard-Times Staff Writer

Shipments of Florida oranges and New Bedford scallops would soon move from the road to the sea if a new mode of shipping domestic goods takes hold.

Under the concept, known as short sea shipping, produce, seafood, timber and other domestic goods would be transported along the East Coast by boat instead of truck, reducing traffic along the Interstate 95 corridor.

Ships would move up and down the Atlantic coast, carrying goods between Florida and Massachusetts. Trucks would meet the vessels in port, load the goods and deliver them to short-haul destinations.

Advocates of short sea shipping say moving freight along the coast will reduce congestion on the nation’s overburdened highways and rail lines. Other benefits may include reducing air pollution, preserving open space, lowering shipping costs and easing pressure on aging highway infrastructure.

Making New Bedford a short sea shipping hub would stimulate economic growth and bring jobs to the region, said Kristin Decas, the new executive director of the city’s Harbor Development Commission.

“It looks promising,” she said. “It could really work for us.”

Short sea shipping would be a “major harbor-front economic development engine” for the Port of New Bedford, Mayor Scott W. Lang said in a prepared statement.

It would “grow and diversify” the port and “enhance the markets for our fishing industry,” he said.

The estimated economic impact of developing short sea shipping operations in New Bedford and Fall River could be as high as $120 million, according to a study prepared Reeve & Associates, Yarmouthport consulting firm.

The study, funded by the Massachusetts Department of Business and Technology and Seaport Advisory Council, estimates that short sea shipping could create up to 800 jobs in and around Bristol County.

Short sea shipping could attract manufacturing plants to New Bedford, bringing much-needed jobs to SouthCoast, said Ms. Decas, who formerly worked as the council’s deputy director and program manager.

“The system would support industry here in Massachusetts and New England,” said Richard Armstrong, executive secretary and director of port development for the council.

Pierre Bernier, manager of shipping operations and logistics for Maritime International, said the New Bedford company stands to benefit from short sea shipping.

“We would like to participate in the loading and unloading of vessels,” Mr. Bernier said.

In addition, the company could store goods in its cold storage warehouses prior to shipping, he said.

Paul Buckley, CEO of Colonial Trucking in Brockton, said he would welcome the opportunity for his trucks to deliver goods from New Bedford to short-haul destinations around New England.

“We’d be interested in doing something like that,” he said.

The company currently trucks general commodities from New England to New York and New Jersey and back.

Sending the commodities to New York by vessel rather than truck would be too costly and time consuming, Mr. Buckley said.

“It’s too short of a haul,” he said.
Short sea shipping makes better sense for longer hauls, such as from New England to Virginia and farther south, he said.

Ms. Decas agreed.

She pointed to a second study by Reeve & Associates, which found that short sea shipping routes between New Bedford and Jacksonville, Fla., were more cost-effective than those between New Bedford and Bayonne, New Jersey.

Given the study’s results, Ms. Decas is working hard to woo potential port partners in Florida. In April, she will attend a short sea shipping conference in Orlando.

She predicted that New Bedford could be sending and receiving goods to and from Port Canaveral or another Florida port two years from now.

Goods would be transported on articulated tug barges of no more than 400 feet in length. Each vessel would carry 140 trailers.

Ms. Decas said she would be happy if New Bedford saw three to four short sea shipping barges per month.

“One to two per week would be amazing,” she said.

To avoid traffic congestion, Ms. Decas said trucks could move trailers off the barges and out of New Bedford late at night. To minimize local air pollution, the trucks could run on biodiesel or other alternative fuels, she said.

The study warns that “New Bedford’s current cargo facilities in terms of berth and yard capacity need to be improved to effectively support a short-sea service.”

In the long-term, reconstruction or relocation of the Route 6 bridge might be necessary if the North Terminal is developed as a berth for short sea shipping vessels, which require a paved ramp so trailers can roll on and off them.

Ms. Decas said she is confident that State Pier can handle the short sea shipping traffic with some structural improvements, a few of which are currently underway.

“Ultimately, what I would like to see happen is for New Bedford to step up State Pier into a nice state-of-the-art terminal for mixed use,” she said.

While the use of State Pier means there would be no need to change the Route 6 bridge, Ms. Decas said a haul road would have to be constructed for trucks to better access Route 195 from the pier.

Date of Publication: February 25, 2007

Another High Tech Success Story for New Bedford

It’s High Tech…And It’s New Bedford
By Jack Spillane, Standard-Times Writer

New Bedford. They don’t do high tech there, it’s a fishing town. And a murder capital. You know. The Foxy Lady, Puzzles Lounge, that kind of stuff.

That may be the view of this great city in the green rooms of Boston’s “all crime, all the time” TV stations, but it’s not the view at the Alverox Products plant in the New Bedford Business Park.

That’s where 180 or so local folks work making some of the most high-tech medical devices and “high reliability” aerospace equipment assembled anywhere in the world.

Alberox, a division of Morgan Advanced Ceramics, has been constructing complex ceramic and metal complex ceramic and metal components in New Bedford for more than 45 years. It’s a clean, well-run plant that general manager Brian Roznoy is justly proud of.

He makes a point of letting you know that the company has two of the important ISO (International Standards Organizational) certifications and a third on the way.

“The markets we’re servicing in medical and aerospace are willing to pay for our value. Because we’re giving them a very high reliability product,” he said.

“Reliability” is techno-talk for a product that can withstand extremes of heat, cold and pressure – the type of stuff you need in a jet craft or one of the CT scanners that doctors use to get a good view of your insides.

Roughly 70 percent of the workers at Morgan are women who perform highly detailed assembly and quality-control tasks – think of a fine jeweler, but one who is making products that could save your life or send you to the moon.

Mr. Roznoy said his company – which has nearly doubled in size since 1996 – has had no problem in recent years getting the quality workforce it needs in New Bedford.

Historically, it had recruited professionals from Greater Boston and the West Coast, but because the SouthCoast’s seaports and ocean inlets are not widely known (like a Cape Cod), the company had occasionally been frustrated looking for talent. So in recent years, Morgan turned to the local state school and was pleasantly surprised.

“We have had a phenomenal success working with UMass Dartmouth, hiring mechanical engineers from their program,” Mr. Roznoy said.

If a prospective employee actually knows the southernmost part of Massachusetts, it’s not a hard sell at all, said the New Jersey transplant.

“When they come here and see the area, they kind of fall in love. It’s one of the better kept secrets,” he said.

The working-class folks of the industrial-era cities of New Bedford and Fall River have long been a plus, according to Mr. Roznoy, with many Alberox families sending their second-and third-generation members to labor in the plant.

It’s an extremely dedicated workforce,” he said, adding that the company is running a very successful ESL program.

Most of our employees are cross-trained, which means they have the capability to do multiple jobs. It makes it more interesting for them, it makes them more valuable for us,” he said.

Statewide headlines told us last week that Massachusetts secondary cities – the old working-class towns of New Bedford, Brockton, Lawrence – are falling behind. The places where immigrants crowd the tenements, and where the underclass struggles to get by, have not shared in the Greater Boston high-tech boom over the last 30 years. MassINC’s development planners are puzzled about why, but are “very determined” to figure it out. Very, very smart people with the Brookings Institution – a big, important Washington think tank – say the answer may be to attract a better-educated workforce to Greater New Bedford. (Fewer than 10 percent of area adults hold bachelor’s degrees.)

Fair enough.

But in time, affluent folks are going to find their way to SouthCoast on their own as its comparatively low-priced real estate and impressive oceanscapes become more widely known.

But not every part of Massachusetts – or any state, for that matter – is ever going to be an affluent suburb. And there ought to be more places like the Alberox Products plant where regular folks “work in a good job for a good wage,” as the cliché goes.

Date of publication: March 2, 2007

New Bedford Selected to Host Prestigious Yacht Cruise Layover

The International Yacht Restoration School (IYRS) of Newport RI announced last week its annual Classic Yacht Cruise schedule–which includes a first–a two night layover in New Bedford Harbor.

Imagine up to 40 historic and pedigree classic wooden yachts sailing into our rich port. The cruise will start in Nantucket on Sunday, August 19, in conjunction with the Opera House Cup. They will sail to Martha’s Vineyard, the Elizabeth Islands and then on to New Bedford on August 22 and 23, before returning to Newport on August 24.

“Given the rich history of New Bedford and the close ties with the Concordia Company, it is appropriate that we visit this city. The inspiring restoration of the historic downtown area reflects the values and philosophy that we espouse at the International Yacht Restoration School”, states Dom Champa, the cruise chairman and Concordia owner.

During the event, participants will race and cruise, taking time out for lectures and historic tours.

“The City of New Bedford is very happy to be selected as a layover in the IYRS
annual cruise. We look forward to hosting the many participants who will visit New Bedford, some for the first time, and who will return in the future,” said Mayor Scott W. Lang. “We are very proud of our harbor and we look forward to the spectacle of these classic watercraft.”

Matthew A. Morrissey, Executive Director of the Economic Development Council said, “The site selection committee was thrilled about our working waterfront and our outstanding fishing fleet.” He added, “We will pursue any opportunity that brings more people to our City and exposes them to its people and richness. From this brief visit, we are confident that the large group will leave astounded by what the City has to offer.”

The world renowned school is devoted to the preservation of maritime skills and historic watercraft. In addition to funding many restoration projects, IYRS offers an accredited two-year program in the restoration and preservation of classic yachts. The program attracts students from all over the world.

“Area attractions and businesses can expect several hundred participants and hundreds of spectators who will see the natural beauty and great sailing conditions we have here,” said Arthur Motta, City Marketing and Tourism director.

Laurie Bullard who helped win the layover and who will work closely with the City to organize the event said, “People are looking at New Bedford like never before.  It’s another great moment for us to be selected for a prestigious cruise and we look forward to the many activities planned for their visit.”

Learn About Resources Available to Help Grow and Strengthen Your Business

Three agencies have come together to demonstrate the resources available to help grow and strengthen your business.

The Greater New Bedford Career Center in partnership with the Massachusetts Office of Business Development, and the New Bedford Economic Development Council will host a Business Resources Presentation to help business owners learn about the many resources that are available to enable participants to better train and develop your workforce.

In addition, you will learn about ways to grow your business with the help of state, local and quasi-public agency programs such as:

* Help in finding qualified employees
* Business Planning opportunities through the Small Business Development Center
* Assistance in getting grant money for worker training
* Direction on loans for working capital, gap financing and equipment purchase

The presentation is free and will be held Tuesday, April 3rd starting with refreshments at 5:00 p.m. at the Career Center on 618 Acushnet Avenue.

Participants should RSVP by Monday, March 26. Contact Vickie Duarte at 508-990-4122 or email Vickie at

The Massachusetts Office of Business Development took the initiative to create the Business Resource Team at the state level to meet the demand of businesses requesting technical assistance to help grow their business, train their workforce, and find out about programs that help increase the bottom line.

The Greater New Bedford Career Center is one of the Massachusetts One Stop Career Centers. The Career Center is a primary link between employers and the regional workforce. The Center’s Business Services unit works with local employers to identify their workforce needs and provide candidates to meet the needs of the employer.

The mission of the New Bedford Economic Development Council is to proactively turn the ideas and hopes of businesses into solid results by offering real services through sales and marketing leadership, loan and incentive programs, technical assistance, and workshops. The NBEDC is also actively involved with city planning and development, and helps businesses take advantage of the growth opportunities the City offers.

New Bedford Demonstrates Strong Financial Position

Moody’s upgrades city to “A” rating based on significant financial improvements

New Bedford – Moody’s Investor Services upgraded the City of New Bedford bond rating to “A3,” marking the first time in 37 years that New Bedford has received an “A” rating. In a report outlining Moody’s opinion, the financial service cited several reasons for the upgrade including, New Bedford’s significantly improved financial position, sizeable tax base, and manageable debt position.

“This is proof positive that New Bedford is moving in the right direction fiscally and in terms of potential future development projects,” said Robert L. Culver, president/CEO of MassDevelopment, a quasi-public bond issuer in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. “Investors and companies review a borrower’s bond rating when deciding whether to invest or locate in a community. Congratulations to New Bedford’s elected officials and business leaders on this important milestone. This upgrade signals strong growth opportunities in this important SouthCoast city.”

Moody’s anticipates that New Bedford’s debt position will remain manageable due in large part to the state funding for school construction projects that Mayor Lang was instrumental in securing. New Bedford’s financial profile is expected to continue to improve based on the conservative budgeting practices currently applied by the financial management team.

“The bond rating increase is a very important indictor to finance houses, allowing the city to offer its bonds to a larger audience of buyers and at better rates–saving the city money.  In addition, the upgrade may be more important to the city as a general indicator of health and forward momentum which appeals to a broader audience of businesses,” said Michael Baldwin, Managing Partner of Baldwin Brothers Investment Advisors, headquartered in Marion.

“I am very proud of the work that has been accomplished by the city’s financial team in bringing fiscal stability and accountability to our city government. Moody’s improved rating is a tremendous demonstration of confidence in the City of New Bedford. The improved bond rating gives the city a lower interest rate when we borrow and lowers the cost of bond insurance rates,” said Mayor Lang of the recently issued bond rating.

The New Bedford Economic Development Council has received nearly a dozen phone calls from developers in response to the report offering congratulations. The upgrade provides another powerful incentive for business to look at opportunities in the city.

City Moves Forward with Fairhaven Mills Redevelopment

City Receives Two Bids for Fairhaven Mills
Plans Call for Retail, Residential Developments
By Aaron Nicodemus, Standard-Times Staff Writers

NEW BEDFORD — The most controversial parcel in the city took a major step toward development yesterday, as bids of $1 million and $200,000 were submitted for the Fairhaven Mills property.

Urban Investments Associates, a Roxbury development group led by Lewis Duane Jackson of Milton, offered to pay $1 million for the 6 acres of city-owned property at the site. Urban Investments offered a plan that echoes Mayor Scott W. Lang’s publicly stated hopes for the site by saving the existing Fairhaven Mills building with a mix of residential and retail uses, and building a hotel, supermarket, commercial office building, market-rate condominiums, two parking garages and a boat house/marina.

Dickinson Development Corp., a Quincy-based development company led by Mark C. Dickinson, offered $200,000 and proposed building a retail complex that would be anchored, most likely, by Home Depot. The plan also calls for another retail building and a restaurant, a mirror of the plan that Home Depot presented in the previous deal. In its proposal, Dickinson said it has purchase agreements with two of the private land owners at the site, neither of whom is John Meldon, who owns the Fairhaven Mills building.
After Mayor Lang had announced the RFP bid, the city had touted that 39 developers had taken out informational packets. By the time the RFPs closed, 49 companies and individuals had taken out packets. Only two offered a proposal.

In its request-for-proposals, the city had estimated its properties to be worth $2.6 million. In the previous proposal, Home Depot offered $10,000 for both parcels.

“Two-hundred thousand is 20 times what we were told we could get before, and $1 million is 100 times more,” Mayor Lang said. “I think this process has shown that the parcels are valuable.”

When asked if he is disappointed that only two developers submitted proposals, Mayor Lang said he is not.

“I saw in these two proposals that an awful lot of developers who showed an interest teamed up to put together these proposals,” he said. “I have heard that a number of developers who looked into Fairhaven Mills are interested in developing other sites throughout the city.”

Called “Whaler’s Landing at Fairhaven Mills,” the Urban Investments plan would be completed in three stages, according to its proposal to the city. The first phase would renovate the existing mill on Coggeshall Street into a mix of residential and retail, and a new commercial office building. Phase two would encompass the hotel, artist live-work space, affordable housing and a parking garage. The third phase would build out market-rate, waterfront condominiums, a boat house and another parking structure.

The proposal says Urban Investments’ “understanding of, and sensitivity to, local issues has contributed to its success.”

According to its proposal, Urban Investments has accomplished several developments, including a mill conversion into offices for Harvard University Law School; a 45-unit mixed income housing development called Lucerne Garden in Boston; and a 74-unit, mixed income housing development called Parmalee Court in the South End of Boston. Mr. Jackson also owns a vacant, one-story former First Federal Bank building on Union Street in New Bedford.

Urban Investments does have some heavy hitting development partners. Samuels & Associates is the retail management company for the proposal; Samuels & Associates has developed the South Bay Center in Dorchester, has developed and sold a $250 million portfolio of shopping centers, and recently completed a sprawling development called Trilogy in Boston’s Fenway neighborhood.

In Dickinson’s proposal, named “Coggeshall Place,” it is made clear that Home Depot is the preferred anchor tenant.

“Given Home Depot’s substantial interest in a New Bedford location, based on prior approvals sought for this site, we will meet with them and discuss their interest in being the anchor tenant,” the Dickinson proposal read.

Dickinson has built two other Home Depots, in Quincy and Reading, and has been designated as the developer for 30 acres of waterfront land in Dover, N.H. According to its proposal, the company has built shopping centers, hotels, office buildings and industrial projects from Florida to Maine. Dickinson’s bid has a significant local tie, as well: Its general contractor for the project is D.W. White Construction of Acushnet.

Perhaps the most notable company not to submit a bid was Berkshire Development LLP, a Springfield developer that had been buying up options on land around the city-owned property.

Berkshire Development had committed to pay as much as $10 million to the private owners, including more than $4 million to John J. Meldon, the owner of Building 4, the largest intact remaining mill.

Berkshire, however, allowed its purchase and sales agreements to lapse two weeks ago. Philip N. Beauregard, the lawyer for Mr. Meldon, said it was because the city had demonstrated bias for preserving the historically-designated mill.

Tim Traynor, a senior vice president with Berkshire, confirmed this week that his company believes the city changed its position in favor of preserving the mill.

“What really would have been more helpful is if we’d gotten some very clear direction from the city,” he said.

Mayor Lang said he “would have loved Berkshire to be involved.”

“It would have been very inappropriate to telegraph what the final disposition (of the RFP process) would be,” Mayor Lang said. “We told everyone it was an open process, open to everyone.”

Berkshire would have preferred the city dealing directly with the controller of the private properties and not go through a separate RFP process, Mr. Traynor said.

The nature of the Fairhaven Mills site — with its environmentally compromised land, proximity to a struggling urban center and numerous separate owners — means that it is only developable as a single parcel that includes both the private and the city properties, he said.

It might make sense to renovate Building 4 at some point in the future, but in order to develop the property now, at least half of Building 4 must be torn down, he said.

“The problem is that as much as the heart wants to preserve these things, the economics just don’t work, he said.

A lawyer for a second private property owner told The Standard-Times this week that after Berkshire decided not to finalize an original purchase offer of more than $2 million for his client’s property, it offered him “significantly less.”

Michael Kehoe, attorney for Felix Petrarca, said normally a property site whose ownership is divided between the public and private sectors is developed when a developer such as Berkshire ties up the private land. The city subsequently sells the developer the municipal property.

Berkshire was frustrated by the city process, Mr. Kehoe said.

“I believe they got the word from above that they weren’t going to get the city land,” he said.

Mr. Petrarca owned a large vacant site between Building 4 and a McDonald’s located on Coggeshall Street.

Also not submitting bids were a number of large development companies, like SBER of Providence and Baltimore; Sperry Van Ness of Little Compton, R.I., and others.

A 23-member evaluation committee, consisting of every City Council member and city department heads, will meet on Feb. 26 at 6:30 p.m. in the third floor meeting room of the New Bedford Public Library to discuss the proposals. The evaluation committee will recommend a winning bid to Mayor Scott W. Lang.

Contact Aaron Nicodemus at
Date of Publication: February 17, 2007 on Page A09