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.
By Kiernan Dunlop
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.
She said CPA funds are meant for things the whole community can enjoy and didn’t “see how the community is going to benefit from the restoration of a lighthouse and a private house.”
Mass Light, a nonprofit formed in 2016 to preserve Butler Flats, acquired the lighthouse from the government in 2017. The CPA funds would go to the stabilization and repair of the base of the lighthouse and the concrete deck, according to Mass Light’s application.
Councilors Joseph Lopes, Hugh Dunn, Dana Rebeiro, and Ian Abreu spoke in favor of funding restoration of the house on Seventh Street because it would “restore the aesthetics of their neighborhood” and “improve the walkability of the city.”
The project at 29 Seventh St. is a residential home in the city’s Abolition Row neighborhood that has been abandoned for years. Through the Attorney General’s Abandoned Housing Initiative, 29 Seventh Street LLC — through Lanagan & Co. — has been granted the rights to fully restore the home, according to its CPA application.
The Federal-style home built around 1807 was once owned by whaling Captain John Congdon.
Ultimately Carney’s motion to cut the items from the funding order failed and the funding for both projects and the other 15 were approved.
The study at Fort Taber is “to create detailed design-bid-build construction bid drawings of the earthen roof to delineate the specific scope of work and cost estimate for repair. These documents will allow us to solicit funding and go out to bid for a professional company to address the structural concerns with the stone fort,” according to the CPA application.
“The earthen roof, referred to as a terreplein, is an interesting feature of the fort. There are three hidden magazine rooms under the mounds on the terreplein, and three structures on top of the terreplein – a lighthouse, a fire control tower, and a search light shed.”
Currently the fort is not accessible to the public because of safety concerns.
By The Standard-Times
Posted Mar 5, 2019 at 12:22 PM
Updated Mar 5, 2019 at 12:22 PM
PHILADELPHIA — Jennifer Smith is returning to her roots: She’s been named the superintendent of New Bedford Whaling National Historical Park.
“Jennifer’s long history with the park and her personal connection to the New Bedford community make her a great fit for this position,” said National Park Service Northeast Region Director Gay Vietzke in a statement. “A New Bedford native, Jennifer was also one of the first park employees. During her 21 years at the park, Jennifer has demonstrated a deep passion for the park’s story and a wide range of critical skills that will serve her well in her new role.”
Smith’s first day with the National Park Service was the day of the park’s dedication on May 17, 1998, said Smith.
“I have watched the park grow into an important and vibrant part of the community. I am eager to continue to collaborate with park and community partners, including the City of New Bedford, to provide increased opportunities to access and explore the park and surrounding historic district.
“The buildings in the park are vital links to the fascinating history of New Bedford. One of my priorities will the ongoing maintenance and preservation of these structures which provide tangible and meaningful connections to the city’s multilayered past.”
Smith, who has been acting superintendent of New Bedford Whaling NHP since April 2018, started with the National Park Service in January 1998 and later became the park’s first seasonal park ranger. She has also served as the park’s chief of Visitor Services, Interpretation and Education, the site manager at Roger Williams National Memorial, and the deputy superintendent of a three-park group that included Blackstone River Valley National Historical Park, New Bedford Whaling National Historical Park, and Roger Williams National Memorial, according to a news release.
Smith has a bachelor’s degree in English literature from the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth and a master’s degree in community planning with a concentration in urban design and historic preservation from the University of Rhode Island.
Smith is an avid birder and lives in New Bedford with her husband, Christian, and their four dogs. They have three grown children and a grandchild who also live in New Bedford.
By Aimee Chiavaroli / email@example.com
Posted Sep 10, 2018 at 5:46 PM
WHALE’s First Baptist Church project was awarded an emergency grant for $75,000 by William Galvin, secretary of state.
Teri Bernert, executive director of the Waterfront Historic Area LeaguE (WHALE), said the organization applied for emergency funding a few weeks ago when it found out more work was needed for the project, and therefore more money.
About a month ago, WHALE learned it would have to change construction plans for the church because of rotting wooden corner posts supporting the steeple, so a crane will have to remove the steeple where it will be stored in the parking lot until repairs are complete.
Bernert has told The Standard-Times that WHALE raised $100,000 through public donations, but the hope was to double that.
The organization reached out to state Sen. Mark Montigny, state Rep. Antonio F.D. Cabral, Mayor Jon Mitchell’s office and the New Bedford Historical Commission who made phone calls to Galvin’s office, Bernert said.
“Without them, we wouldn’t have gotten the funding,” she said.
“First Baptist is an absolute treasure with national significance,” Montigny said in a news release. “Secretary Galvin clearly understands this significance along with the emergency safety hazard presented. The funding we secured today will make sure this historic gem is preserved for generations to come.”
“We’re still a little short, but we’re going to move forward and keep applying for funds and keep working on our capital campaign, but it’s important that we keep the project moving,” Bernert said. The group hopes to complete the exterior before bad weather hits, if possible.
Original story here.
Posted Jul 31, 2018 at 5:54 PM
Experts will give a series of lectures in August about America’s longest painting, “Grand Panorama of a Whaling Voyage ’Round the World,” which is featured in two New Bedford Whaling Museum exhibitions: “A Spectacle in Motion: The Original” and “A Spectacle in Motion: The Experience.”
Chief Curator Christina Connett will speak about panoramas as a popular form of entertainment in the 19th century on Aug. 7 at the Whaling Museum. Michael P. Dyer, the museum’s curator of maritime history, will look at the Grand Panorama through the industrial lens of whaling and maritime culture on Aug. 14 at the Museum. On Aug. 28, Akeia Benard, curator of social history, will show how the painting reveals New Bedford as a global cosmopolitan hub with connections to the rest of the world through the whaling industry.
All lectures begin at 7 p.m., preceded by receptions at 6. The cost to attend is $10 for museum members and $15 for nonmembers. Series tickets cost $25 for members, $40 for nonmembers. Tickets are available at whalingmuseum.com or by calling 508-997-0046.
In 2017, the museum completed the conservation of the 1,275-foot-long “Grand Panorama of a Whaling Voyage ’Round the World,” painted in 1848 by Benjamin Russell and Caleb Purrington. “A Spectacle in Motion: The Original” features the enormous painting in its entirety at the Kilburn Mill in New Bedford and runs through Oct. 8. “A Spectacle in Motion: The Experience” presents a large-scale digital reproduction of the artwork as a theatrical moving picture show, similar to what audiences would have experienced in the 1850s. This exhibition opened July 29 and will run through 2021 at the museum.
Tuesday, Aug. 7: A Spectacle in Motion: 19th Century Entertainment and ‘Grand Panorama of a Whaling Voyage ‘Round the World’
At New Bedford Whaling Museum
By Dr. Christina Connett, Chief Curator
Dr. Connett will place the Panorama in the larger context of the era’s visual culture. The Panorama is one of only a few surviving American moving panoramas, an enormously popular art and entertainment form that reached its peak in the mid-19th century. In many ways, panoramas were cultural indicators of public interests that fed the massive popularity of 19th-century World’s Fairs. Much like the extraordinary adventure writings of authors such as Jules Verne and Robert Louis Stevenson, panoramas brought the spectacle of the exotic and the unknown to eager audiences of armchair travelers in the Industrial Age. Audiences keen on the authentic experience, but without the means or desire to travel far afield, could be transported to another locale through the spectacle of the moving panorama.
Tuesday, Aug. 14: Industry of Whaling and Maritime Culture of Mid 19th-Century America
At New Bedford Whaling Museum
By Michael P. Dyer, Curator of Maritime History
Dyer will examine the Panorama through an industrial lens. Benjamin Russell probably conceived his idea for a traveling whaling panorama picture show sometime between 1841, when he shipped on board a whaler, and 1847, around the time when he and Caleb Purrington actually began to paint it. The painting coincided with the height of American whaling, economically, physically and culturally. The impacts of the whaling enterprise were felt through many segments of American society and its profits later funded the fine and mechanical arts, and local industries as divergent as banking, machine-tool manufacturing, and cotton-spinning. The growth of the industry demanded an American diplomatic presence in many faraway lands, advancing the vanguard of American hegemony in the Pacific.
Tuesday, Aug. 28: Globalization and Diversity of Maritime Industries from New Bedford
Kilburn Mill, 127 West Rodney French Blvd., New Bedford
By Dr. Akeia Benard, Curator of Social History
Benard will show how the Panorama reveals New Bedford as a global cosmopolitan hub with connections to the rest of the world through the whaling industry. The painting illustrates the path of expanding hegemony of the United States through American commerce worldwide in remote and “exotic” ports and landfalls. Details of the ports – their geography, inhabitants, architecture and maritime infrastructure – are vividly represented in the painting. In its very structure, the Panorama represents the connections between these far-flung locations and different cultures forged by the American enterprise of whaling and the global dominance of the American whaling industry.
Original story here.
By Michael Bonner firstname.lastname@example.org
Posted Dec 28, 2017 at 7:49 PM
Updated Dec 29, 2017 at 1:11 PM
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.
Posted Apr 21, 2017 at 6:08 PM
Updated Apr 21, 2017 at 7:01 PM
By Steve Urbon
NEW BEDFORD — Visitors to the Whaling Museum had a pleasant surprise waiting for them when they bought their tickets Friday: Tickets may have gone up a dollar to $17, but that extra dollar bought them admission to the “soft” opening day of the refurbished Seamen’s Bethel and Mariners’ Home.
Fred Toomey, president of the Port Society of New Bedford, which owns the two buildings, showed up at 7:30 a.m. Friday to pick up where he and others left off in completing the building projects. “This has been my second home,” he said. “My wife never sees me.”
Whaling Museum curator Arthur Motta and senior historian Michael Dyer were among those installing antiques and images from the museum’s vast collection in the Mariners’ Home, which is open to the public for the first time in anyone’s memory. No longer will it be a haven for mariners but rather a museum with themed exhibits representing facets of New Bedford. The original kitchen is now an exhibit devoted to modern fishing, and the brick beehive oven has been exposed to admire but not actually use.
There is a room devoted to “Moby-Dick,” the book and especially the movie. There is the Rotch Room, so named for the family that built the Mariners’ Home in 1797.
A walk-through the Home and the Bethel makes it clear that this $2.9 million restoration and expansion project has given Toomey and the rest of the society and the docents a lot of new things to talk about.
In the new main entry, back behind the buildings, is a reception desk made entirely out of salvaged wood and planks.
The desk top, Toomey explains, “came from a plank that was 29 feet long and 30 inches wide and made up a part of the floor” of the Bethel’s basement meeting room, or salt box. “Imagine the size of the tree that came from,“e said.
Over in the Bethel, unlike the Mariners’ Home, everything looks as it has. But there are hidden improvements. “The building is air-conditioned for the first time,” Toomey said.
It is also structurally stable, as compared to the dire condition prior to the project that found the Bethel ready to collapse.
“There’s $89,000 worth of work underneath the floor” of the saltbox, Toomey said. Rotten support beams had taken their toll.
Another selling point: A large granite block, perhaps six feet square and 16 inches thick, is the new welcome mat, having been discovered when uncovering an old cistern.
The Bethel rests on ledge, which brought its own issues. Repairs to the floors had to be done in the Bethel by digging down to uneven ledge, then filling with packed sand, peastone gravel, concrete, two-by-four stringers, marine plywood and then the floorboard.
There is an elevator for the first time to comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act. It is big enough to handle a gurney, Toomey said. “We don’t say casket.” That is a reminder that the Bethel is a church and sometimes hosts funerals.
Most visitors won’t see the second and third floors of the Mariners’ Home. The second floor is already occupied by the Waterfront Historic Area League, and the Preservation Society will soon move in to the shared space.
The third floor will house the Port Society, a conference room and a kitchen/break room.
The project has raised much of what it needed to pay for it all, but Toomey said that “the capital campaign continues.”
At the Whaling Museum, which has filled the Mariners’ Home with dozens of objects and more to come, admission has risen a dollar to $17, and it is now a combined admission to the Whaling Museum and the Port Society’s properties.
Toohey said there will not be a paid ticket to get into the Bethel and Mariners’ Home directly because it is a church. Anyone who skips the museum will be admitted anyway with a polite request for a donation to defray expenses.
An official grand opening is set for May 19.
Follow Steve Urbon on Twitter @SteveUrbonSCT.
Original Story Here
Next spring, the dusty, long-vacant space at 141 Union St. could be a hive of innovation and design that gives a huge boost to New Bedford’s art and “maker” communities.
NEW BEDFORD — The wooden floors were bare, parts of the ceiling were crumbling and water pooled in small puddles in the basement, but next spring, WHALE executive director Teri Bernert said, the dusty, long-vacant space at 141 Union St. could be a hive of innovation and design that gives a huge boost to the city’s art and “maker” communities.
“We’re trying to keep the artists in New Bedford,” Bernert said Wednesday, standing in what will become the Co-Creative Center, a 10,000-square-foot space that will include work and exhibition areas, with offices and apartments upstairs.
People will be able to use the shared equipment and space through memberships. Bernert and Amanda DeGrace, WHALE’s development coordinator, agreed that if the thriving Groundwork collaborative on Purchase Street is a shared office environment, the Co-Creative Center downtown will be a shared design studio — or lab, or “maker space,” or, essentially, garage-style workshop.
“But a really nice garage,” Bernert joked.
Think 3-D printers, tool benches, graphic design technology and more. Users of the space could include former art students from UMass Dartmouth’s nearby Star Store campus, local artisans, designers, startups and others.
The Waterfront Historic Area League (WHALE) is planning a Saturday launch for an ambitious fundraising effort for the center, as it begins a final push toward opening the doors next May. WHALE is hoping to raise $50,000 by late November, and if it does so, quasi-governmental agency MassDevelopment will match the funds. But if they don’t make the goal, DeGrace said, they don’t get the dough.
“Think of it as like a Kickstarter for community development,” DeGrace said.
The matching funds are part of MassDevelopment’s Commonwealth Places program, and affiliated with the agency’s Transformative Development Initiative (TDI), which began in 2015. TDI beneficiaries include New Bedford’s Union and Purchase Innovation District. MassDevelopment works at federal, state and local levels to create jobs and stimulate economic growth.
Bernert said the Co-Creative Center’s fundraising effort and related events over the next two months are intended “to make the community aware of this new space that’s part of the creative economy of New Bedford.”
The redevelopment project also includes the adjoining 139 Union St., on the corner of Union and Acushnet Avenue. While the shared workspace at 141 Union will be a nonprofit model and eventually “its own entity,” Bernert said, the corner space at 139 Union will be a mixed-use model, with businesses, offices and housing.
Two eateries have signed letters of intent for leases: The Noodle Bowl, owned by Madalena and James Jezierski; and People’s Pressed, a juice bar.
Bernert said the exterior of 139 Union will have “an all-new, historic façade that will wrap around” the building, along the Acushnet Avenue side.
She said the cost of the entire project, including acquisition of the building, is about $2.3 million. Funding has come from several sources, including a deferred-interest, $1 million MassDevelopment loan announced in August.
WHALE will accept donations through Patronicity, a civic crowdfunding platform online. People also can learn more about the project and how to contribute by calling WHALE at 508-997-1776.
The upcoming push for $50,000 more — or $100,000, with the match — will include efforts to gather input from the community. From 5 to 7 p.m. Oct. 3, WHALE will host an information session about the Co-Creative Center, to gather input on what local artisans might want to see in the maker space.
That event will be at Groundwork, in the Quest Center on Purchase Street.
“We have a lot of designers that work here who have expressed interest in utilizing the maker space,” Groundwork co-founder Dena Haden said.
Talks about shared memberships and other collaborations are under way, Haden and Bernert said.
“I think it’s going to be a great asset for the community — for makers, artists and designers. I think it’ll be a great hub to have in the middle of downtown,” Haden said of the Co-Creative Center. “It might lead to more graduates from the art school staying in town, if they can utilize the shop and share facilities.”
Follow Mike Lawrence on Twitter @MikeLawrenceSCT
“People showed up,” she said with a smile. “I’m just so excited that there are people here — it’s really nice.”
The festival was an effort to raise community awareness about repair needs at three historic, 19th-century churches: First Baptist Church, the Gallery X building — once home to First Universalist Church — and First Unitarian Church, at Eighth and Union streets. Festival participants said that mission was very well met.
“It’s a good day — we’ve had more than 40 people stop by,” said Amanda DeGrace, development coordinator for the Waterfront Historic Area League, or WHALE. WHALE is launching a capital campaign next month for First Baptist, which currently has no heat, crumbling plaster, windows with no glass and other structural problems.
WHALE executive director Teri Bernert has said the campaign’s first goal is to raise funds for a new boiler, hopefully before winter sets in.
The campaign will be conducted jointly with Your Theatre Inc., which announced an agreement to buy the building last November, through a collaborative effort with the city and WHALE. The total project cost could be about $1.4 million, Bernert said.
DeGrace said she had several conversations Saturday about the potential for upcoming “restoration tours” and work weekends at the church, where volunteers can pitch in with simple repair and upkeep tasks.
Not far up William Street, Gallery X vice president Charles Hauck said he’d had “a great turnout” at the church-turned-art-gallery, where musicians performed out front and colorful crafts adorned the walls inside.“For a first year, we’ll really happy,” Hauck said. “You go by these buildings, but you don’t always go inside. We want people to see the buildings, see the architecture and learn about it.”
Anne Louro, the city’s preservation planner, said the impact of festivals like Saturday’s can be “enormous,” especially for the William Street area that’s a few blocks up from the New Bedford Whaling National Historical Park.
“Everything above the cobblestones sometimes is forgotten,” Louro said.
Louro said that while “the city is limited” in its ability to directly boost campaigns such as church restorations, efforts by nonprofit organizations and community groups can create opportunities for the city to provide in-kind services and other, non-financial contributions.
“It’s about supporting them so they can advocate for themselves,” she said.
Follow Mike Lawrence on Twitter @MikeLawrenceSCT.