State awards New Bedford Port Authority, UMass Dartmouth combined $390K

BOSTON — The state awarded $6.4 million in grants Wednesday, including $390,000 for projects in SouthCoast for revitalization and business development.

Seaport Economic Council grants awarded include $150,000 for the creation of a regional marine science and technology collaborative to encourage growth in relevant industries at UMass Dartmouth and the SouthCoast Development Partnership and $240,000 for planning of the redevelopment of a waterfront property in New Bedford.

“This region’s historic connection to the ocean is a powerful unifying asset,” said Hugh Dunn, Executive Director of Economic Development at UMD, in a statement. “This project is designed to identify and marshal our marine economy assets to expand economic opportunity. To date, nothing of this scale has been executed on the Atlantic Coast.”

The funding will create an environment where relevant regional institutions, businesses, and universities can collaboratively develop the Southeastern Massachusetts Marine Science and Technology Corridor, according to a news release.

“I want to thank the Baker-Polito Administration for supporting UMass Dartmouth and our region as we develop our blue economy corridor from Rhode Island to Cape Cod,” said UMD Chancellor Robert E. Johnson in a statement. “In awarding this grant, the Seaport Economic Council is demonstrating the Commonwealth’s commitment to an industry sector that can transform our economy.”

Plumbers’ Supply is building one of the largest facilities in the New Bedford Business Park

NEW BEDFORD — Plumbers’ Supply’s footprint in the city is growing.

Motorists entering New Bedford from the north at night undoubtedly spot the neon glare of water spouting out of the faucet on the front of the Plumbers’ Supply store.

Further south on Water Street, the 19th Century version of Plumbers’ Supply is now apartments. In the North End, its warehouse is located on Church Street.

By the end of next summer a new 175,000 square foot building will be completed in the Far North End Business Park.

Mayor Jon Mitchell toured the construction site on Wednesday.

“For us, we have a lot of great employees and we didn’t want to stray too far,” co-owner Brian Jones said. “So when this opportunity came along, it’s a five minute commute. We don’t expect to lose an employee, that certainly appealed to us.”

In fact, the move and expansion should lead to the creation of at least seven jobs, Jones said.

“Our hope is we blow past that,” Jones said.

Plumbers’ Supply’s current warehouse measures 85,000 square feet with ceilings 16 feet high. The new warehouse will encompass about 155,000 square feet with about 30-foot ceilings. The remaining 20,000 square feet will be used for its corporate headquarters, which is already located in New Bedford.

“We want make use of every square inch of this park,” Mitchell said. ”… All this effort is about keeping and growing jobs but also fully utilizing what we have. New Bedford is fairly land constrained.”

Every parcel in the business park is either built on, under construction or under agreement, Mitchell said. The Plumbers’ Supply plot is the largest in the industrial park at 45 acres. Currently, the $18 million project is the third largest facility in the park. However, the company could potentially expand the warehouse to 300,000 square feet, which would be by far the largest, Derek Santos, executive director of the Economic Development Council, said.

“This gives us more than enough than we need in the near term,” Jones said.

Jones’ uncle, Jay, took ownership of the company in April 1977. More than 40 years later, Jay’s brother, his son, and three nephews are a part of Plumbers’ Supply. Development for the move to the far North End began in September of 2017. Ground broke earlier this summer.

“The city has been great to us,” Brian Jones said. “It’s three generations strong.”

Follow Michael Bonner on Twitter @MikeBBonnerSCT

MassDevelopment issues $132M bond for UMD project

MassDevelopment has issued a $132,185,000 tax-exempt bond to help build, furnish and equip a five-story, 306,900-square-foot residence hall at the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth.

The new facility, which will house approximately 1,210, mostly first-year students, will include a dining hall and space for student activities and academic support. The residence hall will replace an existing dormitory, built in the 1970s, which the university will demolish once the new facility is opened.

The bond was issued on behalf of Provident Commonwealth Education Resources II Inc., a public-private partnership, according to a news release.

PCER is a nonprofit corporation created by Provident Resources Group Inc., the University of Massachusetts Building Authority, and Greystar GEDR Development LLC. PCER will enter into a long-term ground lease with UMBA for the land on which the building will be located, and will finance, construct, own, and operate the dormitory. The university will participate in the management and operation of the dormitory through its participation on the Project Operations Committee and through its residential life programs. Once PCER’s ground lease expires, ownership will revert to UMBA for the benefit of UMD.

“Our students will benefit from these investments in quality living and learning facilities that will prepare them to succeed in a rapidly changing, highly competitive global economy,” said UMass Dartmouth Chancellor Robert E. Johnson in a statement. “When combined with our first-rate faculty, these facilities will guarantee our students the private college educational experience and public university value they so deserve.”

State sends $75K for First Baptist Church’s steeple

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.

Acorn, Inc. wins 2018 APEX Small Business Award

Posted Sep 6, 2018 at 4:46 PM

The SouthCoast Chamber of Commerce has awarded Acorn, Inc. as the 2018 APEX Small Business of the Year, citing the company’s success in “turning unused but historically significant structures into bustling centers of residential life” in New Bedford.

The award committee noted that the Acorn had the vision to recognize New Bedford’s potential, and the desire to preserve its historic character with the development and management of the Lofts at Wamsutta Place, Victoria Riverside Lofts, and the Riverbank Lofts.

With nearly 500 units across 1 million square feet, maintaining above 98 percent occupancy rate, these buildings represent $100 million in private investment funds to the local economy, a press release from the company states. The properties proudly contribute over $800,000 to the city annually, create multiple job opportunities, and generate business for local vendors.

“We are deeply honored to receive this award,” said Quentin Ricciardi, CEO, “And of all our investments, the one that’s most important to us is our investment in our staff. As a family-owned and run business for over 70 years, we treat our employees like an extension of that family and as a result we have a team who believes in the mission of providing stunning and unique quality housing at reasonable rates. You can see this is the relationships they build with residents who contribute to canned food and clothing drives, and they way they give back to the community through Operation Clean Sweep and other community projects.” The majority of Acorn’s 30 management company employees reside locally and the company emphasizes the sourcing of operations and maintenance supplies to come from companies within the region.

Acorn was recognized for its commitment to sustainable and renewable energy as an example of their forward thinking, the release states. They currently have 2 megawatts of solar panels across the roofs of all properties.

Acorn Inc. is a Massachusetts-based real estate development and management company specializing in large scale, market rate adaptive reuse projects.  For over 50 years, the company has taken a holistic hands-on approach, through each stage of the process from development to construction and management.  Acorn, Inc. currently owns 3 million square feet of assets under management, primarily in Massachusetts.

Original story here:

A ‘buzz’ surrounds New Bedford as Harbor Hotel officially opens

Posted Aug 1, 2018 at 6:18 PM

Lauren Liss felt a buzz emitting from the city as she sat at the bar at the Harbor Hotel on Tuesday night.

The CEO of MassDevelopment spent the night at the hotel to prepare for its grand opening Wednesday morning. The fresh paint, new furniture and maritime accents highlighted the city’s latest addition, and also exposed potential for the future.

“There is a buzz in New Bedford, a tangible, palpable buzz in New Bedford, this city is alive,” Liss said. “It’s thriving and the excitement that’s generated by projects like this is absolutely phenomenal.”

While the hotel actually opened on July 16, politicians, investors and community members filled the lobby for its official grand opening Wednesday.

Mayor Jon Mitchell referred to the moment as six years in the making.

“This place is going to be a shot in the arm for the downtown economy,” Mitchell said.

The 46,000-square-foot building at 222 Union St. includes a restaurant and bar, a banquet space and fitness center. It employs about 50 people, with 42 hailing from New Bedford.

In its long history, the building formerly housed a drug store and WBSM. While dormant, utilities hadn’t been updated to produce enough power needed for current amenities.

“Of course, we always thank the mayor, but this time it’s actually for real,” President of Columbus Group Shiawee Yang said with a laugh. “I don’t know if you know that our mayor picked up the phone, called that company, you know what, otherwise we still may not have power. You literally brought the power.”

In the two weeks since it opened, General Manager Dewan Kashem said the occupancy rate has been as high as 85 percent. Immediately prior to the grand opening, he said it was about 50 percent.

“We think August and September will be really good,” Kashem said.

As visitors enter the hotel after a valet service parks their car, a wall-sized photo of a vessel greets them at the entrance. Across from that, a piece of artwork highlights another wall as hundreds of photos of New Bedford residents come together to display a larger picture of a knot.

Many of the rooms feature ocean-themed artwork. A few offer exposed brick with the original wood ceiling and floors.

Those staying may not be Whaling City natives, but they’ll leave understanding New Bedford’s history.

“This feels like you’re in a big city space, and spaces like this shouldn’t be limited just to big cities,” Mitchell said. “Every city that’s successful should have a space that looks like this.”

Original story here.

‘Intense’ negotiations led to mixed-use options on State Pier

Tony Cabral joked that he hoped he didn’t wake his neighbor, Mayor Jon Mitchell, when he arrived home at 3 a.m. Wednesday after the state legislature passed a bill that could bring retail shops and restaurants to the State Pier.

“I heard (you), I thought it was a burglar,” Mitchell quipped back at the state rep.

The laughs and celebration for the economic future of New Bedford didn’t come without a bit of struggle to include language for mixed-use options at State Pier into the economic development bond valued at more than $1 billion.

“I’m pleased with the outcome. Obviously it was very contentious,” Mitchell said. “I hope that we can all put aside this matter and move on with the many other challenges facing New Bedford and the opportunities before us.”

The final language, which passed late Tuesday night, allowed for up to 20 percent of the square footage on the west side of State Pier, adjacent to MacArthur Drive, for “accessory uses.”

New Union Street building introduces hub for creative minds

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Follow Michael Bonner on Twitter @MikeBBonnerSCT

Original story here.

Amazon bid shows new perspective on New Bedford

Posted Dec 16, 2017 at 8:31 PM

Don’t count us out.

That’s the message New Bedford’s civic leaders are sending as internet sales giant Amazon mulls over a proposal to site its second headquarters on a municipal golf course in this port city.

“Nobody should be under the illusion we’re the odds-on favorite,” Mayor Jon Mitchell said of the city’s attempt to woo Amazon. “But it’s not inconceivable that if Amazon decides to look for multiple sites, our pitch becomes more attractive.”

From Atlanta to Tucson, from Vancouver, Canada to Chihuahua, Mexico, cities throughout North America are hoping to be on top of Amazon’s list when the company announces the city chosen as the home of its second headquarters later in 2018. The location of Amazon’s new campus, dubbed HQ2, will be selected from 238 cities and regions spanning 54 states, provinces, territories and districts. In Massachusetts, 26 communities, including New Bedford and Boston, are in the running. The winning city gets a $5 billion facility, 50,000 high-paying jobs and an economic boost like no other.

So where does New Bedford fit in the race to become Amazon’s second headquarters?

New Bedford makes its pitch to impress, attract Amazon

Calling New Bedford “a city unlike any other” with its proud past and bright future, officials submitted a 40-page proposal to Amazon, as the e-commerce giant seeks a location to construct a second world headquarters.

While the state included New Bedford as one of 26 Massachusetts communities in its formal proposal to Amazon, the city also independently submitted its pitch to build the headquarters on property at the municipal golf course on Hathaway Road.

The prize is huge: a million square foot facility and 50,000 well-paying jobs — enough to transform the economy of wherever Amazon decides to place it.

“New Bedford’s come a long way in the last few years,” said Mayor Jon Mitchell. “And we’ve reached a point where we can — with a straight face — make this kind of pitch to the likes of Amazon. It’s not to say we’re the odds on favorite, but we can make a play for this with credibility.”

It was in May that the city teamed up with Mass Development to divide the golf course property and create a 1.3 million square foot commercial development that would bring an estimated 1,000 jobs, well short of what Amazon expects to create. The rest of the land would become a nine-hole golf course; the course currently has 18 holes.

In June, Jay Ash, the state’s housing and economic development secretary, visited the course and called it a “no-brainer” for economic development because it’s one of the few greenfields left in the state.

Ash declared that there are only two other sites with the potential that New Bedford’s has, given the easy access to highways, rail and an airport: a former Naval air base in Weymouth and vacant space across from Gillette Stadium in Foxboro. Both are included with the state’s bid.

In its proposal, the state writes that the New Bedford site has the potential for a 9.5 million-square-foot build-out. It also notes the site is 18 miles from the Middleboro Line for the MBTA, 58 miles from Logan International Airport and 37 miles from TF Green airport.

 “The historic city of New Bedford is the SouthCoast’s hot spot for dining and the arts, while retaining its authentic character as the nation’s largest fishing port,” the state wrote in its bid.

In the city’s bid, New Bedford is touted as a home to a “hard-working, innovative, entrepreneurial and creative” work force.

“As a city of immigrants, we have drawn from the best that the world offers. As a city of ideas, New Bedford is the place where you can walk the same streets as Herman Melville and Frederick Douglass,” the bid reads.

“As a city of culture, New Bedford is the place where you can have a great seat to Yo-Yo Ma, the B-52s and a Bob Woodward lecture. And as a city of innovation, we transformed the whaling industry and are leaders in establishing the first American port to incorporate the offshore wind industry into the mix with fishing and cargo.”

Rick Kidder, president and CEO of the SouthCoast Chamber of Commerce, sounded calm and confident Friday that the city’s application could be a winner.

“Having been around the world of corporate relocations I have never seen a process like Amazon is going through,” he told The Standard-Times.

Kidder said there is much here to offer. “I believe we have things going for us,” including the use of the golf course land, transportation routes including an airport, quality of life and reasonable housing.

The application included a reference to Entrepreneurship For All, a group that helps SouthCoast startups and entrepreneurs. The document lists it as a “innovation asset,” noting that “Seventy-three percent of E4All’s startups are headed by women, 57 percent by minorities and 52 percent by immigrants.”

Shelley Cardoos, executive director of EforAll SouthCoast, said Friday she had not heard that her organization was hailed in the Amazon application.

But she said she was happy to know that EforAll, just two years old in SouthCoast, had made an impression worth mentioning. “I’m glad our efforts and impact are being recognized for creating jobs and dollars,” she said.

The city also touted the lower cost of housing along with access to schools and recreational opportunities in this area.

In August, the median sale price for a home in the state was $372,500, while it was $200,000 in New Bedford. The city also boasts historic neighborhoods that provide “a variety of housing types,” the proposal said.

The proposal also notes:

“New Bedford High School offers academy learning, featuring engineering and finance, and it offers 19 Advanced Placement courses. The high school also has a history of graduates attending elite universities.”

“The city’s first open space was created in the 1860s, and the city hasn’t stopped — 6 parks, 24 neighborhood parks, more than 12 miles of trails and bikeways, 26 acres of beaches, etc.”

New Bedford officials also outlined to Amazon the city’s tax increment financing (TIF) program, which supplies exclusive breaks for coming to a Gateway City, and the “unique tax abatement” of a foreign trade zone.

In addition to New Bedford, others in the area making a pitch to Amazon include Fall River and Taunton. Fall River has 501 acres available with its Riverfront Park and SouthCoast Life Science & Technology Park. Taunton has 146 acres at the Silver City Galleria Mall.

READ NEW BEDFORD’S COMPLETE PITCH FOR AMAZON’S HQ2