$15M-plus building slated for Union Street in downtown New Bedford

Downtown is well on its way to getting a noticeable addition.

A proposal to build a five-story, $15 million to $17 million mixed commercial and residential building at the corner of Union and North Second Streets has received the necessary permits from the Planning Board, the Zoning Board of Appeals, and the Historical Commission, according to City Planner Tabitha Harkin.

“It’s a project we support because it adds residential density to the downtown, will add some retail space on the ground floor, and it has an architecturally appealing design,” said Mayor Jon Mitchell. “It remains to be seen whether the developer can finance the project, but it’s certainly one that we support because it fits with what we’re trying to do along the Union Street corner.”

Constructing the proposed 42,650-square-foot building would require the demolition of several single-story buildings currently located at the site on the corner of Union and North Second streets. The demolition permit still needs to be approved, said Harkin.

“All the one-story buildings on the property are just old retail buildings; they have no historical significance to them and they are in very poor condition,” said Michael Galasso, executive director of the New Bedford Development Corporation and the project’s developer.

The five-story building constructed in their place would have 42 residential rental units with a cafe/restaurant and coworking space on the ground floor, according to Galasso.

The residential units will include microunits, studios, and one- and two-bedroom apartments, said Galasso, and five of them will be completely handicap-accessible.

“This project is intended to provide housing for the downtown workforce, that is our main market,” explained Galasso, “We see that as a growing market.”

One of the reasons the market is growing, said Galasso, is because more office space is being leased downtown and the offshore wind industry will be bringing in new workers.

The rates for rent have not yet been decided, but Galasso said a portion of the building is going to be affordable housing and the rest will be market-rate.

When reached for comment about the project in her ward, Councilor Dana Rebeiro said, “I’m interested to see if the affordable housing is forever or just for the first three years and what they consider ‘affordable.’”

In addition to the affordability of the housing, Galasso has to consider how the building will fit in with the historic nature of the city’s downtown.

Galasso said the brick facade, the size of the windows, the scale of the building, and material they plan to use are all in keeping with the downtown aesthetic.

“We wanted a building that had some modern feel to it, but was done in a very historic way,” he said.

117 Union Historic Comm Presentation by Standard-Times on Scribd

The modern aspects of the building will include a contemporary design of the interior with a community kitchen and patio overlooking the harbor on the fifth floor, said Galasso, and microunits that are fully furnished with high-end amenities (including kitchenettes).

The design is also meant to encourage people walking by the building to come inside.

“It’s very important that the first floor is very transparent so people that are walking by would get excited and want to come in whether it’s the lobby area or restaurant,” Galasso said.

He referenced the Seaport District in Boston as inspiration for the design, that also includes outdoor seating for its cafe.

Another proposed modern aspect of the building is resident access to a shared electric vehicle and a bike-sharing program, said Galasso.

The current plan only includes the construction of one handicapped parking space, even though a residential building this size would normally require a total of 106 parking spaces.

The proposal received a special grant for reduction in parking, according to Harkin, because “there’s ample parking downtown” with the parking garages.

Rebeiro said she is also concerned about the effect of adding people in what she described as an already dense area, but she did say she likes the car and bike sharing ideas.

“I think it takes away from the problem of too many cars parking downtown,” said Rebeiro.

Mitchell said he doesn’t think parking will be a problem for residents, “The city in the weeks ahead will announce a new parking study that will really pave the way for better parking management in the long run, that will emphasize the use of the garages.”

Going forward the developer has to close the purchase of the properties on Union and North Second streets, which he said he expects to do by the end of this week, and look for financing for the project.

Galasso said the project includes redeveloping the Moby Dick building next door into 8 studio apartments and a restaurant. He still needs to go through the permitting process for that part of the plan.

Once the project is financed through a “combination of conventional financing using some tax credits and funds from the city and from the state,” which Galasso said will take six months, construction on the new building will begin.

Galasso said they’re aiming to complete construction by the end of 2020/early 2021.

“This is potentially a real catalyst for downtown to create millennial focused-housing… and activate a street corner that has been inactive for a long time,” said Harkin.

“We really wanted to set the mark high for future development in downtown and I think we’ve really achieved that,” he said.

Follow Kiernan Dunlop on Twitter @KiernanD_SCT

Original story here.

Proposal to turn New Bedford Armory into apartments

By Kiernan Dunlop

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The garage would be used for parking for armory residents.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Follow Kiernan Dunlop on Twitter @KiernanD_SCT.

Original story here.

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.