WHALE making fundraising push for ‘maker space’

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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

SMAST celebrates expansion with topping off ceremony, hardhat tours and bay views

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NEW BEDFORD — Officials from across the state talked about what a game-changer the new marine sciences expansion will be for UMass Dartmouth and the region during a topping off ceremony in the South End on Monday.

The 76,000-square-foot building will double the capacity of the School for Marine Science & Technology on South Rodney French Boulevard and create a marine campus for the state when it opens next year. It will continue to provide responsible research to support fisheries, marine life, environmental stewardship and confront issues related to climate change, officials said.

The event represented the completion of the steel framework with the unveiling of the final beam signed by several in what Dean Steven Lohrenz called “a unique partnership.”
The $55 million project is on track and and under budget, he said, thanks to the cooperation between the the UMass Building Authority (UMBA), project manager Hill International, construction manager Bond Brothers, architect Ellenzweig Associates, and the Division of Marine Fisheries (DMF) that will have space on the third floor.

“This building is a very eloquent statement that we are taking charge of our faith in the future. Our work in marine research and prudent stewardship of that relationship is a win-win for the environment and the students and scientists here,” said interim Chancellor Peyton R. Helm who said he hoped to be at the ribbon-cutting next year.

“Today’s milestone comes at a time when federal regulations continue to unfairly restrict our hardworking fishermen. SMAST’s commitment to developing sound science and marine data will play a major role in reducing this unfair burden,” said state Sen. Mark C. W. Montigny, D-New Bedford, in a statement. He led the legislative effort for state funding and authored the 2008 state bond bill that provided $25 million.

The new building will add to the adjacent existing one on Clark’s Cove and bring more than 150 people of SMAST and DMF together to engage in education, research and policy related to commercial fishing, coastal preservation, ocean observation and climate change.

‌‌Coastal and marine-related activities are critical to the economy and quality of life for the commonwealth and many in the state and beyond don’t realize the crucial role SMAST and the nation’s top fishing port plays, officials said.

“The advancements that will be achieved here will benefit our economy and enhance our quality of life,” said Rep. Antonio F.D. Cabral, D-New Bedford.

The project is another example of the unprecedented investment being made in the peninsula, like the new Taylor and Hannigan schools, the South End Public Safety Center being developed and the Harbor Walk and Cove Walk projects on the hurricane barrier, said Mayor Jon Mitchell.

“This facility, its growth and success are a big part of our metropolitan economy,” he said.

More than 70 people attended, including state officials from Mass. Fish and Game, UMBA, and SMAST founding dean Brian Rothschild.

Many of them were given a hardhat tour of the building that commands a striking view of Buzzards Bay.

Follow Auditi Guha on Twitter @AuditiG_SCT