By Ariel Wittenberg
April 24, 2014 12:00 AM
NEW BEDFORD — Hoping to continue New Bedford Harbor’s legacy as a port of diverse industries, the U.S. Economic Development Administration announced Wednesday a $200,000 grant to help plan the waterfront’s future.
The grant, which will be matched by the city, is meant to ensure that New Bedford’s historic industries such as fishing can coexist with the offshore wind industry that officials hope will be the city’s future.
“We are the No. 1 fishing port, and we intend to maintain that, but there is much more ahead of us in the future if we plan it right,” Mayor Jon Mitchell said. “We don’t want to put all our eggs in one basket; our strategy is all of the above.”
The federal investment will allow the development of a master and urban renewal plan for the working waterfront. The plan aims to envision what and where development is needed over the course of the next 10 to 15 years.
The planning project, which will take an estimated 18 months, will focus on development adjacent to South Terminal, the NStar Site and State Pier.
The project also will develop general design principles for new construction and public spaces, and will incorporate area stakeholders.
Deputy Assistant Secretary of Commerce for Economic Development Matt Erksine was in town Wednesday to make the grant announcement.
He said the money will allow New Bedford time to “strategically plan” the city’s potential to become an offshore wind hub.
“This is ground zero for offshore wind,” he said of the city. “We are excited to propel forward the city’s fishing legacy and cultural tourism while also planning for future jobs in offshore wind.”
Prior to the grant announcement, made at State Pier, Erksine joined Mitchell and other city officials for a harbor tour.
The officials braved the rain and thunder to get an up-close view of the working waterfront, traveling from the Popes Island Bridge down to the under-construction South Terminal facility.
Along the way, Erksine asked questions about the fishing industry and regulations while watching a dragger unload groundfish at the Whaling City Seafood Display Auction.
“We want to build on this proud history of competitive natural assets and an industrious workforce,” Erksine said.
Ward 1 City Councilor James Oliveira said at the announcement that the planning will help the city to move forward in a smart way.
“We have always had a strong connection to the sea and we will always have a strong connection to the sea,” he said.
“That will be our legacy.”