New Bedford’s plan for business park include 1,000 jobs, 9-hole golf course

Posted May 18, 2017 at 2:18 PM

By Michael Bonner /

NEW BEDFORD — “A lot of work” still needs to be done before the city can transform part of the Whaling City Golf Course into a business park, the mayor said Thursday.

“It’s not a done deal,” Mayor Jon Mitchell said at an afternoon news conference. “There’s still a number of questions that have to be sorted through.”

The city and MassDevelopment plan to convert a 100-acre section of the golf course into a 1.3 million-square-foot commercial site that could create at least 1,000 jobs. The golf course would downsize to a 9-hole course, which was its original size in 1920.

The city targeted the course because of its sufficient acreage and access to highways, rails and airport.

The biggest hurdle to the project could be Article 97, which protects municipally held green space. Legislation is needed when working on protected land. However, Mitchell said only a portion of the golf course falls under Article 97 protection.

“The part that we’re building on is not protected park land,” Mitchell said.

State Rep. Chris Markey called the announcement “bittersweet” as he reminisced about playing all 18 holes as a child.

“I’m certain there are many other people who have great memories of being able to play golf at a cheap rate in the city,” he said. “…You need to make sure you take every opportunity as the mayor said and take advantage of every asset you have.”

Some residents in attendance voiced displeasure with the plans because the city would lose a green space. Those concerns reached the state level, too.

“It will be incumbent upon the city, but I will strongly suggest a very public process,” Sen. Mark Montigny said.

With proper public vetting, the New Bedford native backed the idea.

“When you look at the positive aspects, I think it has the potential to be a major job creator,” Montigny said.

The park could produce $2 million annually in property tax.

“Let me tell you, New Bedford needs to increase its tax base,” Markey said. “It has to. It cannot survive without that. It will never survive without that. The opportunity that this avails the city and the people of New Bedford is incredible.”

The projected cost for the project is $12 million. Funding, in part, is expected to come from land sales and state and federal funding. MassDevelopment announced a $300,000 grant during the press conference.

The city plans to convey the land to MassDevelopment based on sharing the net proceeds at completion.

MassDevelopment would inherit the cost for demolishing the clubhouse and the redesign of the course. The city would be responsible for constructing a new clubhouse.

The course would remain open through the project. Mitchell suggested the earliest any ground may be broken on the project would be in 2019.

“There’s a lot of work that needs to be done,” Mitchell said.

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Your View: New Bedford EDC Regeneration Project — Grow, or risk sliding backward

Posted May 23, 2017 at 2:01 AM

As business and civic leaders in the community, we feel compelled to make our voices heard on the concept of a second business park being established on a portion of the New Bedford Municipal Golf Course.

As the project now moves forward through various public processes, the fundamental issue that needs to be kept in mind, is this: In order to deliver high-performing schools, safe neighborhoods, and a strong quality life for its residents, New Bedford must embrace fresh ideas for growing our economic base and work hard to implement those ideas.

As business and civic leaders in the community, we feel compelled to make our voices heard on the concept of a second business park being established on a portion of the New Bedford Municipal Golf Course.

As the project now moves forward through various public processes, the fundamental issue that needs to be kept in mind, is this: In order to deliver high-performing schools, safe neighborhoods, and a strong quality life for its residents, New Bedford must embrace fresh ideas for growing our economic base and work hard to implement those ideas.

And the Mitchell administration has recruited an important partner. MassDevelopment, the state’s lead economic development agency, whose mission is job-creation and which has a long track record of successful business park projects across the state. We think it is great news that MassDevelopment is partnering with the city to pursue a transformative project, and is willing to bear the risks and challenges that would discourage short-term-focused, profit-driven developers.

Finally, the concept for the new business park will allow the city to preserve the original nine-hole layout designed by the famous landscape architect Donald Ross, and construct a new clubhouse to replace the poor quality facilities that exist today. Given that virtually every golf course in Southeastern Massachusetts is struggling to survive these days, the project offers a unique opportunity to prevent the possible closure of the entire course in the years ahead.

In the months ahead, the city and MassDevelopment will work through an array of issues, and rely on multiple public processes to make sure that all voices are heard and the final result is an asset to our community.

But what we know at this initial stage could not be more exciting or more promising. We see a win-win for New Bedford and we are proud to offer our strong support.

This op-ed was submitted on behalf of the following members of the Regeneration Project of the New Bedford Economic Development Council:

Elizabeth Isherwood, Chairwoman, Greater New Bedford Industrial Foundation

Anthony Sapienza, President, JA Apparel Corp. President New Bedford EDC

Rick Kidder, President & CEO, New Bedford Area Chamber of Commerce David Wechsler, President and CEO, Maritime International

Gerry Kavanaugh, Senior Vice-Chancellor for Strategic Management, University of Massachusetts Dartmouth

Anne Broholm, CEO, AHEAD, LCC

Maureen Sylvia Armstrong, President, CEO and owner, Sylvia Group Insurance

Paul Bishins, Property Owner/Developer, Building 19 Site & other properties

Nicholas Christ, President and CEO, BayCoast Bank

David Slutz, Managing Director, Potentia Business Solutions

Christian Farland, Principal Engineer and President, Farland Corp.

Patrick Murray, President and CEO, Bristol County Savings Bank

Dr. John Sbrega, President, Bristol Community College

John Vasconcellos, President, Community Foundation of SE MA

David Martin, President, HTP, Inc.

Scott Pray, President, D.F. Pray General Contractors

James Russell, President and CEO, New Bedford Whaling Museum

Bob Unger, Owner/Partner, Moby Dick Brewing Co.

James Lopes, Law Offices of James J. Lopes, New Bedford Historical Commission

Rosemary Gill, Executive Director, Zeiterion Performing Arts Center

Joseph Nauman, Executive Vice President, Corp. & Legal, Acushnet Company

Richard Canastra, Owner, Whaling Seafood Display Auction

Doug Glassman, Owner, SERVPRO of New Bedford

David Cabral, President, Five Star Cos.

Jeff Glassman, Owner, Darn It! Inc.

Lou Ann Nygaard, CFO, AHEAD, LLC

Keith Hovan, President and CEO, SouthCoast Health System

Carl Ribeiro, Greater NB Industrial Foundation & Luzo Food Service Corp.

Jeffery Vancura, CFO, Imtra Corp.

Jennifer Downing, Executive Director, Leadership SouthCoast

Pete Selley, Senior Vice President, Bristol County Savings Bank

Robert Mitchell, Greater NB Industrial Foundation & R.A. Mitchell Co.


Council can’t contain thoughts on proposed business park in Whaling City Golf Course

Posted May 23, 2017 at 9:15 PM

NEW BEDFORD — The beeping sound of the clock within the City Council chambers Tuesday night failed to curb complaints about the lack of transparency over a plan for a business park on the Whaling City Golf Course.

“Two minutes isn’t enough for this issue because we can go on and on,” Councilor-at-large Brian Gomes said.

And the council did.

Ten of the 11 councilors spoke on the topic and repeated the word “transparency” dozens of times during the meeting which saw 29 items on the agenda.

The debate over the business park generated more discussion than the other 28.

The motion, which requested that the Committee on Appointments and Briefings meet with Economic Development Director Derek Santos, members with the Board of Park Commissioners and a representative from Jon Mitchell’s office, passed 10-1.

Councilor-at-large Debora Coelho was the lone councilor voting against the motion and didn’t speak on the floor.

“I like the idea. I’m willing to explore and I think overall, the Mayor is really thinking outside the box,” Coelho said. “Everyone I speak to out there is really standing behind the Mayor. I’m not getting some of these calls. I have to stand by what I believe that is in the best interest for the city.”

Mitchell held a press conference last Thursday to announce the business park. When the news leaked last Tuesday night, it created a stir for some, including the Board of Park Commissioners that heard about the news for the first time last Wednesday afternoon.

“It troubles me that the Chair of the Parks Commissioners heard about it on the radio at 4 p.m,” Councilor-at-large Ian Abreu said. “That’s not transparency.”

The council held a preliminary discussion with Santos in January. They were alerted to the press conference last week.

“I’m not here to not support the concept or the idea,” Gomes said. “I understand the concept. I understand the idea. I’m troubled by not meeting with the city.”

Gomes said he would have preferred the city make the announcement through public forums to gauge interest.

“This is not something that’s going to turn over tomorrow,” he said. “It sounds all good in writing. It sounds good with the press conferences and the pictures. When you stand in front of people, give them something that’s concrete and ready to go.”

Mitchell projected the earliest ground would be broken would be 2019. He also emphasized the project is not set in stone and many hurdles must still be cleared.

During the press conference, though, Mitchell said the park, which would scale back the municipal golf course to nine holes, would generate about $2 million in annual tax revenue as well as 1,000 jobs.

“Where is the guarantee?” Gomes said. “I want the guarantee. So let’s bring all the parties together.”

Hugh Dunn, who represents Ward 3 where the golf course is located, had not yet been elected when the meetings with the councilors took place in June.

While he said he wished the project’s announcement came with more transparency, he backed what he said during Thursday’s press conference in supporting the idea.

“This project is newer to me than everybody else in the room,” Dunn said. “But as an economic development practitioner in my day job, I recognize a project that has good potential to bring revenue to the city. I think we can’t ignore this.”

Follow Michael Bonner on Twitter @MikeBBonnerSCT

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Seamen’s Bethel, Mariners’ Home restoration officially complete

Posted May 19, 2017 at 5:30 PM

NEW BEDFORD — The New Bedford Port Society made some history Friday as it officially opened the like-new Seamen’s Bethel and Mariners’ Home on Johnny Cake Hill.

It has taken about $3 million and a few years, but the 1832 Bethel has been brought back from the brink of destruction thanks to heroic preservation and fundraising efforts.

Port Society President Fred Toomey celebrated the project that has married two historic buildings to modern technologies, “integral modern technology.” That means cleverly concealed air-conditioning in the Bethel, LED lights everywhere, a gleaming wooden elevator lobby and atrium at the rear of the buildings, and modern windows that meet strict building codes.

For Toomey, the ribbon-cutting frees him from a grueling schedule of meetings, fundraisers and project supervision.

About 100 attended Friday’s ceremony, which featured WHALE Director Teri Bernert, Mayor Jon Mitchell and state Sen. Mark Montigny. The audience included city councilors, Police Chief Joseph Cordeiro, state Rep. Robert Koczera and former Mayor John Bullard, the former head of WHALE, the Waterfront Historic Area League.

Bernert said it’s gratifying to look out the second-floor windows of the WHALE office in the Mariners’ Home and see the results of this restoration campaign.

The special guest was Anita Walker, executive director of the Massachusetts Cultural Council. She sang the praises of projects such as this, which preserved a building, the Bethel, that is of tremendous cultural importance not just to the city but to the nation.

“You are so fortunate to have a piece of American history right here,” she said. It was her second visit in two days; on Thursday she showed Gov. Charlie Baker the city to impress on him the importance of preserving such significant buildings and to announce a $150,000 grant to add to the existing grant of $440,000.

The grant pushes the project close to, if not past, the fundraising goals.

Bruce Oliveira, Port Society development chair and assistant treasurer, was applauded for the fundraisers. Mitchell noted that the “’fishing industry has stepped up big time.”

Mitchell called the Bethel “the temple of our history. If one place had to be preserved, one building, pick this one,” he said.

Montigny touched on some of the same themes, crediting the late Sarah Delano and Bullard for guiding WHALE to block the wrecking ball and preventing the city to become “just anywhere.”

The Bethel and Mariners’ Home “are part of the core history of this city,” Montigny said. “These two buildings needed to be saved.”

Walker observed that were it not for whaling, Herman Melville would be without a story to tell in “Moby-Dick.”

The Bethel and Mariners’ Home are open during the Whaling Museum’s regular hours. Admission is free with the Whaling Museum admission. Admission without the museum’s ticket has been free, but a small donation is welcomed. The Bethel being a church, it cannot sell tickets but can accept donations.

Follow Steve Urbon on Twitter @SteveUrbonSCT.

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Offshore wind transforming English manufacturing cities

The Port of Hull, England, hosts a new Siemens turbine blade manufacturing center. Shown here are 30-story turbine towers ready for deployment, along with nacelles, which weigh 412 tons.

Less than a decade ago, the offshore wind industry was a tantalizing dream in the Humber Region of England, a three-hour train ride north of London.

Today, the region is the hub of a booming offshore wind sector that represents more than 7 billion pounds of investment, thousands of jobs and opportunity for hundreds of local small businesses.

New Bedford Mayor Jon Mitchell, EDC Chairman Anthony Sapienza and Wind Energy Center Director Paul Vigeant led a trade mission to the Humber Region last week to get a first hand view of how the industry is transforming once-struggling cities along the Hull River Estuary.

The cities of Hull and Grimsby, which are part of the Humber region, were like New Bedford in many ways. Hull, a city of about 250,000, had been the whaling capital of the United Kingdom. Grimsby, with 95,000 inhabitants, was the center of the nation’s commercial fishing industry until Iceland extended its claim over the cod fishery out to 200 miles, essentially excluding Britain’s fishermen from fishing in the best waters for cod.

Both communities had been economically stagnant and felt forgotten by more thriving parts of the country until the offshore wind industry began to stir, thanks in part to government policies encouraging renewable wind to complement the UK’s oil and natural gas industries, centered near Aberdeen.

Today, the Humber Region is the focus of England’s growing offshore wind industry, which leads the world in offshore wind power production, as well as in plans for new wind farms. A new Siemens blade manufacturing facility in Hull already has 800 workers and will will employ a total of about 1,000 by year end. Grimsby, where Dong and E.On have significant presences, has become has become the center of operation and maintenance for offshore wind farms, creating 400 jobs, with an estimated 1,100 by 2025.

The region has drawn more than $9 billion dollars, at the current exchange rate, in offshore wind-related investments, with Grimsby alone seeing $38.7 million over the past three years.

With the UK legally bound to supply 20 percent of its electricity from renewable sources by 2020, the total offshore wind investment is only expected to rise. Nationwide, the sector is expected to bring upwards of $142 billion in investments by 2023.

This has already provided opportunity for Humber Region companies within the supply chain, some of which have been started by former fishermen who now provide specialized help and trained employees for the

Mark O’Reilly. CEO of Team Humber Marine Alliance, right, talks about the new Siemens turbine blade manufacturing plant in Hull with New Bedford Mayor Jon Mitchell.

new industry.

In addition, colleges and universities are training engineers to work within the new industry, and training organizations update the skills of existing and future wind turbine technicians.

The UK last month had its first full day of energy generated without the aid of coal. As the country moves toward a future powered increasingly by renewables, offshore wind is expected to bring continued prosperity to The Humber.

SouthCoast Today – Our View: Dredge the Port of New Bedford to 30 feet

Fairhaven selectmen this week added their voices to the growing chorus looking for New Bedford Harbor to be dredged to its authorized depth.

Dredging to the authorized depth of 30 feet would open the port to more vessels and activity, and would allow the construction of more maritime infrastructure. It would bring millions of dollars of economic activity to the port and many hundreds of jobs. It could be undertaken cooperatively, so that state-authorized dredging and federal dredging for contamination and maintenance could enjoy efficiencies estimated to save about $10 million.

Despite federal programs to maintain ports like New Bedford’s, limited federal money presents a hindrance to their accomplishment. The commonwealth has picked up part of the effort.

Local legislators and public officials are right to raise their voices, knowing that 30-foot dredging hasn’t been done for 50 years. Every hint of momentum for greater economic activity acts as a prod to get more cargo ships, more docks, and new industries into port.

The only concern has been raised by Hands Across the River, which wants protections for people when sediment contaminated by PCBs is moved according to procedures being followed for Superfund dredging. A study released this winter, however, suggests that airborne PCB contamination around the Superfund site exists because of ambient emissions, not because it was disturbed during dredging. Nevertheless, HARC’s concerns aren’t to be casually dismissed.

Budget constraints never fail to change government’s plans, and we are far from confident regarding state revenue projections, which, as usual, continue to be estimated down. We understand those constraints and concerns, but because we do have confidence in the commonwealth to make wise decisions, we will urge the administration’s consideration of port issues — an undeniable priority, considering the lieutenant governor’s vigorous leadership of the Seaport Economic Council — to adjust its course enough to prioritize dredging of the rich, vibrant Port of New Bedford. The port is already delivering revenue to Boston beyond what one might expect from the population. Dredging will bring even more.

Sales pitch contest a big night for aspiring local entrepreneurs

By Steve Urbon

NEW BEDFORD — It was semi-chaos Thursday evening in the basement cafeteria of the Global Learning Charter Public School as about two dozen budding entrepreneurs and their families and supporters joined in a “pitch contest” sponsored by EforAll, a Lowell-based organization whose goal is to nurture entrepreneurs in the smaller cities of Massachusetts.

Before the evening was through, a half dozen people had made their sales pitches, a few fortunate winners had been awarded substantial checks for their efforts, and a huge gesture had been made in support of Homeless Advocates, a local group looking after the homeless in SouthCoast.

Matt Medeiros of New Bedford was the grand prize winner of $1,000 for his concept of a “local coders” organization, which matches fledgling web and mobile app designers with small businesses and cash-strapped nonprofits who otherwise cannot afford to hire agencies to do all the work.

The problem, Medeiros said, is that businessmen like himself have trouble finding web designers and mobile application designers locally because as soon as they learn the skills they are off to Boston, New York or San Francisco, creating local scarcity and higher costs.

“We solve this problem by connecting people who want to learn how to build website and mobile apps with nonprofits who don’t have the money to do it. Participants learn from mentors from the SouthCoast area.

Seconds after Medeiros had his picture taken with the oversized check, he reached out to Peter Costa of the Homeless Advocates and said simply, “This is a donation to you,” drawing cheers from the gathering.

The EforAll pitch contests, similar to the “Shark Tank” reality TV shows, are becoming a regular event in New Bedford, Fall River, Lowell, and other “gateway cities.” They bring together people with ideas or small businesses that can be started with very little money but a lot of mentoring and coaching by volunteers who guide novices through the details of getting a business up and running.

The pitch contests enable participants to hone their sales skills as finalists get two-and-half minutes to sell their concept to a panel of judges, some local, some from EforAll. Contestants bring whatever they can to illustrate their concept or invention, and everybody takes some time to circulate around the room, grab a slice of pizza, and get to know fellow entrepreneurs through a little networking.

Twenty applicants were whittled down to a half dozen for the final pitches, with substantial prizes for those who top the final list: $1,000 for the grand prize, $750 for second place, $500 for third, $500 for a “wild card” and $500 for the people’s choice award.

Nic Cortes of Fall River won the wildcard for his concept of heated driveways.

Third place went to Homeless Advocates, a $500 people’s choice went to Hanna Walsh of New Bedford for a foot therapy ball for people suffering from afflictions like diabetes, and second place went to Anthony Markey of New Bedford for a system to providing college textbooks affordably in an on-campus exchange.

Follow Steve Urbon on Twitter @SteveUrbonSCT.

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Educators, legislators urge larger share of state aid for education

Posted Apr 21, 2017 at 2:01 AM

By Katie Lannan, State House News Service

BOSTON — Educators, parents and lawmakers are urging support for a bill that would update the state’s school funding formula to send more money to districts, highlighting the bill’s backing from a variety of different groups from across the state.

“This is the largest, most diverse coalition of education reformers that I have ever seen gathered in one place representing as many organizations,” Massachusetts Association of School Committees executive director Glenn Koocher said earlier this month at a gathering.

The bill filed by Sen. Sonia Chang-Diaz, would implement the 2015 recommendations of a state commission that found the current funding formula, known as the foundation budget, underestimates the cost of education by $1 billion to $2 billion per year.

“I think everyone agrees, like you can’t just flip a switch and turn on $2 billion,” Chang-Diaz told the News Service. “But if you spread it out over anywhere between five and 10 years, that is within the realm of the achievable for Massachusetts.”

The push for the bill came as House Democrats released a fiscal 2018 budget bill that calls for the type of limited increases in local aid that cities and towns have become accustomed to in recent years.

Paul Reville, who served as education secretary under Gov. Deval Patrick and was a member of the Foundation Review Commission, said Massachusetts has not delivered on all the promise of the 1993 law, including its financing provisions, when it “should really be talking about the next grand bargain here.”

“School districts have been forced to rob Peter to pay Paul, and the educational program has suffered as a result of it,” Reville said. “We find ourselves now a quarter of a century into education reform very proud of our achievements as a commonwealth — we lead the nation, lead the world in some categories — but still, we failed to fulfill the promise of education reform, which was to educate all of our children, and when we said all we meant all, all means all, to high levels of achievement.”

Local education aid, known as Chapter 70 money, has increased an average of $126 million per year from the 2011 fiscal year, including a $106 million hike recommended Monday in the new House Ways and Means budget bill.

Gov. Charlie Baker’s 2018 budget proposal included $4.72 billion in Chapter 70 aid, an increase of $91.4 million over this year’s appropriation.

Under one potential timeframe for implementing the changes called for in Chang-Diaz’s bill —the seven-year schedule used in education funding legislation that passed the Senate last year — schools would see an increase of approximately $200 million in state funding in the first year.

The Foundation Budget Review Commission called for updates to the funding formula to better account for rising fixed costs in health care and special education, and said the formula underestimates the cost of educating low-income students and English language learners.

The bill calls for a multi-year phasing in of the commission’s recommendations, charging the administration and finance secretary and House and Senate budget writers with meeting annually to determine an implementation schedule. It does not specify a timeframe or funding source.

Chang-Diaz, who joined the Legislature in 2009, said her bill could follow a similar path as the 1993 education reform law that established the funding formula.

“We made a decision on a values level, on a constitutional obligation level that we’re doing this, and then we exercised tremendous discipline and commitment over the ensuing seven to 10 years to elevate the on-ramp schedule,” she said. “But it was never a forgone conclusion that it was going to happen or that it was going to be easy, but we just did it because we believed in it.”

Sen. Jamie Eldridge, an Acton Democrat cosponsoring the bill, said implementing the commission’s recommendations would require more revenues.

“I think what’s interesting right now is that Governor Baker, in his budget, actually proposed about $600 million in new revenues through the employer assessment so, you know, are the House and Senate going to propose revenues given that the governor did that?” he said. “It might be a different form, it might be a form of taxes, but if we’re not going to increase revenue in our budgets, that means we’re not only not going to properly fund the beginning of the Foundation Budget Review Commission, but we’re not going to be able to properly fund regional school transportation, special education and Chapter 70 aid.

A total of 82 lawmakers are signed on to Chang-Diaz’s bill — 25 Senate Democrats, 47 House Democrats and 10 House Republicans.

The Senate has twice passed versions of the bill, once as part of legislation that tied major new investments in education to an increase in the cap on charter schools and once as an amendment to its fiscal 2017 budget.

The charter bill passed the Senate 22-13 and was never taken up by the House. The budget amendment, which Chang-Diaz said at the time had 22 cosponsors, did not survive after deliberations before a six-person House-Senate conference committee.

In the months since those Senate votes, Chang-Diaz said, several advocacy groups have adopted foundation budget reform as a priority and have been talking to their respective bases about the issue.

“This has been a long time coming, it’s been a long time building, and this consensus is unlike anything we’ve seen in a really long time,” she said.

Organizations whose support was touted at the press conference include the Boston Student Advisory Council, Educators for Excellence, EdVestors, Collaborative Parent Leadership Action Network, the Suburban Coalition, the Boston Higher Ground Coalition, Phenomenal Moms Boston, the Worcester Education Collaborative, and associations representing superintendents, school business officials, vocational administrators, regional schools, secondary school administrators and elementary school principals.

Chelsea Superintendent Mary Bourque, the president of the Massachusetts Association of School Superintendents, said her district each year must cut “more and more of what makes us a successful school system,” such as after-school programs and tutoring. This year, the Chelsea schools had to close a budget gap of more than $5 million, she said.

Bourque said the bill “shows that we have the courage to not just acknowledge the severe underfunding of public education, but finally we have the courage to take action.”

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CoveWalk officially opens on New Bedford’s South End

By Michael Bonner /

NEW BEDFORD — Mayor Jon Mitchell welcomed back state Transportation Secretary Stephanie Pollack about a year and a half after their first discussion of the CoveWalk.

Pollack returned Wednesday to New Bedford with Gov. Charlie Baker to witness the fruits of the state’s $5 million investment for the official ribbon-cutting of the CoveWalk.

“When you walk over the walkway and take a look out and see what’s behind you, it’s an ‘oh, wow moment,’” Baker said. “It gives us all the ability to help people in this community remember where they are, which is sitting here on this beautiful harbor.”

Mitchell joked that when he and Pollack first discussed the CoveWalk, they faced even worse elements compared to the strong steady breeze they dealt with on Wednesday.

It’s located atop the New Bedford Hurricane Barrier on the west side of the South End peninsula on Clark’s Cove. The CoveWalk measures 5,500 feet, more than 2,000 feet longer than the HarborWalk, located on the east side of the peninsula.

“When people come to our city, from now on, we want people to think not only of the Whaling Museum and the fishing industry, but also the great public spaces like this,” Mitchell said.

The official opening of the walkway is the latest addition to “The Blue Lane,” a name the city labeled the walking and bike paths that span the city’s 11-mile shoreline.

Mitchell handed Baker, Pollack and their staff members commemorative “Blue Lane” water bottles before the ribbon-cutting.

“Everyone should have a chance to have something like this in their community,” Mitchell said. “New Bedforders have deserved something like this for the last 50 years. So that’s what’s most pleasing about it.”

Construction began on the hurricane barrier in 1962 and was completed in 1966. The barrier remains the largest man-made structure on the East Coast of the United States.

Until recently, they also blocked a view of the waterfront.

“While it does a great job of protecting everybody from Mother Nature’s worst days, the problem with that is you don’t have the ability without this type of walk way to appreciate what’s on the other side,” Baker said.

P.A. Landers and Seguin Enterprises completed the construction that included 2,230 cubic yards of concrete, 11,100 feet of aluminium railing and 44,300 feet of electric wiring to power the 230 light fixtures.

The 13-inch concrete foundation of the walkway actually stabilizes the the hurricane barrier, Mitchell said, making it stronger than before in more ways that one.

“There’s a lot happening here,” Mitchell said. “We think that in a few years you’re going to see continued private investment here.”

Follow Michael Bonner on Twitter @MikeBBonnerSCT.


Original Story Here

Refurbished Seamen’s Bethel and Mariners’ Home opens in New Bedford

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.


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