Officials seeking public’s ideas for underused New Bedford port areas

Posted Dec 8, 2017 at 7:18 PM

Even with New Bedford already ranked by NOAA as the most valuable port in the United States, generating more than $325 million in revenue last year, there’s still room to grow.

That’s the word from Derek Santos, executive director of the Economic Development Council, and Ed Anthes-Washburn, executive director of the Harbor Development Commission.

“In terms of designated port areas, it’s the envy of the rest of the Commonwealth in terms of the number of jobs and the level of industry it supports,” Anthes-Washburn said. “When you look at the waterfront from the water perspective, the only two parts of the waterfront that aren’t active and doing anything are the Sprague site and the Hicks Logan Sawyer site.”

Through years of planning and public meetings, a plan emerged involving a site in the northern part of the harbor and another in the southern.

“We’re a fishing port,” Santos said. “We’re good at it. We just want to keep doing more of it.”

The Sprague site located in the southern end of the terminal extends from Leonard’s Wharf to the northern tip of Cape Street.

The land and assets are proposed to bring in marine technology and marine industrial companies. There’s also space on the street side to develop parking, a conference center and an area that brings the public closer to the seafood industry, much like Chatham Pier and Fish Market.

The northern area involves Kenyon Street to Wamsutta Street. The area is not a designated port area but could still benefit through marine industrial use along with improved public space for the existing residential areas.

“We want to see residential development in the downtown,” Santos said. “But we want to see industrial uses and those industrial uses pushed forward on the waterfront.”

At least five public meetings on the topics have been held so far. On Tuesday, the second public meeting was held regarding the redevelopment plan.

During each meeting, questions regarding waterfront condos seem to pop up. Each time, a reminder of the commitment to the fishing industry is explained.

“To see us doubling down on what we know works and using that as a bridge to the next opportunity has really been what’s been the success in the last four years and it builds trust,” Anthes-Washburn said.

The public meetings will continue in the future. Santos plans for multiple meetings occurring in 2018. The input likely won’t cease throughout the 20-year project, which may not be completed until closer to 2040.

“We want the public to be engaged,” Anthes-Washburn said. “These plans don’t work if the public feels alienated. So really, engaging with the public, engaging with the neighborhoods, that’s going to be important to the success of the plan.”

Follow Michael Bonner on Twitter @MikeBBonnerSCT

Original story here.