Posted May 18, 2017 at 2:18 PM
By Michael Bonner / firstname.lastname@example.org
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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