A Grand Panorama of a Whaling Voyage ‘Round the World

The Grand Panorama being installed at Kilburn Mill.

A nice perk of being a writer and journalist is the opportunity to check things out before they are headlines. That happened last week when I got a preview of the Whaling Museum’s restored 1,275 foot long “Grand Panorama of a Whaling Voyage ‘Round the World.”

Originally painted around 1850, it was lost in an attic for years before being discovered and donated to the museum. The last time it was displayed in its entirety was 1964, in New Bedford and at the World’s Fair in Queens. Now, it is being exhibited at Kilburn Mill at Clarks Cove, located in the city’s south end at 127 W. Rodney French Boulevard.

That’s where I was a week ago this morning, being given a tour of the space and a look at the panorama for a Standard-Times story I was writing. (Story here, with additional exhibit information.) Scheduled to open that Saturday, it was all hustle and bustle at Kilburn that morning – but the owners and crew were gracious with their time and gave me great access to the building.

Since the museum wanted to keep the stunning work under wraps until the opening, I was only able to take a few pictures and promised not to share them until after the debut. That has happened (the free exhibit is open to the public now every day from 9:00 a.m. until 5:00 p.m.) so I can share a few snaps and observations here.

One observation is this: do enjoy these photos, but recognize that they are no substitute for seeing the Grand Panorama in person. It’s a “WOW” best experienced for yourself.

Another thought is about the space itself. It is terrific to see it activated and utilized for this purpose. Hopefully it will inspire thoughts of just how best to use great buildings like these for new purposes going forward.

Groundwork! itself is located in a historic building that’s a good example of adaptive reuse. Originally built in 1898 as a textile school, it’s now home to this coworking space and other offices. As New Bedford architect Kathryn Duff says, “An existing building is the most sustainable building.”

Kilburn Mill overlooks beautiful Clarks Cove and the Cove Walk.

Finally, while we sometimes take the complicated legacy of whaling for granted, it’s still a defining characteristic of New Bedford’s history. And, the restoration of this unique work of art – the longest painting in the entire world, according to the Whaling Museum – is, to quote Joe Biden, a BFD.

It is bringing national and international attention to the city and burnishing its appeal as an arts destination. As the old saying goes, you can’t buy that kind of publicity. Generously sharing the news about this one-of-a-kind event in the City of New Bedford speaks well of all of us as gracious hosts to visitors this summer.

New Bedford’s real parking problem

The National Park Service gets it right with its thoughtful placement of bike racks at its visitor’s center on William Street.

Studies have been done. Streetscapes have been ripped up. And parking garages have gone up, come down, then gone up again. Over the years, New Bedford has worked mightily to address its parking problem.

In reality, there isn’t a parking problem. There’s a walking problem – as in Americans become neurotic when they can’t find a parking place exactly where they want it when they need it. When that parking space turns out to be on the next block downtown, OMG! We have a parking problem.

Meanwhile, those of us less auto-dependent and more physically active have to contend with the real parking problem…(cue dramatic music)….

The lack of bike racks almost everywhere throughout the city.

And guess what, this isn’t a city problem – as in City of New Bedford. The city has done its part. There has been a real effort to install bike racks in very many public places from city libraries and parks, beaches and baseball fields.

So who has been the scofflaw in this story? Mainly, businesses – like restaurants and bars, bakeries and corner stores.

Pay attention to details

When I was a wee lad, I spent a summer on the Jersey Shore working at a small restaurant called the Raspberry Cafe. It was a nifty but small spot – five tables and a counter – but an eclectic mostly vegetarian menu and, importantly, outdoor seating which allowed it to serve many more customers than the indoors could handle.

The owners worked hard to make sure it was an inviting, well-run place. They went out of their way to pay attention to details.

One thing that caught their eye was the number of people who would cycle up and down along the boardwalk and then stop in for breakfast or lunch. For many, it was their weekend routine.

So, they wanted the cafe to function well for all these folks, and did something that no one else had done before in the commercial district: They installed bike racks for these patrons to park their bikes at while eating.

Needless to say, they were a big hit. All those cyclists kept coming back for their granola, banana and yogurt breakfasts because they felt welcome – and could park their vehicle.

Soon, bike racks were everywhere, as other merchants caught on. And lo and behold, the town became known as a bicycle-friendly place – another feather in its cap.

A Six-Pack and a Schwinn

Though I’ve always been a prolific bike rider, the lack of bike racks is really getting on my nerves this summer and causing me to cast an evil eye on some favorite places.

I’d rather not name names, but urge any establishment reading this – especially the ones who offer outdoor seating or grab-and-go offerings – to consider making the economical and customer-friendly decision to install bike racks where possible at your place of business. It will only grow your business.

As noted, the city has done a good job of making bike racks available at many public spaces. So has the Whaling National Historic Park at its visitor’s center. Bizarrely, UMass Dartmouth CVPA has none at its Star Store campus.

(And to clarify, leaving your bike a few blocks over and out of sight isn’t the same as parking your car on the next block. We are in an urban environment and wheels, seats and other bicycle parts have been known to go missing – if not the entire bike! Bike racks should be placed where there is a reasonable expectation that eyes will be on them.)

Perhaps the funniest instance of a place suffering from a lack of a bike rack is a popular and well-populated liquor store I visited last week.

A rather gamey place under the best of circumstances, a fight broke out over the ownership of both a six-pack and a Schwinn, which had been leaning, unchained, against the side of the building while its owner found his libations inside.

The rightful owner won the fight. But, I’d like to win the war – and see more bike racks all over New Bedford. If for no other reason than to keep the peace!

New Bedford Now: Coastin’ expands its reach

Standard-Times editor, Beth Perdue announces a new vision for Coastin’ during a meeting at the newspaper’s Elm Street headquarters in New Bedford on Wed. June 27, 2018.

Most of us probably aren’t accustomed to hearing good news from the daily newspaper industry. Since the advent of the Internet era through the ascent of social media era, it seems like it’s been an unrelenting story of economic decline which in turn has meant less relevance for the municipal institutions which help define their cities like almost no other civic entity.

Yet, so many of us recently have become all too aware of just how important independent news sources are to our local and national sense of society. Just maybe, dailies won’t go entirely the way vinyl records once did before they are appreciated for their superior ability to enable to us to hear beyond the echo chamber.

As in many industries, this is going to entail innovation. A seizing of the fertile opportunities new technology can provide rather than its incessant challenges.

Coastin’ “blows up”!

The Standard-Times – Southcoasttoday.com to many now – took a giant step forward into the future this week when it announced a new, regional platform and game plan for its arts and cultural coverage: A joining of forces between itself and Fall River’s Herald News, which will define the entire South Coast area as a regional destination in Massachusetts and for New England.

That platform is Coastin’ – the weekly insert that appears every Thursday within The Standard-Times in print. As the importance of the region’s arts and culture community and economy has surged, so to has the need for a resource dedicated to properly communicating that story to readers, patrons and consumers.

Arts groups expressed this to editors at the newspaper during a 2016 meeting – and they listened.

The Coastin’ website has been upgraded and will include all the stories you expect to see – and others that offer a wider look at the world around us everyday. Southcoasttoday.com/Coastin and HeraldNews.com/Coastin will become a pan-regional portal into the arts and culture scene.

Start spreading the news…

Many readers of this blog probably know that I write a weekly column for Coastin’ called State of the Arts. It is and will always be focused on New Bedford. That won’t change – but what will change is the number of people who will now get to read the column and learn about the amazing efforts of the city’s creative folks. That’s exciting.

For Fall River, it mean the Herald News will rebrand its print entertainment section as Coastin’ – and get in on the fun New Bedford has been enjoying for many years now. However, editorial in each printed edition will most often be unique to each city.

But by seizing the chance to bind the region together in one powerful brand, the editors of both newspapers are recognizing the promise of scaling up – while doubling down on what’s making South Coast soar.

That would be its unique cultural identity – which is finally being recognized as a powerful force for progressive industry and progress across all sectors of society.

In this week’s Coastin’ – on newsstands now and on the revamped website today – I write about the lessons New Bedford has learned by learning to collaborate as a creative economy. You can read that column here  – and now, so can people from Seekonk to Wareham.

That’s a good thing – because as detailed in the story, the city is leading the way in such a way that other communities can learn from its example. That enriches the entire region – and circles back to empower its hub, the City of New Bedford.

A story of innovation and purpose

As constantly chronicled on this blog and in the pages of The Standard-Times and online at Southcoasttoday.com, the story of this city is no longer one of decline – but one of renewal. Now, that’s being reflected and mobilized in a positive way to uplift the entire region – through innovation and purpose.

Like effective collaboration, change in the means and methods of the delivery of news and information can be messy to navigate.

But by betting on strategic thinking over stagnation and decline, the city’s daily newspaper, The Standard-Times and its online counterpart, Southcoasttoday.com, is proving that the relevance of newspapers of historic importance have a voice which speaks to the future, not the past.

Watching the World Cup in Europe – On The Ave

Crab Cakes, stuffed mushrooms and favas followed by Sagres at Cotali Mar.

You would be excused if you thought you were in a corner of Europe sitting in the courtyard of Cotali Mar restaurant on Acushnet Avenue watching Portugal take on Iran during the World Cup.

The outdoor seating area out back of the restaurant is a gracious walled terrace within the city’s most relentlessly urban space. A fountain, an outdoor fireplace, tables, chairs and umbrellas are all arranged throughout the generous space in a way which allows you to appreciate al fresco dining.

On Monday, June 25, a 70-inch television was placed out on the terrace and Cotali Mar, normally closed on Monday, was host to about a dozen or so special guests to watch the World Cup match between Portugal and Iran.

Naturally, any occasion to cheer on Portugal is a cause for celebration along The Ave, which has benefits from the city’s huge Portuguese presence with an ample portion of restaurants like Cotali Mar serving cuisine from the old country.

The terrace of Cotali Mar.

So, it was an enthusiastic group that gathered to watch – especially evident when Ricardo Quaresma scored. There were moans when Cristiano Ronaldo missed a penalty kick, but the conversation before did conclude that the team needed to become less dependent on its star player. And besides, despite a late surge by the Iranians, Portugal still advances and faces Uruguay on Saturday, June 30 at 2:00 p.m.

Heading back to Cotali Mar to watch that match is on the agenda. Even though the restaurant was technically closed on Mondays, owner Carlos Madeira put out an impressive spread for guests – which included this wayward chronicler who mistakenly thought Cotali Mar was open for regular business. Nonetheless, he was welcomed to the table by the generous host instead of being handed a red card.

Grilled chicken, crab cakes, favas, whole crabs and more were brought out of the kitchen to the terrace with mouth-watering results as the match got underway. Needless to say, it was an appreciative bunch of World Cup spectators, who were also well-lubricated by Portugal’s signature beer, Sagres.

Sitting outside on a warm, sunny day full of Portuguese food and watching the World Cup, you almost felt as if you were in Portugal itself. It’s the pleasure of the city to possess a place like this on a street dubbed its International Marketplace – especially so when it’s a World Cup year like 2018.

Deep Dive into Clasky Common Farmers Market

Marisa Barone and Ian Nichols of Backyard Garden.

Last week, I wrote about the growing, informal urban agriculture network springing to life in New Bedford. This week, we’re looking at one piece of it – the terrific, weekly Saturday morning Farmers Market at Clasky Common Park.

The Coastal Foodshed Farmers Market at Clasky Common is just a few blocks down Pleasant Street from Groundwork!  (which is located at 1213 Purchase Street.) It’s been a weekend pick for several summers now for most members, like myself – and more summers for others. This farmers market was the city’s first, launched some years ago now. Like all things, it’s evolved over time.

Drew of Silver City Acres.

This year’s crop is especially interesting. As I noted last week, newcomers Backyard Garden have joined the line-up of stands at the market, along with Silver City Acres. Sampson Farm – which brought amazing strawberries and their signature potatoes to the market last week – is a hold-over from last season.

Marisa Barone and Ian Nichols, the Backyard Garden team, tell me that they lease their land out in Westport. They get acreage and the landowners receive a tax credit for agriculture. They work the land well; their produce is stupendous.

Marisa and Ian tell me something else very interesting: They enjoy being at the New Bedford Farmers Market more than others in the region, by far.

They say people actually shop for food here, and that makes them feel purposeful. At other locations – which won’t be disclosed – they feel shoppers purchase little of actual purpose, but instead stop by more as a social rather than dietary function.

That may be because Coastal Foodshed has been progressive in administering the markets. Also, New Bedford Farmers Markets are indeed necessary, as some areas of the city are severely under-served when it comes to fresh produce.

Sampson’s Potatoes are a Clasky Common staple.

That’s certainly the case with Clasky Common. It’s at the eastern edge of a large, residential swath of the city which doesn’t see a supermarket until Hathaway Road to the north, Down to Earth way out west by Rockdale Avenue, and Price-Rite off Rt. 18 heading south.

To meet the need, Coastal Foodshed is launching something new this summer: pop-up farmers markets around the city. They will begin with a “soft launch” in June and then follow this schedule beginning in July:

Tuesdays on the corner of Brock Ave/Warren St. (near Tedeschi’s) 4:00-6:00 pm

Wednesdays at Carlos Pacheco Elementary School 3:30-5:30pm

Saturdays at Buttonwood Park Zoo, inside parking lot area 11:00-1:00pm

“We will also be doing Popup events such as festivals and fairs,” they write to me. “All produce will be sourced from local Southcoast farmers! There will be cooking demos on site throughout the month and health screenings as well. We do plan to expand to more locations in the future but are working out all of the logistics this year.”

Also, they have created Farm Share program, where you can order online for pick-up each Wednesday at Carlos Pacheco School, on Mt. Pleasant Street just north of Sawyer. Find details here.

Back at Clasky Common Farmers Market, you can feel a special vibe all its own developing.

It’s always had the fact that it is New Bedford’s most graceful park going for it. Now, Groundwork! is part of the neighborhood. An expansion of the Veterans Transition House is in the works, mid-way between the coworking facility and the market. There’s just more vitality – and interest – in the neighborhood.

Zekiah Lucas and his Yamaha.

Maybe that caught the eye – or rather, ear – of busker Zekiah Lucas. He arrived at the Common Clasky Farmers Market this past Saturday, new acoustic Yamaha in hand, and provided the soundtrack for the day.

He tells me that he plans to stop by about every other week at Clasky Common. (The enigmatic Lucas also makes appearances at the Brooklawn Park Farmers Market on Monday afternoons, as well as locations throughout the city, as the spirit moves.)

It’s a nice touch and adds to the already easy-going ambiance of Saturday mornings at Clasky Common.

Stop by and do some food shopping or just hang out in the park on Saturdays from 10:00 a.m. until 2:00 p.m. every week to soak it all up.

New Bedford Now: Connecting to Grow

Maura Ramsey and Kristin McCullin filling the wagon with plants outside of Haskell Public Gardens on Shawmut Avenue, NB.

Last Thursday, June 7, GROW Education held its annual Community Garden planting at Carlos Pacheco Elementary School. It was one of many the program has done in recent weeks all around New Bedford.

Last week, too, the New Bedford outdoor Farmers Markets opened for the season. You’ll find them on Mondays at Brooklawn Park from 2:00-6:00 p.m.; Thursdays in Custom House Square Park also from 2:00-6:00 p.m.; and Saturdays at Clasky Common Park from 10:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m.

Yesterday, I happened to catch Maura Ramsey, Executive Director of Groundwork USA Southcoast (not affiliated with this Groundwork, the coworking facility) at Haskell Public Gardens. She was picking up some donated vegetable plants from Kristin McCullin, horticulturist at the park.

Groundwork USA Southcoast is planting the community gardens at Riverside Park in the city’s north end this year. The organization is based out of the Community Economic Development Center at 1285 Acushnet Avenue, and is part of the Love The Ave group, which is seeking to help revitalize the greater Acushnet Avenue neighborhood.

Maura told me that one of their interns, Irlanda Antunes is also working with Adam Davenport, who oversees the GROW Education gardens for the Marion Institute, which started the program with Zoe Hansen-DiBello. (Both Adam and Zoe are members of this Groundwork.)

Adam Davenport leads the planting at Carlos Pacheco School, Mt. Pleasant Street, NB.

At Saturday’s Clasky Common Farmers Market, newcomers Marisa Barone and Ian Nichols from Westport’s Backyard Garden were well aware of GROW Education’s gardens. Naturally, they love the concept. They would; they grow and sell holistically grown vegetables and herbs. New Bedford is a destination for their hard work due to the city’s growing embrace of local agriculture.

Kristin at Haskell Park has been growing vegetables there for several years now. Discovering her supporting Groundwork USA Southcoast’s efforts in Riverside Park wasn’t surprising; she, like all the people in this report, put their beliefs into practice.

A common bond is developing through all these efforts. It’s one that is very – no pun intended – organic. Local, sustainable agriculture initiatives across the city are finding each other to make common cause.

That’s intentional. Maura Ramsey says that the groups have been actively searching each other out to find ways to go further together by sharing knowledge and resources.

That not only strengthens each but also strengthens the whole – as well as the holistic.

Maura said on Monday that she was thinking of planting potatoes at Riverside Park, but was afraid it was too late in the season.

Not so, said Kristin and myself. Kristin knew from experience. I knew because I saw Davenport doing it at Pacheco School last week.

No doubt Irlanda Antunes will find that out interning for both Groundwork USA Southcoast and with GROW Education, and share the knowledge.

At this coworking facility, we love the concept and practice of collaboration.

And we like it even more when it occurs out in the wild, naturally.

  • The New Bedford Now weekly briefing is deep dive into news from the Groundwork! city desk featuring items of interest, select happenings, coworking member updates, substantiated rumors and good gossip in New Bedford, Massachusetts by Groundworker-At-Large, Steven Froias.


Drawing on the Sacred Circle at Haskell Gardens – an Installation by Andy Moerlein; in collaboration with Master Horticulturist, Kristin McCullin; and Artist/Curator Jessica Bregoli.

On the Menu in New Bedford Now

This week’s New Bedford Now briefing hits close to home – because I’m happy to share the news that myself and Sarah Athanas, working together as Twin Fish, and in partnership with the New Bedford Economic Development Council, are launching the city’s first RESTAURANT WEEK this September, 2018.

The Love The Ave & North End Restaurant Week will happen from Saturday, Sept. 15 through Friday, September 21. Pull up a chair, grab a fork, and come hungry.

Restaurant Weeks are a terrific vehicle to showcase a city or region’s unique cuisine – and as we all know, New Bedford’s diverse dishes are satisfying and savory. Renowned for fresh seafood, Portuguese and increasingly, Latin American flavor, the city is indeed Destination New Bedford when it comes to dining.

During a restaurant week, eateries break out the good china, so to speak. Specials, signature dishes and discounts define the seven days and thus the establishments. And, then the city.

New Bedford’s first Restaurant Week is centered on and around Acushnet Avenue for a reason. It’s genesis was in the Love The Ave committee, a community group dedicated to revitalizing the commercial corridor which I call New Bedford’s most relentlessly urban space.

So, to help promote Restaurant Week, the group will finally be getting something it has needed for some time – its own website, LoveTheAve.com. In the process of fostering business development with the Restaurant Week, the North End will then be left with a resource to showcase itself into the future, too.

This week, the site and first rush of publicity for the Love The Ave & North End Restaurant Week get rolled out – and followers of Groundwork get the first look courtesy of this blog.

From now until mid-July, we’ll be lining up all the terrific bakeries, eateries and restaurants along Acushnet Avenue and throughout parts of the North End and then packaging them all together to publicize like crazy from later July through September.

You can read all about it soon on LoveTheAve.com.

Below is the first official Press Release for the event, going out to all media in the region this week.

Sarah and I, working from right here in Groundwork, hope you’re excited as we are to get a taste of what makes all of New Bedford tasty. Join us in the months ahead as we plot our course – make that three or four courses – up and down and all around Acushnet Avenue, New Bedford.


Restaurant Week comes to Acushnet Avenue and North End in September

Pull up a chair, grab a fork, and come hungry.

The City of New Bedford’s first Restaurant Week launches this September, 2018. It will feature the diverse menus of what some regard as the city’s Restaurant Row.

That’s the commercial corridor Acushnet Avenue, the heart of the North End and affectionately called “The Ave” in the City of New Bedford. This vibrant space pulses from Coggeshall Street to Lunds Corner.

Additionally, eateries from Belleville Avenue to the east and Ashley Boulevard to the west will join in this special week of gastric delight from Saturday, September 15 through Friday, September 21, 2018.

It’s a week to showcase the culinary flavor of New Bedford’s North End,  home to some of the city’s most beloved bakeries, eateries, and restaurants.

From fine dining to casual noshing, Acushnet Avenue and the North End boast an impressive array of savory cultures: American, Chinese, French, Guatemalan, Peruvian, Portuguese, Mexican and Spanish dishes are all on the menu here.

During Restaurant Week, participating eateries can feature price fixe menus, promote special discounts, highlight signature dishes and offer entertainment. It’s their choice – and their moment to showcase their kitchens.

All of these special Restaurant Week happenings will be posted to the website, LoveTheAve.com, launched as part of this special event.

Restaurant Week is being organized by the content media firm, Twin Fish, LLC out of the Groundwork! coworking space in partnership with the New Bedford Economic Development Council (NBEDC) and the community group, Love The Ave – with enthusiastic support from Mayor Jon Mitchell’s office and various city departments.

The Love The Ave group, overseen by the NBEDC, the Department of Planning, Housing and Community Development and the  Community Economic Development Center (CEDC), located at 1285 Acushnet Avenue, is committed to revitalizing the area while empowering its diverse population.

“The Avenue’s many delicious dining spots are its greatest commercial and human asset,” says Steven Froias, a member of the Love The Ave community group. “They all bring distinction to this wonderfully funky, relentlessly urban space in New Bedford.”

Establishments that would like to participate in Restaurant Week can sign up directly LoveTheAve.com. There is no cost to participate. It is everyone’s wish that these terrific small businesses seize the opportunity to put North End dining on the Destination New Bedford map.

Eateries in the Restaurant Week area, along Acushnet Avenue from Coggeshall Street to Lunds Corner and from Ashley Boulevard to Belleville Avenue, can also contact Steven Froias and Sarah Athanas, the Twin Fish team, at NewBedfordNow@gmail.com with any questions. They will be reaching out to owners and managers between now and July 15, too.

After the full line-up has been created, Restaurant Week will be promoted through special blog posts to LoveTheAve.com, its Facebook page (Facebook.com/lovetheave), posters, postcards and advertising throughout the city and region.

Acushnet Avenue is New Bedford’s International Marketplace. In recognition of this, Twin Fish has designed LoveTheAve.com to be read in English, Portuguese and Spanish. It will read the settings on web browsers and switch between languages – or, you can click on the flag representing each at the top of the site.

Many of the cultures found around Acushnet Avenue and the North End are represented by their food and the places that serve it.

“A Restaurant Week is a great way to literally bring everyone to the table. It’s a meaningful economic development tool that is also culturally enriching,” says Angela Johnston, Director of Business Development for the NBEDC.

Mark your calendar now for the Love The Ave and North End Restaurant Week, Saturday, September 15 through Friday, September 21, 2017.

And remember to come hungry.

What a difference a year makes…

File photo from the 2017 South Coast Pride – which returns to Buttonwood Park this Sat. June 2, 2018.

Last year at this time, I wrote a blog post entitled, “New Bedford gets its PRIDE back.” It was about the return of the city’s LGBTQ Pride Festival after taking a few years hiatus.

I wrote then, “While New Bedford is certainly home to a wonderful LGBTQ community, it hasn’t been a particularly visible or vibrant one – but that may finally be beginning to change for the better and to the city’s benefit.”

On the eve of tomorrow’s LGTBQ Pride Festival – Saturday, June 2, once again in Buttonwood Park – it’s fair to say those words no longer apply.

For, in the past year, the LGBTQ community has indeed been visible and is achieving a level of vibrancy it’s probably never enjoyed in New Bedford before.

During the past year, the organization South Coast LGBTQ Network has led the way under the amazing leadership of Traci Welch.

It launched a weekly Facebook Live show via New Bedford Guide that provides a great forum for discussion of issues pertaining to or affecting the gay community.

The group NB AGLY, which offers support to at-risk LGTBQ youth, launched a weekly Pride Cafe at its downtown headquarters, which supporters got to visit during an AHA! New Bedford open house evening.

And numerous other events have succeeded in creating an ongoing platform for the LGBTQ community – which includes just plain fun events, too. Like the monthly Drag Brunches at Incognito Bar & Grill on Acushnet Avenue. And, more happenings at LePlace, New Bedford’s LGBTQ bar in the Hicks-Logan gateway neighborhood.

That’s not only a good thing for the gay community, but for the city. It underscores the fact that New Bedford is a fully-functional city that embraces, values and empowers the diversity within it.

A Pride Festival showcases that – and Groundwork! is proud to be one of the sponsors of this year’s festival.

South Coast Pride begins at 9:30 a.m. in Buttonwood Park and continues until 4:00 p.m. On the day’s list of activities is Yoga in the Park with Jeff Costa – right at 9:30 – followed by a wellness walk and then entertainment (like Sister Funk), vendors, family friendly activities, food and more.

A pre-Pride party happens Friday night at Incognito (1606 Acushnet Avenue) and an after-Pride party happens at LePlace (20 Kenyon Street), both 21+

There’s certainly more to be done to ensure equality for everyone, regardless of sexual preference or gender, in New Bedford and society.

But on Saturday, we can all take pride in the knowledge that the city has come a long way recently in a short amount of time – mirroring the positive direction New Bedford is going in generally.

That’s no coincidence – it’s the rainbow after the rain.

New Bedford Now: All Eyes on Hicks-Logan

Sitting right off I-195, New Bedford’s Hicks-Logan neighborhood could be an important gateway to the city.

For some, it’s a convenient means of egress and exit to and from the north end.

Some still call it home. In fact, the pioneering The Lofts at Wamsutta are part of a generous interpretation of the area.

For others, it’s a place to do business. Service industries, the city’s only LGBTQ bar, two destination antiques stores, Kyler’s Catch Fresh Seafood and more are all located here.

Here would be Hicks-Logan – an area of New Bedford sliced and diced by highways and left for dead.

And yet…

The obituary for its residential and industrial apocalypse was always premature. It’s held its own as a distinct neighborhood – which is more than can be said for others within Ward 3, where it resides. And many consider it a woefully underutilized gateway to the city, sitting right off Interstate 195.

Public art by Alexx Jardin under I-195.

It’s also exuded an urban porn charm which has always made it catnip to those with the fetish – like artists.

As I often say, “Where angels fear to tread…” artists rush in. And they have to Hicks-Logan. With street art (courtesy of Alexx Jardin) and performance art (thanks to the drag shows hosted at LePlace) and, in a bygone era, the music of the New Wave Cafe.

LePlace, the city’s only LGBTQ bar, has been open in Hicks-Logan for over 30 years.

The public mural team SUPERFLAT has had walls in Hicks-Logan in its line of sight since day one.

The money always follows the artists (even if too few of them get any of it), and that’s the scenario that may be playing out soon in the Hicks-Logan neighborhood of New Bedford, located East of Acushnet Avenue to the river of the same name, south of Coggeshall Street and basically under Eisenhower’s Interstate I-195.

Blanks walls leading up to Kyler’s Catch have caught the eye of the public art mural team, SUPERFLAT.

Patrick Sullivan, Director of Planning, Housing and Community Development for New Bedford, tells me that the Hicks-Logan neighborhood and the former Eversource site on the waterfront downtown are this close to being officially designated Redevelopment Zones by the Commonwealth of Massachusetts under a new banner of Urban Renewal.

I write “new banner” because some in New Bedford may remember ‘Urban Renewal’ in the city as defined by the demolition of numerous historic properties, Rt. 18 and a Quixotic attempt to turn Purchase Street into a “Pedestrian Mall” from Spring to William Streets (which may have actually been an idea ahead of its time, but let’s not digress…)

Urban Renewal today is defined by Massachusetts as follows: a strategy for redeveloping and revitalizing substandard, decadent and blighted open areas for residential, commercial, industrial, business, governmental, recreational, educational, hospital or other uses.”

What that translates into is a redevelopment authority being given the power “ to plan and implement activities needed to address the conditions contributing to the disinvestment that leads to substandard, decadent and blighted open areas.”

Remnants of the former Revere Copper mill in Hicks-Logan.

That can include quite a lot, including the use of eminent domain, under specific approved redevelopment plans. The scope of these Redevelopment Zones is unclear as of now, as an official announcement is still forthcoming. (A 2008 Hicks-Logan-Sawyer Master Plan can still be found here on the City of New Bedford website.)

In plain English, things are getting real in New Bedford.

Hot on the heels of the city being designated an Opportunity Zone by the U.S. Treasury (details here), and last week’s announcement that Vineyard Wind got a green light for their off-shore wind farm, this is a city which will be soon be juggling multiple big ticket initiatives at once.

Let’s take a deep breath – and a step back.

The fact that the New Bedford Redevelopment Authority and SUPERFLAT both have their eyes on Hicks-Logan just may be a good thing. An opportunity to bring the city’s Creative Activists to the table and breathe some life into what Mayor Jon Mitchell has termed the “New Bedford Way” of doing things.

Redevelopment plans can often go astray – especially given the scope of power entrusted to an agency to carry out its agenda. All too often, the human is lost in the jargon.

Combining ambitious renewal plans with the city’s nationally-recognized Creative Activists is not only a hedge against the new Urban Renewal looking like the old Urban Renewal of the 1970s, but smart policy.

Greater municipal interests and artistic pursuits shouldn’t exist in separate silos. Bring them together and redevelopment just may have a human face – the New Bedford Way.

New Bedford’s season of renewal is real and lasting. Let’s bring all parties to the table and make it something else, too: sustainable and self-regenerative.

  • The New Bedford Now weekly briefing is deep dive into news from the Groundwork! city desk featuring items of interest, select happenings, coworking member updates, substantiated rumors and good gossip in New Bedford, Massachusetts by Groundworker-At-Large, Steven Froias.

Seizing New Bedford’s Moment

In the 19th century, it was whaling.

In the 20th, textiles and manufacturing sustained New Bedford.

And perhaps now, in the 21st century, the city has found another industry to propel it into the future.

The news this week that Vineyard Wind, based in New Bedford, had been selected for the state’s first offshore wind contract was like a catharsis. It almost seemed like a reward for having faith in a city that exerts such a powerful, emotional hold on so many.

On another level, it promised a clear direction for the nation’s sometime sluggish momentum toward a sustainable tomorrow. Renewable energy isn’t a fantasy anymore. It’s the future – and has been for some time elsewhere, but now – finally – here, too.

Here – in New Bedford. The City That Lit The World is once again integral to the national narrative.

The city is well-positioned to build on this moment, not least because it’s been moving in this direction all along. Some of the people who have passed through the Groundwork doors as members or friends over the past few years include David Duquette, a leader in the Tidal Power industry; John Weaver, a commercial solar energy specialist; and Jeremy Dagnold, an energy audit expert with Conservation Services Group.

It’s tough to let go of a legacy industry. It takes decades for systemic change to happen – and the transition can be painful. Fully transitioning from a  fossil fuel based economy still won’t happen overnight – but it’s coming now. A fundamental shift in the energy paradigm is as overdue as it is necessary.

The fact that New Bedford will now be at the forefront of this change feels like a vindication, of sorts. Through the lean years, the city never sank as far down as other places might have under similar economic distress.

Though it’s not always popular to say or write, it’s important to remember that stable municipal government over many years played a big part in keeping the city together. Sure, you can pick apart this decision or that and certainly find fault with administrations that made boneheaded decisions or displayed a lack of urgency and creativity in governance, but on the whole New Bedford’s municipal government up to and definitely including the current team in City Hall have performed well.

We’re at a point now, however, when being good isn’t going to be good enough. Because New Bedford is poised for a new era of potential greatness – and that will demand more of all of us. Not just city government, but the private sector and creative classes, individuals and average citizen now have the opportunity to seize the moment and run with it.

For almost a decade, the City of New Bedford has been in a state of renewal. These have been critical years for the city, with many segments of its society laying the groundwork for the next ten to twenty or more years.

The next ten years will be as critical, too. As a possible new era of prosperity beckons, it’s important to include the diverse elements of New Bedford which have all contributed to bring it to this moment in time.

A truly sustainable future concerns itself with social justice, equal opportunity and respect. That groundwork, too has been laid in the city – and it will be important to recall those values in the years ahead.

An early test will be addressing the concerns of the important fishing industry. Since offshore wind is in maturity off the coast of Europe, it would be useful to study the policies in effect there and learn from them. A cursory search reveals that Britain seems to have the most fishermen-friendly practices and thus less conflict than Denmark.

(Vineyard Wind is a majority Danish-owned company with an office at 700 Pleasant Street, New Bedford.)

New Bedford now finds itself in the enviable position of moving forward on all fronts.

Its economic status has improved and is in a position to improve in dramatic fashion. Its school system is poised for the same after years of turmoil. The perception of the city has also changed; the image of a crime-ridden urban wasteland was always overblown and that’s actually reflected in declining crime rates year after year.

More people look upon the city differently now. They see it for its funky charm and abundant possibilities. It’s a distinct and special place that more and more are happy to call home these days.

Positive press about New Bedford is becoming the norm now. The usual opening line, “The struggling former Whaling capital of the world…” has been edited.  

New Bedford is now being portrayed for what it is: Economically viable; culturally relevant; socially diverse.

A city with a past – moving into the future.

It’s a nice place to be.