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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.
Steven Froias

Steven Froias

Mad Man at Groundwork!
Steven Froias is Groundwork!'s resident blogger. He sleeps in the boiler room at 1213 Purchase Street.
Steven Froias

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