City Active in North-End, South-End and Downtown Business Development Planning

Mayor Scott W. Lang today highlighted the progress his administration has made on several strategic planning efforts designed to unlock new business development opportunities in three of the city’s commercial areas; the Acushnet Avenue corridor/Upper Harbor, the south end/Route 18 gateway, and the historic downtown. These community-based planning and business development efforts are the result of a strong collaboration between the New Bedford Economic Development Council, MassDevelopment, and a wide variety of city departments and agencies including the City Planning Office, the Office of Housing and Community Development, and the Harbor Development Commission.
“My administration is fully committed to fostering lasting growth and development citywide, but especially within each of New Bedford’s business districts. Driven by public involvement and led by a talented team of experts in the areas of planning and economic development, these strategic planning initiatives will ultimately produce a blueprint that will strengthen New Bedford’s business districts,” said Mayor Lang.
City representatives began work on the Acushnet Avenue plan nearly two years ago, canvassing the district door-to-door, speaking with independent shopkeepers, hearing ideas as to how the City can enhance the business climate in the north end. In addition to the community outreach efforts, the Office of Housing and Community Development completed a comprehensive, detailed analysis of the north end area, collecting critical data that will inform current and future efforts.  More recently, city officials invited area business owners to a public meeting where they discussed future planning actions for the commercial district that will focus on comprehensive marketing, the development of a pedestrian friendly international marketplace, and improving transportation links to the downtown. The City is already working to carry out some of the short-term goals identified at that meeting including infrastructure improvements and the marketing of the many dinning and café opportunities within the district.
In February, the Upper Harbor Community Visioning process was launched with a community workshop that drew more than 160 participants. Facilitated by planning consultant Goody Clancy, the goal of the process was to engage a broad range of stakeholders to create a more unified community-based “vision” for the future of the Upper Harbor area, which stretches from Fairhaven Mills north to the Wood Street Bridge and from Acushnet Avenue east to the river’s edge. Recommendations outlined in the plan include an emphasis on public access to and along the riverfront, facade and streetscape improvements along Acushnet Avenue, and community-appropriate redevelopment of underutilized mill buildings along the Acushnet River. Officials project the final plan will be available this month and will incorporate all of the public input obtained during the series of community input meetings as well as the recently completed survey work conducted in the river walk area.
In the Downtown area, a task force comprised of local business people, property owners, and other stakeholders has formed to assist the planning team, led by HR&A Advisors, in identifying sites suitable for redevelopment that would serve as a strong catalyst for other area reinvestment, with an emphasis on job creation. The Downtown Strategic Development Plan objectives include building on and sustaining New Bedford’s recent momentum and creating a framework that will link planning, business development, and programming efforts as well as capture the creative economy sector.  Officials project the Downtown Strategic Development Plan will be in final form in January.
In the south end of New Bedford, the City, MassDevelopment and planning and traffic consultant Vanasse Hangen Brustlin, Inc., are working to develop the South End Gateway Public Realm Improvement Plan. The objectives of this plan include improvements to the connectivity between Route 18 and the Clarks Cove area, thereby encouraging the redevelopment of several large and underutilized parcels for a variety of beneficial uses. This plan will identify potential roadway and streetscape improvements, as well as propose urban design guidelines for key redevelopment parcels and will be presented to the public in final form this December.
November 3, 2008

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