By Charis Anderson
NEW BEDFORD — Picture Acushnet Avenue. Now picture it dotted with sidewalk cafes and lined with trees and other plantings.
Picture benches on which pedestrians can pause to take in the activity of the vibrant business district as it swirls around them.
Picture a dramatic gateway to the Avenue installed across the northern end of Route 18 and visible from all directions to mark the entrance to this neighborhood, the city’s “international marketplace.”
Those are some of the recommendations contained in the Upper Acushnet Avenue Planning Study, which was presented at a public forum held Monday night at Cotali Mar, a restaurant on the Avenue.
“This is the spine of the neighborhood,” said Mayor Scott W. Lang during the meeting. “This is the most cosmopolitan part of the city. … We want to make sure that we have a vibrant neighborhood structure.”
Acushnet Avenue already has all the amenities that developers try to replicate in places like Wareham Crossing, according to Matthew Morrissey, the executive director of the New Bedford Economic Development Council.
The goal of this district plan is to enhance and improve the infrastructure to provide a better business climate and to identify a handful of under-used sites that could be developed in ways that benefit the neighborhood, Morrissey said.
“There is no reason that this area can’t get the same kind of resources that go into downtown,” he said during the meeting.
The district plan is expected to be finalized by early 2011, and the city will start to take on “low-hanging fruit” — some of the more easily accomplished recommendations in the plan — in the spring, according to city officials.
Concurrently, the city will be applying for state infrastructure grants for the final design and engineering and the initial construction phases with the goal of securing funding in 2011 and starting construction some time in 2012, city officials said.
“It’s all very inspiring,” said Manny Palomo, who lives in the near North End.
Palomo said his main question about the plan was how much of the conceptual design would actually be implemented.
He would like to see it all come to fruition: “It looks amazing.” he said.
Jeff Pontiff, chief executive officer of E.J. Pontiff Real Estate and the proprietor of Whaling City Harbor Tours, said Acushnet Avenue already has a very strong nucleus of businesses and restaurants.
“There’s a lot of history here and lot of heritage, and this idea of capitalizing on it is very, very exciting,” he said.
Ward 2 City Councilor Steve Martins said he applauded the initial planning efforts.
“I think today’s presentation shows what the businesses on the Avenue and the residents who live nearby … have been calling out for a long time,” he said. “Hopefully, now Acushnet Avenue can have its own distinct presence as downtown does.”
December 07, 2010