City Waterfront Economy to Gain From Possible State Allocation

Sen. Montigny Proposes $25 Million Waterfront Revival Around State Pier
By Joe Cohen, Standard-Times staff writer

NEW BEDFORD — State funding to provide a $25 million face-lift to transform the downtown waterfront around State Pier into a tourist-friendly destination was proposed Wednesday by Sen. Mark C. W. Montigny.
Attractions could include restaurants, a fish market, public recreation and other facilities.
Sen. Montigny said he envisions the already planned transformation of Route 18/JFK Memorial Highway as a pedestrian-friendly link to boost the city’s downtown and connect it to a revitalized waterfront that will entice residents and tourists to entertainment and recreation venues.
The New Bedford Democrat said the first priority must continue to be the “working waterfront” serving the marine and commercial fishing interests — and a portion of the $25 million would be used to make improvements aimed at benefiting those industries, along with the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth School for Marine Science and Technology.
But the much grander vision is to take a small piece of the waterfront and use it to leverage the city’s other assets for a broad economic revival, he said.
The $25 million is part of a state bonding package put forward Wednesday that includes another important element for New Bedford and the SouthCoast area: $2.5 million for work on the schooner Ernestina, the more than 100-year-old official state vessel berthed in the city.
Sen. Montigny, who has considerable influence over state-bonded projects as co-chair of the Legislature’s Bonding, Capital Expenditures and State Assets Committee, said the $25 million for the waterfront and $2.5 million for the Ernestina still will have to pass review by the state Legislature and Gov. Deval Patrick.
Mayor Scott W. Lang said Sen. Montigny will have to work the plan through the state bonding process “to make it a reality, but he added, “I know he has the ability to do it.”
The mayor said Sen. Montigny “has been a champion for infrastructure improvements on the working waterfront” for many years, recognizing the importance of the city as the No. 1 commercial fishing port in the U.S., based on the value of catch landed.
Sen. Montigny said he believes it is possible to “completely transform the image of the city,” and he can envision tourists moving back and forth between the waterfront and downtown crossing a revised Route 18.
With New Bedford’s architecture, whaling and textile histories, legendary figures including Herman Melville and Frederick Douglass in its past and the city’s proximity to Buzzards Bay, “It is easy to get excited about New Bedford,” Sen. Montigny said.
To do it, he said, the city needs the state’s help.
Sen. Montigny said there will be much work to be done within the legislative process and with the governor’s office to make the money a reality. He is optimistic he will get the support he needs. Gov. Patrick, Sen. Montigny said, “gets it.”
“Look what we have, but look what we could be,” Gov. Patrick has been told about a city he has visited several times, Sen. Montigny said. “We cannot leave this port this under-utilized and under-developed,” Sen. Montigny said. And investing in the city will not just benefit the city, Sen. Montigny said, but also benefit the region and the state.
Sen. Montigny said he intentionally left the language related to the $25 million bonding measure broad enough so that after it clears the Legislature and Gov. Patrick, a study can be conducted to develop specifics in a “cohesive vision” for “how we tie it all together” — the waterfront, Route 18 changes and downtown including Bristol Community College, the Whaling Museum, historic district and other components.
Sen. Montigny said there already is $250,000 set aside to hire a consultant to help create the plan. The plan, Sen. Montigny said, could include everything from the working waterfront to use of the harbor above the Coggeshall Street bridge where the city is planning to develop a boathouse.
“People from out of town are stunned because of how beautiful our downtown is,” Sen. Montigny said, especially if they have heard overly negative reports about it. He said he intends to convince the governor that the plan going forward should be not to fix individual pieces of the city but to support an overall plan utilizing the waterfront to transform the city’s image.
With the Legislature and Gov. Patrick’s support, Sen. Montigny said, “We have the chance to use the capital bonding process as a transformative process for the SouthCoast.”
Contact Joe Cohen at
June 12, 2008
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