Custom House Square Park groundbreaking brings hope for city

The new Custom House Square Park will signal a renaissance for the city, officials said as they ceremonially shoveled dirt Monday on what once was an asphalt expanse.
“Downtown is really the face of the city,” said Mayor Jon Mitchell. “What we are hoping for is for (the park) to become another iconic spot we can all be proud of.”
New Bedford native Chris Reed, principal at Stoss Landscape Urbanism in Boston, donated his services to develop the plan; it calls for trees, paths, landscaping and seating areas to create a central commons for downtown, much like New York or Boston.
Reed called it “a lush green outdoor living room for the city” that is slated for completion by late summer. It will be created in what has been a parking lot at William Street and Acushnet Avenue that was torn up last week.
“I feel we need to have something different and memorable here,” said Reed, who recalled the blue steel of the parking garage he saw there as a child.
Richard Sullivan, the state’s Energy and Environmental Affairs Secretary, said the project reflects the Patrick-Murray administration’s commitment to creating more urban green space statewide.
“The governor believes in such projects that make communities better, improve the quality of life and improve economic development opportunities,” he said. “New Bedford should be very proud of the fact that it is the only city with a park project totally constructed by city employees.”
Department of Public Infrastructure Commissioner Ron Labelle said the project is “a labor of love” for the people working on it.
“All the guys who work for us live and work in the city. When it’s done we are going to be the ones having lunch here,” he said.
Dagney Ashley, the city’s tourism director, said the New Bedford Historical Society named the front of the park after the 54th Regiment in 1999 and this park “celebrates that legacy and it will be married to the Custom House Square.”
Local resident Aliceyanna Burkley-Mejia sat under the trellis of the 54th Regiment plaza and said she was just wandering around downtown looking for a space to sit and relax in. She did not know about the upcoming park but said she was glad to hear of it.
“It’s about time,” she said. “I think that it will bring more peace to the city as long as people respect it.”
By Auditi Guha
April 09, 2013 12:00 AM
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