Downtown Keystone Site Development Plans Move Forward

Boston Developer’s Building Plan to Plug Big Hole in City’s Downtown
By Joe Cohen, Standard-Times Staff Writer

NEW BEDFORD — A Boston-based real estate firm has agreed to buy the Union Street site of the former Keystone Building that collapsed in 2004, was torn down and has since left an ugly hole in the heart of downtown.
Mayor Scott W. Lang is scheduled to announce today that an agreement has been reached with Weston Associates Inc. to purchase the property from Denis Keohane.
The announcement is important because the site is highly visible and, since the building was demolished, has presented a view of a quarter-acre hole fenced off from the street. City officials have said it is among the least attractive aspects of the downtown.
The announcement also is important because city officials have wanted to get a developer focused on the site, which could serve multiple uses such as retail, offices and apartments.
Another possible use that has been proposed in the past for the upper floors of a new building would be dormitory rooms for Bristol Community College undergraduates or UMass Dartmouth graduate students.
The site is located across Union Street from the UMass Dartmouth Star Store campus between Pleasant and Purchase streets.
While officials expressed excitement about having closed the deal with Weston Associates, they cautioned that it will take time for the developer to determine a specific plan of action, line up tenants and erect a new building.
Officials said there are no firm plans, but they have indicated they envision a five- to seven-story building of 60,000 to 80,000 square feet. The site has 100 feet of frontage on Union Street.
A new building would mark the first major construction downtown since the Sovereign Bank building was started more than 10 years ago. That building was completed about eight years ago.
Mayor Lang said in a statement that the city’s location, seaport status and “sense of community” make it “the next great growth area” in the state. “Every economic development project has challenges, but we are committed to working with our partners in the private sector to ensure successful development ensues.”
Sen. Mark C.W. Montigny, D-New Bedford, said state investment in the city is “triggering major market-driven growth and progress in the downtown area … demonstrating that our city is a great place to work, live and play.”
Mark Donohue, the chief executive of Weston Associates, said his firm had been looking at New Bedford for a year. Mr. Donohue said Weston Associates in partnership with the city wants “to build a new example of the spirit of revitalization that is taking place.” He said his firm perceives there is “growing momentum” in the city’s economic outlook.
Weston Associates has a 30-year history of residential and commercial development, including residential units from Maine to South Carolina and an office tower in Boston.
Matthew A. Morrissey, head of the city’s Economic Development Council, said, “We worked very hard on this because of its high visibility and its anticipated positive impact on Mayor Lang’s overall economic development agenda.”
The Keystone Building site was where a three-story building was built in 1886 and was home to Keystone Furniture from 1914 to 1981. During the 1980s, the building changed hands several times and fell into disrepair, according to the city. In 2002 it was purchased by Mr. Keohane for $190,000.
Mr. Keohane, who developed The Catwalk Bar and Grill on Union Street, had planned to tear the building down and build a 20-unit condominium with underground parking. However, the roof and part of the facade collapsed on Oct. 5, 2004, and the building was demolished shortly after.
Contact Joe Cohen at
May 02, 2008
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