Downtown Revitalization Continues to Move Ahead

Cummings Building Sold, Will House Lofts and More
By Joe Cohen, Standard-Times Staff Writer

NEW BEDFORD — The Cummings Building, which houses the popular restaurant No Problemo on Purchase Street, has been sold to a Martha’s Vineyard-based developer that plans to spiff up the exterior and convert the second and third floors to artist-owned, loft-style apartments.
No Problemo would remain in operation on the first floor of the building at the corner of William Street.
Queequeg Properties LLC closed on the purchase of the 21,500-square-foot, three-story building on July 1 at a price of $1.125 million.
Queequeg Properties is headed by Bill Bennett, who said Monday he intends to develop the building into artists’ lofts and maintain the first-floor retail space. Mr. Bennett said he is taking on the project with Philip Dwane, a developer who has been involved in projects in the city, including a condominium conversion of a historic district building at 42-46 North Water St. behind the New Bedford Whaling Museum.
Queequeg was a character in the mid-1800s Herman Melville novel “Moby-Dick” who was a cannibalistic native of a South Pacific island.
Mr. Bennett sounded anything but cannibalistic when he talked about the Cummings Building and the city on Monday.
“I have been watching New Bedford for a long time. Various colleagues and friends have been involved in New Bedford, and from time-to-time, I have checked in,” Mr. Bennett said. “This spring I checked in and felt it is ready — it is going to pop. Philip was in South Boston, Quincy, East Boston — he saw those areas pop; New Bedford is in the same place those places were.
“We are very excited about where the city is going,” Mr. Bennett said, “it is one of the places that has not been discovered yet. New Bedford’s time is right now.”
Mr. Bennett said that development projects in New Bedford have “numbers that can work,” meaning they can be profitable. He said that he and Mr. Dwane plan to create affordable living space for artists who will be able to purchase condominium lofts at prices of $155,000 to $175,000.
At those prices, Mr. Bennett said, the monthly mortgage payment for a unit would be about $1,000 at today’s interest rates.
Mr. Bennett said he hopes to seek permits in the fall and begin work soon after on improving the building. The Cummings Building has been on the market for many months, with an original asking price in excess of $1.5 million.
Mr. Bennett had strong praise for Matthew A. Morrissey of the New Bedford Economic Development Council.
“Matt Morrissey has been great — he opened our eyes to the potential of the city,” Mr. Bennett said, adding, “A lot of things are happening (in the city) behind the scenes that when fully realized, there is going to be a lot of momentum.”
As examples, he cited the changing of Route 18 to make it more pedestrian friendly, the planned waterfront hotel, the proposed commuter rail service to Boston and the sale of other properties.
Mr. Morrissey said the Cummings Building sale is significant.
“Downtown revitalization continues to move ahead, piece by piece. We are making steady progress and believe Bill Bennett and Phil Dwane are the latest example of investors seeing the opportunities New Bedford affords,” he said.
“This is a key building where the core downtown business area, the elements of the creative economy — including the colleges — and the nearby historic district converge.”
Contact Joe Cohen at
July 15, 2008
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