By Brian Boyd
NEW BEDFORD — Local businesses owners and residents are voicing support for the first phase of Acushnet Avenue improvements, but questions remain about future plans.
The city is planning to spruce up Acushnet Avenue with wider sidewalks, new lighting and landscaping, starting with the stretch from Coggeshall Street to Sawyer Street in the first phase. Work is slated to begin next month and end in June 2013.
Business owners see a potential for the project to make the Avenue more attractive and draw more customers.
“It will bring more clients, more jobs,” said Maria Raposo, owner of Raposo’s Hair Design. “Acushnet Avenue is the most important street in New Bedford, and it needs something.”
As far as the hassles of construction and expected detours are concerned, Raposo said she isn’t worried about her customers being deterred by the disruptions.
She and others attended a presentation held by city officials at Cotali Mar Restaurant on Wednesday night to update the public on the first phase of the project, known as the Acushnet Avenue International Marketplace.
“It’s long overdue,” said Michelle Lapointe, a New Bedford resident who used to live near the avenue.
She said the improvements, such as space for outside cafes, would make the Avenue feel more like a neighborhood.
The initial work involves a portion of the avenue that is one way for traffic.
Anthony D. Folco, owner of Folco Jewelers, said he is worried about the next step in the project, specifically the possibility of extending the one-way street north to Nash Road. His business is located at the corner of Acushnet Avenue and Nash Road.
“We are a destination,” Folco said. “Ninety-nine percent of our customers drive to us. It needs to be more traffic-friendly than pedestrian-friendly.”
Otherwise, he said he is optimistic about the overall project.
During the presentation, acting City Planner Jill Maclean said no decisions have been made about extending the one-way portion of the Avenue, and more analysis has to be done before that decision is made.
She said city officials are acting on comments they have heard from residents over the years about what to do with the Acushnet Avenue business district.
“We heard the same thing over and over and over for the past six years: the Avenue needs some improvements,” McLean said. “We want to celebrate the culture.”
People attending the presentation were pleased with the potential for economic development that the project could create.
“It’s going to draw businesses,” said Anthony Holloway, who has plans to open a new restaurant with a partner next month on the Avenue called World Famous Pizza and Subs.
Leaders of the Cape Verdean Association of New Bedford expressed their support after the presentation. They are planning to open a cultural center on the section of the Avenue slated for an overhaul during the first phase.
“We expect this will benefit the center,” said Emanuel Dias, the association’s treasurer.
February 17, 2012 12:00 AM
By Brian Boyd