'Momentum Along the River' Snags Another Developer

By Charis Anderson

Cliftex North is the latest mill in the city’s Upper Harbor district to be slated for redevelopment after two Cambridge-based investors closed on the property earlier this month.
Bart Bussink and Michael DeVos purchased the Riverside Avenue mill building for $1.1 million on April 1 through their limited liability company, Boston Common Investments.
“We’re excited about it,” Bussink said. “We think it’s a great building.”
Bussink said the plan is to renovate the building for a mix of purposes — some light commercial uses in part of the mill and between 30 and 60 residential units facing the water — while preserving the historic character of the mill.
“I’m very glad to see that project is going to go forward,” said Mayor Scott W. Lang. “It will continue to generate the momentum along the Acushnet River.”
Planning for the project is still in the early stages, but Bussink said he expected significant construction activity to start within three to six months with the goal of having people in the building in 12 to 18 months.
“As a result of the economic development and land use planning we have accomplished over the last four years, investors are coming to this area of the city like never before,” said Matthew Morrissey, executive director of the New Bedford Economic Development Council.
Bussink said he and his partner decided to look into investing in New Bedford after hearing positive things about the city from several different people.
“There’s a new kind of buzz happening in New Bedford,” he said of what they were hearing.
The men spent about six months looking at different properties around the city before zeroing in on the Cliftex mill.
“We were very impressed by the whole planning process that’s been undertaken,” Bussink said.
“From what we understand, (the Upper Harbor) was an area that was targeted some number of years ago for further development, and it seems to be happening.”
Bussink, with a different partner, has also recently purchased two buildings in the downtown district.
Cliftex South, the building directly south of the mill just purchased by Bussink and DeVos, is under agreement: John Keith, president of Keith Construction in Stoughton, has a purchase-and-sale agreement in place with the mill’s current owner, Edward Fitzsimmons, that is contingent on the project receiving various state subsidies.
Gilbert Winn, managing principal of Boston-based Winn Development, which is collaborating with Keith on the project, said they expect to hear from the state in June or July on its applications for historic tax credits and affordable housing subsidies.
Construction costs for the project’s first phase — the creation of 75 apartments for residents aged 55 and older — are estimated to be about $15 million.
Work could start by the end of the year, Winn said.
Keith and Winn Development previously worked together on Whaler’s Place, also located on Riverside Avenue.
Just south of the Cliftex complex, work is well under way on the Victoria Riverside Townhouse Lofts, a renovation of the former Whitman Mill No. 2 into market-rate apartments.
The project is expected to be completed later this year.
“I think New Bedford, in essence, is the ‘it’ city from the standpoint of people looking to get involved in something that is a really, really impressive story about recreating an urban area,” Lang said.
canderson@s-t.com
April 12, 2010 12:00 AM
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