By Dan McDonald
NEW BEDFORD – A company is considering a plan that would return the defunct Sunbeam Bread plant in the North End to its former baking glory.
New Bedford Baking Co. LLC, a corporation with ties to Connecticut Pie Inc., also known as Diana’s Bakery, is eyeing the site for a possible $8 million rehabilitation project at the 229 Coffin Ave. property.
The plant has been defunct since its 2005 closure. At the time of its closure, the plant, which produced bread for generations, was 71 years old. When the business was shuttered, 183 people lost their jobs.
Last week, the city’s Tax Increment Financing Board approved a TIF agreement with New Bedford Baking Co. The owners of that corporation also are majority owners of Diana’s Bakery, which is described in paperwork on file with the city as a family-owned business that was started in 1975 and now has a 55,000-square-foot facility in Agawam. The bakery’s products includes pastries, bagels, bread and cakes, according to its website. It provides baked goods to the Starbucks chain, Stop & Shop Supermarkets, Friendly’s, Foxwoods Resort and Casino, Sodexho Inc., Aramark Corp. and Compass Group, among others.
Matthew Morrissey, executive director of the New Bedford Economic Development Council, emphasized that the proposal “is by no means a done deal.”
“Significant due diligence still needs to be done to determine the financial viability of the project,” he said.
Morrissey did say the proposal would be a “perfect fit” for the site. “The project would light up a plant that’s been dark for 4 1/2 years,” he said.
A call to Diana’s Bakery was not returned Tuesday and Michael Vand, who is listed as a manager of New Bedford Baking Co., declined to talk about the idea.
“While we have been actively working with New Bedford city officials, this project is still in its earliest stages,” Vand wrote in an email. “Accordingly, commenting on any time lines or business activities associated with this potential project would be highly speculative and premature to identify at this point in time.”
Lucar Development LLC, a Malden-based corporation managed by Charles A. LaMarca III, bought the property, which is composed of three parcels, from Interstate Bakeries Corp. and Interstate Brands Corp. for a total of 725,000 in September 2006, according to the Bristol County Registry of Deeds Southern District.
That LLC still owns the property, which is assessed at $731,400, according to the city assessor’s office.
Ward 2 Councilor Steven Martins called the defunct Sunbeam facility an eyesore and welcomed the idea of property being once again home to a baked goods operation.
“Back when Sunbeam was open, the neighborhood enjoyed smelling bread every day,” said Martins. “This would be a win for the North End and the city.”
The TIF agreement will now go before the City Council. If the council approves the agreement, the state’s Economic Assistance Coordinating Council would then have to approve it.
Currently, the property pays $19,850 in taxes, said Derek Santos, the director of business development for the New Bedford Economic Development Council.
Under the agreement, the projected taxes would steadily increase over a decade. There would be no increase in taxes in year one, said Santos. At the end of the agreement, the projected taxes paid would be around $112,000, said Santos.
“This is one step in a complicated process,” said Santos. “There are a lot of moving pieces.”
Said Mayor Scott W. Lang: “We’ve been working hard on this for over a year and there is still some more work to do.”
The project, if it comes to fruition, would create 150 new jobs within two years, just over half of which would be offered to city residents, according to the project overview filed with the city’s TIF board.
While city officials have stressed the project is not a given, paperwork filed with the city indicates construction could begin as early as the “fourth quarter of 2011” and could be completed within a year.
The costs for the project include about $5 million for building restoration and construction costs, $1 million to restore and repair the existing equipment, $1 million to acquire new equipment and $1 million for things like “soft costs” and “environmental remediation,” according to the project overview.
May 25, 2011 12:00 AM
By Dan McDonald