By Steve Urbon
NEW BEDFORD — The century-old main gallery of the New Bedford Whaling Museum is set to undergo a total renovation and restoration project, thanks in large part to a $1.5 million federal government appropriation.
Sen. Paul Kirk, D-Mass. and Rep. Barney Frank, D-Mass., joined local and state dignitaries and National Park Service representatives in the museum’s Bourne Building this morning to celebrate the project, which will restore the structure to its 1907 splendor while bringing it up to modern building codes.
Frank said the project serves as a perfect example of government partnering with private donors to accomplish something that private efforts couldn’t do alone, creating jobs and boosting the local economy in the process. They spoke along with Mayor Scott Lang and museum Director James Russell on a platform near the stern of the half-scale ship model Lagoda, where an enormous American flag served as a backdrop.
Sen. Kirk and Rep. Frank both noted the poignancy of the announcement, since the late Sen. Edward M. Kennedy’s last public event before being stricken with brain cancer was the dedication of the Corson Building across the street as part of the Whaling Historical National Park. It was, said Kirk, another example of a partnership that turned a “downtown scar” of a burned-out building into a “marquee” attraction.
The Bourne Building restoration will:
– Bring the 11,000-square-foot building into line with local safety codes.
– Improve the building’s energy efficiency to modern expectations.
– Make the building fully handicapped-accessible.
– Rehabilitate the basic structure.
– Upgrade the electrical and lighting systems to current code.
– Refinish the interior.
The Bufftree Building Co. has been hired as construction manager. Paul H. LaPointe is project manager, and the architect is Solomon & Bauer.
Funds for the work are coming from the U.S. Department of the Interior, providing $1.5 million; the Massachusetts Cultural Council Facilities Fund, $617,000 in matching funds; and $667 from private donors.
The first phase, which will be done between January and April of next year, will cost $1.2 million. Phase two starts in April and is estimated at $1.5 million. The project is estimated to produce about 40 jobs.
By Steve Urbon