Major step forward for city’s new business park
New Bedford, Massachusetts– Mayor Jon Mitchell, Senator Mark Montigny, Representative Christopher Markey, other members of the New Bedford legislative delegation, and City Councillors joined together today to announce a plan for an Advanced Manufacturing Campus (AMC) on 100 acres of the 275-acre Whaling City Golf Course on Hathaway Road. The AMC has been expressly developed with a view toward the needs of the state’s and region’s leading industries, and will incorporate the amenities, landscape and building design, and other features seen in high-quality business parks.
Building on a business park concept first introduced in 2017, the AMC refines the City’s development approach, incorporating fresh information from real estate and golf industry professionals, conservation organizations, and state economic development experts. In addition, studies commissioned by the City and its state partners have now confirmed several earlier, preliminary assessments.
Among the findings announced today, the Advanced Manufacturing Campus would:
- Capitalize on high demand among major commercial real estate interests as the pandemic accelerates a pre-existing trend which saw focus shifting to large, highway accessible, “greenfield” sites in eastern Massachusetts outside the I-95 and I-495 corridors.
- Create 1 million square feet of new industrial/office space assessed at $80 million
- Generate $2.7 million in annual property tax revenue
- Produce more than 1,000 new jobs
Mayor Jon Mitchell said, “Constructing a new business park from scratch is no small undertaking and a complex challenge for any city, but if we are serious in New Bedford about reducing the property tax burden, regenerating our local economy, and keeping local government financial stable, we have no choice but to find a way to succeed. And with our existing business park at full capacity, it is critical to have a new driver of commercial growth. The plan we are announcing today will create that driver.
“Several years of study, planning, and revision have brought us to this day. The plan is significantly better for those efforts. It is more pragmatic, achieves more of our goals, and is more responsive to the community. Most important, the project is grounded in a robust body of research that gives us confidence in our approach.
Mitchell added, “Of course, none of this would have been possible without the continued support of our local legislative delegation, our City Council, the New Bedford Economic Development Council, Lauren Liss and her team at MassDevelopment, and Secretary Kennealy and the Baker-Polito Administration. For all their efforts I am grateful.”
“Redeveloping the municipal golf course into a 21st century business park will spur local job creation and provide strong environmental stewardship,” said Senator Mark Montigny, who has led legislative efforts to secure state funding on numerous economic development projects in the city including the Star Store CVPA campus, Route 18 redevelopment, and the ongoing State Pier revitalization.
Montigny added, “Additional tax revenues generated by this project will also provide some relief to hardworking taxpayers across the city. Overall, the addition of advanced manufacturing operations alongside a new golf course will enhance the quality of life in New Bedford. I look forward to continuing our efforts with MassDevelopment and Mayor Mitchell to make sure this property is transformed into an economic engine for our community.”
Representative Christopher Markey, in whose district the AMC will be located, summarized his view of the project: “I am happy that the City of New Bedford will be able to expand its tax base. This project has the potential to assist in long-term economic growth in our community. It will help fund schools and the future of our city. This project, along with South Coast Rail will have the greatest impact on economic growth for our region for the next several decades. I’m glad the state and city are working so well together for this project to take place.”
City Council President Joseph Lopes said, “We must continue to do everything we can to create jobs and expand the tax base in New Bedford by encouraging new commercial development, and the business park campus and golf course is a major step toward that goal.”
Rick Kidder, the Co-CEO of One Southcoast Chamber highlighted the project’s positive impact on City’s tax base, saying, “One SouthCoast Chamber believes that we must continue to look for creative and bold ways to expand the commercial tax base in New Bedford and the region. This proposed new development for a portion of the golf course by the City will go a long way growing the tax base and will help mitigate the burden on existing New Bedford businesses while creating significant new job opportunities just when we will be ready to fully emerge out of the COVID-19 crisis.”
Anthony Sapienza, the President of the New Bedford Economic Development Council, noted the project’s contribution across many areas, saying, “At the NBEDC our mission is to take all steps to cultivate and promote an environment for private sector investment that benefits the citizens of New Bedford. The redevelopment of 100 acres at the golf course into an advanced manufacturing campus will do just that.”
Sapienza added, “The City’s thoughtful proposal provides the stage for new commercial investment, vast job growth, improved golfing amenities, and a safer Hathaway Road. We look forward to working with all parties in bringing this proposal into reality as proof that New Bedford can do big thing to regenerate its economic future.”
Collaboration with Conservation Community Leads To “Article 97” Solution
Today’s announcement also included news that a solution had been developed to resolve an important legal hurdle related to the business park project. When protected recreational land is repurposed for development, municipalities are required by the Commonwealth to enact special legislation which lifts the development prohibition and places into protection comparable land elsewhere.
A 2017 decision of the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court, Smith v. City of Westfield, expanded the definition of lands classified as protected by Article 97 of the Massachusetts Constitution. The City was consequently required to place into protection new land equal to the entire 100 acres proposed for the business park, a figure well beyond the City’s initial estimate of 25 acres.
After consultation with local conservation organizations and officials, including the Buzzards Bay Coalition, the Town of Dartmouth, and the Dartmouth Natural Resources Trust (DNRT), the City determined that the only viable strategy for compliance with the state requirement was to partner with the DNRT to place a conservation restriction on 156 acres of a 224-acre property owned by the City on Woodcock Road in Dartmouth.
In January, the City and DNRT entered into a memorandum of understanding for this purpose; the associated special legislation has been prepared for filing by Mayor Mitchell with the New Bedford City Council. Council approval will allow the bill’s legislative supporters, led by Senator Montigny and Representative Christopher Markey, to then work to secure its anticipated passage in early 2021, clearing the way for continued advancement of the AMC.
“DNRT is very pleased to work with the City of New Bedford to protect this large block of intact woodland, including mature oak-pine uplands and lush forested wetland. Moreover, it fills a one-mile gap to create a nearly unbroken 7-mile corridor of protected land stretching from Buzzards Bay to UMass-Dartmouth. This project will benefit the entire region by helping to protect our air and water quality, preserve our native biodiversity, and mitigate the effects of climate change,” said Dexter Mead, DNRT Executive Director.
Golf Future Brightens
The 2017 business park concept reduced the number of operable golf course holes from 18 to 9 based on preliminary engineering reports. Subsequent surveys led to an adjustment of the business park borders and reduction in size, which has allowed for reconsideration of several golf course options.
Under the proposal announced today, the City would leave open the option of an 18-hole course, an option for a 9-hole course, and an option for 9+ “flex solutions” that create opportunities for a course operator to change active holes for various purposes or events. Under all options, a new clubhouse and parking area (comparable to existing facilities) will be constructed, and additional enhancements will be considered, including a driving range and practice areas. The course option and amenities ultimately selected will be based on continued stakeholder input and a further assessment of market trends.
Peter Boswell, Chairman of the New Bedford Park Board, said, “Success for me is a plan that brings fresh interest to New Bedford’s golf scene and preserves the course as unique asset for generations to come, and I think we have that in the approach being presented today.”
Boswell added, “I also want to recognize the good working relationship that our current course operator has with the City and their commitment to collaborating with the City through any transition period and beyond, so that the course continues to be operated seamlessly in a high quality fashion.”