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Shipping plan could produce jobs in Fall River

Bridget Botelho

Constructionon the Fall River State Pier could begin as early as this year as maratime officials study sea shipping routes to the terminal that would bring new jobs and hundreds of thousands of dollars in revenue to the region.

The Massachusetts Seaport Advisory Council solidified plans to become part of a Short Sea Shipping Network - a system of ports and ocean highways to move cargo and people - by partnering with the U.S. Maritime Administator Captian WIlliam G. SHerbert announced.

The Maritime Administration is stuying the economic viability of a short sea-shipping network throughout the state as a way of cutting growing roadway congestion along the Route 95 corridor and reviving sea shipping, U.S. Maritime Spokewoman Robyn Boerstling said.

"The Maritime Administration is pursuing short-sea shipping vigorously with the (Massachusetts) Department of Transportation. The economy of New England has been strangled by congestion on I-95 and Hudson River Crossing. We need an alternative," said Rick Armstrong, director of Port Development for the Massachusetts Lieutenant Governor's office.

The Massachusetts Seaport Advisory Council is assisting seaport developments in Boston, Fall River, Gloucester, New Bedford, and Salem with $280 million for infrastructure improvements, docks, piers, and other improvements to accomodate shipping.

Plans for the Fall River Port are moving forward over the next few years with construction starting as early as this year, according to Kristin Decas, Deputy Director/Program Coordinator of Port Development for the Seaport Advisory Council.

The layout includes a performing arts center, a parking garage, a hotel, office space along the waterfront, and a pier that can accomodate commercial cruise ships.

Development plans started in 1996 with the idea of short sea shipping as parallel use.

"Fall River is really the poster child project of the Short Sea Shipping Network. There is a lot of momentum behind this," Decas said. "Short Sea Shipping is a way of putting the lights back on in the shipping industry. Strenthening the states ports will bring wealth and prosperity."

A study predicted that the Fall River port will bring in $364,000 for retailers in its first year and $432,000 by its fifth year, along with about 150 retail jobs. The total expenditures are expected to pump $15 million into the region, according to a Bermello, Ajamil & Partners, Inc. plan analysis.

As port construstion plans move forward and research continues, a number of obstacles remain before Short Sea Shipping becomes a real alternative, Armstrong said.

The biggest problem: there aren't any ships, Armstong said.

The advisory council is looking at obtaining shipbuilding loans to remedy a ship shortage. The popularity of land and air shipping has made sea shipping an under utilized commercial market, along with The Jones Act, which requires cargo and passengers moving between U.S. ports be carried in vessels that are U.S.-owned, -built, and -crewed, Decas said.

"The Jones Act was created to protect the shipping industry, but at this point, with trains and other ways to move goods, the demand for ships osn't there. We want to resurrect that demand," Decas said. "It's a quaetion of what comes first, ships or the demand."

The U.S. Maritime Administration is also working with other service industries to prevent opposition from land and sea shipping stakeholders, the spokeswoman Boerstling said.

"Short Sea Shipping won't take the place of other industries. We are working closely with the trucking indutry to make them stakeholders. There are trukers who wait in traffic and at congested ports. Short Sea Shipping will not compete with other industries, it will make them more efficient," Boerstling said. "We are working with stakeholders to look at how we can make this successful."

The Seaport Advisory Council is Governor Romney's administrative panel coordinating the seaport policy.

Fall River's port is 17 miles inland accessible through Narragansett Bay. It is second to Boston in its cargo volume, specializing in exporting vehicles and equipment. Trade areas include Europe, Caribbean Basin, and South America.

The Port of New Bedford, operated by Maritime International, Inc., handles mostly fruit, vegetables, frozen fish, and meat products. The port has its own ship agency, freight forwarding, stevedoring services, blast freexing, warehouse, and truck brokering facilities. New Bedford's cold treatment facility is the alrgest of its kind in North America, with refrigerated warehouses.

From Providence Business News

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The importance of this is that natural gas is very expensive and until the pipeline from Canada is finished New England is going to see higher rates that can only be offset by Fall River, Providence and other New England ports start receiving these shipments.

btw-Here's the Port Profile for Fall River from the State of Massachusetts:

Port Profile

Location

Seventeen miles inland on the southern coast of Massachusetts

Terminals/Berths

Two deep-water berths:

600-foot South Berth

390-foot West Berth

Operator

Fall River Line Pier, Inc.

Cargo

General cargo, vehicles and break-bulk

Trade Areas

Europe, Caribbean Basin, South America

Equipment

Stevedoring services with a wide variety of equipment are available.

Depth

35 feet at MLW

Storage

96,000-square-foot storage terminal adjacent to 10 acres of land

Services

Roll-On, Roll-Off ramp and 100,000-pound Toledo truck scale

Rail Connections

Direct, on-dock connections with three rail spurs

Highway Connections

Easily accessible to Route 24 and I-95

Future Plans

Maintenance dredging of the harbor to 35 feet; upgrading the terminal's building with a variety of ship-support services to accommodate modern cruise ships; industrial waterfront development

Contact

Fall River Line Pier, Inc.

Phone: (508) 674-5707

Fax: (508) 675-7830

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Fall River has an amazing little downtown with great buildings and architecture. It's strange that it has not boomed right along most of the boston area.

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Harold Ambler: Revitalization sweepstakes: Fall River could be San Jose

Thursday, February 19, 2004

YOU NEVER KNOW what city will be reborn. When I was a boy in the San Francisco Bay Area, we had our very own Fall River, only we called it San Jose.

In 1970 San Jose was a good place to be a wino and not a good place to be a venture capitalist, say. It had a small municipal airport, which would have looked at home in Central America, a rotting train yard, which still moved fruit out of Santa Clara Valley, a pretty serious smog problem, and an economy that didn't make many international-business pages. Add a few tumbleweeds, a goodly number of boarded-up houses, and a bizarre number of forlorn-looking one-way streets, and you begin to get the idea. This was not a town where you would bring your grandmother for an afternoon stroll.

Of course, San Jose always had its good working people -- teachers, cops, factory workers, agricultural workers, municipal employees -- who lived in decent, clean neighborhoods. (Just as Fall River has always had bounteous numbers of hard-working, God-fearing families.)

But in 1970 the idea that this bummed-out backwater would in 30 years' time become the de-facto capital of the most explosively profitable sector of the world's economy would have been unthinkable. And of course, it happened.

Today, San Jose has a shiny, bustling international airport, museums, clean streets, and a startling number of high-quality restaurants and night spots. It is no longer a city to aspire to get out of, but one that many aspire to move into.

Now San Jose didn't start Silicon Valley. That was born in Palo Alto, and it steadily drifted south, into and through San Jose. But San Jose did have leaders who maximized the city's geographic position with corporate tax incentives, who culled urban-renewal money on both the state and federal level, and, most important, kept their eyes on the prize of their city's becoming a player, a force, and, yes, a destination.

So what about Fall River? You could say that Fall River's problem is that it never got as ugly as San Jose. From its well-cared-for triple-deckers (not all of them, but most) to its church spires to its parks (especially the dramatically hilly North Park) to Battleship Cove and the city's perch above the Taunton River and Mount Hope Bay, Fall River has an awful lot of beauty for a city widely considered to be down on its luck. Throw a billion dollars, say, of well-spent money at Fall River and it could become not just the San Jose but even the San Francisco of New England. For the variegated water views from this once-great mill town are evocative of no place more than California's City by the Bay.

Smart people are pouring their hearts into Fall River. The new Main Street campus of the University of Massachusetts-Dartmouth, the various efforts by the Chamber of Commerce, and the not-to-be-underrated Narrows Center for the Arts are all big parts of the good fight being waged for the soul of this city. Homelessness (as detailed by Fall River Herald News staffers James Finlaw and Omar Bradley), drug addiction, gang activity, political fecklessness, and a pervasive sense of despair are all on the other side of the ledger. And as such, they're anything but unique to this sadly gorgeous town.

Fall River's trump cards may be two of its Greek elements: fire and water. The fire comes in the form of the sunsets with which Nature blesses the city (although a local joke attributes them to Brayton Point power plant and its spewed mercury). Fall River regularly has sunsets that would be the envy of any tropical island or remote mountaintop. Depths of orange, red and gold routinely bathe the western-facing parts of the city in so much color that it would seem to be a message from somewhere on high that this place is special, beloved. Important.

And then comes water. Yes, the city has a waterfront with plenty of potential (some of it realized), and, yes, the views of the river and the bay from the descending streets are stirring.

But what Fall River also has is a namesake: the water that gave it a name. When the Quequechan River's tumbling final mile was buried in fits and starts of construction, it was like the uttering of a colossal lie. The lie was that modernity would have no need for nature -- certainly not for a bothersome polluted brook.

A movement is afoot in Fall River to unearth the city's namesake: to air the still-polluted waters of the Quequechan and, in the process, give spiritual rebirth to the city.

This will not be the most vital thing to happen on the city's painful road back to greatness; and it won't be the first, either. But if Fall River follows San Jose out of the darkness of urban blight and into the sunshine of hope realized, it will be an excellent thing for the city's name and its visible spirit to have become one and the same, once more.

Just remember: It happens.

From The Providence Journal

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Why would ANYONE want to be like San Jose? I've been there several times & I did not like it. It was just sprawl & awful traffic. The entire city is sprawl...almost a million people living in sprawl. I'm not looking forward to going back.

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I don't think the point of the article was that Fall River should become what San Jose is, but rather Fall River has the potential to rise above what it is now. Say what you will about San Jose (I'll probably agree with you), but the mere fact that there are a million people there today says a lot. In the 70s San Jose was basically a failed city. In mere decades it rose to become the centre of the largest economic engine in world history.

The point is, Fall River is not nearly as bad off today as San Jose was in the 70s, but it has all the ingredients to become a miraculous success.

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I agrre that places like Fall River could provide a place with low cost manufacturing facilities, reasonable housing cost, and a nice historic downtown for businesses in Boston and Providence that might otherwise send backoffice and manufacturing jobs to other parts of the country or world.

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Rehabilitation of mills creates new problems for industrial zones

By STEVE URBON, Standard-Times senior correspondent

City Planner David Kennedy unrolls a large map of the 3- by 10-mile city of New Bedford, and the "spine" of industrial buildings is visible instantly.

But what the map does not show is that a great many of those old mills have morphed into something both gratifying and unsettling: residences, or mixed-use developments that include offices and light industry.

It's a relief that they are not burning down, threatening the neighbors. But Assessor Peter S. Barney shakes his head as he predicts that New Bedford is giving up its industrial future to become a "bedroom community," with the lower tax revenue that comes with it.

The spine extends from the waterfront northwest along the rail line through the center of the city, and from there north. It formed in the days when access by water, and later rail, determined where industry would thrive.

In the age before automobiles, people lived near where they worked, and dense neighborhoods were built directly next door to the factories.

A century ago, 120,000 people lived in New Bedford on two-thirds of the land. Now it is 93,000 and the city is considered "built out."

But the old factories are gone, and while some industries have been replaced (only on the ground floor in most of those old buildings), owners, city officials and developers have spent decades thinking of "adaptive reuse."

"We're searching desperately to have some economic use that makes sense," Mr. Kennedy said. "We're going to take a look at all these industrial clusters that still exist and try to analyze their productivity. Did they survive the industrial age, the industrial revolution? The jury's still out on a lot of them."

He estimates that four out of five of the city's industrial buildings are underutilized.

That doesn't mean empty. There are few abandoned mills left in the city. The ones that didn't burn and could be used are being used -- albeit only the first floor in most cases.

Others have been torn down -- the Goodyear complex in the South End, for example, or Morse Twist Drill in South Central -- and are awaiting redevelopment by private owners.

Others have been converted to housing, a trend that has officials somewhat concerned.

It's not that the buildings don't work as housing; they do. Converted mills are a big improvement aesthetically, with new windows and regular maintenance.

It's just that they force a change in the surrounding neighborhood.

Tabor Mills in New Bedford is an often-cited example. Rebuilt in the 1970s as 130 units of housing for the elderly, it once sat in a neighborhood of manufacturing companies, a brewery, the rail line -- a classic zone of heavy industry.

But when Sid Wainer & Sons, the gourmet foods distributor, wanted to develop the former Alden Corrugated Container site as a staging area for its fleet of 100 trucks, the residents of Tabor Apartments raised a ruckus.

The problem, according to Mr. Kennedy, is that an empty lot where a mill once stood might have enough ground contamination to prevent residential use. Yet, noisy commercial reuse angers the new neighbors.

It also is an issue at the Whalers Cove assisted-living development on Riverside Avenue. There, new residences occupy almost half of the U-shaped complex. The industries that occupy the rest must begin confronting something they never expected: possible complaints about late-night noise that never would have been an issue before the dawn of mixed use.

"Once that's allowed to occur, any other further redevelopment as industrial or commercial or professional office is all subject to concerns those residents might have for another conversion once they have theirs," Mr. Kennedy said.

So the objective is to maintain industrial use, since revoking that industrial zoning is an irreversible decision.

"In a zoning change, once it's done, it's done. Once you allow industrial zones to slip to something less intense, you never get that intensity back, no matter how you aspire to do that," Mr. Kennedy said.

Sticking to nonresidential uses, however, also poses problems. The old mills often simply aren't suitable for today's style of manufacturing.

"The columns proscribe the width of the bays that you have to adapt the reuse around," Mr. Kennedy said. "They don't do well for the type of industrial uses we have today. Manufacturers today can't get around in space confined like that. They can't use the freight elevators because OSHA won't sanction them.

"Some of them are three to four stories in height. All they're able to attract is a buck to three bucks a square foot. When the first floor is used up, you've got a vacant building through infinity. That's a concern. There's no mechanism to get more than a dollar a foot.

"So the question is: Is the ground underneath these industrial buildings more valuable than the ground and the building itself?" he said.

A good example: the former Berkshire Hathaway complex near the hurricane barrier, where some of the buildings carry on as warehouses or industrial sites, but others -- those with a view of the harbor above the second floor -- are being eyed for coveted residences and the price tags they will command.

In New Bedford, however, land zoned for heavy industry is off limits to residential use.

So the question becomes: Does the city rezone? Or is there another method?

Mr. Kennedy favors "overlay districts" over rezoning. A zoning change effectively removes the city's influence over the course of development, he said. Overlays allow case-by-case review to guide mixed-use development to prevent clashing interests.

It is not an easy task. The former Morse Twist Drill site is still undeveloped a decade after being cleared, with no distinct vision for its reuse in the middle of a densely populated residential area.

It is equally complicated in the neighborhood of Tabor Apartments, where slow-moving freight trains passing by the vacant industrial lots are a reminder that the area's productive past, and possible future, lies with industry and not with residences.

As Mr. Kennedy puts it, "Industrial use has to stay industrial. There's no place to relocate."

From The New Bedford Standard-Times

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To save the industrial core of the city is noble but its not like the textile or manufacturing industry is chomping at the bit to relocate there. One problem that NB has that other mill cities doesn't is that with its spine, most of its factories are away from the traditional city center making them less desirable for mixed use projects like in Lowell. Lowell is a good example of a balance being struck between the needs of commerce/ industry and the housing crunch which makes large raw spaces very desirable for residential development.

btw- IMHO NB has done a poor job of selling itself, its maritime history and its location.

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Bridge work stalls commuters

By Bridget Botelho

Braga%20Bridge001.jpg

About 78,000 people traverse Braga Bridge in Fall River each day.

Braga Bridge reconstruction and other work along I-195 corridor vexes motorists.

Geralyn Hafey

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No relief for I-195 commuters

Braga Bridge fix to last this summer and next

By STEVE URBON, Standard-Times senior correspondent

Braga111.jpg

JACK IDDON/The Standard-Times

The two center lanes of the Braga Bridge are being resurfaced. The work will eventually restore a vital highway transportation artery.

Frustrated commuters who use the Braga Bridge on I-195 are going to be looking forward to the next couple of winters.

That's the only time of the year they won't have to endure the white-knuckle lane restrictions and traffic delays caused by two long seasons of construction -- to be followed by still more slowdowns when the bridge gets a long-overdue paint job.

The work will eventually restore a vital highway transportation artery that has been plagued in recent years by suspension-snapping potholes and a worrisome layer of rust. But getting there won't be half the fun.

After driving to the site in a propane-powered Honda, Kevin J. Cassidy, chief construction engineer for Massachusetts Highway Department District 5 in Taunton, walked with a reporter over the towering span last week and remarked about the relatively good condition of the roadway decking, now exposed after the asphalt surface had been stripped away.

Despite what many might think as they travel past the roadwork, the repairs on the two innermost lanes in both directions are hardly a complete rebuilding of the roadway. Instead, jackhammers are chipping away at areas where water infiltrated the uppermost of two concrete beds below the asphalt, resulting in the bridge's notorious potholes.

"It's tedious and boring," Mr. Cassidy said. "Jackhammering has got to be the worst construction job there is. But they're doing a good job."

A 28-member crew, including two women, from Roads Inc. of Billerica has been removing the broken lightweight concrete, often by hand, from around the reinforcing bars where it is necessary.

Traffic rumbles by within a couple of feet, and the bridge shakes under the load, as it was designed to. A heavy truck can induce a good bounce for people on their feet, an unnerving experience even for Mr. Cassidy.

Any bridge-phobic motorists, meanwhile, endure a test of nerves as they are shunted to the far edges of the 100-foot-wide roadway, getting a good look at the city of Fall River and the Taunton River 135 feet below.

In 1989, the last time this sort of work was done, the deck was replaced completely, a lot more work than today, Mr. Cassidy said. That's partly because so much time had gone by since the bridge was built in 1960-1965, and named after Charles M. Braga Jr., of Fall River, who died at Pearl Harbor to become the city's first World War II casualty.

In this $8.5 million project, the concrete will be re-poured to match the rest of the roadway. And instead of an asphalt surface, otherwise known as bituminous concrete, the new top layer will be made of what's called latex modified concrete, a dense and durable material with fewer internal voids that is expected to resist water infiltration. It has already been used on a half-dozen bridges in District 5, which encompasses 81 communities in Southeastern Massachusetts, Cape Cod and the Islands.

This year, the work is on the center half of the bridge. In the fall, probably October, and certainly when the temperature dips to below 45 degrees, work will be suspended, the barriers removed and all lanes restored. Next March, the center lanes will remain open while the outer sections are resurfaced, finishing in late 2005.

Beneath the bridge, some work is being done on support beams, but nothing major, Mr. Cassidy said. Some of the expansion joint seals, which are made of rubber, also are being replaced.

Meanwhile, Mass Highway is preparing to go out to bid on the repainting work. And while Mr. Cassidy had no details about what will be involved or its cost, the fact that the existing green finish is lead paint will require meticulous tenting material and collection of the dust and chips.

That will be the same sort of lengthy work motorists have seen on various overpasses in recent years -- work that has often required extended lane restrictions.

Drivers seem to be adjusting well, Mr. Cassidy said. There have been two dozen accidents in the construction zone since work started in March, but none in the past two weeks. The speed limit has officially been lowered to 45 and state police are stationed on either end of the mile-long bridge from 6 to 10 a.m. and 3 to 7 p.m., flagging violators as they leave the work zone.

Tow trucks from Rosa's Garage in Fall River also are on-site 24 hours a day to prevent an accident from tying up traffic for very long.

Access for them and for the work crews is limited by the configuration of a highway bridge; the only way to reach the work zone is through the openings at the ends of the jersey barriers, and the width of the lanes requires work crews and vehicles to jockey around each other. "If we had any more people out here they'd be bumping into each other," Mr. Cassidy said. "It's a very confined area for such a tremendous amount of work."

The Braga Bridge has three main sections, including the longest in the state, the 840-foot center span. It was designed to be high and massive because it creates an intersection with a busy deep-water shipping channel, the Taunton River, and an interstate highway that carries upward of 70,000 vehicles per day.

From The Standard-Times

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New fast ferry takes trial run today

NEW BEDFORD - The Whaling City Express was scheduled to be christened today before the new ferry begins daily service between New Bedford and Martha's Vineyard.

The owner, The New England Fast Ferry Co., scheduled today's event at 11 a.m. at the State Pier Ferry terminal at the foot of Union Street in New Bedford.

The ferry starts Thursday, according to the company's Web site, with five round-trips daily - six trips Thursday through Sunday - from New Bedford to Oak Bluffs. A one-way trip takes an hour. Tickets cost $40 for a round-trip for adults. The cost is $34 for a child under 12 years of age and for a senior citizen over 60.

The company also operates Boston to Provincetown fast ferry and Providence to Newport RI ferry.

New England Fast Ferry Company

From The Cape Cod Times

Ferry.jpg

FerrySchematic.gif

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Planners cite region for lack of 'smart growth'

By DAVID KIBBE, Standard-Times staff writer

BOSTON -- Southeastern Massachusetts has become one of the fastest-growing regions in the Northeast in the past four decades, but most cities and towns are not practicing "smart growth" to limit sprawl, a survey by a regional planning alliance has found.

Vision 2020 said the survey, returned by 46 SouthCoast and South Shore municipalities, found nearly 75 percent had master plans that did not match up with their zoning regulations. The group said a lack of planning and resources was particularly a problem in towns with fewer than 10,000 people.

The survey, which was conducted between September and April, found that only three towns in the region -- Abington, Brockton and Marion -- were "growing smart." Another 19 municipalities were beginning "smart growth" policies, including Carver, Dartmouth, Middleboro and New Bedford.

Under smart growth planning, governments use financial and zoning incentives to cluster development around transportation and town centers to preserve open space. The report called for more technical assistance, training and state funding for local planners.

"Sprawl is reaching epidemic proportions in Southeastern Massachusetts," said Sen. Marc R. Pacheco, D-Taunton, who unveiled the report yesterday with Vision 2020 at a Statehouse press conference.

In the past 40 years, 125 square miles of land has been developed in Massachusetts, at a rate of 7.8 acres per day for 28 years. Vision 2020 said more land had been consumed in the region between 1971 and 1999 than in the previous 340 years since the Pilgrims landed.

"The audit tells us that while we are doing more planning, three-quarters of the communities don't connect their planning with their bylaws and regulations," said Donald Walsh, an NStar executive who is co-chairman of Vision 2020. "We've been planning for years. It's time for action."

Vision 2020 was formed in 1998 by the Metropolitan Area Planning Council in Boston, the Old Colony Planning Council in Brockton, and the Southeastern Regional Planning and Economic Development District in Taunton. NStar paid for part of the report.

State Environmental Affairs Secretary Ellen Roy Herzfelder acknowledged that Southeastern Massachusetts was facing development pressure. She said the Romney administration was already promoting smart growth through a number of incentives, including fast-tracking of applications.

"Since Governor Romney has come into office, he's been a real champion of smart growth," she said.

Vision 2020 offered several recommendations: changing state law to require zoning regulations to match the goals of master plans; more state funding and incentives for smart growth; funding and training for planning staff and volunteers; and formalizing cooperation between municipal boards and different levels of government.

"In Southeastern Massachusetts, we are particularly worried about this for our smaller, rural communities, communities with a population under 10,000." said Marijoan Bull of SRPEDD and Vision 2020. "We found 77 percent of them scored in the lowest category. We would attribute this to the fact that they don't have resources."

The survey found 60 percent of towns with a natural resources inventory did not use it in reviewing developments, and 44 percent did not have "smart growth" provisions that encourage mixed-use development or development near transportation.

Vision 2020 said there was good news. The report found 36 towns in the region have master plans that were no more than five years old, up 70 percent from 1998.

Sen. Pacheco called on the Legislature to approve his "livable cities" bill, which would put many of the recommendations into law. He also called on the Romney administration to release environmental bond money for smart growth planning.

The money, which was authorized by the Legislature, includes $25 million over five years to help cities and towns with planning, including $2 million set aside for Southeastern Massachusetts. Another $150,000 would continue to fund the Vision 2020 effort.

"This isn't anti-growth," Sen. Pacheco said. "It's a matter of how you plan for it. We should be growing in a way that we should be able to sustain."

Susan Peterson, a Vision 2020 board member from Rochester, said small towns with all-volunteer planning boards needed help and encouragement.

"It's not just money," she said. "It's good planning and good zoning and good financial management, with the town boards all working together toward a common goal. It works better when they do share that goal. We think the Vision 2020 audit will be a wake-up call to get the boards moving toward the goal set out in the master plan."

Otherwise, Ms. Peterson said, the master plan will be "a document sitting on the shelf."

From The New Bedford Standard Times

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Officials discuss uniting tri-towns

By NANCY COOK, Standard-Times staff writer

Imagine the rural character of Rochester combined with the seaside toniness of Mattapoisett and the efficient, tidiness of Marion: three towns merged, sharing everything -- municipal services, schools, water, in-fighting and riches.

This is how Marion Selectman Jonathan Henry envisions the future of the tri-towns, minus the in-fighting, of course.

Most recently, Mr. Henry shared the idea with fellow local politicians at the now-monthly tri-town selectmen's meeting.

"If you look at all the things that could be regionalized ..." Mr. Henry says, rattling off a list that includes water, emergency dispatch services and police and fire departments.

The best way to combine town services is to combine the three towns as they were prior to 1852, Mr. Henry says.

While the merging of the towns would involve more red tape and politicking than any lone selectman could bear, the concept of regionalizing services is not outlandish, according to other tri-town selectmen.

The three towns, for example, could hire a regional planner to oversee economic development, housing issues and engineering: a suggestion that the tri-town administrators are researching, Mattapoisett Selectman Jordan Collyer says.

"Regionalization is a big step. We have to take them one at a time. The proposal for a town planner is a good first step," Mr. Collyer adds.

The hypothetical town planner would not be the same as the town planning boards, Mr. Henry explains, and would look at the "bigger picture," including the local economy and industry. The planner would also prepare "up-to-date master plans," needed to qualify for grants. The planner also could help the towns sort through the various statutes and projects dealing with affordable housing, Selectman David K. Pierce says.

It would be an appointed, paid position with the salary to be determined and the cost of the position split among the three towns.

The ideal candidate, Mr. Collyer says, would possess experience in consulting, engineering, town planning and, most certainly, dealing with town politics.

Ideally, tri-town could present this new job as a line item in the budget at the town meetings in the spring.

The next tri-town selectman's meeting will occur at 6 this evening at the Rochester police station in the conference room.

From The New Bedford Standard-Times

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Final plans made for Riverside Park

By JACK SPILLANE, Standard-Times staff writer

NEW BEDFORD -- Eight years after the Harbor Trustees Council set aside $2 million to build a park adjacent to the Acushnet River in a working-class North End neighborhood, city officials say construction will begin in the spring.

The final environmental issues have been settled and more clean fill from the old Standard-Times field is being trucked to the site.

The plan is for the soil to settle during the winter, and construction of Riverside Park will begin with the next growing season.

Completion of landscaping and reconstruction is expected by the following year, Mayor Frederick M. Kalisz Jr. said.

The project had been plagued by delays, including the trustees juggling the project with 28 others, the need to obtain legal approvals for spending the $2 million in federal funds earmarked for the park, and the enactment of a city deed restricting the property to open space.

The last hurdle was a permit allowing work in a buffer zone adjacent to the river.

The $2 million for the park consists of money set aside from the $20 million the federal government earmarked for restoration projects in New Bedford as part of the cleanup of polychlorinated biphenyls in the Acushnet River.

The Environmental Protection Agency intends to set priorities for the cleanup of PCBs in the section of river adjacent to the park so that it will be clean when the park opens.

"It didn't make any sense to have a new park and have the shoreline contaminated," said David Dickerson co-manager of the New Bedford Harbor Superfund cleanup.

Members of the Bullard Street Neighborhood Association had complained that the city was dragging its feet, but association President Debora Coelho told The Standard-Times yesterday that she is satisfied that officials are acting in good faith and intend to start work soon.

The group has met with Scott Alfonse, the city's environmental planner, during the past year and discussed design plans and other issues.

"In all honesty, this start date seems the most real to us of all the dates they've had," Ms. Coelho said.

Several months ago, an anonymous donor gave the association money to hire a lawyer to work with the city on bringing the park to fruition.

John P. Callaghan said he is happy with the progress.

"I am confident the city is really pushing this forward and is anxious to get it built," he said.

City Solicitor Matthew J. Thomas said there were many concerns involved in the planning of a large urban park, which will include tree-lined walkways, a riverfront walk, a gazebo, soccer field, and a revamped playground and skateboard park.

"The time frames we're on are not unusual for a park this size that is adjacent to a Superfund site," he said.

From The New Bedford Standard-Times

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Sovereign Bank to leave, lease New Bedford office building

November 29, 2004

Sovereign Bank New England Division announced that it has completed a long-term sub-lease agreement with Whelan Associates, LLC for the reuse of its former Sovereign Bank facility at the corner of Union and Purchase streets in New Bedford.

The building is the former headquarters of the New Bedford Institution for Savings, which Sovereign acquired. Sovereign Bank recently moved all operations to the former Compass Bank headquarters on Union Street, leaving the building empty.

The 44,000-square-foot building will be converted to first-class offices for a cost of more than $1.5 million, which Whelan Associates, LLC said it would incur. No government money is involved in the project, the company said.

Sovereign has a long-term lease on the facility, which Whelan Associates has assumed. Sovereign has agreed to bear approximately $1.9 million in obligations under the original lease, and Whelan Associates will be responsible for all other costs including $1.5 million in renovation cost and approximately $250,000 in yearly expenses on the property.

Officials said Whelan Association considered converting the bank into a small 48-room hotel but decided that the $7 million investment for that project was not economically feasible. Whelan Associates are also evaluating the possibility of converting the main banking lobby into a 4,000-square-foot function and exhibit space.

Whelan officials added that they expect to announce shortly a significant major tenant for the building. The new name of the building would be Union Square.

From Providence Business News

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State secures $500,000 for port designs

Officials hope the Taunton River shipping facility will be operational by 2007 or 2008.

BY MARK REYNOLDS Journal Staff Writer | February 1, 2005

FALL RIVER -- The lieutenant governor stopped by City Hall yesterday and heralded plans for a $25-million construction project that would turn a state-owned pier into a modern port facility for receiving cruise ships and freight vessels.

The Taunton River shipping facility envisioned by Lt. Gov. Kerry Healey and other planners would include a restaurant and a stage for performing artists to put on shows.

The enhancement of State Pier has been in the works for some time, but now Healey says the Commonwealth has secured $500,000 to pay for the final designs.

Funded largely by state bonds, the newly upgraded facility could be docking cruise ships and other vessels by 2007 or the year after, officials said.

"It's a great day," said Fall River Mayor Edward M. Lambert Jr., who joined Healey at a news conference.

"It's another very important step," Lambert added.

Healey described the project as an effort to return Fall River to a bygone era when the city welcomed large numbers of ships.

"The days of Fall River being a major port destination are coming back," Healey said. "I am very pleased that we are able to contribute to this effort."

The upgraded pier would help anchor the northern end of a domestic shipping network being planned by the federal government, according to the secretary of the Seaport Advisory Council, Richard Armstrong.

Armstrong said Cape Canaveral, Fla., is the southernmost port in the proposed shipping initiative, is known as Short Sea Shipping.

"This terminal is very much a part of that network," Armstrong said.

Led by the Maritime Administration, the federal government is trying to develop coastal shipping systems in an attempt to take the load off the highways and railroads.

However, the state will use bonds to raise about 75 percent of the money needed to pay for the local port project, Armstrong said.

The remainder of the money will come from revenues generated by the port facility itself, he said.

A Massachusetts design firm, Cambridge Seven Associates, has been commissioned to design the new facility.

The design work involves setting design criteria, analyzing the site and programs, and developing architectural drawings.

Overseen by the state Division of Capital Asset Management, the work is expected to be complete in the fall.

Soon after that, officials will be ready to accept bids on the project.

From The Providence Journal

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I had no idea about this. This is truly amazing news. Bundle this with their eventual rail service and Fall River could make huge strides over the next decade or so. Being about fifteen minutes away makes this exciting news for us as well.

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I do hope Fall River can turn a corner eventually, it is in such a stunning natural setting.

There are also plans to remove Route 79 along the waterfront and turn it into a surface boulevard.

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Wow, great news. Scott, I believe MA already has two natural gas pipelines running into it from Canada to fuel several power plants in the area.

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I do hope Fall River can turn a corner eventually, it is in such a stunning natural setting.

There are also plans to remove Route 79 along the waterfront and turn it into a surface boulevard.

Yep, and in New Bedford, there are plans to make Route 18 into a more urban boulevard as well. Bike Lanes are in both plans. New Bedford I see as having much more potential than Fall River, it already has a decently busy downtown. Plus it has No Problemo and Ma's Donuts!

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