New Bedford changes strategy, no proposals for manufacturing campus

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NEW BEDFORD – With no proposals submitted to develop an advanced manufacturing campus and faced with economic uncertainty and rising interest rates, New Bedford has shifted its strategy while moving forward with plans for an advanced manufacturing campus in the city.

Officials have decided to seek additional feedback from the developer community and hire a commercial real estate consultant, using government grant funds, to assess possible changes to the terms of a second call for proposals, including possible changes to selling criteria, to be issued in early 2023.

While the city received more than 60 requests for the city’s first call for proposals in April for its development on 100 acres of the city’s Whaling City Golf Course, no proposals had been submitted as of the September 30 deadline.

Mayor Jon Mitchell said in a press release that the city has greater control over the terms in the RFP, including the permitted uses, the tax incentives offered and, in this case, the process for relocating golf activities and facilities to areas outside the perimeter of the new business park.

“Unfortunately, interest rate hikes have increased the cost of capital over the past six months and domestic and global corporate confidence has fallen,” he said. This has undoubtedly impacted the interest of commercial real estate developers and investors.

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He said the city’s priorities would remain the same in all major respects as they look for proposals that create good-paying jobs, relieve taxpayers by expanding the business tax base, and preserve the golf course as a recreational value.

City Council President Ian Abreu agrees with this new approach to navigating this project through choppy economic waters over the past year, he said in the press release.

“Leaders generally agree that the Advanced Manufacturing Campus represents a unique opportunity for generations, and we just have to keep at it and take on all the challenges until we reach our goals,” he said. “We cannot afford to miss this opportunity to create jobs for residents while increasing revenue – helping to strengthen city government finances and ultimately reducing the burden on local taxpayers by broadening our tax base .”

An aerial view of Whaling City Golf Course, Hathaway Road and Route 6

Derek Santos, executive director of the New Bedford Economic Development Council, said in the release that it is about creating an opportunity for a mutually beneficial partnership between the public and private sectors.

“The RFP process is simply a tool to facilitate this partnership; So if the public sector chooses to further refine its approach, it is likely that private sector interests will, in turn, reconsider their assessment of the business opportunity,” he said.

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With the New Bedford Business Park operating at near capacity, city officials, members of the local legislative delegation and state economic development experts have been working on plans for the advanced manufacturing campus since 2017.

A feasibility study concluded that the site could accommodate more than 1 million square feet of new development and accommodate up to 1,000 workers while allowing the adjacent golf course to operate.

Located on a greenfield site at the intersection of two major freeways, the new site will accommodate more than 1 million square feet of new development and the project is expected to create approximately 1,000 new jobs.

Kathryn Gallerani, a Standard-Times contributor, can be reached at [email protected] Follow her on Twitter: @kgallreporter. Support local journalism by purchasing a digital or print subscription to The Standard-Times today.

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