NEW BEDFORD — New Bedford Mayor Jon Mitchell and state and local leaders have announced a massive redevelopment of the former Eversource/Sprague power plant that they said would likely bring "thousands" of jobs to the city.

Most of the 29-acre site will be leveled to make way for new offshore wind staging, fish offloading, and mixed commercial buildings, Mitchell told the crowd gathered in the MacArthur Drive parking lot on Wednesday afternoon.

The power plant's iconic "big cigarette" smokestack, as the mayor said his daughter calls it, will also go.

Eversource and Sprague have agreed to sell their portions of the property to a private local investment group called Cannon Street Holdings, LLC, headed by New Bedford businessman Andrew Saunders.

"I was born and raised in New Bedford, Massachusetts," said Saunders at the press conference. "I'd seen this facility my entire life. And I'd seen its potential, or I'd dreamt about its potential."

"In the end, it's a private investment of local folks, folks that know this community," noted State Rep. Tony Cabral.

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Since the power station was decommissioned in 1992, the mayor said, the site was "woefully underutilized" despite a few attempts to develop it, such as a proposed casino that was declared dead in the water in 2015.

Most of the planned site will be marine industrial, with 22 acres going towards offshore wind staging, a few acres for seafood offloading, and mixed-use commercial space to the north.

Courtesy New Bedford Mayor's Office

Cannon Street, in turn, has agreed to sell four acres closest to New Bedford's downtown area to the city for just $1.

"I held out for 75 cents," Mitchell joked.

New Bedford's redevelopment authority plans to turn the area into mixed-use commercial spaces for restaurants, shops, and offices.

Saunders declined to comment on the estimated cost of the project.

But the mayor noted that Eversource has spent years — and millions of dollars — cleaning up contamination on the site.

Massachusetts Clean Energy Center CEO Stephen Pike said that the brand-new U.S. offshore wind industry presents a "fantastic opportunity," with local contractors talking about adding jobs numbering "in the low thousands."

With 44,000 jobs in the industry expected to be added nationwide in the next few years, Mitchell noted, city authorities are trying to get "as far ahead of the pack as possible."

"And frankly, right now, it's working," he added.

Saunders said the investors will close on the land and then begin permitting and site prep towards the end of the year, ultimately hoping to kick off operations by early 2023.

 

A major difference between this and previous development proposals, Mitchell said, is that there is enormous demand for the offshore wind industry in the U.S.

"This is gonna happen," Saunders said. "It's no speculation."

"There's about $24 billion of projects slated for the Northeast, right off of our coast here," said Mitchell. "Our goal here is to grab as much of that as possible."

"It's all geared to competing," he added. "It's all geared to attracting investment, creating jobs, and ultimately creating opportunity for our residents."

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