City Moving to Purchase New Bedford Armory From the Commonwealth
After decades of false starts, the New Bedford Armory is on the verge of finally being sold – and you won’t believe the price.
On Thursday night, the New Bedford City Council took up an agenda item submitted by Mayor Jon Mitchell’s administration to enter into a purchase and sale agreement with the Commonwealth of Massachusetts to purchase the New Bedford Armory, located at 989 Pleasant Street.
“This is a no-brainer, in my opinion, for the City of New Bedford to undertake this project,” City Council President Ian Abreu said in his weekly appearance on WBSM.
Especially when you consider the asking price.
“After months-long negotiations between the solicitors and the state, we’ve come to an agreement to purchase, if the city council were to agree to purchase the armory from the state, for the whopping cost of 10 American dollars,” Abreu said.
In previous years, the Commonwealth had attempted to sell or auction off the armory to potential developers, but things never worked out – after all, the building has suffered severe damage over the years, including significant issues with the roof and an inability to keep out the elements.
“Here’s the best part: in exchange for taking it off their hands, the state has agreed to replace the armory’s roof and associated structural components to the tune of $3.3 million, so this rehab will prevent further deterioration of the armory,” Abreu said.
Legislation enacted back in 2011 allows for the City to have the right of first refusal, and it appears New Bedford is ready to jump on it now that the price is right.
“The Commonwealth owns all of the armories, and it wants to get rid of the armories and get them off their backs,” Abreu said. “So what they’re doing, they’re allowing the municipalities where the armories are hosted to allow them the opportunity to have the right of first refusal to purchase those properties.”
Abreu said that because of the affordable housing issues in New Bedford, along with what he called a “big time need” for market rate housing with the impending arrival of South Coast Rail, it was prudent for the New Bedford City Council to move forward with this plan.
“This will allow us to take this building off the hands of the state, purchase it for a very small price, have the state reinvest in some of the rehab of the building that will allow us to eventually, in the future, flip the property and sell it to a developer and put it on the tax rolls,” Abreu said.
The armory also has a reputation for being haunted, after an appearance on the television show Ghost Hunters back in 2004, in which a sound man was struck by his own equipment by something unseen, becoming one of the first “viral” moments for the longtime hit series. That wasn’t the armory’s only time in the spotlight, either.
“The armory has a rich history in New Bedford,” Abreu said. “I remember my grandfather would tell me stories about how in the late ‘50s and early ‘60s, the Boston Celtics would barnstorm throughout the local communities, and he remembers seeing exhibition games with Bob Cousy and Bill Russell playing right at the basketball court in the armory here in New Bedford. So it has a very esteemed history here in this community.”
The council voted to refer the matter to the full committee on property, chaired by Ward 2 Councilor Maria Giesta, who will have the item heard at the March 23 committee meeting.
“I would assume there will be a positive vote out of the committee to purchase this property but we’ll see how that meeting goes” Abreu said. “We’ll see what all my colleagues have to say, see what the administration has to say further into this, get the legal opinion of the city solicitor and our attorney, but this looks pretty cut and dry to me,” Abreu said.
“This is a deal I think we have to do,” he said.