New Bedford State Pier Development Proposal Selected
NEW BEDFORD — New Bedford's State Pier could soon see a seafood offloading and auction facility along with restaurants and retail, under a development agreement announced Thursday.
State Pier manager MassDevelopment has provisionally selected Taber's Wharf Partners — a group of local companies including BASE seafood auctioneers, Raw Seafoods and Steve Silverstein's Servedwell Hospitality, among others — for the project.
Both parties have already entered into a provisional developer agreement, with the partners expected to submit more detailed plans within 180 days.
These will include preliminary designs with parking and traffic studies, cost estimates, and project phases.
The Redevelopment Plan
MassDevelopment is leasing the property from the state's Department of Conservation and Recreation in part due to legislation pushed by State Senator Mark Montigny, who said the facility was "grossly mismanaged for many years."
In April, the development agency issued a request for proposals to develop eight acres on the pier into a multi-use facility to support waterfront economic development.
"This is a big deal. We've been working on this for the last decade," said New Bedford Mayor Jon Mitchell.
"Everybody who knows New Bedford knows that the state pier is arguably the most underutilized parcel of property."
What's Coming to State Pier
The current proposal will see light commercial and dining areas along the street, with marine industry like ferries, commercial fishing, and offshore wind operations facing the harbor.
MassDevelopment said the space will also be "inviting to visitors" who will come see the Schooner Ernestina-Morrissey, the National Historical Park, and use the ferry services.
According to the agency, the proposal from Taber's Wharf Partners was the "most advantageous to the property" and included seafood offloading, auctions, and processing as well as street side retail and restaurants.
The new pier plan "ties the site to the city it serves in a safe, thoughtful, and genuine way," MassDevelopment stated.
Who are Taber's Wharf Partners?
Taber's Wharf Partners is comprised of seafood auctioneers Buyers and Sellers Exchange (BASE), Raw Seafoods, Servedwell, Crowley Wind Services, and Coast Line Transfers.
BASE and Raw Seafoods are both family-owned SouthCoast businesses, while Servedwell owner Steve Silverstein is a well-known New Bedford-area restaurateur.
"I look forward to opening a 'boat to table' restaurant on State Pier," Silverstein said. "I am really confident that this project will be a huge catalyst for the continued regeneration of New Bedford."
BASE Director of Operations Cassie Canastra said the company will create an offload and auction facility at State Pier, as well as a space to educate the public on "how a fish or scallop gets from sea to plate."
Crowley Maritime, parent company to Crowley Wind, was described by Mitchell as "one of the largest marine construction firms in the United States."
Controversy Over the Process
Montigny says he has been working on redeveloping the pier since 2008 — but became critical of what he called a lack of transparency in the proposal selection process.
"While this is a very encouraging step toward our continued economic revitalization, we will carefully scrutinize MassDevelopment’s recommendation announced today," he said.
He went on to call "the lack of substantive communications from the agency" since April "concerning," but noted "the heavy presence of local businesses in this selection is very positive for our city."
Aside from Montigny's criticism, other officials lauded the proposal selection.
Mitchell said the redevelopment will get rid of the large parking lot on the pier in favor of street-facing businesses that will "give the pedestrian a feeling of closeness."
"We all know that the highest and best use of the pier is not a parking lot," he said. "We can do better than that."
"MassDevelopment sees this as a crucial step toward the vision that New Bedford stakeholders have been working towards since 1980,” said the agency's President and CEO Dan Rivera.
"We’re proud to take this next step forward and work with Taber’s Wharf Partners on the future redevelopment of this incredible property."
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