A ‘buzz’ surrounds New Bedford as Harbor Hotel officially opens
August 1, 2018 : SouthCoast Today, by Michael Bonner
NEW BEDFORD — Lauren Liss felt a buzz emitting from the city as she sat at the bar at the Harbor Hotel on Tuesday night.
The CEO of MassDevelopment spent the night at the hotel to prepare for its grand opening Wednesday morning. The fresh paint, new furniture and maritime accents highlighted the city’s latest addition, and also exposed potential for the future.
“There is a buzz in New Bedford, a tangible, palpable buzz in New Bedford, this city is alive,” Liss said. “It’s thriving and the excitement that’s generated by projects like this is absolutely phenomenal.”
While the hotel actually opened on July 16, politicians, investors and community members filled the lobby for its official grand opening Wednesday.
Mayor Jon Mitchell referred to the moment as six years in the making.
“This place is going to be a shot in the arm for the downtown economy,” Mitchell said.
The 46,000-square-foot building at 222 Union St. includes a restaurant and bar, a banquet space and fitness center. It employs about 50 people, with 42 hailing from New Bedford.
The hotel consists of 70 rooms featuring mini-fridges, high speed internet and 40-inch flat screen televisions.
In its long history, the building formerly housed a drug store and WBSM. While dormant, utilities hadn’t been updated to produce enough power needed for current amenities.
“Of course, we always thank the mayor, but this time it’s actually for real,” President of Columbus Group Shiawee Yang said with a laugh. “I don’t know if you know that our mayor picked up the phone, called that company, you know what, otherwise we still may not have power. You literally brought the power.”
In the two weeks since it opened, General Manager Dewan Kashem said the occupancy rate has been as high as 85 percent. Immediately prior to the grand opening, he said it was about 50 percent.
“We think August and September will be really good,” Kashem said.
As visitors enter the hotel after a valet service parks their car, a wall-sized photo of a vessel greets them at the entrance. Across from that, a piece of artwork highlights another wall as hundreds of photos of
New Bedford residents come together to display a larger picture of a knot.
Many of the rooms feature ocean-themed artwork. A few offer exposed brick with the original wood ceiling and floors.
Those staying may not be Whaling City natives, but they’ll leave understanding New Bedford’s history.
“This feels like you’re in a big city space, and spaces like this shouldn’t be limited just to big cities,” Mitchell said. “Every city that’s successful should have a space that looks like this.”