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After 20 years of effort, the final phase of Fall River's City Pier project is under way

August 25, 2021 : The Herald News, by Jo C. Goode

FALL RIVER — It’s taken about 20 years and millions of dollars in clean-up costs, but on Wednesday, officials said the City Pier is headed into the final steps of its redevelopment, opening it up for waterfront access. The Fall River Redevelopment Authority hosted a groundbreaking ceremony with Lt. Gov. Karyn Polito to help celebrate the milestone for the four-acre pier project.

Work will begin a week after Labor Day to finishing capping the pier, install grass, walkways, fencing and lighting. The RDA board intends to have the project completed by next June and a working, waterfront open space by the summer.

“Why is this important? This is not just about the City Pier. It’s about your vision to develop the waterfront, which is a unique asset that you have here in this great city,” said Polito, who as head of the Seaport Economic Council, helped secure two $1 million grants in 2016 and 2020.

“This Pier will be an economic driver for Fall River by providing a new avenue into the city and all it has to offer,” said Mary Ellen DeFrias, vice president of community development in the Southcoast region for MassDevelopment, which also secured funding to help remediate the City Pier.

Last August, the RDA pledged another $1.6 million to move the project to completion.
“You check it off as a success. It’s not done, but to have this part completed, it’s wonderful. We have a bunch of people that are on the same page. It’s great, it really is great,” said RDA Chairman Joseph Marshall.

Ken Fiola Jr., vice chairman of Bristol County Economic Development Consultants, has been working on the City Pier project for about 20 years, including during the time when it was discovered the property and the riverbed contained carcinogenic PCBs.

He said seeing the groundbreaking and where the project stands today is “extremely gratifying."

"It’s one of the most complicated projects that I’ve ever been involved in with — the complexities of significant contamination, the permitting of the project in terms of getting it ready for public use and the final design of the project. Now the final phase of the online construction,” said Fiola. “Don’t forget, there has been a fence here for 20 years and public has never had access.”

Mayor Paul Coogan, who may be credited with revitalizing the City Pier’s redevelopment when he took office and reconfigured the RDA board, said, “These members are all aggressive; they’re all knowledgeable and they know how to move projects independently from the city,” said Coogan.

RDA board member Joan Medeiros said that even with the COVID-19 pandemic, the board was able to move the project along.“This is going to be a huge win for the community once this project is completed,” said Medeiros.