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The Baker-Polito Administration Announces First Site Readiness Fund Program Grant

May 18, 2017

MassDevelopment to Work with City of New Bedford to Redevelop Part of Whaling City Golf Course

Commonwealth of Massachusetts 
Executive Office of Housing and Economic Development 





Michelle Hillman (HED)

Meggie Quackenbush, MassDevelopment

NEW BEDFORD -  May 18, 2017 – Today the Baker-Polito Administration announced that the first Site Readiness Fund Program grant through MassDevelopment is being awarded to the City of New Bedford to design and plan the redevelopment of a 100-acre portion of the Whaling City Golf Course into a state-of-the-art industrial park. MassDevelopment entered into an agreement to purchase 100 acres of the 275-acre course; the City will retain ownership of the remaining 175 acres to continue operation of a nine-hole public golf course.

The $300,000 MassDevelopment grant will provide the City of New Bedford with environmental and geotechnical investigations; master planning, local and state-level permitting; and the design and reconfiguration of the remaining nine holes. 

“Our administration is committed to providing communities with the tools they need to advance local development, drive economic growth and create new job opportunities across the Commonwealth” said Governor Charlie Baker. “We were pleased to propose and enact the Site Readiness Fund Program in our economic development legislation last year and look forward to seeing New Bedford and other municipalities putting these investments to work for the people of Massachusetts.”

“The City’s economic future, as well as city government’s financial stability, depend on the successful development of land for commercial use. A major obstacle has long been the lack of large-scale so-called “greenfield” development sites within New Bedford’s city limits. Our existing industrial park is just about at full capacity, so we have been working for several years to find creative solutions to this problem. The partial conversion of the existing municipal golf course has, by far, the most potential.  The site has terrific highway and rail access, is isolated from residential areas, and allows us to retain an important recreational asset. It’s a win-win for New Bedford,” said New Bedford Mayor Jon F. Mitchell. “The strong consensus that has developed around this concept is remarkable, and I am very grateful for the leadership of our local legislative delegation, our City Council, Marty Jones and her team at MassDevelopment, and Secretary Jay Ash and the Baker-Polito Administration.”

The Site Readiness Fund Program aims to boost the Commonwealth’s inventory of large, well-located, project-ready sites; accelerate private-sector investment in industrial and commercial projects; and support conversion of abandoned sites and obsolete facilities into clean, actively-used, tax-generating properties. It was created as part of the 2016 Economic Development Bill, which authorized $15 million for the Fund, to be administered by MassDevelopment. The Governor's capital budget included $1.25 million in FY2017 and $2.5 million for FY2018.

MassDevelopment is also awarding the City of New Bedford a $300,000 Site Readiness Program grant to engage a planning and engineering team to advance the development of the site by providing environmental and geotechnical investigations; master planning, local and state-level permitting; and the design and reconfiguration of the remaining nine holes.     

“This opportunity for redevelopment is exactly what the administration had in mind when it proposed the site readiness fund as part of the Governor's 2016 Opportunities for All bill. This investment allows for this regionally significant industrial development to move forward,” said Secretary Jay Ash. “The reuse of the land will allow New Bedford to expand their commercial development opportunities, while also preserving green space.”

The site is well-located with access to I-195 and Route 140, freight rail, and the New Bedford Regional Airport. The redevelopment plans call for up to 1.3 million square feet of industrial, R&D, and distribution space that could support an estimated 1,000 jobs and generate $2 million annually in tax revenues. The plans will also preserve the original front nine holes of the golf course, which renowned architect Donald Ross designed and built in 1920. 

“MassDevelopment works to redevelop Massachusetts sites into revenue-producing resources that provide jobs, housing, and growth. This undertaking at the Whaling City Golf Course will do just that for the City of New Bedford,” said MassDevelopment President and CEO, Marty Jones. “We are proud to partner with city and state officials on this project, and excited to offer the city an inaugural Site Readiness Program grant to leverage this existing resource and transform it into a hub of economic activity.” 

The back nine holes of the course were added in 1947, and in the 1970s, the City of New Bedford took over the course. The course is currently managed by Johnson Golf. In the early 1990s, and then again in 2014, the site was considered for possible redevelopment.  

"This agreement between the City of New Bedford and MassDevelopment is a leap forward for our city and region," said Senator Mark Montigny, who has been a leader of Senate efforts to create local economic growth and a consistent advocate of MassDevelopment's ability to leverage private development dollars to benefit local economies. "I am excited to see business interest in our city is growing and this project will ensure sustainability of this growth into the future."

“With the current business park near capacity, and a lack of space to build upon, a portion of the Whaling City Golf Course is the logical location for this project. The need for this industrial park is a sign of economic growth for the Greater New Bedford area, and the Commonwealth as a whole,” said Representative Christopher M. Markey. “Golfers will be happy to know that a nine-hole version of the current course will still be operated by the city. This multi-purpose use of the Whaling City Golf course is a positive vehicle for development in the city, and I am excited to see the economic possibilities it will offer.”

With the New Bedford Business Park at nearly full capacity, the City no longer has an inventory of large land parcels available for new development and growth. The current golf course site has the acreage, transportation access, and visibility needed to attract larger-scale industrial development. 

“This project highlights the potential for economic growth and MassDevelopment’s expertise in innovative economic development planning,” said Representative Antonio F.D. Cabral. “I am confident that MassDevelopment has the know-how to develop this land to create additional job opportunities and maintain the integrity of the public golf course.”

"I welcome MassDevelopment's expertise in redevelopment initiatives and am confident their assistance will result in the creation of new jobs and new businesses for our city," said Representative Robert M. Koczera. 

The site offers the opportunity to create new development parcels that are suited to office, manufacturing, and distribution uses, while offering flexibility of lot configuration and size depending on the needs of individual businesses. The City of New Bedford estimates the development could generate $2 million in annual commercial tax revenues.    

“Between the direct access to Route 140 and I-195, a location overlooking our regional airport, and distant views of the ocean, this site can attract offshore wind research and development, life sciences, and leading knowledge based industries,” said Representative Paul A. Schmid. “Kudos to Mayor Mitchell, Marty Jones, and Governor Baker!”

“This project offers a realistic opportunity to attract new businesses and commercial interests to New Bedford with its close proximity to the airport and highway connections,” said Representative Bill Straus.

MassDevelopment, the state’s finance and development agency, works with businesses, nonprofits, financial institutions, and communities to stimulate economic growth across the Commonwealth. During FY2016, MassDevelopment financed or managed 352 projects generating investment of more than $4 billion in the Massachusetts economy. These projects are projected to create about 8,200 jobs and build or rehabilitate about 4,200 residential units.