Mitchell Talks Revitalization of NStar Site, Management of Golf Course [VIDEO]
In his weekly appearance on WBSM Wednesday, New Bedford Mayor Jon Mitchell spoke quite a bit about some projects bringing revitalization to some underused sites across the city.
After discussing how the city dealt with the cleanup from last week's Nor'easter--even as another was approaching the SouthCoast--Mitchell was then asked by host Barry Richard about the former NStar property.
"Eversource has started the cleanup," Mitchell said. "They're doing it in earnest right now. They're cleaning up that area. The soil is the most contaminated, and I think it's about a $5 million project overall, but they tell us that is going to get the site substantially cleaned."
Mitchell said there's still some work to be done inside the generating plant, and that the oil tanks are currently being used by Sprague Energy, but that plenty of planning has been going on regarding the 28-acre site.
"We've done some waterfront planning on what we'd like to see there," Mitchell said. "In general, the northern part of the property, we'd like to see uses consistent with the downtown, more residential, more conference space, more retail. To the south, we'd like to see more industrial uses."
Mitchell said that ultimately it's still private property owned by Eversource, but he knows at least one offshore wind company is looking to use at least some of the property.
"There were two major roadblocks to the development of that property that are now being removed. One is that there is no longer options to purchase the property by casino developers. It was tied up in casinos for a long time, but that's history now," he said. "The other thing was the cleanup of the site. It's a dirty site, and it had to be cleaned, and now they're cleaning it."
"It hasn't been fully utilized in who knows how long, so it's exciting that it's progressing."
Richard also asked about the New Bedford Harbor Hotel, a boutique hotel of about 70 rooms that is scheduled to open downtown this summer, complete with a restaurant.
"It's a really good project. I think it'll do really well," Mitchell said, noting the other downtown hotel, the Fairfield Inn, is almost always full. "Clearly the demand for hotel space is there. I'd like to see, in the long run, more hotel development downtown."
Mitchell said the city is continuing to work with a developer for the site of the former Registry of Motor Vehicles on Union Street.
"Ideally, in the long run, we'd like to see development along that part of Union Street, to start to knit together the West End to the downtown," he said. "We'd like to get more people from the West End walking to the downtown, and I think we're making some progress in that direction."
When a caller asked about the status of the Whaling City Golf Course, Mitchell once again stated he couldn't understand why the City Council had yet to approve W/S Golf Management--the lone bidder for the contract--to operate the city-owned course. Some of the hangups have been the length of the contract, which is a 10-year lease with two optional five-year terms at the city's discretion, and the annual payment to the city, which is $20,000 per year.
"We always want more money to be appropriated to the city, but we have one bidder, and it's a reputable one," Mitchell said. "I think it should go forward. Most of the city councillors agree, but it requires a super majority of the City Council, so eight members have to approve it. I'm hopeful the City Council will approve it (Thursday). If it doesn't, I'm concerned about whether the golf course will be opened in time for golf this spring."
Richard mentioned the possibility of the City Council creating a committee to oversee the golf course management.
"I don't know," Mitchell said. "The City Council has a role in overseeing city operations, so there would be a reporting requirement anyway."
The mayor said the council can call in the city's Chief Financial Officer, or the Head of Facilities and Fleet, to ensure that the city-owned course is being well preserved.
"I don't know that they need to form another committee, but the sentiment is the right one. For a long term lease like that, it's good that they're interested in making sure that it works well," he said.