NEW BEDFORD — At long last, MassDevelopment has formally voted to take charge of management and capital planning for New Bedford State Pier.

The decision was announced Thursday, confirms Senator Mark Montigny (D-New Bedford), who has been working since 2008 on a plan to transform downtown New Bedford and State Pier through state money.

"This is something I've worked on for a decade. It's just a little frustrating that things happen more slowly than we wish," said Sen. Montigny, who was still excited that it was finally happening. "I have felt for a very long time two things: one, the pier was grossly mismanaged and underutilized, and two, the potential on the pier, if done right, was enormous."

MassDevelopment taking over management of State Pier is the third and final phase of Montigny's economic development vision, which which started with the rehabilition of the Star Store into a college arts campus, and the renovation of Route 18, both of which helped bolster economic growth and investment in New Bedford's downtown.

"MassDevelopment, they're known for success and job creation," Montigny said. "I felt there was no other agency that could guarantee the kind of development that we've had downtown...and that's what I want to see with the pier.

Montigny calls the waterfront "the most valuable asset in New Bedford."

"State Pier is one of the few areas that gives us enormous potential--I'm talking multi-hundred million dollar potential for the city in the long run--which means jobs," he said.

Montigny said when he wrote the legislation, which called for $25 million in bonding, he was "very strict with the language."

"It couldn't just be dumping it into a mismanaged empty asset," he said. "It had to be for an exciting, mixed-use piece that develops tourism, freight, fishing, ferry terminal service and open access, which is maximizing the asset. To my chagrin, the management by the state has never been anything other than grossly inadequate."

That's why Montigny had pushed for State Pier to be taken out of the control of the Department of Conservation and Recreationa and turned over to MassDevelopment.

"I don't know of any state agency that could have done it the way the quasi-public MassDevelopment has done it in all the major developments they've been involved in," he said. "They're the experts."

Montigny said the next step is to invest the right amount of state money into State Pier to encourage growth and development, but that the private sector eventually needs to take over, such as what happened downtown.

"You put the infrastructure in, but they you really need the private sector to take over," he said. "But remember, it needs to operate in the context of the most successful fishing industry in the country, freight and ferry service to (Martha's) Vineyard and Nantucket, and other major commercial freight business. Those can't be displaced. That's our job base."

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