NEW BEDFORD (WBSM) — The Capitol Theater, once the cornerstone of social life in New Bedford's Near North End, will be renovated and transformed into a mixed-use building with apartments, retail space and other additions.

The Capitol Theater is located on the corner of Acushnet Avenue and Deane Street in a commercial corridor that MassDevelopment has designated a Transformative Development Initiative.

It opened over 100 years ago as the first New Bedford theater explicitly built for screening movies. The theater shuttered around 1980, and shops, markets and businesses came and went in the street-front retail space in the years following.

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It had become a hub for Acushnet Avenue's social life and culture, but now it has been mostly vacant for the last decade.

Over the years, the city has supported improvements along Acushnet Avenue with public art, creative placemaking, and revitalizing vacant spaces. As that continues, plans are underway to help transform the theater into a spot that will significantly improve the city's neighborhood overall.

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Community Economic Development Center Director Corinn Williams shared that the future of the renovated space will be transformed into a mixed-use building with apartments, retail space, classrooms, business incubator space, a community kitchen for small vendors, and office space for the CEDC.

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"The new space will be like a resilience center for the neighborhood, whether for flooding or climate-related events and community events. Being able to have a convenient space for emergencies will become a "resilient hub for the community," Williams said.

Williams also noted that six affordable apartments will be added upstairs within the building to help combat the "affordable housing crisis" and make a slight difference for the community.

New Bedford has supported the Capitol Theater transformation with more than $1 million in Community Preservation Act allocations, a $1.64 million American Rescue Plan Act award, and a $375,000 grant from the Brownfields Revolving Loan Fund.

The CEDC has used the funds to leverage other sources of capital, including state and federal Historic Tax Credits, grants from MassDevelopment, and private fundraising.

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"The Capitol Theater was part of the fabric of living and working along the Ave," Mayor Jon Mitchell said. "Redeveloping this long vacant building into a hub of commercial, educational, and professional activity will contribute significantly to the revitalization of the neighborhood."

With the support from Mayor Mitchell's administration, the Community Preservation Committee, which championed the project from its inception, and WHALE, greater things are in store for the city's North End, with this just the beginning.

Once completed, the 24,000-square-foot building will be the new home for the CEDC.

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It will feature four classrooms, a business incubator space, and a community kitchen on the first floor, in addition to 2,400 square feet of leasable retail space.

The second floor will have six mixed-income housing units. Work is underway and expected to be completed in 2025.

Inside New Bedford's Capitol Theater

New Bedford's long-dormant Capitol Theater is set to undergo a $6 million restoration project that will convert the former movie house into a mixed-use facility. Here's how it looks today.

WARNING: Under no circumstances should you enter this property. By doing so you risk bodily harm and/or prosecution for trespassing on private property.

Gallery Credit: Barry Richard

A Behind-the-Scenes Tour of New Bedford's Zeiterion Theater

The historic Zeiterion Theater in New Bedford recently held some free behind-the-scenes tours before the non-profit performing arts center embarks on a $32 million restoration project to redo the interiors of the building and add a new marquee.

Gallery Credit: Tim Weisberg/Townsquare Media

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