NEW BEDFORD — A disused mill building at the end of Coffin Avenue in New Bedford's North End will be demolished, after the city was granted a court order to remove the building due to the risk of its collapse.

A release from New Bedford Mayor Jon Mitchell's office noted that removing the building will make a path for the city's proposed riverwalk, a project to build a pathway along a two-mile stretch of the Acushnet River.

City inspectors found the falling-down building to be hazardous, and on April 14 a Bristol Superior Court judge granted New Bedford's request to demolish it — the culmination of several years of work to secure the property, according to the mayor's office.

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Abandoned Mill Declared a Hazard

The old mill building — part of the massive Whitman Mills textile complex that was built around the turn of the 20th century — was given to current owner Beit Medrash as a donation in 2015.

In 2016, the city's building commissioner ordered Medrash to board up the abandoned structure to make it safer.

Three years later, in April 2019, city officials had inspected the building and certified that the unused mill was dangerous and was left open to the weather, the release stated.

By June that year, the building commissioner had issued an order for Medrash to remove the mill, noting that it was in a state of collapse and could be a fire hazard.

The bank of the Acushnet River at Coffin Ave near the Whitman Mill complex has attracted people dumping trash for decades.
The riverbank near the mill showing the effects of urban decay. Kate Robinson/Townsquare Media

Legal Case to Demolish the Mill

The city began legal proceedings against Medrash in September 2019, seeking an order requiring him to remove the building — and if he was unable, to allow the city to demolish it.

According to the mayor's office, Medrash was not able to pay to demolish and remove the structure.

The April 14 court ruling authorizing the city to remove the mill marks the conclusion of the case.

City Plans for Demolition and the Riverwalk

Mayor's office spokesperson Holly Huntoon said that although the city will pay for the demolition at first, it will place a lien on the property to recoup the cost from the next owner.

The demolition date has not yet been set, as it depends on a 30-day period for Medrash to appeal the decision.

If Medrash does not appeal, the city will still need to follow proper procedures for municipalities to award the demolition contract.

The city's proposed Riverwalk project aims to install a pedestrian pathway along 2.25 miles of the Acushnet River, from Coggeshall to Wood Street.

Project plans include restoring the area's wetland ecology by planting grasses and other native flora along the river, as well as creating an inland buffer with shrubs, trees and benches for those on the path to rest and take in the view.

Replanting near Riverside Park in New Bedford
Replanting efforts are already underway near Riverside Park. Kate Robinson/Townsquare Media

Comments from Officials

Mitchell thanked the city's legal team and City Solicitor Eric Jaikes for their efforts, along with former Housing Director Patrick Sullivan and Building Commissioner Danny Romanowicz.

"The building was beyond repair and its removal ultimately will allow for the construction of the long-planned Riverwalk in the North End," the mayor stated.

Ward 2 City Councilor Maria Giesta commented, "I am very happy by the Superior Court’s decision."

"Both the neighborhood and I have been very concerned with this dilapidated building, which has been not only a blight in the community, but a possible danger to the residents," she added.

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