NEW BEDFORD (WBSM) — Mayor Jon Mitchell is fighting to keep the federal building in downtown New Bedford open, after the governmental body that oversees it informed him of its plans to close it down.

Back in November of last year, Mitchell received a letter from Glenn C. Rotondo, Regional Commissioner of the U.S. General Services Administration, which said the GSA “has identified the Hastings Keith Federal Building located in New Bedford, MA to advance its transition from federal use.”

Rotondo wrote that it was “just the first step of many within a multi-year process, which could end in any number of outcomes, including an exchange, transfer or sale.” He wrote that transitioning the building away from federal use could “present significant opportunities.”

READ MORE: GSA Letter to Mayor Mitchell

Although the federal building would present an interesting location for potential downtown housing, City offices, or even as the site of a future new justice center, Mitchell said it should remain a federal building.

“We need a federal building. This is not Mayberry,” Mitchell said in his weekly appearance on WBSM’s SouthCoast Now with Chris McCarthy. “This a metropolitan area of significant size that has decided federal interests, especially when it comes to the maritime world, fishing and now offshore wind, you need to have the federal government present.”

Mitchell wrote a response letter to Rotondo, dated February 12, 2024, in which he echoed those sentiments, pointing to the importance of agencies such as the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and Social Security being located in New Bedford.

READ MORE: Mayor Mitchell's Response Letter to the GSA

“New Bedford is the regional center here,” Mitchell said on WBSM. “This is the federal building for all of not just Greater New Bedford but Southeastern Mass., and we need it. We have lots of people who rely on Social Security payments who go there, lots of people interact with the IRS, which has a presence there.”

“But New Bedford is the biggest commercial fishing port in the United States, and (Rotondo) was unaware that for the past several years, I’ve been pushing for NOAA to have a bigger presence here, and that NOAA had conversations internally that made the recommendation they should be consolidating much of their New England footprint in New Bedford,” Mitchell said.

Mitchell said the GSA’s decision to close the New Bedford federal building came as the result of a “profitability study” that Mitchell said used a flawed methodology of comparing the price of commercial space in New Bedford with that of Boston.

“The reality is in our market, commercial leasing rates are really really low, about a quarter in Boston,” Mitchell said on WBSM. “And the federal government is not in the business of making a profit.”

Mitchell said he will continue to “go to bat” to keep the Keith Federal Building open, and that he expects Senator Elizabeth Warren, Senator Edward Markey and Congressman Bill Keating to do the same. He said the delegation will be sending their own letter to Rotondo in support of keeping the federal building open.

Hear Mayor Mitchell discuss this and more with Chris McCarthy on WBSM's SouthCoast Now:

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