NEW BEDFORD — An empty lot on Acushnet Avenue that has long held just grass and garbage behind a chain-link fence may soon become a small pocket park, after plans for the site were presented to the New Bedford Planning Board on Wednesday.

The Cape Verdean Association in New Bedford, which owns — and is currently rehabilitating — the adjacent Strand Theater, bought the lot in 2019.

Both the theater and the next-door lot sit on Acushnet Avenue between Bentley and Beetle streets.

Association Vice President Jan Baptist told the planning board during Wednesday's remote board meeting that the organization hopes to turn the refurbished theater into a cultural center.

When the lot became vacant, she explained, the group envisaged a park as an open space for cultural center activities to spill into.

"We had a vision that...we could take that blighted lot and turn it into something vibrant, and something the city can use, and something that would help the streetscape," she said.

WBSM-AM/AM 1420 logo
Get our free mobile app

The project is a collaboration between the Cape Verdean Association, the Waterfront Historic Area League (better known as WHALE), architecture firm Studio2sustain, and the city's parks and recreation department.

Studio2sustain senior architect Sherry McTigue took the board members through the pocket park concept, which she said focuses on sustainability as a main theme.

The proposed park features a crushed seashell drive, no-mow grass, artisan benches, native shrubs, trees and drought-resistant Cape American beach grass, and a rain garden.

Crushed shells are materials recycled from local fishermen that work well for stormwater drainage and don't create a "heat island" effect like pavement, McTigue noted.

A maintenance plan with a local landscaping company to rake any wayward shells back into the drive will keep the place tidy, she added.

Gates will allow access into the park and its adjacent parking spaces, so the park and lot will be inaccessible when the cultural center is closed.

The planning board members expressed enthusiasm for the idea, although they brought up concerns about snow plowing and asked that the plans be amended to include a trash can and a bicycle rack.

"This is such a great project," said board member Peter Cruz. "I like the concept, I love it."

"I'm really excited about it," agreed board clerk Alexander Kalife.

The board approved the site plan unanimously with several conditions, including the trash can and bicycle rack, a submitted plan for gate maintenance and operations, as well as a plan for parking area maintenance, among others.

Look Inside New Bedford's Abandoned Orpheum Theatre

New Bedford's Orpheum Theatre has been vacant for decades, but artifacts remain in place as an ode to its rich history. Let's go inside.

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

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.

More From WBSM-AM/AM 1420