Anyone who has been around for a while has seen profound changes in New Bedford.  Some of those changes have been for the good and some for the not so good. But, is New Bedford on the verge of a rebound?

Back before the interstate system sliced and diced the city into pieces and Route 18 dislocated entire neighborhoods, New Bedford was a very special place.  Unique shops, restaurants, theaters and clubs dotted the landscape.  Downtown and north and south end business districts flourished.  Manufacturing thrived and the ocean was visible from everywhere with no huge, stone barriers to block the view of fishing vessels setting out to sea.

The march to the suburbs in the 1960's and 70's and the economic downturn that ushered in the 1980's changed all of that for good.  Many of the storefronts that dotted "The Avenue" and Purchase and Pleasant Streets were replaced by full service box stores and markets or moved to the new Dartmouth Mall.

Morse Twist Drill, Firestone and Chamberlain Manufacturing were winding down. The  garment and shoe making industries that employed so many were gone.  Downtown became dirt piles and empty storefronts.  Seedy bars  sprang up and families stayed away.  It was the era of "the burbs" and the malls.

City leaders dreamed that someday perhaps a downtown hotel would bring visitors to New Bedford's waterfront and tourists would feast on local seafood and the cultural cuisine the region was known for.  Preservation efforts began which led to the establishment of the Historic District and eventually the National Park declaration.

College campuses opened in the downtown area and finally a hotel on the waterfront.  Last week the groundbreaking for a second hotel occurred and niche shops and restaurants are flourishing in the waterfront district.

Development is and has been slow but it is happening.   The rebirth of New Bedford cannot occur completely unless it has a strong and vibrant downtown business district.  We are seeing that rebirth happen right before our eyes.  The change has involved a  number of administration and is more than 40 years in the making.

The big question now is, can New Bedford evolve into a "destination?"  I believe it can with the proper guidance from it's leaders and support from it's citizens.  What we only dreamed about a few short years ago is happening.

New Bedford, the once proud city that lit the world is a resilient old gal and she is a survivor.   Perhaps her best days are still ahead.

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