A Seattle-based maritime services company and a group of local investors have officially closed a $13.6 million deal on the 30-acre decommissioned Cannon Street power station.
The sprawling waterfront facility, now renamed the New Bedford Foss Marine Terminal, will support offshore wind projects off the northeastern coast. It will double New Bedford’s capacity for offshore wind staging, positioning the city to better compete for contracts with established and forthcoming offshore wind companies, developers said.
“It has been a vision for many to see this project materialize,” said Andrew Saunders, a New Bedford marine industry lawyer who will now serve as president of the Foss Marine Terminal. “With this investment, we will revitalize the Port of New Bedford by providing critical support to the offshore wind industry.”
Local investors, operating as Cannon Street Holdings, include: Saunders; real estate developer Louis Cabral; and founder of Mar-Lees Seafood, John Lees. To close, the investors partnered with Foss Maritime, a large Seattle-based marine services company with operations mostly centered on the West Coast’s major ports.
Those involved in the joint venture would not disclose which group owns the controlling share. BayCoast Bank is providing financing for the local investors, Saunders said.
The site was formerly owned by both Eversource and Sprague Energy. Eversource received $8.2 million for its parcel and Sprague received $5.4 million.
Plans for the acquisition and development of the facility were first announced in July. In early 2021, a public-private partnership was signed between the local investors and the city of New Bedford, which committed the development to be focused on offshore wind staging. Maurice Gulson, a cable-laying engineer formerly listed as one of the local investors, was not named as part of the investor group at the time of closing.
The city, which received a four-acre parcel on the southwest side of the terminal, maintains a right of first refusal if the 30-acre facility were to sell in the future. In a brief interview, Mayor Jon Mitchell said the city does not yet have plans for the development of their parcel, but said it could be used for office buildings, a fish market or a parking garage.
“The project will make productive what has been, for 25 years, a moribund site,” Mayor Mitchell said. “We now have a well-regarded maritime leader planting their flag in New Bedford. They are making a major investment here.”
“New Bedford is more ready than any other port on the East Coast to advance the offshore wind industry,” he added.
Foss Marine Terminal does not yet have a lease agreement with Vineyard Wind. Saunders said once the facility is developed, the company will then look to lease the terminal to Vineyard Wind or potentially other offshore wind developers in the future.
“Foss’s investment in New Bedford is a great example of how the emerging offshore wind industry, led by the Vineyard Wind 1 project, can have a meaningful impact on the community,” said Vineyard Wind CEO Klaus Moeller, in a press release.
Earlier this week, the Port Authority awarded a $29 million contract for the expansion of the North Terminal, upriver off Herman Melville Boulevard. Though a separate project, substantial dredging efforts will partly be focused on the Foss Marine Terminal.
“The New Bedford Foss Marine Terminal is perfectly situated to support offshore wind projects on the East Coast,” said Jason Childs, president and CEO of Foss subsidiary Saltchuk Marine. “We appreciate the vision of the City and Port of New Bedford and the vital role they are playing in making this project a success.”
Commercial developers and the city have been eyeing the terminal for more than a decade. Previous attempts to develop the site into an aquarium and a casino both failed to secure investors. The city was previously interested in buying the property to keep it in public hands while leasing to private businesses, but couldn’t bring together the necessary funding.
The five-story, brick power house with an 80-foot smokestack and laden with asbestos will be razed to pave way for offshore wind staging. The building was New Bedford’s main source of energy for most of the 20th century. It was decommissioned almost three decades ago, yet continues to loom over the New Bedford waterfront. It is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
Due to asbestos, the site has long been a concern of the state Department of Environmental Protection. Saunders said demolition and asbestos abatement will likely take place toward the end of the year.
The site has never been used by New Bedford’s strong commercial fishing fleet, nor has it in any other way previously been integrated in the city’s port economy. Leonard’s Wharf, which currently docks more than a dozen commercial fishing vessels, abuts the site but is not included in the sale.
The terminal is slated to open in March 2023, and will provide storage, laydown yards for equipment and materials, berth facilities for tug and barge operations, host crew transfer vessels and service operation vessel support services.
In a press release circulated Wednesday, local legislators lined up to praise the deal.
“Re-dedication of this local port facility in New Bedford to provide support services for the coming Massachusetts wind renewable industry and economic growth while complementing the existing fishing, shipping and recreational maritime users in the harbor,” local rep Bill Straus of Mattapoisett said in a statement. Straus is House chair of the Legislature’s Transportation Committee and his districts include both New Bedford and Fairhaven.
“Today’s announcement … brings New Bedford another step closer to realizing the economic and environmental benefits of the offshore wind industry and the city’s role within it,” said state Rep. Antonio Cabral.
“This project is another opportunity to spur economic development in the region,” said state Rep. Christopher Hendricks.
“This type of private investment in our city should be an example of how important offshore wind will be to our community over the next generations,” said state Rep. Christopher Markey of the 9th Bristol District.
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