Jack Spillane’s article about Sen. Montigny and DCAM’s purchase of the Star Store/UMass property was a welcome report. He’s certainly correct in concluding that urban plans often require political muscle.

Back in the 1970s and early ’80s New Bedford was able to invest significant federal dollars in upgrading the historic district’s utilities, streets, lighting, sidewalks, street trees and signage all in an effort to attract tourists, businesses, locals and even residents to the district and downtown.

Recognizing the inherent attraction of the waterfront, the city also created physical connections and built the waterfront park.

While many bemoan the attention to the downtown, the fact was that once, over 10% of the city’s property value was located on less than 5% of the city’s land. Creating a signature historic venue would not only make New Bedford an attractive destination, it would significantly strengthen the tax base. But unfortunately progress was slow.

What was becoming apparent was that the downtown needed another anchor beside the seasonal Whaling Museum. All of the vision about downtown’s future failed to predict the Star Store’s role in revitalization. Quite frankly, most assumed it would be turned into elderly housing, if it were ever converted.

Bringing the College of Visual and Performing Arts (CVPA) into a renovated Star Store was the critical piece of the downtown puzzle. Keeping it here preserves downtown’s important anchor.

Shortly after the school opened, I was walking behind two female students, one with green hair and the other with blue. At that moment I knew the CVPA was going to inject energy and enthusiasm into the downtown scene.

Sen. Montigny’s political muscle made big urban plans come to fruition. He performed a significant service to the city. It’s fitting that Jack Spillane’s column honors his important contribution.

— Richard Walega was a City Planner from 1977 to 1983


Letter: Hooray for Montigny’s muscle, boo to corporate thinking

Bravo Sen. Montigny for securing the deal and $ that will keep CVPA downtown (and the area) alive and kicking.

Of course the arts like everything else changes and adapts. Seems animation and fashion are currently in vogue so CVPA has to change. 

But a big boo to those state officials and UMass Dartmouth corporate suits who want to throw out the arts baby with the bathwater. Similar to what UMass Dartmouth did with pulling the plug  on the Oceanarium, shutting it down leading to its end.

While I’m on my soapbox, never mind moving to Dartmouth since CVPA has Performing Arts in the title and The Z is downtown. What about moving Performing Arts into Star Store into vacant space?

I used to admire UMass Dartmouth. With the latest moves, not so much. If they aren’t going to support arts downtown why should we support them? The majority of UMass Dartmouth alumni come from this area. Don’t bite the hand that feeds you!

— George Kontanis is a Dartmouth resident

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