“He’s just not that into you.”
– Jack Berger in Sex and the City

Who would have thought?

It turns out that the entire political and educational leadership of the region is just not that into having a fine arts college in downtown New Bedford.

Who would have thought that?

Who would have thought that UMass Dartmouth is just not that into keeping its fine arts college where its actual artists live, and whose urban campus gives the well-regarded school a campus and a branding in a place where artists actually want to be.

Who would have thought that?

Who would have thought that despite all its protestations that it wanted to stay in New Bedford, UMass Dartmouth would fail to sign a lease exercising its right to buy the Star Store for $1 back in 2021? All supposedly because of a fear among bureaucrats in a couple of state agencies who thought it was too expensive. The bureaucrats reigned even though the guy in charge of actually developing the state budget (state Sen. Mike Rodrigues of Westport) had pledged to fund whatever was needed. 

Who would have thought that UMass President Martin T. Meehan, the head of the state’s whole higher education system, would turn out to be the indisputable villain in UMD’s catastrophic decision to abandon the Star Store? Well, actually a lot of folks would have found it easy to believe that old Marty, long an almost megalomanical power seeker, was probably behind this whole dysfunctional decision. We do have the example of what Meehan’s catastrophic leadership has already done to UMass Boston.


Who would have thought?

Who would have thought that Mark Montigny, the state senator who for 20 years has bragged endlessly that his legacy will be the rebuilding of the Star Store arts campus to spark economic development in his hometown would be the guy who actually pulled the trigger — the guy who refused to fund these legal shakedown payments to developer Paul Downey that gave UMass the excuse it wanted to leave New Bedford?

Who would ever have thought that?

Sen. Montigny, where are you?

Are you in Florida? Are you traveling around the world as you say you do? I don’t see you in New Bedford much anymore.

Who would have thought?

Who would have thought that Jon Mitchell, New Bedford’s 12-year incumbent mayor, would be willing to settle for locating something like NOAA’s Northeast fisheries offices in the classic Star Store building instead of the College of Visual and Performing Arts students?

Who would have thought that? 

The painters, the sculptors, the potters and weavers, print and jewelry makers are always the first line of revival for any decaying old city trying to reinvent itself. Who would have thought New Bedfor’s beloved creative army could be thought of as just another downtown anchor that could be exchanged for a building full of scientists and red-tape regulators that could be located virtually anywhere in the city, preferably near the waterfront?

Who would have thought that?

How about just putting a minimum-wage telephone call center into the Star Store as once was proposed for downtown’s Compass Bank, Mayor Mitchell? That could be something. It’s certainly the only kind of large-scale business, if you could even get something like that, that has been remotely interested in locating in downtown New Bedford these last 30 years. 

The College of Visual and Performing Arts in downtown New Bedford is felt by many to be the heart of the economic revival of downtown New Bedford as well as a flood of artistic energy that has drenched the city over the last 20 years. Credit: Jack Spillane / The Bedford Light

Don’t get me wrong, the Snidely Whiplash here is the university, and I’m going to tell you that story now. But suffice it to say, the relentless President Meehan is just not that into either the fine arts or the city of New Bedford.

Sen. Montigny correctly points out that it is UMass Dartmouth itself that has been the moving force here. It first signaled it didn’t want to keep the arts campus in New Bedford any more as much as five years ago, shortly after Meehan came to power in his palatial “entertainment” office above Boston Harbor. 

During the tenure of Robert Johnson, one of UMD’s latest short-term chancellors and a guy also selected by Meehan, folks in New Bedford began to hear rumblings about UMD wanting out of the Star Store. And in fact, the university over the past decade began returning some of the CVPA’s programs there.

Who would have thought that could happen back in 2001 when the CVPA campus first opened in the downtown? Who would have thought that when the state invested $20 million to open the rejuvenated Star Store department store as an arts college to so much fanfare as an economic regenerator for New Bedford?

Who would have thought that UMass Dartmouth could not have gotten it right about buying this spectacular urban space for its arts campus? 

And who would have thought that a Mr. Paul C. Downey of Mattapoisett, the most politically connected developer on the South Coast, would turn his back on his own hometown? Who would have thought that UMass Dartmouth would screw up the $1 option not once, but twice — the second time after it was literally ordered by a Montigny bill to take the building? Evidently, the university somehow failed to notify Downey by a time deadline, as was required by the contract. Was the second screw-up an accident? Doubtful. How could such an accident happen on such an important issue?

Who would have thought that any of this could happen?

Mark Fuller

Enter present UMD Chancellor Mark Fuller. He’s the latest in an ongoing list of out-of-the-region careerist chancellors that the state university system has saddled UMass Dartmouth with, and the second guy who owes his fiefdom to Meehan. 

Fuller has tried to blame it all on the Division of Capital Asset Management and the UMass Building Authority advising him, indeed forbidding him, against buying and maintaining a building older than 50 years. 

You know these guys. They’re the bureaucratic state government and university-system types who know nothing about the far reaches of Massachusetts like the South Coast, and who seem only to care about dollars and never about education, or even value for a dollar. I’ll use their acronyms. DCAMM and UMBA because that’s what they truly are — a jumble of letters. They just didn’t want the expense of maintaining an expensive building in a low-income city. And the state bureaucrats get to decide these things. 

Huh? That doesn’t make sense.

Anis Beigzadeh in her ceramics studio at the College of Visual and Performing Arts in downtown New Bedford. Credit: Jack Spillane / The New Bedford Light

Fuller seems a nice enough, smart enough guy, but anyone who has remotely been paying attention to Massachusetts politics knows that Fuller is not in charge of UMD at all. And neither is DCAMM or UMBA. 

No, the person pulling New Bedford and Fall River university’s strings from Boston is Meehan. He seems to view the whole system as his empire, almost his candy shop.

Under Meehan’s failed UMass system presidency these last seven years UMass Boston and UMass Dartmouth have both drifted into crises even as the president, misadvisedly in my opinion, has tried to remake the state university system into some sort of network of international research colleges funded by private donations and with private agendas.

Marty Meehan

Most outrageous was the purchase by UMass Amherst, and engineered by Meehan, of Mt. Ida College in Boston for $75 million. 

That $75 million was paid out of university system funds even as the same university system was cutting the budget of UMass Boston for the central system’s failure to adequately set aside enough capital reserves to fund UMB’s building plans.

As with UMass Dartmouth, Meehan never told UMass Boston officials what he was up to. They would have pushed back, of course.

Don’t take any of this from me. These are the conclusions of what went down at UMass Boston of the conservative policy think tank the Pioneer Institute in its 2019 study “Fiscal Crisis at UMass Boston: The True Story and the Scapegoating.”

That’s a conservative group that doesn’t even want to spend much money on public education. And they think the cost-cutting Meehan, who has tried to run the state system like a private enterprise, is a scoundrel.

The internship campus at Mt. Ida that Meehan wanted for UMass Amherst probably could have been located in less-luxurious digs across town at UMass Boston itself. The $75 million Meehan paid for the intern campus certainly could have been used for paying for some of the UMB’s underfunded expansion. Meehan’s central office should have used that money to pay down the $30 million of debt its own miscalculations forced on UMass Boston, the state’s only minority-majority school of higher education.

But in the UMass university system the only agenda is Martin Meehan’s agenda, and Montigny and Mitchell are learning that from bitter experience now. He appears to have outfoxed them.

Who would have thought?

In 2018, the UMass Boston faculty voted no confidence in Meehan, a former congressman legendarily famous for his broken term-limits pledge. But who would have thought he could almost single-handedly put an end to the College of Visual and Performing Arts in New Bedford? Actually pretty predictable there, too.

UMass Dartmouth has gotten much of the same treatment from Meehan as UMass Boston. A lot of ordering around and very little listening from the president. He seems to always know better than what anyone tells him, certainly better than what any of the people or elected officials in Greater New Bedford have advised or wanted.

So after Meehan bought the going-out-of-business Mt. Ida, he needed to find someplace to put its contemporary design students and programs. He settled on UMass Dartmouth. No questions asked or consultations made locally, at least with anyone outside the university’s corridors.

CVPA Dean Lawrence Jenkins may be a very nice man, but if you ask me he’s a go-along, get-along company guy. You don’t stay a dean in Marty Meehan’s system very long and not be.

UMass Dartmouth used to make the argument that these digital and contemporary design programs, several of them from Mt. Ida, offer the region’s youth a better chance at a job than the Star Store’s traditional fine arts programs do. So it looks for all the world like UMass Dartmouth began funding them at the expense of its fine arts programs. And if you believe some of the local arts students and faculty, UMD also stopped aggressively recruiting the fine artists at the crafts shows. 

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In spite of all this, the school kept accepting fine arts students, even as it ran fewer and fewer programs for them and replaced fewer and fewer departing faculty. The priorities literally seem to have been diverted from CVPA fine arts to digital and contemporary design programs.

Now, a public debate about a university’s academic programming is certainly worth having. Weighing the value of digital and contemporary design arts vs. fine arts at a public university is a legitimate discussion. 

From my own perspective, basing university programming purely on jobs would greatly undervalue the importance of fine arts to a community’s quality of life and understanding of its cultural heritage. In addition, it’s not like contemporary design students don’t also have a struggle getting that first job out of school. 

More to the point, it’s not like a university the size of UMass Dartmouth can’t have both fine arts and digital arts if it budgets and plans well, which the overall Massachusetts university system under Meehan has not remotely demonstrated any ability to do.

So now Downey, a local man who has grown immensely rich redeveloping the former department store into the downtown New Bedford arts campus — he was paid an astounding $63 million by the state for leasing the building to the university over these last 20 years — looks like he wants to claim the whole darn building — lock, stock and barrel — as his own. It’s a beautiful thing, a paid-for-by-the-state property he can now develop into something else for his own benefit. Some people predicted as much would happen 23 years ago, especially with someone as connected to the political insider network as Downey. They warned against the danger of a private/public partnership of this sort.

But even given all of Meehan’s antics, all of the 59-year-old Downey’s apparent greed, for Montigny to now say he is prioritizing the taxpayers by not putting the Star Store funding into the state budget is breathtaking.  

Mark Montigny

The state senator is either giving up his own legacy so a political buddy can grow richer than he already is or he is playing a game of bluff with UMass Dartmouth, which by now he should know Meehan may well outflank him on. I certainly hope it’s the latter for both the region and Mark Montigny’s sake.

The state senator may have gotten caught up in the legal rationales that the university has used for political cover to not buy the building.

The issue of who’s going to pay to maintain the structure has been the argument the university is using to avoid purchasing the Star Store.

Montigny has criticized UMD for failing to do some $30 million worth of deferred maintenance on the structure. But both branches of the Legislature have said they are willing to float a $30 million bond for those costs but that first UMass has to buy the building. 

One of the kilns at the Star Store in New Bedford. Ceramics students say the university has informed them the majority of the kilns, the large ones built into the building, will not be available to them in Dartmouth. Credit: Jack Spillane / The New Bedford Light
The massive chimneys for the kilns for the ceramics shop project from the roof of the Star Store in New Bedford. Credit: Jack Spillane / The New Bedford Light

UMass Dartmouth responds that, oh no, first the Legislature has to fund the $30 million and then it will buy the building for $1. The school needs $50-$75 million in deferred maintenance and the school is already paying $450,000 a year to it. It simply can’t afford this downtown arts campus. 

Montigny responds that no other state university receives the kind of subsidies UMD does for its buildings. The state is not going to pay for the maintenance for a structure owned by a private party, now that the debt service on the campus’ creation has been paid off.

So UMass Dartmouth has never executed an unassailable effort to purchase the Star Store, the first time supposedly because of the state regulators and the second time because of Downey’s legal objections. 

Montingy and Downey, of course, both grew up in the same era in the hyper-insular, hyper-political West End of New Bedford and have long scratched each other’s backs.

The 62-year-old state senator has not actively fundraised since 2010 as far as I can tell from his Office of Campaign and Political Finance reports. He doesn’t need to. As of Aug. 1, he had an impressive $789,294.50 in his campaign account, plenty of money to finance whatever he wants to legally spend money on.

But back when he was fundraising, Downey, or individuals listed at one of his addresses, contributed $1,800 between 2003 and 2005 to the state senator.

Who would have thought?

Who would have thought that Montigny would ever, ever have thrown in the towel on his own legacy? Two decades ago, he was the chair of the powerful Ways and Means Committee himself. But he has long seemed to have had very little power left on Beacon Hill. Certainly not enough to get either Gov. Charlie Baker or Gov. Maura Healey to lean heavily enough on Meehan.

Yes, he apparently got Baker to extend the lease but he did not get Baker or Stephen Karam of Fall River, the chair of the UMass Board of Trustees, to lean on Meehan hard enough to get UMass Dartmouth to exercise the $1 option in time. That’s a detail that Downey was certainly paying attention to. But was the senator paying attention?

Don’t look for Mayor Mitchell to be able to do this either.

As perceptive about some policy matters as Mitchell can sometimes be, he has modest skills of political persuasion.

He does not have the ability to lean on the Boston establishment, and certainly not the establishment in Fall River. Imagine him trying to lean on House Majority Leader Mike Moran, whom he alienated last year by his tone-deaf lecturing on redistricting of the South Coast’s congressional boundaries.

Both Mitchell and Montigny, who tragically for the city, don’t work well together, say they are trying to rescue the evacuation of the CVPA arts troops from New Bedford. Late Thursday, Montigny released a letter he wrote to Gov. Maura Healey asking her to intervene on behalf of New Bedford in the wake of UMass Dartmouth refusing to maintain the building. That’s something, but it may well be too late, and it doesn’t get at President Meehan’’s dismissal of the importance of fine arts education in an urban setting, which is the real nub of the issue.

Fallon Navarro opens the door of a kiln on the fourth floor of the Star Store. Credit: Jack Spillane / The New Bedford Light

It does not look like either Montigny or Mitchell have many good options at this point. Maybe they never did, given Meehan’s power.

No doubt they are making the phone calls. But the public statements of both leaders certainly don’t sound like they have confidence they can get anything reversed. I did like Mitchell’s line about it “straining credulity” that the removal of a line in the state budget means the College of Visual and Performing Arts must absolutely leave downtown New Bedford.

Jon Mitchell

Mitchell and Montigny both undoubtedly know the value of a university campus (not a junior college satellite like Bristol Community College) to a city the size of New Bedford. The mayor says he was kept out of the negotiations with the university and Montigny says nothing could have convinced either the university or the state agencies to do the right thing. He even name checked DCAMM in a press statement. 

So there you are. New Bedford within a month will, out of the blue, lose an arts campus it took years to bring to the city.

Paul Downey, by the way, is one of those developers who gives money — significant money — to anyone in power. He wants influence and he has prepared for this assault well over many years. 

Everyone from Mike Rodrigues to Jon Mitchell to Fall River Mayor Paul Coogan to former City Councilor John Saunders to District Attorney Tom Quinn to former Sheriff Tom Hodgson are on Downey’s list for receiving generous campaign donations.

You can help keep The Light shining with your support.

Gov. Healey herself has received $2,000 in campaign contributions from Downey just in 2022. Don’t hold your breath for any effort from her office to rescue the downtown campus by leaning on DCAMM, the UMass School Building Authority, or Meehan.

By the way, two of the most interesting recipients of Downey’s largesse are state Rep. Chris Markey and the above-mentioned House Majority Leader Moran of Brighton. 

Markey received $550 in 2022 and Moran $1,000 in 2021. The House Victory fund also got $500 that year. 

Markey, as soon as Chancellor Fuller released the news that UMD was leaving the Star Store, was out with his own press release supporting a change of development at the building.The artists have served their purpose and it’s time for something else, he as much as said.

Moran, by the way, is the heir apparent to House Speaker Ronald Mariano. He’s going to be the most powerful legislator in the state before too long. After Mitchell’s performance on redistricting and Downey’s generosity, don’t expect him to be helping in the rescue of New Bedford’s arts campus. He will be familiar with Meehan’s power base in his home town of Lowell. 

Montigny and Rodrigues make reasonable-sounding arguments for not further funding the Downey lease payments any more — $2.7 million a year. The darn mortgage on the renovation was paid off as of 2021. In fact, Downey has already received a majority portion of the additional $2.7 million in lease payments twice since then.

A university spokesman responds that of the $2.7 million a year that is being paid to Downey, $2.28 million is for rent, with the remaining $415,000 being for “common area maintenance” even though the actual costs exceed $450,000. The $3.3 million annual cost of the building to UMass Dartmouth is twice the amount it awards annually in financial aid.  

Downey is not returning this writer’s inquiries and does not seem visible anywhere else in the media either. That’s his style. I did hear through a third party as I approached deadline that he would be willing to talk to me through a public relations professional.

Who by the way was supervising maintenance at UMass Dartmouth all these years since it opened? 

Why none other than former City Councilor and current County Commissioner John T. Saunders, the very center of former state Sen. Biff MacLean’s old New Bedford political machine. 

Saunders worked first for Downey, and then unsurprisingly was absorbed into the university system’s public payroll where he can benefit from the state’s generous pension system and not have to be on Downey’s payroll.

Saunders did not take my phone call, telling me I was still “off limits” for past stories that I’ve written critical of him and “The Machine’s” influence on New Bedford politics.

Since I couldn’t talk to Saunders, it’s not clear to me whether his responsibilities include only “common area maintenance” or also the deferred maintenance that Montigny has complained never got done, be it $30 or $75 million? 

A word about developer Downey.

You would think that after his $63 million payday courtesy of Montigny that he would not be so avaricious as to hold both the university and the region by the throat like this. If he has no loyalty to the city, you think he might have some to Montigny. But he appears not to care. And neither, unbelievably enough, does the governor, who so far seems willing enough to go along with characters like Downey and Meehan. 

Downey should not have refused to let the university finally buy the building for $1 in 2022. He should have done the right thing for the region. Unless. Unless someone is telegraphing to him that the powers that be don’t really care about the fine arts campus being in downtown New Bedford anymore. From Montigny to Mitchell to Meehan to Healey.

Montigny must have known that he had either to continue to pay Downey for what by now looks like a $2.7 million ransom or somehow convince Meehan and Healey to keep the campus in New Bedford. 

Meehan, as I said, has a big political power base in Lowell, certainly bigger than that of either Montigny or Mitchell in New Bedford. Healey is not budging, is my bet.

So there we have it. We have another Democratic governor willing to go along with the old boy network running the state university system. Shades of Billy Bulger back in the day.

If Marty Meehan found $75 million to purchase Mt. Ida for UMass Amherst, he could certainly find whatever the value of the Star Store is to belatedly pay off Downey, as repulsive as it sounds to have to pay him off. How much could the Star Store building be worth on the open market as it is? Ten million? Twenty?

Who would have thought any of this possible?

Who would have thought?

Anyone who grew up in New Bedford and Massachusetts and knows how politics works around here.

Email columnist Jack Spillane at jspillane@newbedfordlight.org.

Editor’s Note: This column was updated on Aug. 18, 2023, to include information about political campaign contributions from Paul Downey to Mark Montigny that was inadvertently left out of the original column.

Join the Conversation


  1. As always – to the point and on the mark! This story has deep roots. The issue goes back further than most imagine. This is truly the sins of the father(s) coming home to roost…

  2. Thanks, Jack, for bringing Star Store’s tragic political/bureaucratic/developer/educational decline to light. New Bedford too well knows that the powers that be giveth and the powers that be taketh away. Is there a deus ex machina “in the house”?

  3. Why does the Southcoast have to fight the state for every crumb? Once again, our students lose out on opportunities. The state is clearly prejudice against our region and it’s time to vote everyone of these players out when election time comes. Type their names in bold letters and place them where you will see it every day – so that you never forget who they are. Share this article with everyone you know. We must stand up against the injustice we face everyday as residents of the Southcoast!

  4. This is a huge piece of jetsam that UMD had to unload. Declining enrollment for 10 years, despite private tuition in MA at 55-80k? That’s the story: a long-failing UMD, that the Meehan appointed, business-minded Fuller is trying to save. If the state doesn’t figure out how to merge BSU and UMD, or at least consolidate course offerings as Weld had proposed years ago, there’s more trouble ahead for both. And why has UMB struggled as the state’s most under-funded/utilized asset — because, like UMD, it has long suffered from political interference and failed leadership. This region has to stop looking at white elephants as great gifts. They, like their namesake, have voracious appetites, and will leave their giftee’s home all the worse for the wear, if not destroyed. The much ballyhooed law school has just hit 100 graduates after 13 years – this, when the projection to have it be sustainable was class sizes of around 250. Most universities that are making it today, are doing so because of partnerships, and yet after approx $30m in federal funding, SMAST has yet to receive any major endowments/chairs from the fleet of the “nation’s highest grossing fishing port.” That’s just one glaring example of how not to do things. UMD needs to rethink many, many things if it hopes to be around for another generation.

  5. Who would have thought that UMass Dartmouth would abandon the Star Store and eviscerate the College of Visual and Performing Arts? I would, even though I didn’t grow up in New Bedford. That’s because I spent 25 years teaching History at UMD. I have noticed for decades how the university has been allowing the Arts and Sciences to wither away, while more and more resources go to the professional programs (Business, Law, Engineering, maybe Nursing). It has struck me that CVPA was the last surviving bastion of the Humanities at the university, and I wondered how long it could hold out. Now we know.

  6. Thanks Jack for clarifying all the players in this fiasco. As an Alumni of UMass Dartmouth, I had never written a Chancellor or Dean until this week. Now I will write Meehan too.
    I drove around Mt.Ida this year when my daughter & I got detoured… the Community was actively using the sport fields for soccer & lacrosse. So glad they could come up with megabucks for the Newton Community but to hell with New Bedford.

  7. Great reporting Jack. Of course, social media is abuzz with name blame and the reopening of grudges and old wounds. What pundit doesn’t like a juicy story they don’t fully understand, with platforms they can take advantage of with impunity? As the saying goes; When nothing changes it stays the same.

  8. As a RISD graduate, I ran a successful artisanal business for 35 years until retiring as covid shutdowns began. We moved from Boston to the southcoast in 86 and remember a rather sleepy downtown New Bedford then. In 2008 we moved to New Bedford and in 2013 we bought a house, as we have watched New Bedford thrive as an arts Mecca . Has no one seen the memo on how the arts can vitalize an urban environment? And just as the train has finally come to link us to Boston. It’s just a damn shame. A power hungry Marty Meehan, middling politicians and a greedy building owner. The CVPA could have worked with a little vision and some marketing instead of giving in to the limited imagination of go along to get along.

  9. A few things to point out:

    1. The South Coast has always been the poor, unwanted cousin to the Boston political elites.

    2. Despite almost 30 years of Dartmouth being part of the UMass family, the reality is that UMass Amherst is the ONLY UMass. UMass Dartmouth, Lowell and Boston are still unwanted step-childeren.

    3. Mark Montigny would always brag about being a UMass Dartmouth in the media and in on-campus visitations. He seems to be silent on this issue. Perhaps, he isn’t so proud of UMass Dartmouth.

    4. Postponed or deferred maintenance has always been a centerpiece of UMass Dartmouth going back to the 1990s. It ranged from the pervasive toxic black mold in the basement of the Group I building, the leaking roofs in all the campus buildings, the crumbling concrete and more.

    It took a massive bond issue by the state in the early 2000s that all of this deferred maintenance was finally addressed.

    5. It’s not just Meehan who ignored UMass, but so did Billy Bulger,

  10. As for the Star Store, with all that money mentioned, and some of the characters involved, you know there is something fishy going on. A lot of villains to chose from, but the bottom line is, as always, the little guy getting a raw deal.

  11. This is just another piece of the slow decline of UMD. They removed old dorms and put in a dirt lot (no money for pavement). A private entity constructed new dorms on the campus, with a 30-year lease of the land. The university doesn’t own or maintain these buildings – 100% private. UMD receives a % of the housing of student in those buildings. Cedar Dell housing (used to be seniors) has been shuttered for more than 4 years. Why ? No students ! The Liberal Arts building at UMD has been shuttered for 2 years, why ? UMD shut down all the programs. The law school is the next target ! It well known that law school is for sale. UMD wants it moved to the campus so they can put law students into housing there…and try to save themselves. Speaking of funding, did you know UMD doesn’t buy vehicles anymore – lease only. The police department, facilities department and many other departments have been cut to barebones. The revolving door of non-local chancellors is constant problem. They spend millions on plans, years of discussions in meetings, and yet the building are crumbling, enrollment continues to drop, the campus is a poorly maintained, however administration’s offices are like penthouses. Public access to the library is nearly impossible without getting parking tickets. No parking on Ring Road, No parking in Lot 13 (Library lot). So where can the public park ? The answer – nowhere. There is so much more that goes on behind the scenes, if only the public (aka taxpayers) knew. Let’s not even talk about the money waste for the former windmill that was there (since removed) millions of dollars wasted, and $0 generated and 0 electricity generated. Yet $2 million to remove it. The list goes on and on…The Star Store is just one small piece.

    1. The Liberal Arts building has been shuttered for two years?! That would be news to the students, staff, and faculty who’ve used it over the last two years.

    2. The Liberal Arts Building has not been shuttered for two years. Source: I’ve had my classes there for the last two years.

  12. Great research. Wow, $63M in rent over 20+ years sounds way over market. That building likely is worth less than $3M. Look at comps in that area. No parking. Requires expensive renovations. Even with train to Boston, it is not a hot property or location (who will find the train interesting: Boston-area workers seeking LOWER-cost real estate and rents). It might be prudent to drop that property, although I’d lean toward more university downtown, not less.
    Also, let’s not overstate the ressurgence factors of downtown. The trend of half the U.S. population moving to coastal cities by 2022 was predicted in the late 1990s. The public artwork downtown seemed to be by folks NOT associated with UMD. I lived downtown for 4 years (2005-09) and found most of my neighbors unwelcoming. I tried to co-found an environmental committee, and a former mayor told me that was his territory (I was told that was typical of the city’s old guard). Many folks in surrounding scenic towns swooped in for urban grant funding but refused to move to NB.
    Downtown needs to work on being welcoming, safe, affordable, and supportive of real community building and jobs. There will be no magical one solution.

  13. Great article Spillane! Honestly it’s got to the point why even bother fighting? UMass don’t care, montigny blew it, and the finger pointing continues. Your guy John saunders knows the entire deal I can promise you but he’s gonna be taken care of so again who cares? Nobody. Sad day for NB! What do you expect from mayor Mitchell “the former fed” he’s real trustworthy he’s sticking his head in the sand as usual. Where’s Freddy Kalisz and leontire when we need them???????

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