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Acushnet Ave meets Groundwork!

Anabelle Rondon and Dena Haden

Anabelle Rondon and Dena Haden

“I’m going to Groundwork!. Does anyone know how to get there?” asked Anabelle Rondon of the Massachusetts Smart Growth Alliance’s Great Neighborhoods program last week after a Working Group meeting of the Acushnet Avenue Steering Committee.

“Sure,” I replied. “I’ll hop in and drive over with you!”

And that, my friends, is synergy in action. From Acushnet Avenue, Anabelle and I sped down Purchase Street and within five minutes found ourselves at number 1213 – uniting two great forces within this city: its first co-working facility and the Acushnet Avenue Steering Committee, working on new ways of revitalizing the famous commercial and residential corridor in New Bedford.

The Acushnet Avenue Steering Committee has been active since last September and is about to kick into high gear with a slate of initiatives and action items designed to bring new attention to The Ave, as it known. I’ve written about it before at greater length and you can find the background here. But last week’s unexpected marriage of two of my favorite groups of people cries out for more cyber-ink.

Anabelle is facilitating the Acushnet Avenue Steering Committee for Great Neighborhoods and was heading to Groundwork! to meet one of our star members – Shelley Cardoos of E for All! I was thrilled to facilitate the introduction between them because, as expected, it bore immediate results.

After meeting Groundwork! co-founder Dena Haden – and expressing her amazement at discovering this beautiful co-working facility in New Bedford – Anabelle whisked Shelley off to a conference room and got down to work. The two quickly came up with a game plan.

Cardoos is jumping into the Acushnet Avenue Steering Committee by bringing her Leadership SouthCoast team onto The Ave to conduct of survey of business needs and assets. They’ll be joined by Tracy Silva Barbosa of the artist community, The Ropeworks and Martha Gonzalez, owner of Adriana’s Mexican Restaurant (a yummy spot at 1262 Acushnet Avenue).

Spotlighting the assets of The Ave rather than just focusing on the challenges is a prime objective of the Acushnet Ave. committee. It’s comprised of stakeholders, business owners, community organizations, faith-based groups and others. Its mission statement is as follows:

“Acushnet Avenue in the City of New Bedford, MA has a beloved past, dynamic present and thrilling future. The commercial corridor is home to the city’s International Marketplace – a collection of cultures reflected in its many restaurants, businesses, services and opportunities. Its residential population enjoys the area’s most walkable neighborhood. From dawn into the evening, The Avenue, as it is affectionately known, is a hub of activity. Up and down The Avenue you’ll find a community of civic and private enterprises of all backgrounds working together to create a destination like none other on the South Coast. Make yourself part of this unique streetscape. Meet, mingle, create and Love the Ave. It’s the launching pad for what’s next in New Bedford.”

Groundwork! members already have a working knowledge of The Ave’s assets. I’ve run into many of them up and down the street over the course of the last several months while attending meetings there and at other times – especially dinner time. Because one of The Ave’s chief assets is its many unique eateries, bakeries, restaurants and bars.

Now, with a new connection made between the city’s center and north end – between Groundwork! and the Acushnet Avenue Steering Committee – I look forward to many more evenings in the company of both crews during working hours and after-hours. The best way to revitalize, re-new and where necessary re-invent New Bedford is by joining all of its dedicated supporters together across all groups and neighborhoods.

With all due respect to George Constanza, sometimes it’s a good thing when worlds collide!

Steven Froias