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Street-wise New Bedford


“Grab your coat and get your hat
Leave your worry on the doorstep
Just direct your feet
To the sunny side of the street…”

It’s not often that you get the chance to help ‘brand’ a street. But this Monday, Dec. 19 in the Zeiterion Theatre’s Penler space, that’s exactly what’s on the table.

The City of New Bedford is inviting interested parties to meet from 9:00 – 11:00 a.m. to discuss two items. The first is a review of the Union Street Improvement Program, recently funded by the MassWorks grant program. The second is the future of Purchase Street improvements and the branding of the stretch of that street from the Zeiterion to No Problemo at the corner of William Street.

Now, you may be thinking this is some pointless, wonky exercise. It’s not.

A lot goes into branding a specific location beyond marketing. Branding helps with that by creating an identity for a certain space. Yet, it’s also much more.

Combine form-based zoning, infrastructure improvements and vision. Add in the proud small business owners of establishments like Hippo, Purchase Street Records, Greasy Luck, Green Bean, The Pour Farm and others. Spice with the passion of dedicated downtown patrons. Bring to a boil and you’ve got the secret sauce of place-making.

Streets that have been effectively branded retain their character and purpose with clear definition. They add interest and excitement to a city. Think Canal Street in Manhattan; Ocean Drive in South Beach; and Newbury Street in Boston, to name a few.

Over the past few years, the groundwork has been laid for the next level of progressive urban planning in New Bedford. The summer before last, a series of form-based zoning workshops were held throughout the city. Then, the area of Union and Purchase Streets to be covered at the Monday, December 19th meeting was designated a Transformative Development Initiative district. That’s basically an area defined as one with the potential to act as a catalyst for growth within a city. (Read more here.)

New Bedford’s TDI district comes with its own fellow, James McKeag, who works from right here out of Groundwork with a capital ‘G’. At this end of Purchase Street – down at number 1213 – he and other members are branding this stretch of asphalt according to inclusive, co-working principles.

The final shape of the Union Street Improvement Program and Purchase Street branding largely depends on all stakeholders – business owners, residents, patrons and citizens. The meeting next Monday in the Z’s Penler space beginning at 9:00 a.m. is an opportunity to bring your own personal brand into the discussion. Seize it.

Steven Froias