In an annual event that is now in its seventh year, the Boston-based public policy group MassINC recognizes individuals, groups and organizations who are employing innovative strategies to revitalize the state’s Gateway Cities.
This year, on Wednesday, Nov. 20, 2019, MassINC acknowledged the work of Love The Ave for its work along the commercial corridor Acushnet Avenue and in the City of New Bedford’s north end. Love The Ave was given a MassINC Gateway Cities Innovation Award at Worcester’s DCU Center for its efforts.
In recognizing Love The Ave, MassINC wrote, “Love the Ave is a community-driven group of engaged residents, dedicated local business leaders, and partner organizations working collaboratively with city officials to catalyze New Bedford’s revitalizing north end commercial corridor, Acushnet Avenue.
“To date, the effort has led to infrastructure and streetscape improvements, including wider sidewalks to accommodate cafes and provide space for benches, bike racks, and pedestrians, and improved lighting. Also, as components of a broad marketing campaign to brand Acushnet Ave’s ‘International Marketplace’, the Love the Ave team has organized two restaurant week promotions, created murals and other public art, and hosted cultural festivals.
“Building on this momentum, the Community Economic Development Center and WHALE are transforming the long-dormant Capitol Theater into a mixed-use resource hub for the community. Launched with organizing assistance from the Massachusetts Smart Growth Alliance’s Great Neighborhoods Initiative, this collaborative undertaking epitomizes the kind of multifaceted partnership needed to achieve equitable transformative transit-oriented development in Gateway City station areas.”
Traveling to Worcester to accept the award were team members Angela Johnston, of the New Bedford Economic Development Council (NBEDC); Corrin William and Brian Pastori of north end’s Community Economic Development Center (CEDC); the artist Tracy Barbosa of Duende Glass, Inc.; and Love The Ave Community Media Manager, Steven Froias.
Also representing New Bedford at the event, which consisted of policy panels as well as the awards luncheon, were Derek Santos, Executive Director of the NBEDC; Tabitha Harkin, Director of City Planning for New Bedford; and Colleen Dawicki resident, School Committee member and Working Cities Challenge Manager for the Federal Reserve Bank of Boston.
“Being recognized by MassINC was a terrific validation of the work we’ve been doing in New Bedford’s north end,” commented Love The Ave’s Steven Froias. “The goals of our group and their organization align perfectly.”
MassINC’s mission is to promote the growth of a vibrant middle class in Massachusetts, with a focus on its Gateway Cities like New Bedford. They seek to achieve impact by moving ideas to public policy through civic engagement.
Love The Ave personifies that mission in New Bedford.
Love The Ave is a committee of diverse community members dedicated to promoting the equally diverse commercial corridor, Acushnet Avenue and all of New Bedford’s North End.
Its mission statement states, “Love The Ave believes Acushnet Avenue has a beloved past, dynamic present and thrilling future as the heart of the North End.
“The commercial corridor and surrounding neighborhood is home to the city’s International Marketplace – a collection of cultures reflected in its many restaurants, businesses, services and opportunities – and vibrant Riverside Park among other unique destinations.
“Its residential population enjoys the area’s most walkable neighborhood. From dawn into the evening, The Ave, as it is affectionately known, is a hub of activity.
“Up and down The Ave and throughout the North End 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.”
#LoveTheAve in New Bedford
Launched with the help of the MA Growth Alliance’s Great Neighborhoods program in conjunction with the CEDC, Love The Ave has brought public art to the walls and streets of the north end; sought to support and engage small business owners and social equality groups throughout the area; promotes cultural events celebrating a diverse community; and organizes an annual Restaurant Week to define the north end as a regional dining destination and promote New Bedford’s unique cuisine.
“Receiving this Innovation Award at this particular time is especially gratifying as 2020 will see Acushnet Avenue reach the tipping point,” Froias says. “Significant projects underway like WHALE’s renovation of both the historic Strand Theater, which will showcase the contribution of Cabo Verde residents in our city as the Cape Verdean Cultural Center, and the Capitol Theater, which will become a one-of-a-kind mixed-use community hub, will represent a new milestone for north end’s revitalization.”
Love The Ave welcomes any and all engaged partners to the group. You can follow news and events through its Facebook page here, and contact Angela Johnston at [email protected] for more information about upcoming meetings.