UMass Dartmouth Star Store campus in New Bedford to be purchased by MA
BOSTON – The State will buy UMass Dartmouth College of Visual and Performing Arts Star Store’s 20-year campus in downtown New Bedford for $1 to continue school arts programs.
Sen. Mark Montigny, D-New Bedford, made the announcement Monday in a press release.
The purchase is led by Montigny’s fiscal year 23 budget amendment, which was formally approved on Monday, July 18 by the state legislature, according to the release.
Senator Montigny said he personally appealed to Governor Charlie Baker and Lieutenant Governor Karyn Polito for their support in acquiring and renovating the building.
Over the weekend, Montigny also worked with Senate Ways and Means Chairman Michael Rodrigues to build $30 million for Star Store capital renovations in the Senate’s economic development bill, which was unveiled Monday, the statement said.
How the Star Store Became the Arts Campus
When he was first elected in 1992, Montigny launched efforts to revive the city’s downtown neighborhood that had remained mostly vacant and in disrepair, the statement said. After collaborating with local artists and musicians, Montigny saw an opportunity to redevelop and operate the old Star Store department store building into a modern campus for the UMass Dartmouth College of Visual and Performing Arts at the corner of Union and Purchase.
Despite pressure from the university to build a facility on its main campus and the financial limitations imposed by the state bond cap, Montigny persisted in pursuing large state investments in the Star Store. In 2001, Legislation de Montigny redeveloped the ruined building into a modern visual arts campus that attracted budding artists to downtown New Bedford. Increased activity downtown has fueled demand for dining, entertainment and gallery space. The simultaneous revitalization of the Zeiterion Theater and other cultural institutions, also supported by Montigny’s support, created an artistic and cultural revival in the city that continues today, according to the release.
Star Store’s initial redevelopment in the early 2000s required an innovative financing strategy to address the state’s inability at the time to use government bonds, the statement said. The strategy required a long-term lease with a developer who could assume responsibility for building the campus while the state would provide annual appropriations on behalf of the university to fund construction costs. At the end of the 20-year lease, the state could then buy the campus, which it paid for by providing the developer with $1.
Renovations to start
Despite strong resistance from state officials, Montigny ensured that taxpayers recouped the 20+ year investment in the Star Store by ordering the state to buy the building for $1, as planned by the initial development plan, according to the statement. Annual state appropriations will fund immediate renovations to the building to ensure the university can begin transforming the campus into a 21st century space for artists, creators and designers who will fuel New York’s artistic and cultural renaissance. Bedford for the next 20 years.
The longer-term renovations will receive state support of up to $30 million thanks to Montigny’s recent work with Senate Ways and Means Chairman Michael Rodrigues. The bond clearance is included as part of the economic development package unveiled Monday in the Senate.
“Star Store was the driving force behind the city’s astonishing artistic and cultural renaissance,” said Montigny.
“We attempted an ambitious vision to revive our downtown by leveraging the incredible local talent that loves New Bedford with the university to provide an infusion of new energy that has collectively transformed the downtown neighborhood into this that we see today.
“There was no way we were going to lose this valuable asset to private interests after taxpayers had invested so much in this building. However, like most things, we need to ensure that Star Store remains relevant for the generation to come and therefore new investments will be made but traditional artists and creators will remain. Today’s agreement will significantly enhance Star Store’s footprint and cement a legacy for downtown New Bedford as a beacon of artistic and cultural life in our region.