Close this search box.

Project Spotlight: New Bedford Historic District (Massachusetts)

WGI’s Urban and Community Planning division worked to revitalize New Bedford’s Historic District to expand commerce & pedestrian foot traffic.

WGI’s Urban and Community Planning team worked as a Plan Facilitator for New Bedford, MA and the Massachusetts Rapid Recovery Plan Program. The goal for this project was to encourage a regional audience to return to downtown New Bedford for dining, shopping, arts, and culture-based programming following COVID-19 shutdowns.

The Mass Downtown Initiative, through extensive funding and collaboration, gathered 125 communities throughout the commonwealth to assess the impacts. The report began by conducting stakeholder interviews with the city and business leaders to understand the nature of their downtown commercial core. A business survey was conducted which identified concerns with businesses marketing strategies, parking facilities, permitting obstacles, and storefront activation.

The goal was to develop a better more effective dialogue between visitors/community members and city/local business.

New Bedford mural
Murals in the downtown core reflect the City’s vibrant culture and character.

The first phase was to develop a diagnostic framework to identify challenges and opportunities in the downtown core. This framework was comprised of 4 factors: customer base, physical environment, business environment, and administrative capacity – each equipped with guiding questions to direct data collection.

A series of maps and local data was included to provide context of the community and characteristics of their built environment.

Rapid Recovery Plan Diagnostic Framework

WGI provided a framework with guided questions to identify priorities and interests of the New Bedford Community.

  • Customer Base: Who are the customers of the businesses in the Study Area?
  • Physical Environment: How conducive is the physical environment to meeting the needs and expectations of both businesses and customers?
  • Business Environment: What are the impacts of COVID-19 on businesses in the Study Area? How well does the business mix meet the needs of various customer groups?
  • Admin Capacity: Who are the key stewards of the Study Area? Are they adequately staffed and resourced to support the implementation of projects? Are the regulatory, zoning, and permitting processes impeding business activity?

Following the diagnostic phase, WGI developed project recommendations to address priority challenges and opportunities. Specific projects included:

  • placemaking to capitalize on the recent shared-streets success;
  • outdoor arts and cultural programming;
  • district marketing; and
  • expanded technical assistance programs to businesses.­­

Each of the projects includes recommended actions and success metrics. WGI selected spaces that are accessible and can be used to activate otherwise under-utilized spaces. To ensure equitable access, locations vary so that all areas of downtown can benefit from the program.

One of the specific project recommendations to increase foot traffic in the downtown core was called “Activate the Gap”.  The team recommended art installations occur at the primary nodes of the popular historic district and central shopping area with temporary art activations to connect them. The goal was to activate and create a connection between the two business areas and will draw visitors outside of the Historic District to discover the local shops and restaurants.

This project directly supports the City’s goal of re-establishing New Bedford as an arts and culture destination and increasing the number of local and regional visitors to downtown.

Union Street, new Bedford
Existing view of Union Street (left) and proposed view of Union Street activation project (right) Source: City of New Bedford


Contact our experts today and let’s discuss how we can assist in revitalizing your community with your next project.

Share this post

Share this post

Learn more
about our



Cooling Down AI & Data Centers: Intro to Cooling Systems

In the age of AI, effective HVAC cooling is crucial for data centers. In part 1 of our 3 part series on Cooling Down AI & Data Centers, we explore traditional and advanced cooling methods, emphasizing the need for expert consultation to choose the best system for specific needs.


5 Best Practices to Successfully Implement Gen AI

Discover how to navigate the challenges of implementing generative AI effectively. Explore best practices to define a strategic gen AI approach, prioritize use cases, foster a culture of innovation, set organizational guardrails, and calculate ROI, ensuring your business maximizes the potential of this transformative technology.


You’ve been searching for a place like WGI. We look forward to meeting you soon.


Enter your zip code, and we’ll personalize your experience with local projects, office locations, team members, and more.

WGI's success starts with our Associates

WGI supports its associates with meaningful opportunities for growth, strong benefits and perks, while we work collaboratively with clients and co-consultants to shape and improve communities.

Our Team in Action

Join the Team

WGI is a dynamic organization with opportunities nationwide for engineers, land surveyors, landscape architects, environmental scientists, and architects.

Find a team member:

Let's talk about your next project.