Opened as of Spring 2018, the Co-Creative Center (CO+) is a 10,000 square-foot development that fosters New Bedford’s creative economy. Located on 137/141 Union St, this abandoned block will be transformed into a collaborative retail, living and arts space that includes a community gallery, education center and makerspace in the heart of downtown’s historic district. With events open to the public as well as monthly membership tiers to fit all needs, CO+ is a place for residents, students and regional talent.
The mission of the Co-Creative Center is to establish a footprint for creative enterprise in the historic downtown to connect, support and celebrate artists and cultural entrepreneurship.
CO+ is owned and developed by the Waterfront Historic Area LeaguE (WHALE), a community development corporation dedicated to the neighborhood restoration of New Bedford, MA. The non-profit developer repurposes the city’s most endangered buildings as creative venues, social enterprises and affordable housing. For this space, WHALE leases to creative non-profits and start-ups.
The mutual goals for the CO+ collaborative partnership include:
- The historic restoration and reuse of 137/141 Union St with a creative multi-use approach for space that includes more affordable downtown housing
- Building capacity for SouthCoast creatives -artists, makers, entrepreneurs and organizations- through a community gallery, co-work space, retail opportunities and maker space.
- Activating the streetscape at the storefront level for increase of people and activities within the only block that overlaps with the Seaport Cultural District, Waterfront Historic District and TDI District
- Increase the access to hands-on, maker education for ALL residents of New Bedford
For over 10 years, the vacant “Barker’s Lane Block” has left a hole in New Bedford’s downtown historic district. While New Bedford has seen years of revitalization in downtown schools, tourism and retail shops, these Barker's Lane abandoned buildings have remained untouched and wouldn’t have lasted another winter without a new roof.
Meanwhile, though the city is named one of the “Top 10 Artistic Cities in America”, local creatives still look for more downtown spaces to connect and collaborate for work. In New Bedford, it is essential that the local arts renaissance remains accessible and affordable to all residents, especially during its urban growth. This means granting emerging artists, creatives, and makers their own downtown space and platform for diverse voices, along with their variety of mediums. The arts and music industry is evolving with new technology, and it increasingly values multidisciplinary work. Many newly local artists are already stepping in these directions, experimenting with computer programming, 3D prototyping, and tech-driven arts, but few local-based natives have access to the equipment and space needed to thrive in the industry.
At CO+, we believe that all communities in New Bedford have a lot to offer the creative economy and maker movement as the city has attracted a mixed population to its downtown area. While there is an increase of creative class professionals, art students, and community college students, there are also craftsmen, working class small businesses, and millennial groups that are trying to create their own footprint in a developing district. CO+ classes and membership are designed with affordable options to attract users and entrepreneurs that haven’t necessarily called themselves an “artist” or “maker”, but want to explore their own creative projects.
WHALE thanks the CO+ supporters:
Pioneers for Innovation ($10,000+)
Ruth & Hope Atkinson Trust
Bristol County Savings Bank
City of New Bedford HOME Funds
MassCultural Council Facilities Fund
National Trust for Historic Preservation
Arts Sustainer ($5,000+)
Rainy Day Fund
Local Arts Advocates ($1,000+)
AHA! New Bedford
Gurdon Buck (in memoriam)
Carney Family Charitable Foundation
First Citizens’ Federal Credit Union
Paul & Donna Downey
Peter & Mary Kavanaugh
New Bedford Art Museum/Artworks!
New Bedford Economic Development Council
Women’s Fund of Southeastern MA
Creative Economy Partner ($500+)
Arthur & Jean Bennett
JM Booth & Associates, Inc.
Teri Bernert & Paul Krause
Gail Davidson & Tom Gidwitz
Wendy Nicholas & James Dorsey
Anne V.V. Webb
Urban Preservationists ($15+)
Patronicity Campaign Supporters