Program works to help Dartmouth businesses bounce back post Covid

Jun 9, 2021

This story has been updated to include more information about the plan. 

As Covid restrictions wind down and Dartmouth gets back to business, the town has partnered with a state program to help ensure the best possible economic recovery.

The Rapid Recovery Plan, offered through the state Department of Housing and Community Development, is working to analyze both public and private sector conditions in town to support town businesses as they emerge from the pandemic, said Steve Kearney, plan facilitator for the Stantec design firm, which is working with the town on the recovery plan.

Kearney led a public meeting held virtually on June 9 to discuss initial findings about the state of town businesses  and what could be done to improve conditions. 

The goal of the program, interim director of development town Cody Haddad said, is to assess the needs of the business community and determine a plan, due by September, to address some of those issues.

The town’s business community faced challenges due to the pandemic, with 14 businesses closing permanently or temporarily, he said. 

“The majority of businesses have had a negative impact because of the pandemic and could use support to help build back,’’ he said. 

His analysis aimed to look at how the business community could rebound and what potential changes the town and business community might consider for the best possible outcome. 

Kearney’s firm looked at a business market that primarily encompasses Route 6 from the Westport line to Faunce Corner Road and Faunce Corner Road to the 195 exit, Haddad said. 

Unlike some communities with businesses limited primarily to a set downtown, Dartmouth has “a large study area’’ to look at, he said. “This is a little bit different.’’ 

His team’s study gave Dartmouth business community a “solid B-minus’’ overall, he said.

Making infrastructure improvements, ideally through grants, could help businesses build into the future, Haddad said. 

Another potential issue to examine, he said, was how to connect the students at UMass Dartmouth with local business. 

Properties are generally in good condition, he said.

But access to businesses is overall geared toward automobile traffic, he said. While he stressed that this will always be the case, more options for pedestrians and bikers are needed, he said.

Additional outdoor dining and retail activity are also needed, Kearney said. The lack of outdoor dining or retail exterior spillover, such as sidewalk sales, hinders “increased vitality,’’ he said, in the areas being studied.

Creative solutions are needed to work within physical constraints, he said.

Ground floor design and maintenance improvements are needed at many businesses in the district, Kearney said, and storefront and window designs, awnings and building lighting can all be improved.  

But the big picture, Haddad said, is to identify specific, workable projects that could be done to assist the business community

“First and foremost, we’re looking to support our business community,’’ Kearney said.

He encourages businesses to reach out to those involved with the plan to provide feedback. 

Haddad can be reached at chaddad@town.dartmouth.ma.us

Kearney can be reached at steve.kearney@stantec.com.