State to own UMass Dartmouth Star Store

Jul 19, 2022

UMass Dartmouth’s Star Store campus in downtown New Bedford is about to have a new owner: the Commonwealth of Massachusetts.

On Monday, July 18 State Sen. Mark Montigny (D-New Bedford) announced that the state would purchase the building, which contains the university’s College of Visual and Performing Arts campus, for the cost of $1.

The purchase was directed by Montigny’s FY23 budget amendment, which was formally endorsed by the legislature on Monday.

The deal will also require that the state set aside $30 million to renovate the building into a “21st century space for artists, makers, and designers that will fuel the New Bedford arts and cultural renaissance for the next 20 years.”

“We took a chance on an ambitious vision to revive our downtown by leveraging the amazing, homegrown talent that loves New Bedford with the university to provide an infusion of new energy that collectively transformed the downtown district into what we see today,” Montigny said in a statement.

Built in the 19th century, the space was a department store until it was redeveloped in 2001 as the UMass Dartmouth arts campus.

The state had been leasing the property for the past 20 years.

According to Montigny’s office, the original redevelopment of Star Store in the early 2000s required an innovative financing strategy to address the state’s inability at the time to utilize state bonds.

The strategy also required a long-term lease with a developer who could assume responsibility for constructing the campus while the state provided annual appropriations on behalf of UMass Dartmouth to finance the construction.

Per the agreement with the developer, the state then had the right to purchase the store at the end of the 20-year lease if it paid $1.

With the building now officially in the state’s ownership, Montigny said he is excited about boosting arts education and culture on the South Coast.

“The continued presence of this campus is a must-have to ensure the ongoing success of downtown New Bedford and our city’s economic development,” Montigny said. “However, like most things, we have to ensure that Star Store remains relevant for the upcoming generation and so new investments will be made but the traditional artists and makers will remain.”