Money Watchers: State invests in New Bedford's North End

Acushnet Avenue in New Bedford is getting a makeover with the help of state money.

It's a new look for an old street.

Acushnet Avenue has always been a Little Lisbon in New Bedford. Now branded the International Marketplace, the street in front of the shops is getting a makeover.

"We're a local establishment. We've worked the neighborhood for 25 years. We know everyone in the neighborhood. But it's nice to get people from the outside. They come in, they see, 'Well, it looks really nice.' Hopefully, it lures them in," Jose Pereira of Ryanick Contracting said.

Gov. Deval Patrick toured a couple of blocks of the street Tuesday and spoke with a few shopkeepers. He announced that about $1 million of state money is going into the infrastructure of the North End.

It's the kind of investment not aimed at showing quick results, but for the long term.

"About not what we do just for the next election cycle or the next news cycle, but what we do for the next generation," Patrick said.

With new trees and benches, Acushnet Avenue looks better. The government hopes that by spending this money, it will spur private investment.

City leaders say a more attractive district encourages businesses to open up, which could increase traffic.

"It's a little chicken and egg. Investment follows people, and then the people follow investment, as well. So, if you're looking to set up a restaurant, where you do you go but a place where you think people might be? Then the establishment of a restaurant itself will attract more people still. And that will beget more investment. So that's the idea. We're trying to build that momentum," Mayor Jon Mitchell said.

Acushnet Avenue merchants are eager for the transformation as sewer pipe work has left the street torn up for many months.

With the infusion of public money, it's hoped private investment will help to change the vacant stores on Acushnet Avenue into grand openings.