Fall River Herald: Sen. Markey says he sees energy and vision during Fall River waterfront tour
FALL RIVER — On a surprisingly cool Sunday afternoon, as U.S. Sen. Ed Markey looked ahead at the looming Iwo Jima replica memorial — to his left the Gold Star Families Memorial in black granite with gold lettering, to the right the Taunton River and Braga Bridge beyond — he seemed prepared to see and help Fall River advance again.
City leaders shared their plans with the Massachusetts senator at Bicentennial Park.
Joe Marshall, one of those leaders and a Vietnam veteran, told Markey that the national Vietnam Memorial Wall organization had granted exclusive proprietary rights to Fall River for a replica wall in tribute to those 58,282 now listed on the wall who made the ultimate sacrifice for the country. Marshall served in Vietnam in the 1960s with the Air Force Security Service.
It means the 8-foot by 360-foot wall of engraved names, 80 percent the size of the iconic memorial in Washington, D.C., would be the marker for all of Massachusetts and those closest replica within a 50-mile radius from Fall River through Rhode Island.
With its construction, Marshall said, Massachusetts would join California, Oklahoma and Kentucky with a large replica wall.
“Visitors can create keepsakes by tracing the names on the wall. It is expected, too, that like the national model, visitors may wish to leave artifacts and mementos at our wall,” says the website listing the newly envisioned wall in Fall River, and where information about its purpose and to make donations can be found.
The city Parks Commission unanimously approved the memorial last winter.
The cost, as they’ve begun fundraising efforts, is estimated at $1 million for the memorial and adjacent infrastructure, Marshall told Markey.
“I want to help you do that,” Markey immediately responded.
He shared a story about two names engraved on the Vietnam memorial. Markey said he’d been involved for three years before the father of a son from Stoneham who had been killed in Vietnam could join his son on the wall. The father was killed there in the late 1950s before the war in Vietnam had officially been declared, Markey said.
City Corporation Counsel Joseph Macy, one of 14 members of the memorial wall committee, said their administration is committed to help fund an initial down payment for the work.
“We have a grassroots effort. We need more than that,” Marshall said.
He added a short story that for decades had remained meaningful. “I got two $5 money orders in the mail with a little note from a woman that said, ‘My husband died in Vietnam.’”
Ken Fiola Jr., who’s worked trying to attract business to the city for decades, touted the value of its waterfront and public-private partnerships, stating, “Everything’s starting to come together.”
Projects at various stages include a second one-mile phase of Route 79 to narrow the roadway to four lanes at grade level along the river and create a 10-acre mixed commercial-residential area after three years of planning, with $80 million authorized in the state capital improvement plan; across from the park, 103 market-rate apartments is one piece of the success Commonwealth Landing is having at the former Quaker Fabric Corp. headquarters; a South Coast Rail station on Davol Street; the 64 Durfee St. project revitalized for artist loft/market rate apartments near another part of the waterfront; a marina at the city pier that is under construction, and docking for transient boaters to visit the many attractions that include Battleship Cove, drawing 100,000 people a year; new restaurants; and an investment of $4 million to $5 million for the Broadway Crossing plaza on President Avenue.
Fiola, executive vice president of Bristol County Economic Development Consultants, listed plans along the Davol Street boulevard for at least 500 new housing units, within a two-minute walk of a new South Coast Rail station that would draw those needing quality housing.
“The commuter rail is going to be huge,” he said of the planned initial phase 90-minute trip to Boston through Middleborough.
He said private mill revitalizations are helped significantly by government historic tax credits and economic opportunity zone incentives.
“And I want to help you to maximize it,” Markey said. He’s a member of the Senate’s infrastructure committee and said he’s committed to helping Fall River with its transportation needs.
“I feel it,” Markey told the group. “You can sense the energy and vision.”
He asked questions like where residents for new housing would come from and, with the Route 79 boulevard, what officials hoped development would spur.
After spending a little over an hour on Fall River’s waterfront, Markey said he was impressed.
Speaking more broadly of what he shared with the three Fall River area state legislators — Alan Silvia, Carole Fiola and Paul Schmid — Markey referenced the memorials at Bicentennial Park and said enthusiastically, “I think this could really help to make the city a destination … to thank those who have served our country.”
Markey added, “It’s inspiring. It’s fantastic.”