NEW BEDFORD – For the past 40 years, the Zeitz building on the corner of North Sixth and Union in downtown New Bedford is home to the personal injury law firm of Hamel, Waxler, Allen & Collins. The new owners of the building have something very different in mind.
âI am truly delighted to take on the responsibility of taking this building to the next chapter,â said Mickey Monteiro, founder and owner of Abstrakt Music.
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Monteiro, artist, producer, DJ and engineer, is originally from New Bedford but has spent the past 15 years in Los Angeles touring with artists such as Jennifer Lopez, John Mayer and Jamie Foxx.
âI kind of decided this was something I wanted to do for a long time. So I came back to try to make a difference here and in the city, âhe said.
“My energy is much more useful in New Bedford.”
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Founded in 2003, Monteiro started his business by renting studios on the second floor of the building that houses No Problemo on Purchase Street.
The goal of the Membership-Based Music Business is to work with artists who are interested in pursuing a career in music, be it singing, production or engineering. The building includes studios, a live rehearsal space for groups, a podcast studio, a radio station and possibly a screen printing service.
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âIt’s basically everything an artist would need in one place,â Monteiro said. âWe try to focus all of our resources on our members and give them everything they need individually to be successful. “
Monteiro said he’s still lived on both coasts since moving to Los Angeles in 2006. He’s not fully back in Whaling City, but has spent most of the summer trying to pull together building.
âWe are making steady progress,â he said, adding that the building is already open and accessible to members. âWe have some ideas for exterior and interior murals. I do my best to set the mood with the lighting.
Monteiro says the layout of the building has been a perfect fit. The parts do not touch each other, which is great for recording music. He also said that some of the rooms have smaller built-in rooms, which will eventually become recording booths.
âIt has been a law firm for 40 years. So it really looks like a lawyer’s office. We take our time just to add that creative touch.
Transition to a new building
Since 1981, Hamel, Waxler, Allen, & Collins PC has resided in the Zietz building. In June, founding partner John L. Collins and his business partner, Mario A. Pimentel, sold the building and moved to a smaller location on Hillman Street in New Bedford.
âIt wasn’t an emotional transition, but rather a tall physical challenge,â Collins said. âWe probably had 25,000 closed cases. The basement of this building looked like the National Library of Congress. And they had to be shredded.
Collins said what he liked about the Zeitz building was that it had big framing, a gorgeous brick facade in a perfect location around the corner. However, the decision to move was due to the fact that they weren’t using the majority of the space and the interior was in desperate need of a facelift.
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âMikey was fascinated by the history of the building and how it looked,â Collins said. âWhen we made a deal for him to buy it, he was interested in keeping almost everything that was left. So it was really cool. Collins’ wife Diane Arsenault – a real estate agent for Jack Conway & Company – handled the sale to Abstrakt Music.
The history of the Zeitz building
According to a 1978 Massachusetts Cultural Resource Information System (MACRIS) report for the Barney Zeitz building, it was originally part of William Rotch’s estate. The property was the site of the old Grace Church which had been demolished in 1896.
In 1921, Barney Zeitz bought the property and built the Zeitz Building. According to Carmen Maiocci’s “The Center: Downtown New Bedford in the 1950s”, the space was used as the New Bedford Theater. A momentous event that took place at the theater was the world premiere of “Moby Dick” on June 27, 1956. In 1968, the theater was demolished and this part of the building was converted into offices.
In 1931, part of the location also featured Burt’s Union Street Grill. Burt’s has been described as a great place for “a solid meal, a strong drink and a great atmosphere”.
In 1952, New Bedford restaurateur Peter Keneklis took possession of it. According to Maiocci’s research, “Lots of Standard-Times reporters hung out there, as did the town hall crowd.”
Plus, guests could get a steak dinner for 65 cents. The pub also drew tons of foot traffic from the theater. âBurt’s was a very popular place for downtown businessmen back then,â Collins said, adding that there was still an old walk-in freezer in the Zeitz’s basement. Burt’s closed in 1989, becoming Winston’s English Pub.
Hamel, Waxler, Allen & Collins opened their business in 1981. Still focusing on personal injury law, Collins today says his firm focuses on workers’ compensation cases. He and his wife recently sold their 35-year-old Marion house and moved into a condo in Mattapoisett.
Key collection for the Zeitz building
Now in the new Hillman Street space, Collins said the transition was easy except for learning how to use the new phone system. âIt’s like we’ve been here for a long time,â he said, adding that he still passed the Zeitz building from time to time.
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âI’m really excited for Mikey and his partner,â Collins said. âI think their plan for the building is a fantastic use of it. This can only help revive downtown New Bedford, as this revival seems to be making its way through the streets slowly but surely. “
For Monteiro, he is satisfied with the progress made so far. âI’m digging in the buildingâ¦ it’s funny, you can almost see the layers over the years of what’s been covered,â he said. “I dissect things and find original wallpaper.”
Monteiro said Collins left behind an old jukebox that had been part of the space since the 1930s. There are old law books on the podcast studio shelves and vintage furniture in some of the other spaces. .
âYou can see the history of this building, and you can definitely feel it,â Monteiro said. “It has been a truly amazing trip so far.”
Standard-Times team writer Seth Chitwood can be reached at [email protected] Follow him on twitter: @ChitwoodReports. Support local journalism by purchasing a digital or print subscription to The Standard-Times today. The story featured additional help from MaryEllen Cecil of the New Bedford Free Public Library.