NEW BEDFORD, Mass. (WPRI) — New Bedford Mayor Jon Michell is making every effort to prevent the University of Massachusetts (UMass) Dartmouth from closing its historic Star Store Building.

UMass Dartmouth Chancellor Mark Fuller announced the university’s decision to close the Star Store Building, which houses a number of the College of Visual and Performing Arts’ studio programs and serves roughly 200 students annually, last month.

Fuller explained that the Star Store Building has been fully funded by the state since 2001. He said this is the first fiscal year that the Commonwealth did not include funding for the building in the state’s budget.

The university’s original lease on the Star Store Building expired back in 2021, according to Fuller. The state assisted UMass Dartmouth by supporting a two-year extension on the lease, which allowed the university to keep the Star Store Building.

Fuller said the university can’t afford to operate the building this year without state assistance.

It was a move that came as a surprise to Mitchell, who claims none of the parties involved brought their concerns to him directly.

In a statement, Mitchell said he’s been in discussions with UMass Dartmouth to “find a way forward” for the building.

Mitchell said one of those options includes the city buying the building itself with the intention of letting UMass Dartmouth use it.

“While it would be preferable for UMass Dartmouth to own the building,” Mitchell said. “The reality is that they have reportedly declined to exercise their option to buy it.”

“Whatever the ownership arrangement, the restoration of the campus won’t happen unless the university decides for itself that it wants to be there,” he concluded.

UMass Dartmouth has already begun transitioning its academic programs out of the Star Store Building, including 24 organized classroom activities already scheduled for the fall semester.