Arch Communities’ Elm Street development proposal includes retail, housing units

From left: Alex Davis, Nick Buehrens, and Rich Relich explain the layout and timeline of the Arch Communities LLC. proposal for the Elm Street project. (Photo by Peter Currier)

WESTFIELD – Representatives of Arch Communities LLC. Jan. 7 gave their pitch to the Westfield Redevelopment Authority (WRA)for developing property on Elm Street.

The property was the location of the former J.J. Newberry’s store left vacant by a fire more than 30 years ago. 

Arch’s Nick Buehrens told WRA members that that they would develop a mixed-used building to contain retail and residential units. He noted that they would include affordable housing as well as market-rate apartments. 

Arch provided a detailed proposal of what the interior of each room may look like on each floor. The residential units would include one, two, and three bedroom apartments with a possible total of 64 units across four floors, including retail. 

Buehrens said that they would like for the building to not clash with the existing architecture in the area around Elm Street. 

“We want it to be a compliment to the existing buildings, rather than a contrast,” said Buehrens.

The retail spaces would likely be placed on the ground floor of the building with 5,400 square feet already designated as such in the proposal. The ground floor of the proposed building, however, may also include residential space in addition to the commercial space. 

Arch’s Rich Relich said that they would also like to include recreational areas in the property for the residents. Among the ideas were a gym and yoga studio, an outdoor kitchen and an outdoor lounge. 

When WRA Chair Kathleen Witalisz asked why they wanted to do a project in Westfield, Relich said that they saw the property as a “tremendous opportunity” for them to transform Westfield’s downtown for the better. 

Buehrens and Relich  showed examples of similar projects they completed across Massachusetts in recent years. 

Relich noted that a smaller project than what they are proposing may actually be less financially feasible than the 64 units they are planning. Fewer units would mean fewer people paying rent to live in the units. 

Witalisz also asked what kind of businesses Arch would like to bring in to their ground floor. Buehrens said that they are leaning towards smaller businesses such as coffee shops or companies that require small office spaces. He did note that it would likely not include large restaurants.

Witalisz then asked about how Arch expects to fare should the economy go into a recession in 2021. Buehrens recalled that they were successful in the development projects they were working on when the 2008 recession hit. He noted that the investors they typically work with are in it for the long term and should not jump ship in tougher economic times. 

As far as the timeline for the project, Buehrens said that they would likely need to go through at least two rounds of government funding applications before approval, which may take two years. He expected that the construction may take about 18 months, with an additional six months to fill all the leases. 

The WRA members will make a decision on two proposals for the property, one from Arch Communities LLC. and one from Domus Inc., during their February meeting.

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