WESTFIELD – As Westfield kicks off its 350th anniversary year, Mayor Brian P. Sullivan, City Advancement Officer Joe Mitchell and Community Development Director Peter J. Miller are looking forward to a positive year filled with long-time projects being realized and new growth opportunities for the city.
The final vote on easements for the James Hardie Building Supply Company at 70 Industrial Park Road will be taking place on Thursday at the City Council, after a unanimous first vote on Dec. 20. Sullivan said this is a great opportunity for the city to fill an existing building, formerly Old Colony Envelope, which has been vacant for more than three years.
Mitchell said there will be an economic spinoff to the company, which makes fiber cement siding, coming in. For one, they will be a big customer for Pioneer Valley Railroad, as they will be using rail to ship unfinished materials up from the south to be finished in Westfield. They will also be a big customer for Westfield Gas & Electric, right next door.
Sullivan said they are an environmentally sound business bringing 60 jobs, with the potential to get bigger. “This was our three year vision coming to fruition for them,” Mayor Sullivan said.
Governor Charles Baker, who is working closely with Mitchell on the adjacent Cabot Road Turnpike Industrial property has also taken notice. The governor knows they are putting their investment into a city sharing their vision to create jobs, said Mitchell.
Sullivan and Mitchell also talked about a large solar project about to go online. Green Meadow Solar at 994 Westfield Avenue (upper Western Ave.), owned by Steve Oleksak of Green Meadow Lumber has been in the works for two years. The paper work has gone through, and they have completed construction on the approximately 10.7 acre solar array. Mitchell said they will be selling a portion of their power to Westfield Housing Authority through an agreement. The solar company is currently in negotiations with Sunfarm Solar, and is working on a PILOT agreement with the Law Department, to determine a 20-year payment in lieu of personal property taxes. Sullivan said it will be taxable real estate property, on a business with a low environmental impact. Mitchell said the solar array is not visible from the road.
Myers Information Systems will be moving in April to 110 Elm St., when renovation to the 1880 building is complete. Sullivan said the high tech broadcast software company will be bringing 20 new employees to the downtown area, and is another business with low environmental impact. Last week, Myers announced the hiring of Mike Tirrell of Westfield as their new Chief Operating Officer.
Miller said the Community Development department will be working on their wayfinding grant for signage downtown, for which they received a $25,000 state tourism grant. He said his department will be holding a public meeting to roll out the signs, which will help direct people to parking areas and city sites. He said the total cost is anticipated to be $75,000 for the project, which will begin this spring. Sullivan said the city is also planning improvements to the Church Street parking lot. Several Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) projects are also in the works and nearing completion, Miller said. The granite curbing, ramps and sidewalks on Washington St. will be finished this year, which are being done through a CDBG grant of $175,000, the largest this cycle. Chapter 90 funds will be used by Engineering and the Department of Public Works to repave the road. Miller said this project extends the improvements from the Gas Light district to that side of the road.
Other CDBG projects in process are the renovations of the lower level bathrooms at the Westfield Athenaeum, which received a $70,000 CDBG grant; and the Boys and Girls Club of Greater Westfield kitchen renovations, which received a $35,000 grant. Demolition of the former Soo’s Restaurant at 344 Elm Street is complete, also paid for by a CDBG grant of $67,000 for blight removal. Miller said this is the next phase in riverfront development, and opens up the three acres the city owns behind the building, realizing a larger vision of more access to the riverfront.
The Central Downtown Section of the Columbia Greenway Rail Trail project, set to begin construction this summer, abuts the 344 Elm Street property; which could potentially provide parking and access to the Rail Trail, Miller said.
Mitchell said three different entities are currently going through the process for marijuana cultivation and processing businesses in the city. Cannabis Connection, an adult use retail shop at 40 Westfield Industrial Park Drive that signed a host community agreement with Westfield, hopes to complete the state process and open this fall.
“There are a dozen projects in various stages of completion,” said Mayor Sullivan.
Along with the 350th anniversary celebrations taking place monthly through May 19, and the Babe Ruth World Series for 13-year-olds is set to be held in August; 2019 should prove to be a memorable sesquarcentennial (350) year for Westfield. Stay tuned.