Downtown Westfield project moves forward

The city and Pioneer Valley Transit Authority (PVTA) have taken the first official steps toward development of property on Elm Street.
“A contract was signed by the PVTA with HDR, architects out of Boston,” said City Advancement Officer Jeffrey Daley. “The PVTA signed because they are the holder of the money.”
HDR will perform a comprehensive study of the site, which Daley said is expected to take nine months.
“This will tell us what type of commercial or retail space would work there,” said Daley. “It will cover everything from marketability to traffic to parking to integrating university transportation.”
The development would also include an intermodal transportation station.
Federal and state transportation agencies have committed or earmarked nearly $8 million for an intermodal project in Westfield.
Mayor Daniel M. Knapik said the intermodal facility would be a limited part of a larger “multi-use building” that will be privately funded and constructed at the intersection of Arnold and Elm streets.
The federal and state funding will help with the acquisition of property, demolition of existing structures, and possibly with remediation of environmental issues.
“This is the best chance for a significant project with the least impact on local expenditure. I think this is an exciting time in the city,” Knapik said.
In late 2010, the PVTA secured approximately $427,000 in MassDOT ITC Funds for the project with approximately $175,000 slated for the development of a Joint Development Master Plan that would include a mixed-use development and transportation center on the 2.8 acre site, which includes empty storefronts next to the old Newberry’s site. The remaining $252,000 will be utilized for designing the project.
Daley said while he is not positive of the final cost of the contract, he said it was “well south” of the grant.
“The remainder will be used for the next phase,” said Daley, who stressed that city money is not being used for this study.
The city has earmarked funds in the budget for the demolition of the building next to the PVTA’s desired site at the corner of Arnold and Elm streets. The building located behind the city-owned corner property, owned by the Flahive family, could be included in development plans, with demolition as soon as next spring.
“I also applied for a Brownfield Development Grant,” said Daley. “We have the Phase I, Phase II, and Phase III reports and we know there is petroleum and lead in the soil.”
Daley is meeting today with the PVTA and the architects for a “kick-off” of the study project.
“I’m very excited,” he said. “This process started in the 90’s and never got off the ground. This is the farthest it has come and we’re going to see it cross the finish line.”
This step comes several months after the City Council approved allowing the city to enter into an agreement with the regional transportation agency, with Councilor David Flaherty casting the lone vote against the agreement.
Flaherty said today that although he has not seen the contract, he is against the project.
“I’m not a fan of having a bus station there,” he said. “I think the only reason we’re doing it is so somebody else cleans up that site.”

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