Elm St. Urban Renewal Project moves forward

First floor of Test A concept by Utile Design for Elm St. Urban Renewal Plan.

WESTFIELD – The Mayor’s office and the Westfield Redevelopment Authority will be holding a rollout event for the Urban Renewal Project in the next few weeks for up to 60 invited guests, to include investors, developers, real estate brokers, potential tenants and other interested parties. The event will showcase a potential plan for the long-awaited construction project on Elm Street.
Thanks to a technical assistance grant of $50,000 from MassDevelopment last summer, the WRA contracted with Boston architects and urban planners Utile Design to study the city block and utilization of parking, and design a mixed-use residential and commercial building and parking facilities that would be a good fit for Westfield’s downtown.
At a WRA meeting last August which looked at several of Utile’s design concepts, chair Kathleen A. M. Witalisz said the grant had given them an opportunity to look at it, not to go out and say “this is what we’re going to do.” She said the plan would also include ideas for amenities in the commercial spaces.
Former City Advancement officer Joe Mitchell said what is different about this plan than the previous Urban Renewal Plan, 2010-2013, is that the earlier one showcased one larger mixed use building, which he said is not something the market would bear today. Eight years have passed since, and this one is looking at the market and what is doable, he said.
Even though there are slightly different concepts in the new plans, Mitchell said the three main focus points are being executed – transportation, mixed use, smart parking. He said the analysis by Utile Design will also include construction costs, market analysis, potential tax credits and financing options.
Mitchell also said when the previous plan passed, the WRA still had to clean up properties and acquire them from the city. That work is now completed.
“The purpose of the rollout event is to raise awareness and create interest in the request for proposal (RFP) that will be released a week or so afterwards, to have somebody come and build at the shovel-ready site located in Westfield’s opportunity zone,” Mitchell said, adding that the rollout will be held in a strategic location, yet to be confirmed, in proximity to the project area.
“The city has never been closer to filling this prime business location in the last 33 years, since the large Newberry’s fire in 1986. The interest in this location is significant and genuine,” said the Mayor, who added that the city has put a lot of time and money into permitting on the site, and is ready for the RFP.

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