Gas light district to impact parking

WESTFIELD – The Off-street Parking Commission voted last night to approve, in principal, the preliminary plan to modify several downtown parking lots as part of the Gas Light District project.
City Engineer Mark Cressotti presented details of the Gas Light District project that will include modifications to both the Franklin and Arnold off-street parking lots. The Gas Light District is the area of downtown located between Elm and Washington streets and between Franklin and Court streets.
Cressotti said the city began to access the infrastructure in the district nearly a decade ago when there was a proposal for a major development project to include a hotel, intermodal center and a mixed use building. Cressotti said that while that project is no longer being considered, the need to replace infrastructure to support other development has been identified.
“The existing infrastructure does not support any development, so we need to improve it,” he said. “This is a project that we have been working on for some time. There are several significant impacts to off-street parking.”
Cressotti said that the city anticipates beginning the replacement of underground utilities, water, gas and sewer lines, this fall, then completing the project over two construction seasons.
The City Council is currently reviewing a $2,750,000 appropriation request submitted by Mayor Daniel M. Knapik to fund much of the infrastructure improvements
Finance Chairman Richard E. Onofrey said the $2.75 million transfer from the Wastewater Treatment Plant Infiltration and Inflow (I&I) account to the I&I construction account will refund replacement of sewer lines in the Gas Light District project which carries an estimated cost of $5 million.
Cressotti said the project will include major revamping of the two off street parking lots. The Arnold Street lot will be reconfigured to allow for the construction of a three-story parking garage, while the Franklin Street lot will be reconfigured to improve traffic flow from Franklin, Elm and Summer Streets.
“We plan to move the connector road through the Arnold Street lot as far west as possible to create a footprint for a parking garage,” Cressotti said.
Other off-street lot impacts include modifications to the Reader 2 lot located between Church Street and the rear of the School Street Bistro which will be transformed into an urban pocket park. The gravel lot where the former City Cleaner building was located will be paved to add 25 new parking spaces, replace the those lost to the park.
“We plan to create a plaza, an urban park, with a historic fountain to enhance outdoor living downtown,” Cressotti said.
Cressotti said the Gas Light District project will be the focus of an information meeting slated for 7 p.m. on Sept. 5 in the Lang Auditorium of the Westfield Athenaeum at 6 Elm St.

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