New timeline for Elm Street renewal project proposals

First floor of a concept design by Utile Design previously used for the Elm Street Urban Renewal Plan.

WESTFIELD- The Redevelopment Authority met July 6 in City Hall to discuss the timeline for choosing a developer for the Elm Street Urban Renewal Project that had been on hold for more than a year because of the pandemic. 

The WRA chose Sept. 14 as the day that proposals for the project would be due to the board. Interviews with developers who submit proposals are slated for Oct. 5. The WRA would then meet for an Oct. 19 special meeting to select a developer for the project. 

In an unspecified date in November or December, the WRA would meet to negotiate terms with the selected developer. 

The board is set to run an advertisement seeking developers in the Massachusetts Central Register on July 20. 

The WRA has been seeking developers for the empty property on Elm Street next to the PVTA station. It had once been the site of the J.J. Newberry’s Department Store, which burned to the ground in 1986. The board is looking to have a mostly residential building constructed at the site, though they have also discussed having some retail space in the building. 

WRA Chair Kathleen Witalisz and Community Development Director Peter Miller both said during the July 6 meeting that the development would need to have the right mix of market-rate and affordable housing, with market-rate housing holding a larger share of the residential space in the development. 

“We are not predisposed to a mostly affordable housing project,” said Miller when he was brainstorming ways to indicate to developers what kind of project the board would prefer. 

In the Request for Interest (RFI) packet used by the WRA, the 1.6 acre property is listed as being zoned as a Commercial-Office-Retail-Enterprise District. 

The WRA had considered proposals for the site that were submitted by Domus Inc. in Westfield and Arch Communities LLC in Needham  in early 2020. The board rejected both proposals at the time. The COVID-19 pandemic came into full swing shortly after, and the project remained largely dormant for more than a year.

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