Urban Renewal Project update, January 2018

WESTFIELD—Environmental clean-up is among the items currently happening in the Elm Street Urban Renewal Project.

The city and the Westfield Redevelopment Authority (WRA) are in the process of conducting “environmental work” including water and soil testing, as well as waiting for word on a possible grant from the state, as part of the city’s downtown-area project. In addition, there is real estate activity in the area, according to City Advancement Officer Joe Mitchell.

Elm Street Urban Renewal (WNG file photo)

The environmental work being done in the area is related to an underground storage tank that was found after the former Romani’s Bowling Alley was demolished. Mitchell said that the tank previously held petroleum product.

“When we removed it we could see that the tank had failed previously,” he said.

Since then, testing has occurred on both groundwater and soil in the area, to check for contamination.

“Groundwater results came back very favorable,” Mitchell said. “The soil results showed some contamination but nothing significant.”

Mitchell said that the city and the WRA will be continuing the efforts there in order to address them and meet “unrestricted residential use” of the property, according to Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection (MassDEP) standards.

City Advancement Officer Joe Mitchell (WNG file photo)

Mitchell noted though, that residences are not expected to be developed there.

According to Mitchell, it is not known when the tank had been installed, or when it was last used. He said though, that this is not uncommon for the general area.

In order to fund the cleanup, Mitchell is getting assistance from MassDevelopment through a brownfields grant, after the costs of acquisition and demolition of the site exceeded the WRA’s 10 percent contingency funds originally allocated.

The brownfields grant was received by the city in 2013, and it was specific to the Urban Renewal Area, Mitchell said. It has been used for a number of other projects as well, including a cleanup of a building on Elm Street and cleanup of another underground storage tank found in 2014.

In addition to the environmental cleanup, Mitchell noted that the city is still awaiting word on whether they will receive a technical assistance grant, also from MassDevelopment.

Mitchell said the grant was applied for in late November of last year, with a due date of Dec. 15, 2017. He said that while the city was one of the first three communities to apply, there have been a total of 51 communities that are seeking the assistance.

“They expect to make a decision and tell the ones who are successful by first week of February,” Mitchell said.

However, he also noted that the grants will be awarded on a rolling basis.

If successful, Mitchell said that the grant will be used to help write the right for proposal for the location.

Finally, Mitchell also noted that there has been some activity in the downtown area regarding real estate.

However, Mitchell did not specify what sort of activity has occurred, as there is nothing finalized.

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