Westfield BID sets three-year agenda

WESTFIELD – The Westfield Business Improvement District Board of Directors has approved a three-year strategic plan to bolster commerce in the city’s downtown district.
The board, working in conjunction with Executive Director Maureen Belliveau, has identified the next three years as a significant opportunity to build on recent inertia and to expand business opportunities.
James E. Brown Jr., the Ward 2 City Councilor and a board member, said that BID has identified goals and objectives to advance its business support mission.
“The strategic plan is how we reach out to assist business members,” Brown said.
“We identified important factors of the next three-year plan,” Brown said, “Which is huge, because of the projects, the bridges, Broad and Main street and the city’s Elm Street connector, that are finishing up. We’ll be able to link the entire length of Elm Street from the (Park Square) Green to the bridges. People driving through downtown will have a nice ride, which may give people time to focus on what else is happening downtown.”
“One of the good things that came out of the construction was the meetings with downtown merchants to let them know what was happening, something BID did in conjunction with the mayor and city advancement officer,” Brown said. “Now that construction is winding down, we can take those merchant meetings into the next three-year phase of growth.”
“We need to get back into the business of fostering new business,” Brown said. “One of the things we did was a survey with the business and building owners to identify their goals and to collect a database on the inventory of space available downtown, so if someone is interested in investing in Westfield’s downtown business district, we have information on available property, the square footage, utilities, what is included in the lease nor rent.”
“The board decided to increase our involvement with the city, and City Advancement Officer Jeff Daley because we, as an independent organization, can do things that the city is not allowed to do,” Brown said. “We can use our inventory of available space to match up buildings with potential renters and buyers.”
Business Improvement Districts throughout the state are required to have a legal connection to its host community, called a memorandum of understanding (MOU). The document allows the host community to provide funding, through Community Development Block Grants (CDBG) in Westfield, for BID-sponsored program. The City Council recently voted to authorize Mayor Daniel M. Knapik to negotiate and sign the MOU with the city’s BID
Brown said that funding provides both direct and indirect support of the downtown commerce district.
“We’re in the third phase of the facade and sign improvement program.  We’ll continue to offer the best-practices program, which gives tools to business owners for things like marketing strategies,” Brown said. “We will continue the technical assistance workshops, business recruitment, to use downtown events to leverage business.
“We’re also looking at advertising outside Westfield, maybe in the Berkshires, to draw people vacationing in the region to businesses here in Westfield,” he said.”
One goal of the construction work was to improve accessibility for pedestrians in both project sites, a fact of importance for the downtown shopping district. The scope of street reconstruction included installation of raised pedestrian crosswalks and bump-outs of the curbs at some crossing points, reducing the distance pedestrians are in the street.
The first segment of the Columbia Greenway Trail project, paving about a mile of the trail from the Southwick Town Line to the Tin Bridge area, is currently underway. The city’s goal is to complete the trail through the downtown district and across the Westfield River to Women’s Temperance Park. The downtown portion of the trail is raised, one of two elevated bicycle trails in the country, and will provide a means of downtown access without the need to cross streets.
BID is also working with the Westfield Police Department to expand the department’s community policing presence in the downtown district, as patronage and foot traffic continue to increase in the core district.

To read the 3-year plan click here.

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