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BID cites progress, optimism at annual meeting

Date: 9/22/2010

Sept. 22, 2010

By Katelyn Gendron

Reminder Assistant Editor

WESTFIELD -- Progress was the word du jour at the Westfield Business Improvement District's (WBID) annual meeting on Sept. 15.

City and state officials joined business owners at Westfield State University's (WSU) downtown art gallery on Elm Street to discuss the WBID's progress since its inception in 2006 and plans for the future of downtown.

"I hear from so many people who are optimists that 12 to 18 months out, it's going to be totally different ... people who are visionaries are understanding that," Lisa McMahon, executive director of WBID, told those in attendance.

"The stars are aligned: it's just so slow," she added with emphasis.

McMahon and Mayor Daniel Knapik encouraged downtown business and property owners to remain patient because this area of the city will be dramatically improved once the Great River Bridge and Main Street-Broad Street construction projects are completed.

"This is a once in a 100-year opportunity to put our generation's stamp on our city," Knapik said.

Progress has been made as recently as last week, Knapik announced, citing the agreement with Pioneer Valley Transit Authority to revive the proposed multimodal transportation center on Elm Street; the connection of the Columbia Greenway Rail Trail to Southwick next spring; and the October opening of a new business at the former children's museum on Elm Street.

Moving forward, McMahon explained, would require WBID's 126 property owners, to continue open communication to help attract other small businesses. Thus far, she added, partnerships with WSU, the non-profit Westfield on Weekends and others have helped generate more foot traffic downtown by hosting public events and offering special promotions for patrons.

"The BID is one of the key pieces to the puzzle to revitalize downtown," Ward 2 City Councilor James Brown said.

WSU's new student housing on Arnold Street will give the downtown economy "a shot in the arm," McMahon said.

"The word for this meeting is 'optimism.' Great things are happening in Westfield; you just have to see it to believe it," State Rep. Donald Humason Jr., said.

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