|By Katelyn Gendron|
Reminder Assistant Editor
WESTFIELD Last week, the City Council voted to approve a development agreement with Target Corporation for their newest distribution center on Falcon Drive.
The decision came after the council's Legislative and Ordinance Committee voted unanimously endorsing the 1.7 million-square-foot, $100 million facility.
"I'm completely comfortable that this is a good deal for Westfield," Ward 2 City Councilor Daniel Knapik, also chair of the Legislative and Ordinance Committee, said. "It will be an asset to this city."
By approving the agreement, the council has also committed the city to finance traffic and roadway improvements throughout the area.
City Planner Larry Smith explained that the city has received funds from Target Corporation, the West Park Project, MassHighway and the Economic Stimulus Package at a total of approximately $3.3 million to help with the improvements.
He added, however, that projected costs for the improvements to the jug handle, Massachusetts Turnpike access, slip ramp and the routes 10 and 202 interchange total approximately $5.2 million, creating a shortfall of over $1 million. Smith explained that the city is preparing an application for the Massachusetts Opportunity Relocation and Expansion (MORE) Jobs Grant, which if awarded, will cover the shortfall.
Smith told the council that they needed to vote on the development agreement that evening otherwise the city would miss the grant's May 15 application deadline.
City Councilor at-large John Liptak, also chair of the Finance Committee, expressed his concerns about the shortfall and the city's responsibility to cover the funds in the absence of the MORE Jobs Grant. He asked if the council would be willing to take on the obligation of bonding for the money.
Knapik said the Target development agreement has a direct correlation with the funding from MassHighway for road improvements. "Without Target forget any improvements," he said.
Knapik also noted the tax revenue the city will gain by having the distribution center almost $2 million annually after the first nine years. The council agreed to award Target Corporation tax increment financing for their first nine years in Westfield.
Mayor Michael Boulanger said he was pleased with the council's decision to approve the development agreement as it will bring approximately 400 jobs to the city.
"Now that we have a development agreement signed, we are on our way to breaking ground," he said.
The facility is projected to be operational by 2012.