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Multimodal Transportation Center to reshape downtown

By Katelyn Gendron-List, Reminder Assistant Editor

WESTFIELD Last week State Senator Michael Knapik (R-Westfield) in conjunction with the Pioneer Valley Transit Authority (PVTA) announced at a press conference that after a five-year delay funding for the construction of the Westfield Multimodal Transportation Center on Elm Street and Arnold Street has been finalized.

The $10.7 million Multimodal Center project will serve as a "hub" for public bus transportation in Westfield with the expansion of the PVTA bus routes providing intra-city routes in addition to the routes between downtown Westfield, West Springfield and Springfield that are currently provided

"Westfield is a community on the move," Knapik said. "Downtown is the heart of Westfield and this is a way for public officials to ensure that Westfield stays a vibrant community."

The Multimodal Center will be located over 5.5 acres of land on Elm Street and Arnold Street including the former JJ Newberry's site and is expected to break ground during the spring of 2008.

According to Mary MacInnes, administrator for the PVTA, they will provide two bus routes to and from Springfield and Holyoke in addition to Peter Pan Bus Lines, which will stop at the Multimodal Center during their Springfield to Albany, NY route.

In addition to the bus depot the Multimodal Center will also house the Westfield Senior Center, a police substation, a parking enforcement office and a bicycle storage room, according to information released by the PVTA.

"Seniors are many of PVTA's riders," MacInnes said. "The fact that the Senior Center will be located within the Multimodal Center will have a positive impact on Westfield."

Mary O'Connell, Ward 4 Westfield City Council, who has been working on this project since 2002, stated that before the project can be started not only must the land be cleared but also businesses and tenants located on Elm and Arnold Streets must be relocated "equitably and fairly."

According to James Boardman, director of Community Development & Planning for the city of Westfield, as of press time 15 residents and 12 businesses will be displaced by the building of the Multimodal Center.

"A lot of people have waited a long time for this activity to begin," Charles Medeiros, acting mayor of Westfield said. "It is my intention to make sure that we move forward as quickly as possible and to remove the uncertainty for all of the affected property owners and tenants."

Not only is the 5.5-acre site available for the construction of the Multimodal Center but the Westfield Department of Community Development is also opening the land up to hotel and retail developers, according to information released by Knapik's office.

Many city and state officials such as State Representative Don Humason, Jr., (R-Westfield) are hoping that this new center will spawn much-needed growth and development within the heart of the city.

"It is my hope that this new building will be a catalyst of sorts for downtown redevelopment in the Whip City," Humason said.

However before the project can break ground the Elm Street Urban Renewal Plan must be approved by the Westfield Redevelopment Authority, and the Massachusetts Department of Housing & Community Development, according to information released by Knapik's office. The complete acquisition of the site is projected to be by January 2008.

The projected completion of the Westfield Multimodal Center is slated for 2010, MacInnes said.