Slow, steady to win the race downtown
Date: 3/9/2010March 10, 2010.
By Katelyn Gendron
Reminder Assistant Editor
WESTFIELD -- Slow and steady wins the race and city officials are gradually on the move toward a prosperous finish with downtown redevelopment.
Downtown Westfield will begin to see more tangible changes throughout the next 18 months, according to Larry Smith, director of planning and community development. He noted the progress of the Great River Bridge project, the Main Street-Broad Street project, the renovation of 27 Washington St. into a Westfield State College dorm and the efforts of the Downtown Action Plan committees.
"Downtown revitalization is always very, very difficult because every downtown is unique and has to reinvent itself," Smith said.
State Sen. Michael Knapik and Rep. Donald Humason Jr. announced last week that the Massachusetts Department of Transportation Highway Division opened construction bids for the Main Street-Broad Street project, with the low bidder coming in $2.4 million below the estimated $14.3 million price tag.
The project includes reconstruction of the roads, lane widening, enhanced signalization, sidewalk replacement and utility upgrades.
"This project represents an important investment in Westfield's downtown infrastructure," Knapik said. "This city has been fortunate to receive state and federal assistance over the past several years for this project, the ongoing Great River Bridge projects and the National Guard Bridges on Route 20."
Smith explained the community is working together to improve downtown as well through the Downtown Action Plan committees. He noted the three committees would focus on downtown relations and citizen engagement; downtown marketing, business development and planning; and downtown policy and investment.
Smith added that despite the community's warm reception last year for the downtown master plan, forming the Downtown Action Plan committees has been slow going.
"The idea is to focus our energy onto action items," Mayor Daniel Knapik said of the committees. "We had this big macro view last year and now we're really trying to hone in on specific ideas."
Lisa McMahon, executive director of the Westfield Business Improvement District (BID), agreed.
"I think this downtown action group will be a great vehicle to help," she added. "We want to assure that these [action] plans would not just sit on the shelf."
McMahon said the BID's focus is also to create a marketable brand for downtown Westfield.
"This is their [the residents'] downtown and it's a hugely important part of the community," Smith said. "The alternative, not to have a revitalized downtown, would be detrimental to the growth of the community."
He added that residents are invited to aid in the efforts via www.cityofwestfield.org
by obtaining a Downtown Action Plan committee sign up sheet.
More information about downtown revitalization is available at www.westfielddowntownplan.com