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Planning Board approves permits for PVTA facility

Date: 9/25/2015

WESTFIELD – The Planning Board voted to approve the site plan with special permits for the proposed Pioneer Valley Transit Authority (PVTA) transit facility on Arnold Street on Sept. 16.

The motion passed by a 5-1 vote, with Carl Vincent casting the only negative vote.

The proposal required special permits to comply with the CORE zoning, including building height, property line and building area of more than 1,500 square feet.

The facility is the first phase of a three-part urban renewal plan to revitalize the downtown Westfield, City Advancement Officer Joe Mitchell told the Planning Board. Mitchell also serves as the executive director of Westfield Redevelopment Authority. The plan includes a multi-use building and a parking garage.

Mitchell said the design of the building is meant to be “warm and welcoming” so patrons feel safe, while also blending in with the atmosphere of the Gas Light District.

The Planning Board maintained in its exceptions and conditions that the facility “would not adversely affect the neighborhood but enliven it,” according to Chair Phillip McEwan. Vincent, the only voice against the facility, said he saw issues with the plan.

“I have several problems with the draft findings … This does not add one job in the city and it won’t increase foot traffic,” Vincent said.

PVTA Manager of Capital Projects John Burke said the facility will help downtown Westfield.

“I think it’s a great amenity as a focal point in terms of the connection to Springfield and Holyoke that we already have,” he told Reminder Publications. “Creating the center with better amenities and the city’s plans for retail and advancement, it’s just the right catalyst to bring it all together.”

The PVTA purchased the Flahive Building in May, which stands on one of the parcels that makes up the land designated for the facility, future mixed use building and parking garage. Burke said demolition hinges on a building walk through with the Historical Commission and an additional land transfer by the Westfield Redevelopment Authority.

He hopes for demolition to begin either in the fall or spring, with construction beginning in the spring. A bid will go out over the winter, and construction is set to be complete in 2017.