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PVPC must deliver downtown action plan by August

Date: 5/26/2009

By Katelyn Gendron

Reminder Assistant Editor

WESTFIELD -- Research, data collection and public input are complete and now the Pioneer Valley Planning Commission (PVPC) must sift through the genius and off-the-wall ideas to create a comprehensive downtown action plan.

The PVPC must submit the plan for short and long term downtown revitalization to the Massachusetts Department of Housing and Community Development -- the agency funding the plan -- by Aug. 20.

Jessica Allan, senior planner at PVPC, explained that the commission will formulate the plan based on public participation seminars conducted earlier this month, data collection, input from the 20-member Downtown Plan Advisory Committee and the 2,000 respondents to the community-wide survey conducted on the city's Web site.

Larry Smith, city planner for Westfield, explained that the plan will be broken down into three phases: small projects within a short time-frame, medium projects within a medium time-frame and large projects within a long time-frame.

Small projects include clean-up programs, business development and downtown branding initiated by existing organizations, which require little to no city funding.

Medium projects are comprised of construction of signage, pocket parks or landscaping, as well as the rezoning and reconfiguration of public transportation within one to five years.

Large projects include construction of new housing, an intermodal transportation center, municipal or community facilities and commercial projects that will take five to 20 years to complete.

Allan said commonalities within the survey and participation seminars called for additional restaurants downtown with greater ethnic variety, retail shops and performing and visual arts spaces.

Mayor Michael Boulanger noted that Westfield State College (WSC) is still heavily involved in this process and that he hopes to model Westfield after other successful collegiate epicenters such as Amherst, Northampton or Keene, N.H.

"They're really doing what I want the college in Westfield to do -- establish a collaborative relationship [between the city and the academic institution]," he said.

Boulanger added that WSC is still considering downtown spaces for dormitories and performing arts facilities.

Allan said the PVPC will have a draft of the downtown action plan completed for review by the Downtown Plan Advisory Committee in June. She added that residents will have the opportunity to weigh in on the draft at additional public participation seminars this summer.

For additional information about "Re-thinking Downtown Westfield," go to their Web site at