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The Westfield Main Street Program Faces Struggle For Survival, Funding and Jurisdictional Power

Michelle Picou
of Westfield Main Street Program

After 4 Years of Success, Main Street Faces Funding and Jurisdictional Struggles with Town Council, SID and the Chamber of Commerce

Investigative Report, Part I by Horace Corbin (97-03-11)

The Westfield Downtown Committee, Inc. has conducted what is reported to be one of the nation’s best Main Street Programs here in town over the last fours years. The Program is headed by Robert Newell, President and Michelle Picou, Executive Director. Without tax dollars to date, approximately $400,000 of funding has been applied to programs in Westfield gathered from local donations, fund raising and gifts.

According to Mr. Newell, Main Street’s plan was to develop credibility with a list of accomplishments employing volunteer help and private funds. Then, a Special Improvement District (a N.J. State Program) was to be formed in conjunction with Main Street’s on-going oversight such that tax revenue could be obtained to carry the program forward. Approximately 300 volunteers have participated in Westfield Main Street programs to date according to Michelle Picou, Executive Director. The State of New Jersey has granted the Main Street program $60,000 in transition funds until the SID organization can be completed.

Last Fall, the Special Improvement District (SID) was formed by vote of the Town Council. Mr. Joe Specter serves as Chairman. Although several months later than anticipated, the Council will vote soon on approving the Tax assessment to be levied on local businesses to fund the SID (and presumably Main Street) over the next several years. A yearly budget and tax assessment of about $250,000 has been presented.

However, the funding and the future existence of the Main Street Program appears in doubt as debate has arisen as to the need for continuance of Main Street from some opposition groups and public officials. Also, the State’s grant of $60,000 has become exhausted due to the delays. Main Street is asking for a bridge loan or grant from the Town of approximately $30,000 to keep it alive until taxes can be collected in the summer.

The debate occurring over taxes, funding, the legislation and who’s in control is complex; involving the Town Council, the SID, the Chamber of Commerce and others. The very existence and efficacy of the SID may be in jeopardy. The details of this debate will be presented in Part II of this investigative report within the week. Undoubtedly, there are many valid arguments from all sides.

What is Main Street? The easiest way to learn more is to explore the hyperlinks to the Internet which follow. See what Kingsport, Tennessee has to say about Main Street. Just click below.


About The Downtown Kingsport Association

The Main Street Approach

DKA operates under the guidelines of the Tennessee Main Street Program whose purpose is to stimulate quality downtown economic development in Tennessee communities through a self-help, comprehensive revitalization process based upon the National Main Street Center's four point approach to downtown revitalization. The four-points stressed in the program are outlined in chart below.


Organization - Establish a cooperative partnership among downtown groups and individuals.

Promotion - Create a positive image of downtown for residents, shoppers, visitors, and investors.

Design - Enhance the visual qualities of downtown that make it a unique place to shop, work, or live.

Economic Restructuring - Develop a diversified economic base while retaining and strengthening existing businesses.

What Makes Downtown Important?

There are four major reasons why downtown is important.

1. Downtown is an area that needs to be protected for investment reasons. Private sector investment - banks, businesses, and commercial properties - represents investment that has already been made in the central business district. City investment is in the form of sewers, sidewalks, streets, alleys, and water lines. It is the obligation of the city and private citizens to protect downtown to see that the tax base stays strong.

2. Downtown is an incubator for new businesses. Starting and overhead costs are often too high in shopping centers for new merchants. Downtown, where the overhead is lower, is the logical place for beginning businesses. It is up to downtown merchants and officials to see that the area remains viable shopping district that will afford opportunities for new growth.

3. The rehabilitation of downtown is an incentive for attracting community-wide investment. When industry leaders look at a community as a possible location, the officials examine many aspects, among which are availability of industrial parks, adequate airport facilities, land, water, and utilities. They inquire about the tax rate, prevailing wage scale, school system, available housing, and quality of life. Included in the examination of quality of life is interest in downtown - is it alive and viable, or does it represent local disinterest and failure?

4. Downtown is a symbol of civic pride or the lack of it. If a community is proud of its home place (as symbolized in downtown), it will show in its appearance.

Other Internet References about Main Street Towns:


Main Street Towns

The National Main Street Program is administered by the National Trust for Historic Preservation. Following are some of the more than 1,200 towns across America which participate in this program designed to revitalize America's historic downtowns.

Main Street Franklin, Tennessee

Main Street Kingsport, Tennessee

Main Street LaGrange, Texas

Main Street Manhattan, Kansas

Main Street Menomonie, Wisconsin

Main Street Quincy

Main Street Wildwood, New Jersey

-----State Main Street Programs

Arizona Main Street Program

North Carolina Main Street Program

Wisconsin Main Street Program

For information on The U.S. Chamber of Commerce, see its’ Mission Statement:


According to the Mayor, businesses and residents of Westfield have much to gain or lose over the next several years from the outcome of the current deliberations. A consensus with all working together along with good decisions and judgment is the sought after outcome.

Letter from Main Street President

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