WESTFIELD — After two tough years of dedicated service to the Downtown Westfield Corporation (DWC), Executive Director Bob Zuckerman announced Wednesday that he would be stepping down from his position.
Mr. Zuckerman, who assumed his position with the DWC just two weeks into the 2020 lockdown, said he will be taking advantage of a new opportunity to serve as the executive director of the Red Bank RiverCenter, a 501(c)(3) non-profit special improvement district in Monmouth County.
“I have had two really fulfilling years here in Downtown Westfield. I’m really proud of what we’ve done here,” Mr. Zuckerman said. “It was challenging, to say the least, but thanks to everyone [in the DWC], and really everyone in the downtown Westfield community, we were able to get through that challenging period together. I am of the absolute firm belief that Westfield is just poised for greatness.”
Westfield Councilwoman Dawn Mackey said Wednesday that Mr. Zuckerman’s presence in the community would be sorely missed.
“Bob did not have the opportunity to walk the town and meet the business owners as we expected [due to the pandemic], but he immediately got to work,” Ms. Mackey said, noting that Mr. Zuckerman helped to procure essential face masks and protection for retailers, secured grants to keep local businesses afloat and provided guidance and support to anyone who needed it throughout the lockdown and beyond. “Under his leadership, our downtown not only survived, but is thriving,” she said.
Longtime DWC Board member Lew Kimble, who was appointed as the organization’s chair by unanimous decision on Wednesday, said Mr. Zuckerman’s efforts as executive director have left both the DWC and the greater Westfield community in a “good place to move forward from.”
“Our town is positioned to unlock the next phase of business growth here in Westfield,” Mr. Kimble said, adding that as chair, he intends to create a more “open and communicative board” and “a business district that meets and surpasses the expectation of those consumers who shop our retail stores and restaurants, a board that partners with the new and current business owners to position Westfield as an incubator of retail innovation and a board that our property owners know by name and view as partners.”
In other DWC news, board member Anthony DiTommaso said Wednesday that the organization has plans to move forward with a number of new initiatives in the coming months thanks to $50,000 in funding from the town. Looking ahead, Mr. DiTommaso said, the board plans to allocate $18,000 to downtown signage, $12,000 to solar-powered benches that will allow users to charge mobile phones and other devices and $20,000 to the creation of a new downtown app. The app, which will alert users to special events, sales and promotions as well as directional guidance for navigating the downtown area, is expected to launch sometime this summer.
Another one of the board’s summer projects, the renovation of an alleyway between the Rialto and a neighboring building, however, may have run into something of a temporary setback.
“We’re going to have to do a site-plan review to find out exactly where the property line is, because that has been a little bit of an issue,” Mr. Zuckerman said. “There aren’t great records for the property, and the ones we have are pretty old, but we’re working with the town to figure out our next steps.”
Councilwoman Mackey said that the project — which will be funded by a reimbursement grant awarded by Main Street New Jersey and includes plans to install benches, lighting, new paving stones and other amenities into the under-utilized space — should be able to move forward even if the board has to come up with some “creative workarounds.”