WESTFIELD — When HBC/Streetworks, the collective entity behind Westfield’s newest redevelopment proposal, revealed its plans to the community last week, local residents were left with a lot to consider.
The plans as presented include provisions for 223 residential units, 300,000 square feet of new office space, several parking decks and numerous opportunities for restaurants and retail.
“For me, the Streetworks proposal was really an opportunity to see how we can help the property owners and the business owners to better understand consumer expectation,” said Lew Kimble, chair of the Downtown Westfield Corporation (DWC). “We do already have, and will continue to develop, a strong partnership between the DWC and Streetworks, because ultimately, the goal is not only to retain the consumers we have today but to attract those that we want to have tomorrow. It’s our responsibility to be that catalyst.”
Mayor Shelley Brindle addressed the DWC during its regular monthly hybrid meeting last Wednesday to share her thoughts on the project (dubbed One Westfield Place) and answer some questions from the board.
“I know I’ve said it before, but when you build for cars, you get cars. When you build for people, you get people, so we’re trying to create a downtown that’s built for people while creating opportunities for parking that doesn’t congest our downtown area,” Mayor Brindle said. “There’s going to be a consistency in both the look and feel to make it very cohesive, and that’s the beauty of working with one major developer, one major property owner. We wouldn’t get that if we were trying to piecemeal everything.”
From a retail perspective, Mr. Kimble said, the project, regardless of its final form, should give the community a unique opportunity to both re-evaluate and, hopefully, meet or exceed the needs of its consumer base.
“In the three years that led up to the pandemic, there was a clear message from the consumer about where they saw their journey moving to and what they expected to see from either a brick-and-mortar retailer or a multiple-channel retailer,” Mr. Kimble said.
Recent trends, Mr. Kimble said, indicate that shoppers are looking for a few key factors in determining where to spend an afternoon out: an enjoyable experience, a large variety of options and services in a centralized location, and walkable, pedestrian-friendly thoroughfares. “It’s not enough to just sell a product anymore,” he said. “People are looking for entertainment, both for themselves and for their kids. For example, if you’re selling food or kitchen stuff, people are going to want you to run cooking classes.”
Westfield’s downtown community is already checking a number of the right boxes, Mr. Kimble continued, noting that initiatives like Open Quimby, the seasonal parklet that provides visitors with outdoor dining, live music and access to family-friendly entertainment throughout the warmer months, will go a long way towards helping to entice shoppers back to the area.
“The retail precincts that are going to succeed are going to have to offer a wide range of services beyond those that we have seen in the past,” he said. “We’re doing a pretty good job with our community events and activities, but we’re also going to want to keep an eye out for vendors that can help us round out the types of services we offer.”
And while One Westfield Place will ultimately provide the community with numerous opportunities to add new retailers to the mix, the downtown area is already seeing a fair amount of change.
At least 10 new businesses are expected to open their doors in the coming months, Mr. Kimble said, listing Kirshenbaum Bakery Company, Stonewater Architecture, Chutzpah Kitchen, Maize Cocktails and Cocina and Fresh and Co., a New York-based, grab-and-go eatery that advertises freshly-made salads, soups and meals, among them.
“As of right now, it’s all on track,” Mr. Kimble said. “Of course, there are still supply-chain issues to contend with, but everything is moving along.”
In other DWC news, Mr. Kimble said Wednesday that the corporation has decided to re-list its executive director position as the search continues to find the right candidate for the job.
“The committee has several contacts that have come up over the course of the last couple weeks, so, aside from re-posting the job, we are also actively seeking out candidates that we feel best meet our criteria,” Mr. Kimble said.