By REBECCA MEHORTER
Specially Written for The Leader/Times
WESTFIELD — The Downtown Westfield Corporation (DWC) Board of Directors met July 22 via Zoom to discuss the hiring of a consultant, the guidelines for installing parklets in front of restaurants and the public arts plans for the downtown.
One of the first orders of business for the board was to hire a consultant to “do an evaluation of what the consumer wants today and also six months from today,” as board member Lew KImble said. The motion passed unanimously to accept the MGB consulting proposal. The consultant will start in August to fact-find and interview people to get a sense of “what Westfield is, has been and wants to be,” Executive Director Bob Zuckerman said.
The landscape of the downtown has changed during the pandemic with the creation of parklets, sidewalk extensions intended as spaces for people to sit and eat. Currently, the downtown has one in front of Vicki’s Diner and Cosimo’s, one in front of Ferraro’s and one in front of Rock ’n’ Joe and 16 Prospect. Mr. Zuckerman said others have been requested, and said there is a need for guidelines to better determine who should qualify for a parklet. The DWC recommends which establishments should get parklets to the town. Ultimately, the town has the power to grant the parklet.
The guidelines, which were approved by the board members, include the qualifications that the adjacent spot next to the establishment cannot be reasonably used for tables that seat four or more people while also leaving four feet of access space on the sidewalk, that a single parklet takes up no more than two parking spots and that businesses agree to help beautify the parklet. The town is responsible only for placing a concrete barrier around the parklet, so it is up to establishments to spruce up the area with trees, plants and lights. The conditions also establish that preference will be given to restaurants that serve dinner, have table service and have liquor licenses.
Boxwood coffee shop requested a parklet, and the board agreed to recommend one. Although it does not serve dinner, have table service or have a liquor license, the board members said it was important to support the business. Mr. Zuckerman said that the Boxwood owners want to serve lunch again but that it would not make sense without more available seating. Board member Michael La Place said he thinks the parklet is important to Boxwood, especially due to its location.
“I think we should do whatever we can to help Boxwood because we have so many vacancies on that block,” Mr. La Place said. “We really need an anchor there.”
The downtown will have a few more empty storefronts. Ann Taylor closed its doors as one of 1,200 brick-and-mortar stores. Brummers also is closed after 116 years of sweet service. Omaha Steaks also closed. New in town is Westfield Creamery. A tattoo studio also will be opening on Prospect Street, and a pop-up fried ice cream stand is opening on Quimby Street.
The board members went over the newest developments with Quimby Street. For the time being, the street will be a one-way from Central to Elm seven days a week. The other side is closed to traffic and acts as a pedestrian plaza, complete with two DWC tents, lights and planters. There is space for programming, like live music on the weekends, and outdoor dining for Quimby Street businesses.
“I’m very optimistic we’ve finally found the right mix, the right balance for Quimby,” Mr. Zuckerman said.
The Westfield Downtown Pizza 5K netted double the profit of last year’s race, Mr. Zuckerman said. The money will be used for downtown beautification. One thing to look into is covers for the concrete barriers on Quimby Street, Mr. Zuckerman said. He said the money could also be used for planters, art on vacant storefronts and other ideas from the design committee.
Board member and Councilwoman Dawn Mackey reviewed what the town was doing for public art in the downtown area. She told board members to keep an eye out for butterflies, designed by Westfield residents, popping up around town in the next few weeks for the town’s 300th anniversary. She said that, “this is the year we’re committed to visual enhancement as opposed to events.” The public art commission is identifying nooks to decorate and energize some of the neglected parts of the town, Ms. Mackey said. The design committee will hang banners honoring Westfield’s 300th anniversary in the next few weeks, board member Peg Lockwood said.
The next DWC board meeting will be held on Wednesday, August 19, at 7:30 p.m.