A massive redevelopment that will include the adaptive reuse of a former Lord & Taylor building is officially moving ahead in Westfield.
Last week, the town council approved a series of financial and bond ordinances in relation to a payment in lieu of taxes program for aspects of the work. The March 14 vote followed the approvals of the overall Redevelopment Plan last month by the Town Council and the Planning Board.
“Specifically, the Council voted to adopt ordinances approving the PILOT agreement and authorizing the eventual issuance of up to $57 million of Redevelopment Area Bonds (RABs). These RABs will be used to fund the project’s public improvements and, very importantly, are funded by the PILOT revenues paid by Streetworks – not by taxpayers,” Westfield Mayor Shelley Brindle wrote in a March 15 Letter to the Editor published by TAPinto Westfield. “Although the RABs will likely not be issued before 2026, and not until specific conditions are met by Streetworks, the Council’s bond authorization serves as a long-term binding commitment from the Town in this public-private partnership – a critical step enabling Streetworks to secure the necessary financing and equity partners to move the project forward.”
According to the mayor, the project will deliver $400 million in private investment to the downtown, allowing for $54 million in public improvements, restoring a large portion of the 2,000 jobs that have been lost in Westfield since 2015, and providing $214 million in PILOT revenue over 30 years “to stabilize and potentially lower taxes over the long term.”
Through its real estate arm Streetworks Development, Hudson’s Bay Co. is set to move ahead with the mixed use redevelopment of the Lord & Taylor site, along with two town-owned parcels on the north and south sides of the train station. Plans for the work were unveiled last fall. Overall the project will include:
HBC | Streetworks says it expects to begin work in 2024.
In a statement, HBC | Streetworks Development Vice President of Development Carolina Simon said the adoption and approval of the Redevelopment Plan and Agreement were significant milestones for the reimagination of the shuttered Lord & Taylor store and the city’s downtown.
“This agreement is a culmination of years of engagement and active listening that allowed us to work collaboratively with public officials, residents and community members to better understand the needs of the community,” Simon said in a statement. “We look forward to the next steps in this approval process and want to thank Mayor Shelley Brindle and the Town Council for their continued support and collaboration to ensure a strong future for Westfield.”
In October, HBC | Streetworks opened a downtown Preview Center on Elm Street, welcoming residents and guests to learn more about the proposal through the interactive exhibit that includes a scale model of not just the proposed redevelopment areas but the entire town of Westfield. Since opening its doors, the center has welcomed more than 2,000 visitors.
Overall, HBC | Streetworks – the self-described “listening developer” – says it has had more than 7,000 public interactions through the visitor center, a series of information sessions, virtual listening tours and community events.
“As the largest landowner in Westfield, we are committed to working with the Town to ensure a sustainable, environmentally friendly, and economically viable future for Westfield,” said HBC | Streetworks Development Chairman and Chief Development Officer Ken Narva. “From the two mass timber office buildings we’re proposing on the south side of the train station, to the enhanced greenscapes, bike paths and the creation of a mobility hub to improve pedestrian’s overall experience, sustainability and the promotion of environmental health and economic prospectivity is at the heart of this proposal and all of our development practices.”
Planning for the work dates back nearly four years, following Westfield’s adoption of a new Master Plan Reexamination.
Brindle described the effort as a “once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.”
However, in recent months the plan had received pushback from a vocal contingent of residents, including by the group Westfield Advocates for Responsible Development.
“As previous administrations discovered, it’s much easier to say no than get to yes. Identifying our challenges is easy; forming consensus on how best to address them is hard,” Brindle wrote in TAPinto, commending the dissident voices for their efforts to inform the project. “To that end, we genuinely appreciate the legitimate concerns and informed feedback from so many of you which served to further improve the proposal that was ultimately approved.”
Next up, the town will work to make sure that processes are in place to provide oversight for the fiscal and construction phases of the project. The mayor wrote those efforts will include the continued boots-on-the-ground involvement of HBC | Streetworks to keep collecting feedback from residents about the work, including public improvements to the Town Square and Town Green, which will be up for final site plan approvals later this year.
The Preview Center at 76 Elm St. will stay open through the end of 2023, with HBC | Streetworks team members “on standby” to answer questions and to oversee self-guided tours through the space.
“One Westfield Place represents a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to partner with our largest downtown property owner to create a live/work/play ecosystem that can sustain our businesses for the long term and deliver a vibrant downtown to serve our community for future generations,” Brindle said in a statement. “We look forward to realizing our vision as a premier post-COVID Main Street community that serves its residents, businesses, and visitors alike.”v