To the Editor:
As a Westfield resident and former executive director of the Downtown Westfield Corporation (DWC), I appreciate all that our community has to offer. But my heart has always been located downtown. Westfield is blessed with a historic town center that has enormous potential and is full of beautiful buildings and wonderful people. Yet our downtown is now facing serious challenges such as vacancies, inadequate parking and a need to upgrade public spaces.
When I was hired by DWC to serve as the first director in 1997, it was largely because of my experience in planning, economic development, historic preservation and municipal government. So we got to work and the result was the 1999 Downtown Westfield Improvement Plan. In those early years of implementing this downtown plan, we all benefited from strong leadership in town hall as well as the enthusiastic support of the business and property owners and volunteers from every section of Westfield. Marketing, promotions, events, façade renovations, new directional and informational signage, seasonal banners, new holiday decorations and streetscape improvements were the result of an open, inclusive and energetic planning process.
Downtown Westfield needs this kind of comprehensive, community-based team effort once again. Many goals of the 1999 plan such as infrastructure improvements have yet to be accomplished and competition from the internet, shopping centers and other redeveloping downtowns is growing. Westfield needs to step up its game.
After reviewing the platform of mayoral candidate Shelley Brindle and discussing downtown and community planning with her, I am excited that she wants to lead this effort. Shelley clearly understands that community planning downtown and in all of our neighborhoods is about communication, sharing information and inviting citizens to get involved. Westfield has wonderful existing assets such as an accomplished town planner, an experienced and creative DWC Executive Director and significant talent in this community to sit on land use boards and commissions including the Planning Board, Zoning Board of Adjustment, Architectural Review and Historic Preservation.
We need to unleash all this knowledge, creativity and passion for Westfield and empower all interested citizens to join in building Westfield’s future. Shelley Brindle has convinced me that she will do this as mayor and she has my strong support.
Michael La Place AICP, PP
Director, Department of Planning & Economic Development
Passaic County, New Jersey