In last week’s letter, I let you know that over the coming weeks, I would remind residents of all the components of my platform. My entire online can be read at www.andy2017.com

This week, Downtown Westfield: In almost all of the accolades the town has received, the downtown is mentioned as a significant factor adding to the town’s overall appeal and liveliness. I don’t think there’s been a talk I have given as mayor or even in my private life that I haven’t emphasized the importance of our downtown — its importance has never been taken for granted. This is why over two decades ago, the town created and continues to support the Special Improvement District, or SID. The Downtown Westfield Corporation, or DWC, is the management entity of the SID, essentially the economic development arm of the local government.

I, along with the town council, the town’s professional staff and the DWC, have been keeping a close watch on the various retail, economic, demographic and cultural trends affecting our town and the downtown in particular. We know that the retail paradigm is changing and will continue to do so. Box stores are downsizing or closing, malls are suffering with one-third failing, and stores are closing their brick and mortar doors in favor of an exclusively online presence due to consumers making more and more purchases online. Demographics are changing. Millennials (those born between 1980 and 2000/adults 19 to 36) have passed Baby Boomers as the largest living generation in U.S. history. Their spending habits are different than prior generations in that they are choosing experiences over retail purchases and their choices about where to live and work will shape communities for years to come. We know that walkable downtowns are desirable and Millennials and Seniors want to live where they do not have to own or rely on a car.

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Over recent years, we took numerous actions to ensure that our award winning downtown stays vibrant, including- adding 120downtown shopper parking spaces, changing our local liquor laws to allow for establishments like Addams Tavern and for the expansion of Ferraro’s second and hird floors, encouraging responsible development of downtown area properties, resulting in 131 planned new high-end apartments on our downtown’s perimeter, and making downtown more pedestrian friendly by redesigning key intersections.

In July 2016, I formed the Mayor’s Downtown Task Force with a charge to identify the factors within the town’s scope of authority and develop recommendations that will serve to promote economic development and sustainability for many years to come. The Task Force conducted research and stakeholder outreach for nearly eight months, presenting the town council with an initial report of their findings that included over 50 action recommendations. You can read the report in its entirety at www.westfieldnj.gov/mdtf.

Since the task force recommendations were released in April, we have increased free parking opportunities by reducing paid parking hours, added two 15 minutes express pick up spots on Quimby, instituted a pilot parklet on Elm Street, closed Quimby Street for two Tuesday Jazz nights this past summer, approved the closing of Quimby and Elm for the Christmas tree lighting, and approved new downtown events. In addition, approximately 30 businesses have opened, expanded, or are coming soon to Westfield in 2017 and even more exciting changes are coming to our downtown area!  For more detailed updates please see the Mayor’s Downtown Task Force Addendum #1 also posted at www.westfieldnj.gov.

Earlier this year, Gannett New Jersey voted Westfield as the best shopping destination in New Jersey and described downtownWestfield as “an upscale Union County town that offers Old World-charm as well as modern sophistication.”  I am committed to enacting the recommendations of the Mayor’s Downtown Task Force to guarantee that downtown Westfield stays the number one shopping (and dining) destination in New Jersey.

Thank you,

Mayor Andy Skibitsky