WESTFIELD, NJ — (Updated June 4) The town’s eight surface parking lots are obsolete and ideal spots for development options that include tiered parking.

Such is among the conclusions of a 98-page report commissioned by Westfield in support of the Planning Board’s recommendation earlier this week that the town declare its municipal lots in the downtown a “non-condemnation area in need of redevelopment.” It is a measure that allows for the creation of tax abatement agreements, knowns as PILOTs, with developers.

While the focus of Monday’s virtual presentation to the Planning Board was detailing the reasons why the properties meet the legal requirements of the for such a designation, the goal is getting a developer to build and include expanded parking options, officials said.

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“Will we see potential developers come out of the woodwork?” asked Planning Board Chairman Robert Newell.

It’s not a guarantee, said Phil Abramson, principal of the planning firm Topology, which the town hired to investigate the possibility of designating the lots, but he said developers are free to approach the town with options.

“If they were to enter into a public partnership, they could do so with a broader set of economic tools,” Abramson said.

RELATED: What Does Westfield Want Most? Parking Could be Key, Survey Says

In a brief interview on Central Avenue, Bob Zuckerman, executive of Downtown Westfield Corporation, the entity that manages the town’s special improvement district, discussed the potential.

“The prospect of redevelopment in underutilized surface parking lots is something that I think we can all look forward to,” Zuckerman said.

According to the investigation report from Topology, this is not just the case for Westfield. A court case over Princeton’s redevelopment of parking lots upholds the right of municipalities to use the state’s land use law to facilitate such development, the report says.

“Parking lots inhibited the types of ‘urban center’ uses that would fulfill Princeton’s objectives, and redevelopment was projected to promote economic development that would ‘serve the public health, safety and welfare of the entire community,’” the report states. “Present conditions in Westfield are analogous to those that were found in Princeton.”

The Princeton group Concerned Citizens Inc. had lodged the Superior Court suit that led to the decision.

The Topology report says surface parking in that city represented “yesterday’s solution” in downtowns where “structured parking is not the standard.”

Tiered parking proposals are not entirely new to Westfield. In 2004, voters soundly defeated a referendum that would have approved $10 million for parking infrastructure at the Westfield Train Station and also Lot 1, which is located between Elm and Prospect streets.

The redevelopment designation is anticipated to gain the town council’s final approval. A date for the approval has yet to be set.

Mayor Shelley Brindle, at the planning board meeting, spoke favorably of the report’s findings. She also noted the additional properties slated for similar treatment.

“For me, it only reaffirmed really the opportunities for us from the revenue and from the tax perspective,” said Brindle, who added: “We’re still waiting for the study on the other properties the three Lord & Taylor properties and the Rialto [Theatre].”

Editor's Note: This story has been updated to reflect that the 2004 referendum included a proposal for parking infrastructure at two locations: the Westfield Train Station and Lot 1, the parking lot located behind what is now Trader Joe's.

Email Matt Kadosh at mkadosh@tapinto.net | Twitter: @MattKadosh

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