WESTFIELD, NJ — The government entity managing Westfield’s special improvement district has hired a consulting firm to help it draw businesses into the downtown.
The board of Downtown Westfield Corporation on Wednesday hired retail planning and real estate consultancy firm MJB Consulting to help bring in the businesses.
MJB Consulting was among three firms to submit proposals for the initiative, which the DWC will pay $20,000 for the implementation of, said Ian Hooks, who chairs the DWC’s economic vitality committee.
“It is really going to help us understand what our tenant strategy should be,” Hooks said. “It will help us set up an implementation plan to work with all the stakeholders throughout the town.”
“Coordinating with developers, landlords, brokers, merchants and stakeholders to secure 'buy-in' to a broader retail vision and tenanting strategy for a district with fragmented property ownership,” is among the firm's typical assignments, according to its website.
Bob Zuckerman, the DWC’s executive director, said the “market study report,” which MJB Consulting will draft, is intended to tell the story of the downtown, framing it for would-be investors. Michael J. Berne is principal of the firm.
“He also is not interested in producing a bunch of reports that just sit on a shelf,” Zuckerman said. “He really wants to give us the tools and help us with the entire recruitment process, so these vacant storefronts ... eventually start getting filled.”
MJB Consulting comes on board as the local government implements a series of redevelopment measures, including declaring its eight municipal parking lots, the vacant Rialto Theatre and the Lord & Taylor areas in need of redevelopment — a measure that could pave the way for tax incentives to attract developers and other businesses.
“The planning board and the council have really set the stage for some dramatic action,” said Michael La Place, a DWC board member who also sits on the planning board. “That’s an important context to talking about what downtown Westfield is and wants to be.”
The new firm comes on board as Westfield businesses manage with the impacts of COVID-19 — some better than others.
Last week, Ann Taylor’s Westfield location closed permanently. “We understand that their lease was up, and their parent was closing 1,200 stores,” Zuckerman said.
The national chain Omaha Steaks also closed its location on East Broad Street recently, he said. And Westfield said goodbye to Brummer’s Homemade Chocolates last week as the longtime owner retired.
The Westfield Creamery serving Emack and Bolio’s ice cream, which came to Westfield in 2017 — next to The Rialto Theatre on East Broad street — is transitioning to new ownership. The shop’s owners have sold to Hershey’s Ice Cream, Zuckerman said. The new owners, he said, will retain the “Westfield Creamery” branding.
“We hope to do an actual ribbon cutting with them soon,” Zuckerman said.
In addition, he said, a tattoo studio is slated to take over the storefront once occupied the clothing store Hand Picked at 107 Prospect St. A sign in the storefront displays the name “American Dream Tattoo Studio.”
“About 45% of millennials now have at least one tattoo,” Zuckerman said, citing a recent study. “So, it is somewhat different from what it used to be in terms of its prevalence.”
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