Streetworks Development is anticipated to seek public feedback on the venture starting next month.
WESTFIELD, NJ — The town has picked a redeveloper for an expansive department store on North Avenue and two parking lots at the Westfield Train Station.
The Town Council last week designated Streetworks Development — a subsidiary of Hudson’s Bay Company that owns the Lord & Taylor property and two adjacent lots — as the redeveloper for those properties, along with the train station’s parking lots on North and South avenues.
Mayor Shelley Brindle said the agreement is the culmination of conversations she had with Richard Baker, chairman of Hudson’s Bay Company, starting two years ago. The company had asked that it be made the redeveloper of the properties, Brindle said.
“Rather than operate independently of the town’s input to decide the best use of their property — something they would be within their rights to do — they understand that our success is their success, and as our largest downtown property owner, our futures are intertwined,” Brindle said in her prepared remarks.
As part of the agreement, she said, Streetworks Development would reimburse the town immediately for the planning and legal costs associated with the redevelopment.
“We are fortunate to have one of the country’s premier planning and development firms bring thought leadership, experience and resources focused on Westfield, and provide us with the tools to fill vacant storefronts in the near term and to re-establish the vibrancy and stability of our downtown,” Brindle said.
Council members approved the measure 8-1 with Councilman Mark LoGrippo casting the dissenting vote. LoGrippo, who has previously opposed redevelopment measures, said his concern is that the schools would be adversely impacted by potential residential development.
“I’m not against development but as a resident mentioned, I think we’re moving a little bit fast,” LoGrippo said. “I’d like to see a little bit more discussion around the schools. … I constantly hear the schools are overcrowded.”
He was the only member of the council to oppose the measure. Brindle answered that the potential impacts LoGrippo described have yet to be determined.
“I don’t think we want to close out the possibility of other things or things that could be great for the community, and certainly Streetworks has a track record of doing incredible things for communities across the country, so any talk about schools or impacts or overdevelopment is incredibly premature,” Brindle said.
Starting in January, Streetworks will be soliciting feedback from the public including the school board and then intends to present a plan to the public, she said.
“Based on that input, we can make that determination on whether or not we want to move forward,” Brindle said.
Movement on the redevelopment comes in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic, something one resident speaking at the meeting objected to in light of the complications brought on by the public health crisis.
“There’s just so much going on right now. Is now the time to be pushing through a redevelopment plan when people really don’t have the time to focus their energies on it?” asked Codding Road resident Kerry Murphy. “I’m going to venture a guess that a lot of the town don’t even realize what’s going on or how far we are along already.”
Brindle disagreed with Murphy’s assessment. With more people home and some people having additional time, they are more engaged in local issues than they had been previously, she said.
“I would argue that now is exactly the time to do it,” Brindle said. “I would also disagree that people aren’t paying attention. We’ve had people come out and talk about Christmas wreaths and snowflakes, so clearly, we’ve had people paying attention. And I get tons of comments about redevelopment all the time.”
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