One Westfield Place: The future of downtown Westfield

Strip of land downtown Westfield that HBC, Streetworks plans to
develop (Photo courtesy of HBC, Streetworks)

Downtown Westfield awaits a major redevelopment thanks to a proposal titled One Westfield Place, led by dominant local landowners HBC, Streetworks. The plan was first announced at the Town Council meeting on Sept. 20 and envisions the construction of around 231 new housing units, over 300,000 square feet of office space, as well as two new public parking garages.

The idea for a redevelopment of Westfield’s downtown started with the highly anticipated closing of the HBC, Streetworks-owned Lord & Taylor lot. It has now expanded to include construction on both the north and south parking lots of the train station, Quimby Street and in the Westfield firehouse, which will be relocated.

Westfield Mayor Shelley Brindle credited the reason behind this plan being the loss of many retail stores downtown. She mentioned the insistence to turn downtown Westfield back to its original dynamic in the ‘90s when chain stores drove foot traffic throughout town. “It goes back to one of the reasons that prompted me to run for mayor in the first place,” said Brindle. “I felt that we needed a forward-thinking plan for our downtown to solve many of the commercial vacancies that were happening.”

One Westfield Place proposes to recycle the large Lord & Taylor building into 100,000 square feet of office space and over 200 apartments. Many of the apartments will be for ages 55 and older in order to encourage residents to remain in Westfield indefinitely after their children have graduated. The building will also include affordable family housing in accordance with the requirements of the state of New Jersey.

The south train station parking lot will become home to 210,000 square feet of office space, as well as a Town Square with greenery and street furniture. The north lot will be transformed into a Town Green where people can spend their time outside, designated for “connectivity” between Westfield residents according to Brindle.

To replace the parking space that the town will lose due to these developments, HBC, Streetworks plans to build two new parking garages on both sides of the train station that can accommodate over 450 vehicles. Brindle noted that the plan proposes to replace commuter parking spaces “one for one” with these parking garages.

“Now the commuter parking will be split between the north and the south side. For north side commuters, it’s actually going to be more convenient because they don’t have to drive around to the south side. The secondary benefit of that will be mitigating some of the traffic in the morning from people going from the north side, driving around to park in the south side lot,” said Brindle.

However, many people are not sure that building over some of Westfield’s biggest parking lots will be beneficial
for the town. Senior Jane Guglielmo said, “I do not think that taking away these parking lots is the best solution. I’d rather see more open spaces than tall garages because I don’t want our town to become too industrialized; I want to maintain the cozy family vibe that our downtown has right now.”

Similarly, Westfield Councilman Mark LoGrippo mentioned his hesitation about the redevelopment plan in an email to his constituents. “I am personally in favor of smart development, but at first glance, this appears to be overdevelopment in an already congested, high-traffic area,” wrote LoGrippo. “Hundreds of new apartments and large commercial expansion will add to the burden on our infrastructure and possibly our schools.”

Brindle says she has anticipated such feedback, as “people are naturally change-resistant.” However, she and the HBC, Streetworks development team feel that the ample greenspace on both sides of the train station will help maintain the small-town, open feel of downtown Westfield. Carolina Simon, Vice President of Development for HBC, Streetworks, spoke about how the public green spaces are meant to make downtown a more “collective experience,” bringing the community together with enhanced landscapes and improved street furniture.

One Westfield Place building (Photo by Lainey Deignan)

Other property owners in downtown Westfield should reap the benefits of more foot traffic that comes with this redevelopment as well. Douglas Adams, Senior Vice President of Development at HBC Streetworks, hopes that One Westfield Place will encourage other property owners to continue the development of the downtown area. Adams said, “We would hope that development like this causes other landowners to come in with plans for their own property. We want to encourage them to improve what’s there or create something new, but we didn’t want to include anything in our development [plan] that isn’t under our control.”

As the HBC, Streetworks redevelopment team is eager to bring this master plan to life, they already are proposing to complete the future renovations in an eco-friendly way. Simon highlighted the project’s emphasis on sustainability and said that HBC Streetworks will have “consideration for the environment” each step of the way, with “mass timber” construction and environmentally-friendly building materials. The new buildings will be “highly efficient and manage to create very little [environmental] impact,” according to Simon.

To increase resident inclusivity in the redevelopment process, HBC, Streetworks secured a storefront at 76 Elm St. in the heart of downtown explicitly for the preliminary showing of One Westfield Place. Within the building is a scale model of downtown Westfield that displays all redevelopment plans, open to everyone in the community to preview and critique. “We want to engage the community. There’s a lot of transparency that I don’t think you’ll see with any other development. We want to encourage people to talk back to us and have our friends and neighbors come to visit us as well,” said Trenesa Danuser, Chief Communications Officer of HBC, Streetworks.

Brindle especially encourages high school students to visit the preview center. According to Brindle, “This whole proposal is for [the younger] generation. It’s so important that we hear from you.”