ONE WESTFIELD PLACE:
FROM VISION TO REALITY
(The following Letter to the Editor was submitted by Mayor Brindle to local press outlets on March 15, 2023.)
This week marked a significant and exciting milestone for Westfield when the Town Council cast its final votes for One Westfield Place and approved the financial agreements, allowing the project to move forward to the Planning Board for site plan approval later this year.
Specifically, the Council voted to adopt ordinances approving the PILOT agreement and authorizing the eventual issuance of up to $57M of Redevelopment Area Bonds (RABs). These RABs will be used to fund the project’s public improvements and, very importantly, are funded by the PILOT revenues paid by Streetworks – not by taxpayers. Although the RABs will likely not be issued before 2026, and not until specific conditions are met by Streeetworks, the Council’s bond authorization serves as a long-term binding commitment from the Town in this public-private partnership – a critical step enabling Streetworks to secure the necessary financing and equity partners to move the project forward.
The approval of One Westfield Place caps almost four years of planning and collaboration with HBC | Streetworks Development, following the 2019 adoption of a new, community-driven Master Plan Reexamination, and a series of subsequent public legislative actions which laid the groundwork for the Town to leverage the state’s redevelopment laws to its benefit. Those of us on the Town Council who voted to approve this project indeed realize the magnitude of our decision, acknowledging the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to partner with our largest downtown property owner to create a vibrant downtown that will deliver foot traffic to our local businesses, provide engaging spaces for community gathering, art, and events, and enable diverse housing options for newcomers and downsizers. One Westfield Place will undoubtedly reaffirm the Town’s long-standing reputation as one of the premier places to live in the state, reflected in the positive feedback we’ve already received from state agencies, planning associations, and various industry professionals.
We are also enthusiastic about the broader opportunity that One Westfield Place provides by delivering over $400M in private investment in our downtown, enabling $54M in public improvements that the Town could otherwise never realize, restoring many of the 2,000 jobs that have been lost since 2015, and providing a total of $214M in PILOT revenue over 30 years to stabilize and potentially lower taxes over the long term. Those are outcomes that every resident should welcome, and ones that would never be possible without HBC | Streetworks’ significant private investment.
The Council’s approval reflects our confidence in the public process that led to the ultimate HBC | Streetworks proposal, the team of top-flight professionals who have worked so diligently to negotiate a favorable deal for Westfield, and the encouragement and feedback we have received from so many residents, businesses, and downtown property owners. While acknowledging there is no such thing as a perfect project, we have concluded that the significant benefits of One Westfield Place far outweigh any potential downside, that potential risks have been adequately mitigated, and that Streetworks has made substantial modifications to the project in response to public feedback.
The robust public input process reaffirmed the broad community consensus regarding the need to evolve and invest in our downtown, acknowledging that there has not been any meaningful investment in our downtown since the Hahne’s department store (which later became Lord & Taylor) was built in 1962. It hasn’t been for a lack of trying, as evidenced by the recommendations of the 1999 Downtown Improvement Plan that were very similar to our current plan in several ways, but never implemented. As previous administrations discovered, it’s much easier to say no than get to yes. Identifying our challenges is easy; forming consensus on how best to address them is hard. To that end, we genuinely appreciate the legitimate concerns and informed feedback from so many of you which served to further improve the proposal that was ultimately approved.
As elected officials, we take our obligation as stewards of our community very seriously – but we did not seek office to maintain the status quo. We were elected to solve problems, and ensuring the long-term vibrancy of our downtown has always been a publicly stated top priority. While recognizing that we cannot please everyone, we can assure you that our support of One Westfield Place, like so much else we have done, has been guided by our commitment to making decisions that are in Westfield’s long-term best interests.
As we move from the planning to implementation phase, our attention now shifts from assessing what is possible to making One Westfield Place a reality. This includes ensuring that the Town has processes and protocols in place to provide adequate and proactive oversight of all fiscal and construction aspects of the project, including detailed construction management plans to minimize disruptions to the public and our businesses once the expected construction begins in late 2024. Streetworks will also further engage the community to solicit input on the public improvements in the coming months, specifically the Town Square and Town Green, as they prepare for final site plan approvals later this year.
Since this project will benefit our community beyond the scope of our downtown, I want to reaffirm our commitment to collaborate with the Board of Education to identify long-term school capital projects that could potentially be supported with PILOT revenues once the One Westfield Place project is stabilized in 2030. Our top-rated school district is one of Westfield’s best attributes and a source of community pride, and it’s in all of our best interests to work together to provide the education and facilities that our students deserve.
It’s my sincere hope that, with this pivot from “if” to “when and how,” we can come together and move forward as a community to support the promise and opportunity of One Westfield Place. I am proud of the process that allowed our residents to be heard and to participate in shaping this plan, and am grateful to live in a community with such a high level of civic engagement.
I also want to thank our team of talented redevelopment and Town professionals, all of whom have spent countless hours ensuring that this is a project that we can all be proud of, and one that is worthy of Westfield. Thank you to the members of the Town Council for their unwavering commitment to our community and their respective ward constituents, and for their fortitude to move ahead and deliver on our promises. This is an incredibly exciting time for Westfield, and our future has never been brighter.