Plans by Old Town Cos. to build a $25 million mixed-use project near Grand Junction Plaza in Westfield is meeting opposition from some residents and the city’s preservation alliance.
The Carmel-based developer in April announced plans to develop Union Square, a residential and retail space in downtown Westfield on the city block south of State Road 32 between South Union and Mill streets. The project is the first major private development to be announced as a result of the city’s $35 million Grand Junction Plaza project.
On Tuesday, the Westfield Washington Advisory Plan Commission held a public hearing regarding Old Town’s request to rezone the land to a planned unit development to accommodate the project. The four acres the project would occupy are zoned multi-family low-density and local business/historical district.
Ahead of that meeting, the Westfield Preservation Alliance launched a change.org petition against Union Square addressed to Mayor Andy Cook and the Westfield City Council. As of Tuesday night, 288 people had signed.
The petition takes issue with the likelihood that the project will result in a public-private partnership between Old Town and the city and states that approval of the requested PUD is being rushed.
“By signing this petition, you will let the leaders of the City of Westfield know that the residents of our community are tired of being unfairly burdened through public-private partnership to invest in development that fails to consider the integrity of Westfield’s Historic Downtown District and small-town charm of our community,” the petition reads.
A development agreement between the city and Old Town has yet to be presented to the city council. Justin Moffett, a partner with Old Town, confirmed Tuesday that the company is “engaged in conversations with the city about the economics of the project.”
The petition also includes a list of reasons, including the destruction of historic properties, why the Westfield Preservation Alliance opposes the project.
An early conceptual plan gives residents and city officials an idea of what Old Town is proposing. In phase 1, three retail and residential buildings and one stand-alone restaurant would be built along Jersey Street. That phase also includes a stand-alone residential building along Union Street, north of Jersey Street. The current Westfield Lion’s Club would be demolished as part of that plan.
Phase 2 would see the demolition of Wolfie’s Grill and Westfield Pharmacy along State Road 32. They would be replaced with two more residential buildings and a mixed-use building at the corner of Union Street and State Road 32.
Moffett on Tuesday night cautioned residents that the conceptual plans presented are starting points and not final. Old Town seeks to build a development that is authentic to Westfield and includes an eclectic mix of buildings, uses and architectural styles and is open to adjusting its plans to reflect the community’s feedback, he said.
“The proposal for Union Square will certainly elicit an emotional response from those who care about the community,” he said. “Whatever the final plan is for the project, it will bring about significant change in the landscape of downtown, but change is already in motion.”
He said the four-acre site is underutilized with a lot of structures that are dilapidated.
“We’re trying to breath new life into this block of downtown,” he said.
During the public hearing, plan commission members heard from residents both supportive and opposed to the project.
Tim Leonard, who owns Select Home Services in Westfield, said he had the overall vision for Grand Junction Plaza in mind when he sought property on Penn Street for his business. He said he’s supportive of the Union Square rezone.
Westfield Preservation Alliance director Judi Shuck asked plan commission members to look at the big picture and not rush to approve the PUD. More discussion of the project is expected to take place at the next plan commission meeting on Oct. 7.