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Side Story: Ground Work

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CASE STUDIES

Westfield, N.J., rejuvenates a downtown and builds an award-winning Main Street.

Westfield, N.J. downtown

Challenge

Revitalize a downtown by improving its attractiveness and safety to create an environment that is inviting for businesses, residents and visitors to work and play. Westfield, N.J., is a small town in close proximity to metropolitan New York and New Jersey suburbs. In the early-1990s, large shopping malls and multiplexes lured local shoppers away from their home town, resulting in Westfield’s downtown experiencing a nearly 40 percent vacancy rate.

Recognizing the need for action, community leaders recommended Westfield re-create itself as a Main Street Community. Per the National Main Street Center of the National Trust for Historical Preservation, Main Street Communities revitalize older and historical commercial districts, increase economic vitality and create a place where people can shop, work or live. The town’s goal was to combine the appeal of modern shops, restaurants and businesses without eliminating the charm and character of its 1700s origin.

Action

The first phase of Westfield’s restoration called for re-designing streetscapes to bring back the feel of a late-1800s/early-1900s city center. In October 2004, Westfield selected Boral pavers for sidewalks, alleys and general streetscapes. Boral’s Bourbon Street Antique pavers were specifically chosen, because their rich deep color and rugged, tumbled texture reinforced the feeling and appeal of Westfield’s existing architecture. Since they are made from genuine clay, Boral’s pavers were also considered superior to other streetscape products as they are guaranteed to never fade.

With a beautiful foundation in place, Westfield’s building facades are continually undergoing treatments and renovations to bring back the charm and character of historical buildings. The local bakery shop even used photographs of buildings from the early-1900s as a guide to add new windows, framing and doors to its storefront.

Westfield, N.J.

Result

The comprehensive revitalization of downtown Westfield garnered praise from local businesses and residents, establishing downtown as a significant element of the city. The downtown occupancy rate remains a constant 97 percent, and big name retailers like Lord and Taylor, Williams Sonoma and Trader Joe’s have established a presence there. These new businesses thrive side-by-side with existing Westfield merchants, a third of whom have been doing business downtown for the last 25 years or more. Additionally, residents and businesses in Westfield have experienced an increase in property values.

Best of all, Westfield was bestowed the Great American Main Street Award by the National Trust in 2004. This award is given annually to five of the nation’s 1,600 Main Street Communities. Of the 566 towns in New Jersey, only 26 are considered Main Street Communities designated by the National Trust. Westfield has earned re-designation each year since 1993.

For more information about the revitalization of Downtown Westfield, N.J., visit www.westfieldtoday.com/Downtown.html.

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