Master Planning & Community Engagement for Your Downtown

Master Planning & Community Engagement for Your Downtown

Sherry Cronin
Executive Director, Downtown Westfield

Don Sammet
Planner, Town of Westfield

April 30, 2019

The Town of Westfield, under the leadership of Mayor Shelley Brindle, has committed to leading a community-wide, collaborative process to reexamine its master plan to address issues of land use, transportation and parking, housing, downtown economic development, community facilities and historic preservation. The town wants a community driven plan, one that defines the vision that residents, business owners, and their employees have for the Town of Westfield, and therefore has established a comprehensive public engagement plan. The Downtown Westfield Corporation, the management entity of Westfield’s Special Improvement District, is a part of this process, from having a seat on the Master Plan Steering Committee, to encouraging its members’ involvement in the public engagement process established.

Parts of the public engagement process include a total of four open public forums where anyone can come and express their views and provide suggestions. In addition, the project team had a space at Westfield’s Spring Fling, the downtown street fair held in May, where people stopped to share their opinions. The Master Plan Steering Committee itself also represents a broad segment of the population and different boards and committees throughout town, enabling members to act as liaisons between the master plan process and their individual organizations. Several public meetings have already taken place and an online community survey has been launched.

According to Jeff Janota of H2M, “We do this work in many towns, and Westfield has had one of the highest levels of participation at meetings, as well as engagement in the online surveys on our public input website and social media outlets. We are proud to be a partner in such a collaborative effort.” To date, there have been close to 700 participants who have taken the online survey, resulting in a total of nearly 16,000 responses to questions! The town has also dedicated a page on its website to the master plan reexamination, and has produced video segments encouraging participation, and explaining exactly what is taking place, and why.

Downtown Westfield is the second most popular reason people move to town (only behind the school system), so its importance to the town’s character and economic well-being is paramount. Yet, the town has not been immune to the evolving retail trends experienced by many downtowns, including the loss of traditional brick and mortar establishments. With people visiting downtowns more and more for the “experience”, Downtown Westfield is providing its recommendations to reflect what it hears from its members and downtown visitors. The Master Plan Reexamination process will help enable to the town to update its vision and establish a set of goals and objective for preserving the town’s character, ensuring its diversity, supporting investment, and promoting desired changes.

For more information on the Master Plan process, visit the website at: www.westfieldnj.gov/futurewestfield. Visit Downtown Westfield at www.westfieldtoday.com, Facebook @downtownwestfieldnj, or Twitter @westfieldtoday.