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Business disruption: Westfield looks to transform city's downtown business culture

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Sherry Cronin, executive director,
Downtown Westfield Corp.
Sherry Cronin, executive director, Downtown Westfield Corp. - ()

One of the state's most affluent towns, Westfield, is seeking to transform its downtown with more offices.

Sherry Cronin, executive director of the town’s economic development group, Downtown Westfield, said that one such retail store could be transformed into an office space is the 9,000-square-foot The Children’s Place, a move that could signal the beginning of a change of Westfield’s downtown business culture, which is known for its strong mix of small, independent and national retail stores.

“It’s a change for us,” Cronin said. “But large square footage spaces are increasingly difficult to attract traditional retail tenants as the retail sector continues to contract. The town is looking into changing some of the ordinances to allow more flexibility including allowing office use.”

 At $150,402, Westfield’s median household income was more than double that of the state in 2016, according to census information. The town’s median house value was $665,856, also more than double the state’s last year. In 2015, it was ranked as the 12th richest town in America by Movoto Real Estate and has a population of roughly 30,000.

East Broad Street in Westfield.
East Broad Street in Westfield.

While wealth is certainly one of charms, the town is also known for its visual beauty and convenience for commuters, as its train station at the center of town is one of NJ Transit’s major stops. The town’s downtown is known for its upscale restaurants, boutiques and a quaint New England charm.

Westfield is in the midst of adding 121 apartment units. At 333 Central, a new, four-story luxury apartment complex complete with a gym and a lounge with a wet bar opened this past spring. Construction is under way on a 25,810-sq.-ft. mixed residential/retail complex at 411 North Ave. where the Office Bar & Grill once stood, and at West Broadway and Rahway Ave., a 21-unit apartment complex, “The Parker,” is being constructed where the Westfield Auto Wash once stood.

“I think these new tenants will be people who will walk downstairs and not necessarily have to use a car,” Cronin said. “We’re a very walkable town that way, and I know that the businesses look are looking forward to the new residents. This model of downtown living has existed here for many decades.”

Despite turnover of business and what some would characterize as high commercial rents, the town’s quaint-but-affluent atmosphere will very much remain, Cronin said. Independent shops such as Rockin’ Joe’s coffeehouse, the Farmhouse Store and Sole Italian Shoes still stand side by side with national retailers such as Starbucks, Banana Republic and Williams Sonoma.

Quick Facts: Westfield Township
Mayor: Andrew Skibitsky
Population: 30,206
Size: 6.7-sq.-miles
Median Household Income (2015): $146,734
New Jersey Median Household Income (2015): $72,222
Median Home Value: $731,700*
Median Home Value, NJ: $299,000*
Noteworthy: The town has about a 50/50 split between national chains and independent stores, with 20-30 businesses turning over over annually
*Provided by real estate research firm Zillow

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Vince Calio

Vince Calio

Vince Calio covers health care and manufacturing for NJBIZ. You can contact him at vcalio@njbiz.com.

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