Old Town Design Group seeks input on Union Square development

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Old Town Companies officials want to form a partnership with Westfield residents in developing Union Square.

Rebecca McGuckin, community collaborator with Old Town Companies, which includes Old Town Design Group, gave a presentation about the Union Square project Oct. 24 at the Westfield Chamber of Commerce luncheon.

McGuckin said the plan is for the 4-acre Union Square to include retail, other businesses and apartments. The site will be at Jersey Street and Ind. 32, which will be alongside Grand Junction Plaza. 

McGuckin said Old Town Design Group’s intent is a grassroots approach to join with Westfield business owners, workers and residents to form the project.

“Our intent is not just be developers, where we have this parcel (and) are plopping some buildings down and moving on to the next project,” McGuckin said. “It is saying, ‘Who is here already? What do you want to do and how can we be part of the culture that already exists?’”

The mission is to be adaptable to what the community envisions, she said. McGuckin introduced some preliminary concepts.

“We are at the very beginning of that planning,” McGuckin said. “We’ll go through a development plan approval. We want to get more community feedback before we propose a development plan.”

McGuckin said community feedback from more meetings probably won’t happen until spring.

“In the rendering, there is approximately 180 apartment units,” McGuckin said. “But you could add another floor to the building or you could take.”

The benchmark in the market tends to be 40 percent one-bedroom apartments, 40 percent two-bedroom apartments and 20 studio apartments, McGuckin said.

However, McGuckin said the numbers are flexible depending on feedback.

Justin Moffett, Old Town Companies CEO, said the building process won’t likely begin before the fall of 2020.

“For us, this was just a starting point,” Moffett said. “We’ll now go through a series of exercises to get more community feedback. I would expect most of this winter and next spring we’ll be in the planning process. If we land on an idea we all believe in, we can get things to move forward with any engineering hurdles we have and there will be some, then we could start next fall, but it would be no earlier than next fall.”

Moffett said one of the goals is to adapt to unique users that want to be there.

“We are seeing office trends, just like housing trends with businesses wanting walkability and culture,” he said. “As we talk about this, we hope we have some business that will want to relocate here.”

Moffett was asked by a luncheon guest about the rationale behind having apartments rather than condominiums or townhouses.

“There is a trend of renters by choice,” Moffett said.

Moffett said many older citizens, in particular, want to live in walkable areas and don’t want to own anything anymore.

“A lot of seniors are looking for limited responsibility,” Moffett said. “They want a lease situation where if their water heater breaks, they want to put that responsibility on someone else. They want to travel.”

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