Westfield Mayor Talks Downtown Revitalization, Casino Impacts
WESTFIELD, Mass. (WGGB) — In the first month of Westfield Mayor Daniel Knapik’s third term, he’s getting ready for even more improvements to the city.
Westfield has seen a multitude of projects in the past few years, including the town green and construction of the great river bridge. There’s more to come for the downtown area.
“This is the first step of rebuilding something of great magnitude,” said Mayor Knapik during an interview on 40 In The Morning, “we’re entertaining development proposals right now and I would expect, in the next 60 days, you’ll hear more news about that in town and certainly an announcement from the city about a partnership with the state.” Construction on a new senior center is also slated to begin later this year.
While most towns seem to have their hands full with getting “affected community” status with MGM Springfield and the State Gaming Commission, Knapik says his city are taking a different approach.
“We realized really quickly that we were going to have to put a lot of money up to do a study to try to demonstrate that we had some impact and it didn’t look to favorable,” said Knapik. Instead of looking to get money from MGM, they’re looking to partner with the developer to market Barnes Regional Airport as a way for travelers to get to the proposed resort casino. “It would have been really hard for us to demonstrate any adverse impact,” said Knapik, “so were going to look on a more positive note to say what kind of economic development we can have with MGM as a partner.”
Despite all the work being done, and without any promise of cash from MGM, the mayor says these are “very difficult times.”
In reaction to Governor Deval Patrick’s state of the commonwealth address, Knapik said, “he had some really nice commentary to make, but one of the things that’s real to me is since we went into the recession my city is still down $4 million in local aid and that’s hard to make up.”
“The reality is big state budget, less local aid.”
The next priority for Knapik is the Columbia Greenway. The next phase of construction will take the Greenway to downtown’s edge at East Silver Street. That project will start in February and be completed in November according to Knapik. “There’s two more legs to get through town and then over the Westfield river in the coming years, and that was a project that had its genesis in the mid 1990s and to be actually building… that’s exciting,” he said.