Transit Pavilion completed, next steps for urban renewal addressed

WESTFIELD, Mass. (The Westfield News) – Now that the Olver Transit Pavilion has opened, city officials are looking to the next steps in their urban renewal plan.

The Pioneer Valley Transit Authority (PVTA) Olver Transit Pavilion, which has received praise and criticism on social media for design and timeliness, opened on April 28. With its opening though, a few more parking spots are available again downtown, and the projects to demolish properties on Church Street and develop a mixed-use building and parking garage can continue forward.

Joe Mitchell, city advancement officer for Westfield, said that although the pavilion has received criticism for design, it will have a positive impact on the area.

“The great part about the PVTA piece is something has started there. Now it’s definitely generated a buzz and interest,” he said.

Also, four to five parking spots will be opened on Elm Street, as the structure that was standing and area that was painted for bus passenger on- and off-loading there have been removed.

Now, Mitchell said that the PVTA expects ridership to the pavilion to increase, in spite of design.

Regarding the structure itself, Mitchell said that it was the PVTA’s decision, with federal regulations influencing the design.

“It’s the PVTA’s building so they can do what they want with it, it’s their design,” he said.

Part of the design involves curved edges and glass, which Mitchell said is meant to inhibit certain undesirable activities by reducing the ability to hide them. Additionally, with the perceived openness of the building, including increased sunshine, Mitchell said it feels more warm and inviting.

This openness also helps with energy costs and helps reduce economic impact according to Mitchell, as the increased sunlight reduces the use of electricity with lighting. This part, according to Mitchell, made the structure a Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED)-certified building, which helped gain federal funds.

“All these design elements were requirements to use federal dollars,” Mitchell said.

As for the timing of the construction, it was done because funding for the project was going to expire if it was not used.

“Some federal money was OKed in 2004 and some in 2007, so it became a use-it-or-lose-it situation,” he said. “The land was already available and the money was already available.”

And since the project began, demolition plans have begun for the area on Church Street to create the mixed-use building and parking garage. According to Mitchell, the Westfield Redevelopment Authority is currently working with an engineering firm to put together bid specifications for demolition of Romani’s Bowling Alley at 11 and 13 Church St.

This demolition will have to include asbestos removal and environmental consultation, which will be factored in. The bid specifications are expected to be in by May 15, and within about four weeks bids should be in from companies. From there, Mitchell said he expects demolition to begin somewhere around the beginning of August.

As of right now, there are no design plans set for the parking garage or mixed-use building however, Mitchell states that there is private development interest in the Elm St. parcels. Decisions on those projects will be made once companies are chosen from the eventual bids on the projects.

PVTA’s Olver Transit Pavilion now open in Westfield