TAPintoWestfield: It Takes a Master Plan to Reignite Our Downtown (Video)

This article originally appeared in TAPintoWestfield on Sept. 28, 2017

tapintologo.pngWhen I walk around downtown and speak with business owners and landlords who share their concerns about vacancies, parking and infrastructure, I ask myself — how did we get here? Why is our downtown fading when surrounding towns are thriving? There is so much to love, but we can do better, and should expect better.

The challenges in retail are well known. Our current administration rationalizes Westfield’s vacancy rate by acknowledging that the “retail paradigm has shifted.” But it’s not a new phenomenon. The retail paradigm shifted the day Amazon sold its first book online in 1994. What we are seeing now is the failure to recognize this shift and adapt accordingly.

How did our Town officials not see the inevitable impact of e-commerce, growing at the expense of brick-and-mortar retail? Why was there no proactive effort to re-imagine our downtown, as towns like Cranford, Summit, Somerville and Morristown have done?

I saw it, and successfully led through these challenges before.

As an Executive Vice President at HBO, I was in charge of growing HBO’s $4.5 billion U.S. business during a time of extreme disruption from innovative new competitors like Netflix, who triggered a disruption similar to what our downtown has experienced with Amazon. I led my 150 person team through a digital transformation that brought “Game of Thrones” from your TV to your smartphone and laptop, leading to HBO’s best subscriber performance in 30 years.

My experience has taught me the best way to manage disruption is by leaning into it, and leading with vision, courage and selfless commitment.

Vision is what I expected when I heard about the mayor’s formation of the Downtown Task Force, in what seemed like a reaction to the Trader Joe’s collapse three months earlier. But instead of creating a vision to reignite Westfield’s downtown, we ended up with a rushed “to do” list of recommendations made by a select few, behind closed doors.

When I look at the challenges we face, I see possibility. But, in order for us to transform possibility into reality, we must recognize the scope of the challenge, and implement solutions that move us forward.

That's why I'm committed to leading a community wide, collaborative process to create a new master plan that finally addresses development, retail, parking, historic preservation and more, and replaces the outdated plan from 15 years ago. A primary goal is to strategically expand our tax base so we can finally get the services that are worthy of the high taxes we already pay, and avoid relying on property tax increases.

Developing innovative solutions will require input and engagement from all of our residents, irrespective of who you know or party affiliation. I’m excited to lead the effort as a full-time volunteer mayor and invite all of us to work for Westfield.

I humbly ask for your vote for Mayor this Nov. 7.

For information on where and how to vote in Westfield, click here

Please visit: brindleforwestfield.com and facebook.com/brindleforwestfield; or email me at shelley@brindleforwestfield.com.

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