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WS merchants feel hopeful after meeting

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Westchester Square business owners and residents received some encouraging news about the shopping strip’s future last week. 

On Wednesday, April 23, Councilman Jimmy Vacca made a special guest appearance at the Westchester Square Merchants Association meeting at the Owen Dolen Center.

Enjoying a light dinner, more than 40 people gathered to hear details on plans to enhance the Square and recreate its once strong economic presence in the community.

Vacca said he was pleased to see such a devoted interest in the project during the one and a half hour meeting.

“I was very encouraged by the attendance,” he said about the substantial amount of people committed to seeing the area grow.

Updating the merchants and concerned residents on his walk through the Square with Small Business Services commissioner Robert Walsh and Congressman Joseph Crowley on April 7, Vacca shared some proposals for the neighborhood.

At Vacca and Crowley’s request, the revitalization project could include rebuilding Owen Dolen Park, as well as establishing a partnership with the Huntington Free Library and the Bronx Council on the Arts to incorporate a performance space, a children’s museum, renovations to the train station and possibly a parking facility at the Square.

Westchester Square storeowner Mariela Vazquez said she fully supports and looks forward to incorporating the suggestions. “They would enhance everything in the area,” she said.

Joseph Kelleher, property manager of the Hutchinson Metro Center and president of the Bronx Chamber of Commerce, joined the elected officials on the walk and subsequently stated that the current construction of an office tower complex, as part of the Hutch Metro Center, and a proposed nearby 911 call center could attract as many as 5,000 to 6,000 new shoppers into the area.

Agreeing that the influx of residents is just want the Square needs to flourish, Vazquez said it’s first going to take a lot of cooperation and hard work from all the businesses in Westchester Square.

“Everyone has to pull together,” she said. “But it would be perfect, just what I’ve been waiting for.”

“We’re looking at attracting more stores to Westchester Square, anchor stores,” Vacca explained.

While the storeowners continue to look forward to all of the proposed changes, they’re also currently enjoying the first efforts to refurbish the area – NYC Clean Streets.

The program, dedicated to cleaning up streets, sidewalks and storefronts in underserved commercial corridors, began recently in the Westchester Square shopping district.

“The merchants are very pleased with the Clean Streets program,” Vacca said. “There’s a noticeable difference of cleanliness around the square.”

For more information or to get involved, contact the Merchants Association at (718) 597-6163 or westsqmerchants@aol.com.

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