Fanwood development could offer teen-oriented retail

by Allison Caramico
Downtown Fanwood offers plenty of choices for takeout food and mani-pedis, but with downtown Westfield and three malls so close, few students see it as a place to hang out or shop. However, recent development could make Fanwood a more popular destination.
Fanwood Crossing, a mixed-use building on the corner of South and Martine avenues, across from the Fanwood train station, is currently under construction and should be complete by summer.
This four-story, Victorian-style building will consist of retail space on the first floor and apartments on the second and third stories. David Checchio, of Elite Properties, the company developing the site, said that both small businesses and national franchises have expressed interest in the retail space.
Students already have ideas about the kind of businesses the new building should host. “[I would like to see] trendy clothing stores, like the ones in Westfield, and a Panera Bread,” said junior Nasim Dariani. Many other students shared the desire to see downtown
transformed into a place similar to Westfield with the addition of clothing stores or popular restaurants.
“I would love Fanwood to look like downtown Westfield, with all the cool shops and restaurants, minus the Westfield kids,” said
Megan Voorhees.
However, local leaders have a different perspective on the town and the development. “We are not in competition with Westfield and that shouldn’t be our objective,” said Colleen Mahr, mayor of Fanwood. “Westfield has done a fantastic job in nurturing a vibrant downtown, but we are a much smaller town. Our goal was to develop a downtown that fits Fanwood. Good retailers will draw people from other communities.”
While a main goal of the development is to increase business, Jeannie DeJesso, owner of Double Dipper, an ice-cream parlor on the same Martine Ave. block as the new building, believes that there still is not enough foot traffic for all of the town’s stores to stay in business.
Mahr hopes to see a “spill-over effect,” meaning that local stores and restaurants will benefit from the new customers that the redevelopments will attract.
The redevelopment, which began six years ago, includes the addition of Flannery’s Irish Pub and a Dunkin’ Donuts remodel. Mahr said that the development plan is intended to make the town more “vibrant.”