WESTFIELD, NJ--The Westfield Zoning Board of Adjustment approved the establishment of a Kidville on 109 East Broad Street at a special meeting on Wednesday.
The business was originally deemed not in compliance with the Land Use Ordinance section 11.25A, which encourages pedestrian retail sales and personal services oriented to shopping on the ground floor and residential use on the upper floors.
Kidville is a franchised child activity center that caters to young children, primarily from one to three years old, with classes from art to dance as well as birthday parties on the weekends. Kidville also incorporates retail into all of their locations. The Westfield location will utilize front windows as display windows for the store to better fit in with the rest of the central business district that it is located in.
Richard Elbert, AIA, Esq. represented the applicant. Four witnesses testified in favor of the approval of the Kidville. The first was Rammy Harwood, the co-founding president of the franchise. Harwood started Kidville nine years ago and there are now 30 different locations internationally with local locations in Monclair, Summit, Englewood, Paramus and Hoboken. Harwood referred to Kidville as a “premium brand prominently in upper-class and affluent neighborhoods."
“A lot of local merchants love Kidville because they bring traffic in at times when traffic is low,” said Harwood.
He also added that Kidville brings in a demographic that betters central business districts--affluent consumer moms. Being that Kidville is not a daycare, there is always a guardian or caregiver of each child on the premises.
“A parent or caregiver is within a hug’s reach,” said Harwood.
Catharine Wilder, one of the franchisees of the Kidville to be opened in Westfield along with her husband Paul, also testified. Wilder first considered opening a Kidville after taking her two children to the one in her home town of Hoboken.
Wilder stated that she chose Westfield as a location because of its good school district and because it was a good place to relocate her family to. Wilder and her husband noticed friends of theirs with families relocating to Westfield, as well.
“We noticed a trend of people from Hoboken and New York City with small children moving to Westfield," she said.
The two other witnesses--Gregory Telmont, the architect of the building to be used by the Kidville, and Michael Tobia, a board planner--had both testified in front of the Westfield Zoning Board multiple times in the past and helped to plead the case of approval for the opening of Kidville.
“The positives are quite overwhelming,” said Board Chairman William Heinbokel, hearing the testimonies of the four witnesses as well as two additional testimonies of people of the public that also supported the approval.
The board approved Kidville on the basis that the backdoor be only used for deliveries, the retail front be maintained and the first floor not be used for classes.
“Like Disney World, once you get off the ride you are surrounded by retail,” said Heinbokel.