David Lustberg from the Montclair-based urban design firm, Arterial, made a presentation to the township council at Monday's meeting on the status of upgrades proposed for this summer in the North Center business district.
To bring attendees at the meeting up to speed, Lustberg noted that the first phase of design started in August with new light fixtures that were installed in the commercial district, followed by an outreach project at the Bloomfield Public Library in October that introduced design concepts to members of the community.
Shwoing the council a map of the business district, Lustberg said the area to be upgraded is along Broad Street starting at James Street and extending north to Brookside Park.
Improvements in Phase 1 are focused on intersections, he said, meaning gateways, crosswalks and “bump-outs” that calm traffic patterns, and more orderly signage along the street and parking areas. Aesthetically pleasing “furniture” such as park benches, trash receptacles and bike racks will be added, aong with temporary sidewalk extensions that allow for an improved pedestrian experience.
As part of the planned renovations, the Pitt Street parking lot will also be improved.
Lustberg stressed that the sidewalk extensions, called “parklets,” are an effective and inexpensive way for merchants and restaurant owners to utilize the space outside their stores, particularly to encourage outdoor dining. The parklets will extend the narrow, 6’ wide sidewalks to about 12 feet in width, "which is ideal", he said.
Most council members seemed to respond favorably to Lustberg's presentaion, though Councilman Bernard Hamilton questioned the safety of having outdoor dining in such close proximity to the street.
Township Administrator Yoshe Manale responded that, as a safety measure, the idea of “temporary barriers” were being discussed with the township engineer.
Lustberg concluded, “The budget that was allocated for Phase 1 was $350,000. Optimistically we’re targeting summer 2012 for these improvements.” He added that he was working to achieve the highest cost benefit and impact to make sure the township gets “the best bang for buck.”