Planners show new vision for Main Street

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  • PHOTOS BY DIANA GOOVAERTSThe proposed areas for redevelopment/housing are shown in orange blocks.

  • A representation of what the homes would look lilke is displayed.

Planners from the New Jersey Department of Community Affairs presented a new vision for Main Street as a revitalized residential hub rather than a commercial center.

That was the picture painted Tuesday night by Robert Tessier, a state project specialist who was enlisted to review and make recommendations for the Main Street corridor as part of a grant. Tessier told the Council theborough stands the best chance of rehabilitating Main Street by taking a “tactical urbanism” approach that focuses spending on projects in a very narrow area.

According to Tessier's analysis, the best targets for redevelopment on Main Street include the top portion of the old zinc mine property and a chunk of borough-owned property across the street. Rather than aiming to attract new businesses to the area, though, Tessier said the Borough should look to attract upscale multi-story residential apartment buildings to those two properties. Tessier indicated the residential bent stems from a lack of pent up demand for more retail establishments in the area. Existing demand within a five-mile radius can already be absorbed by vacant properties along the Route 23 corridor, he said.

The state's plan calls for residential units on both sides of Main Street as well as the creation of a park on a nearby corner. The Borough would first need to rezone the properties on either side of Main Street, but Tessier also recommended the municipality undertake streetscaping improvements — such as the installation of new trees, benches, and sidewalks – and enhance police presence in the area to help attract developers and new residents.

Tessier indicated even boosting this small portion of Main Street could break the cycle of inactivity and jumpstart revitalization of the whole street.

All told, Tessier said the Borough's investment would total around $150,000, including an estimated $44,000 for a security camera system and increased police patrols, $26,000 for the installation of the park, and $37,000 for streetscaping changes.

“To do something on Main street, you have to reach into your pocket,” Tessier said. “You can't really have a miracle without putting some sweat in...[but] if the council has the will to do it, I think you can accomplish this.”

Outside of its own improvements, Tessier noted the Borough could work with the owners of the theater and former Easter Seals buildings on Main Street to try to attract tenants and events. The Borough could also seek out a mural program to spruce up the buildings' exteriors.

Mayor Nicholas Giordano said the council would refer the state's proposal to the Borough Planning Board.

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