JERSEY CITY, NJ – When city officials first suggested closing part of Newark Avenue near Grove Street in 2015 to create a pedestrian mall, many people had serious doubts.
However, the mall was more than just a place to relax while they ate at the numerous local restaurants. It also evolved into a cultural center with a number of public events including the annual Pride Festival, arts programs, and even a space for the public to gather and shout against social injustices elsewhere in the country.
“The creation of the pedestrian zone was a risk that our administration took in their first choice as there was a significant setback. However, I think over time it has become clear to everyone that the changes we made there attracted more people and opened more businesses. and created a destination for visitors and residents, ”said Fulop.
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The pedestrian zone was closed to vehicles for the first time in 2015 to limit traffic and create a pedestrian destination. Expanded to a second block in 2018, it gained in importance and continued to grow during the COVID-19 to Grove Street between Montgomery Street and Christopher Columbus Drive and 1st Street and Newark Avenue.
The concept worked so well that the city eventually expanded the mall beyond its original limits. This week the city is considering a third major expansion in the form of a $ 6.7 million upgrade plan that Mayor Steven Fulop sent to the city council.
“This is a great move by the mayor. This is a win-win situation for everyone involved. The sooner we start, the better, ”said Rachel Sieg, managing director of HDSID (Historic Downtown Special Improvement District). “We look forward to the start of construction. With the pandemic, this will only help our local businesses. I am grateful that the mayor pushed this through so that our struggling restaurants and companies can benefit from it faster and recover. “
After a thorough drafting process that included several public meetings to include community input, the project was advertised publicly. At this week’s meeting, a resolution to award a contract to JC Contracting Inc. will be presented to the city council. The upgrades include granite paving stones replacing the green-painted asphalt and raising the street level to match the sidewalk for a more cohesive structure with better accessibility for strollers and wheelchairs. Decorative trench drains will line the existing curb, tree planters for the rain garden will be installed, and cafe lighting will be added for better visibility. A stage area will also be set up for community events.
“These are extremely challenging times for so many of us business owners and I am especially grateful to have this kind of support from the city as it will make all the difference for us,” said Kenny Caulfield, co-owner of The Ashford . “That makes us more of a travel destination. What has happened here over the past few years is breathing new life into Jersey City, and that persistence will take us to a new level as a sought-after travel destination as businesses attract more businesses. “
The Newark Avenue Pedestrian Plaza upgrade follows two more significant investments in major Jersey City streets on Central Avenue and West Side Avenue. The community-run project to improve Central Avenue includes a parking deck with 400 parking spaces and a 10,000-square-foot pedestrian mall that encourages efforts to revitalize the business corridor, including additional lighting, improved drainage and the installation of benches, and the development of an open one Public space for community events.
The West Side Avenue improvement project includes new underground canal infrastructure to reduce pollution of local waterways and reduce local flooding. On the ground floor, the streetscape from Broadway to Sip Avenue will be significantly redesigned with additional tree planting and various green infrastructure installations for the absorption and beautification of rainwater in the entire shopping district. Future phases of the project will extend the improvements further south to Ward A.
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