SUMMIT, NJ - The Suburban Chamber of Commerce monthly First Friday networking breakfast featured a Mayors' Roundtable at the Grand Summit Hotel last Friday. Summit Mayor Nora Radest and New Providence Mayor Al Morgan were in attendance and shared their review of the state of their towns to the room full of chamber members.
Mayor Morgan highlighted the opening of Lantern Hill, the Erickson senior living community on Mountain Avenue, as a "big happening" for New Providence. "It is a fantastic place. Very active and they are doing great things for our local economy," said Morgan. When asked about the expansion of Lantern Hill to the adjacent BOC property, Morgan said they are in negotiations. However, BOC may have other plans for the property. Morgan is in favor of Lantern Hill expanding to this property because the growth would not have an impact on the schools or infrastructure.
Morgan also said the opening of the newly constructed Berkeley Aquatic Center on Central Avenue has brought many new people to the borough.
Morgan explained that the business community works together with the local government and residents in "making New Providence prosper." Adding, "we try to do things within the community to bring people downtown." New this year, the business community sponsored a successful scarecrow contest, garnering 2,000 votes. In addition, residents were drawn to the Hometown Hero banners that lined the streets throughout downtown.
He applauded the Diversity Committee for their full calendar of events and the Sustainability Committee and the work of local Eagle Scouts who successfully facilitated the new Community Garden. He also mentioned the upgrades to the recreation fields with the completion of Lincoln Field and the ongoing progress of Oakwood Park renovations that includes the new turf field and skating rink.
When asked about Affordable Housing in New Providence, Morgan confirmed that New Providence settled their lawsuit a few months ago, which was settled at 113 affordable units. "We came up with the best solution possible," said Morgan. With very little space available to build, he said that they are considering a space close to the industrial area which would be transit centric and school centric -- but no plans are confirmed.
Mayor Radest, who just completed her first year as mayor, was proud to announce that Summit's Affordable Housing plan was recently unanimously approved. "We are pleased that we settled our lawwsuit that we were involved in and we have a plan that will require us to do our best effort to build 50 affordable housing units over the next 10 years throughout the city," said Radest.
She also advised the room that the town had spent time working on a master plan re-examine. " We had seven subcommittees with 70 to 80 people that met multiple times," said Radest. "We had two city wide open-to-the-public meetings with hundreds of people attending them." Two surveys were circulated to the community through online distribution and in the paper. "We launched an app called Co-Organize that allowed our planners to place questions and people could go and respond and we received hundreds of responses."
From the result of this community input, the main theme of feedback asked for an increase of residential opportunities in the downtown area, said Radest. "There will be redevelopment over the next several years for mixed-use opportunities that will include parking," she added. The area targeted will be along the Broad Street corridor.
The City implemented an Uber pilot program to aid in the commuter parking issues within the city -- allowing more people to park in town to shop or do business. The pilot includes 100 parking spots, where people with parking permits could opt to participate in the Uber program and leave their car home and use Uber to drive them to and from the train station for $4 per day, which would free up 100 parking spaces. There currently are 30 people on the wait list.
Radest announced the hiring of Maplewood resident Nancy Adams as the new Director of Summit Downtown Inc.
Both Mayors showed appreciation to the people and volunteers of their towns -- encouraging everyone to get involved.
Berkeley Heights Mayor Bob Woodruff had a conflict in attending Friday's meeting and is scheduled to speak at an upcoming Chamber meeting in Berkeley Heights.
The Suburban Chamber of Commerce meets monthly for their First Friday breakfast meetings at the Grand Summit Hotel and the Wine Down Wednesday events hosted by Chamber members, as well as the monthly Berkeley Heights networking meetings. To learn more about the Suburban Chamber of Commerce, visit their website for their scheduled events and gift certificate program to keep it local and support the participating businesses.
~ A vibrant business district builds stronger communities.