NEW PROVIDENCE, NJ – At just under 40 acres consisting of a few blocks around the intersection of Springfield Avenue and South Street, the downtown commercial district has been a hot topic of conversation for at least two decades.

Attempting to unravel some of the existing problems, the town’s Planning Board is inviting public participation to discuss a draft concept plan that includes parking, zoning, design, open space and economic development initiatives.

The public meeting will take place at Borough Hall on Tuesday, June 2 at 8 p.m.

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According to the draft, which is available on the borough’s website, the purpose of the plan is to develop a vision for the downtown area and to present strategies and recommendations for energizing and improving the downtown.

The concept plan lays out a blueprint to attract new downtown economic investment, foster a lively environment, improve aesthetic values and address current and future parking needs.

One of the key recommendations would increase parking by 325 spaces using existing space on streets to add more parallel parking, merging existing parking lots to streamline circulation and developing a strategy for collectively managing parking throughout the entire downtown area. Existing parking spaces total about 1,300.

The shortage of adequate peaking has long been a thorn in the borough’s side. Both the former and current owners of the Village Shopping Center posted short-lived signs in the lot restricting parking to customers only.

Another key recommendation proposes new pedestrian and bicycle pathways, fewer curb cuts and a simplified vehicular circulation pattern. The objective is to create a more pedestrian-friendly environment forging connections to the surrounding residential areas, while reducing traffic conflicts between vehicles and pedestrians.

Although there are no vacant or completely unused sites in the downtown area, there are a member of underutilized sites identified in the concept plan and offer the potential for more appropriate development to serve the community and attract new economic development.

Planners also envision the necessity for revisions to the borough’s zoning ordinance to ensure that the types of development desired and anticipated by the proposed plan are not discouraged.

Recommended zoning revisions include a change to the parking standards for use in the downtown and changes to the permitted uses in the Central Commercial District.