SCOTCH PLAINS, NJ – Prior to Tuesday night’s business meeting in Scotch Plains, a professional services work session was held to discuss possible improvements to the district’s downtown businesses.
Mayor Glover and council members viewed presentations from two separate planning consultants, Burgis Associates and Wallace Roberts & Todd (WRT).
Joseph H. Burgis, who led redevelopment plans for the City of Hoboken, Summit, Newark, and the Township of Union, opened his presentation with a list of qualities that make a successful central business district (see photo).
“We emphasize the need to bring the entire community – by that I don’t only mean the Planning Board and governing body – but the citizens, the stakeholders, the owners of stores or renters of stores in the business district in an effort to get a lot of focus on what people feel is good for their central business district and what is not working,” Burgis said.
Burgis stressed the competition that local businesses have with online markets, and suggested web branding to highlight what Scotch Plains has to offer. Parking would be analyzed on a block-by-block basis, and determine whether meters would be effective.
The second proposal, from WRT, was presented by Nando Micale and Woo Kim, who introduced their national collaborative planning firm’s imaginative plan to the council.
“WRT has both national experience and local experience to bring to bear here and we’re very interested because we also, as you know, did the plan in 1996,” Micale said. “One of the things I think would be interesting to us as a firm would be to come back and think of this as an update.”
The straightforward approach from WRT heavily involves the town council’s vision as opposed to a "prescribed formula," according to Kim. Signage in downtown Scotch Plains was praised (John’s Meat Market), but with WRT improvements, there would be more continuity to uncover several businesses.
WRT pointed to improvements they’ve made in Highland Park’s streetscape that implement outdoor space and invite more pedestrian traffic.
Deputy Mayor Colleen Gialanella expressed her concerns with the previous “failed attempts with what has been labeled downtown revitalization,” and encouraged the planners to consider public discussion.
“There are resources – a lot of resources – more than our business owners and our landlords know about – that are available to people even right here in Union County,” Gialanella said. “We really need somebody who is going to come drive those conversations and make people aware of what’s available.”
Mayor Glover responded to WRT’s presentation by agreeing the town needs to catch the attention of public thoroughfare because there is “a lot of bus traffic in this town,” and “a thousand cars that come through here.”
View the presentations below: