Dear Editor:

On September 12, 2018, the Scotch Plains Downtown Redevelopment Committee (SPDRC), which contains residents, downtown business, and downtown property owners, unanimously endorsed the Tier 1, Phase 1 downtown redevelopment plan and recommended it for Township Council approval.

For the first time in 33 years, we now have a downtown redevelopment plan that will make our downtown more vibrant and provide for and encourage a mix of commercial, residential, and recreational uses that will promote economic development to stabilize property taxes, create new jobs, and growth opportunities that will benefit the entire Scotch Plains community.

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The downtown redevelopment plan endorsed by the SPDRC is for the municipally-owned, public properties. Based on the concept sketches featured in the plan, the potential impact of the public properties build-out plan includes:

  • 48,048 Square Feet of New Commercial (Retail and Office) Space
  • 1,424 Parking Spaces
  • 177 Total Housing Units, of which 35 will be deemed Affordable Units

Anyone who wishes to learn more about the plan can visit: https://www.scotchplainsnj.gov/departments/downtown-redevelopment-committee/tier-1-phase-1-redevelopment-plan/

The large number of parking spaces provided in the plan will replace existing spaces, allow for growth of new commercial and residential needs on public properties and develop additional spaces to allow private property owners, if they wish, to develop their properties for new mixed-use commercial and residential opportunities, continuing the public-private partnership for parking that currently exists.

The additional housing units contribute to meet our affordable housing requirement, which mandates a 20 units per acre density, of which 20 percent of the housing units must be deemed affordable. In addition, the housing units will help provide the critical mass of people to keep our downtown businesses successful.

Some are concerned about permitting five and six story buildings. I understand these concerns, but the Courts are forcing us to consider five and six story buildings to comply with the Court-mandate of a 20 units per acre density. However, the good news is, by building-up and not building-out, we can preserve precious open space for our community to enjoy in our downtown for our Farmers’ Market, Scotch Plains Day, and other activities.   

Additionally, our Township Planners have mitigated height concerns by requiring all floors above three stories to be set-back by 10 feet, a technique that has been used very effectively in Princeton and other towns to minimize the impact of 5 and 6 story buildings. Permitting these heights in our downtown instead of other areas will also protect our residential neighborhoods from over-development.

This is an excellent plan that outlines standards and guidelines for architecture, permitted uses, signage, parking, streetscape, infrastructure, traffic circulation, and public arts, while making efforts to maintain our character and history.    

This plan gives the Township Council full negotiating power with developers to best develop our public properties. We expect many proposals to come forward through a design competition among developers to finalize an outstanding plan.

I’d like to thank all the residents, business, and property owners who helped write this plan. This has, and will continue to be, a public-driven process, and I strongly encourage my Township Council colleagues to endorse the plan on September 25, 2018 and issue a Request for Proposal (RFP) to developers to keep the momentum going.

It’s really happening!

Mayor Al Smith
Scotch Plains