SOUTH ORANGE, NJ — The first two presentations of the new South Orange Master Plan have over 3,000 total views on the village's Facebook page.
This is the first time in 40 years South Orange is creating a Master Plan that will set the village’s agenda for the next 10 years.
“The difference between 1978 versus 2021 is quite different, and we want to make sure that we have a plan in place that can withstand the test of time, that reflects the values of our unique village,” said Village President Sheena Collum.
The project is a massive undertaking that is split into three public presentations. Tuesday night's presentation covered the land use and community form elements of the Master Plan and Wednesday’s presentation covered mobility. Tonight's presention is the final meeting, starting at 7 p.m.; it will cover the historic preservation and quality of life components to the Master Plan.
The ‘mobility element’ of Master Plan is focused on ways to decrease congestion overall in downtown South Orange. David Lustberg is a landscape architect and founder of Arterial, one of the firms that worked with South Orange on the Master Plan. He pointed out that 70% of traffic during peak hours were just cars cutting through.
“The way to shift that burden,” said Lustberg, is to “make it easier for you to get where you’re going, so you don't have to join in with that congestion.”
What that will look like for South Orange is expanding access to alternative transportation options like bicycling, walking and public transportation. This is achieved by making biking and walking safer and more enjoyable.
“South Orange is very compact, so you can essentially walk to the downtown within five or 10 minutes from almost anywhere in the village,” said Lustberg.
Some proposed ways to increase walkability and bikeability are improving street lighting, creating safer intersections and adding protected bike facilities.
“There’s a direct relationship between community form, which was discussed last night, and mobility,” Lustberg added during the Wednesday night presentation.
Improving the community form could look like updating zoning requirements, streamlining the permit process and accommodating residents of all incomes. This would include projects like the Seton Village Irvington Avenue redevelopment plan.
Optimizing land use would also increase access to South Orange’s major corridors for cyclists and pedestrians. This also means taking advantage of the natural features of the village like the Rahway River by adding bike racks and walking paths to increase traffic.
The 244-page draft of the Master Plan was completed in November and the Village is accepting questions and feedback until February 1. No date has been set for the public hearing yet, however March 1 is the earliest possible date according to Phil Abramson, whose firm Topology worked with South Orange to create the Master Plan.
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