SCOTCH PLAINS, NJ – Residents who attended the Scotch Plains Downtown Redevelopment Committee (SPDRC) meeting on Wednesday night got a peak into what the future of the township will look like… and it looks a lot like Princeton.
Tom Strowe, the Township’s Project Coordinator for Redevelopment, presented findings of the recent survey on architectural styles. More than 2,100 residents and business owners took part in the survey, and the most popular style was Colonial.
Paulette Coronato, a member of the SPDRC, led a presentation on a recent visit to Princeton that she and other committee members made, along with Mayor Smith, Township Manager Al Mirabella, and Tom Strowe. Her assessment was that downtown Princeton’s architectural style is a good one for Scotch Plains to emulate.
In order to begin creating a Colonial style for downtown, the Municipal Building and first responders will eventually have to move to another location, likely someplace on the north side of town.
Mayor Smith said that the study will be presented at the next Township Council meeting on Tuesday, July 24.
“We need to move the public functions out of downtown,” Mayor Smith said.
An important part of the mix for the redeveloped downtown will be a Public Arts component that may include murals and public sculptures. State law mandates that when a developer comes in, every new building has to put 1 percent aside for public art. The town develops what goes into place, and it is funded by the private sector.
Mrs. Coronato’s presentation included photographs of buildings and parking garages in Princeton.
“Everything will be revitalized, and we have the opportunity to do it,” Mrs. Coronato said. “All the utility line will be underground. We will put lots of emphasis on brick and other materials that last a long time. We are working with a landscape architect on design standards and streetscape requirements.”
“You will see a Colonial design in which most buildings have three stories,” added Mayor Smith. “The modern looking buildings will fit into the design. There will be setbacks on six-story buildings. We will have to figure out parking first. You can’t go higher without having places for people to park.”
“This is the furthest this town has ever gone,” said Mrs. Coronato. This will happen. Harbor Associates (an urban planning firm) has been working under pressure. Mayor Smith has given them deadlines, and they’ve been met. It takes time to work out details. Hopefully, by August 1st, we’ll be ready to go.”
“We don’t want to make a mistake. It’s the furthest we’ve ever gotten,” she added.
Mayor Smith called the plan “bold.”
“Hopefully, you’ll see the plan and say, ‘Ah, this is where we are going’.”
Dan Sullivan, a long-time member of the Scotch Plains Rescue Squad, was more skeptical.
“Let’s have it go to fruition. I believe we won’t see it in my lifetime. Let’s see shovels in the ground,” Sullivan said. “We’ve been talking about this for years.”
Mrs. Coronato responded that although the redevelopment plan will take many years to implement, she is confident things will be different this time around.
“Seeing studies over the years, they were done and dropped. Either people couldn’t agree or the financials weren’t in order," she explained. “I’ve never been this hopeful.”