This December construction will begin on the Newark Avenue Pedestrian Plaza in downtown Jersey City.
Doing away with the green paint, the nearly $4 million project will include pavers, tree plantings, rain gardens, seating, a small stage to convert the two blocks of road into a permanent pedestrian plaza.
The city first launched the pedestrian plaza by ordinance in 2015 between Grove Street and Erie Street. In May of 2018 the city implemented a pilot extension of the plaza along Newark Avenue between Barrow Street and Jersey Avenue, making it permanent later that year.
Currently, the plaza consists of a green painted street, tables and umbrellas, and planters to provide pedestrian safety.
It has loading and unloading areas for commercial vehicles for businesses along Barrow Street and Erie Street, as well as the portion of Bay Street between Erie and Newark Ave.
It has become a destination for downtown festivals and events. People often frequent the bars and restaurants along the row.
The biggest change will be raising the entire street to the same height as the sidewalk, which the city believes will make the area ADA-compliant and eliminate people tripping on the curb.
The city will replace the green painted blacktop with pavers, according to designs by Maser Consulting.
Mayor Steven Fulop said these pavers would be much larger then cobblestones so they would be easier for people who use wheelchairs as well as those who wear heels.
Improvements include a trench drain system with decorative drains, green infrastructure such as rain garden tree planters, illuminated bench seating, movable tables and seating, a small stage near the intersection of Newark Avenue and Bay Street, and other public space features like an information kiosk near Jersey and Newark avenues.
The plan will also include special retractable pedestrian safety bollards so that the area can be easily accessed by police and fire departments. Café lighting will allow the city to change the colors for various themes, such as rainbow lights for Pride Month or blue lights for Autism Awareness Month.
Neighborhood residents have voiced quality-of-life concerns, noting lack of parking, excessive noise, and an influx of inebriated people since the plaza was created.
“I think when you weigh the pros and cons on what’s changed, most people agree the benefits outweigh the negatives here,” Said Fulop, noting the city has a great working relationship with Newark Avenue businesses. The local business association cooperates with the city to help address concerns, adding that an increased police presence has helped.
“We expect growing pains,” said Fulop. “The community was apprehensive about the first block and the second block with concerns about the quality of life, but by investing more money into the plaza, giving it a better appearance, it will be a more respected and cared-for place.”
According to Fulop, construction will begin this December and be completed by spring.
He said this time period was selected in part to help mitigate the negative impacts of construction on local businesses, which will remain open during construction. He noted that the plaza attracts more people in the warmer months.