The Newark Avenue Pedestrian Plaza, in Downtown Jersey City, will undergo a major overhaul now that the city council adopted a resolution approving a nearly $6.7 million construction contract.
The pedestrian mall was first closed to vehicles in 2015 as an experiment to limit traffic and create a pedestrian destination, according to the city.
It was then expanded to a second block in 2018 and further expanded in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic to include portions of Grove Street between Montgomery Street and Christopher Columbus Drive as well as First Street and Newark Avenue.
“The creation of the Pedestrian Plaza was a risk our administration took when first elected as there was significant pushback, but I think over time it has become clear to everyone that the changes we made there have attracted more people, allowed more businesses to open, and created a destination spot for visitors and residents,” Mayor Steven Fulop said.
An upgraded look
Following a design process that included public meetings to incorporate community input, the project was opened public bid and awarded to JC Contracting Inc. in the amount of $6.69 million, in a 7-1 vote.
The plaza, which currently consists of a green painted asphalt street bordered by large planters on either end to block traffic, will be raised and upgraded.
The upgrades include granite pavers, which will not only replace the green painted asphalt but elevate the street level to match the existing sidewalk height in order to provide better wheelchair and stroller accessibility and present a more cohesive structure.
To help with drainage during rains, decorative trench drains will line the existing curb, and garden tree planters will be installed.
Additions will include café lighting for improved visibility and a stage area for community events.
“These are extremely challenging times for so many of us business owners, and so I’m especially grateful to have this type of support from the city because this is what is going to make the difference for us,” said Kenny Caulfield, co-owner of The Ashford on the plaza. “This makes us more of a destination. What has happened over the past few years here is breathing new life into Jersey City, and this permanency will bring us to a new level as a sought-after destination, with businesses attracting more businesses.”
“This is a great move on the Mayor’s part. This is a win-win for all involved, and the quicker we start, the better,” said Rachel Sieg, executive director of the Historic Downtown Special Improvement District that includes the plaza. “We’re looking forward to construction start; with the pandemic this is only going to help our local businesses. I’m thankful that the Mayor pushed this through so that our struggling restaurants and businesses can benefit and recover more quickly.”
Other avenue improvements
The upgrades to the plaza come after improvements to two other city streets: Central Avenue and West Side Avenue.
In August, the council unanimously adopted a resolution awarding a nearly $4 million contract to Cifelli & Son Construction, Inc., for the Central Avenue Streetscape & Roadway Improvement Project.
The project includes a 400-spot parking deck and a 10,000-square-foot pedestrian plaza. It aims to help revitalize the commercial corridor and develop open public space for community events.
This project will include curb ramp reconstruction at all corners, curb extensions, ADA compliant ramps, new sidewalks, new lighting, drainage improvements, and signage upgrades. Iron benches, trash receptacles, and additional tree plantings are also included.
According to the city, the West Side Avenue improvement project includes new underground sewer infrastructure to reduce pollution in local waterways and alleviate local flooding.
The streetscape design will get a facelift from Broadway to Sip Avenue with additional tree plantings and various green infrastructure installations for stormwater absorption and beautification throughout the shopping district.
Future phases will extend the improvements south into Ward A, according to the city.
Construction on the new permanent upgrades to the Newark Avenue Pedestrian Plaza is scheduled to begin this April.
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