South Park Street, downtown Montclair’s widest block measuring 53 feet wide, is due for an extreme makeover. Tom Lonergan, Executive Director at Montclair BID, says “South Park Street is a sea of asphalt, with dangerous, outdated angular parking and wasted space. And it’s also the ugliest street in the business district, badly in need of repair.”
The beautifcation of South Park Street, under discussion for more than 10 years, may finally come to fruition. Local architect Erik Maran of Smith Maran has been a major force in moving this project along, meeting with council members, providing multiple renderings, drawings, and discussing their visions of what the street could become. The idea is to add greenery, create space for summer festivals, outdoor dining, and reconfigure the parking. South Park Street’s redesign is one issue the town council unanimously agrees on.
Above a photo of the street today, and a rendering of the future streetscape, courtesy of Smith Maran.

“The Council absolutely supports major improvements to Park Street with the goal of extending the “village feeling” of Church Street to South Park. Since a lot of street work was necessary anyway, it will be a very cost-effective way to make downtown Montclair an even better destination for visitors and residents,” says Mayor Jerry Fried.
“Maran has provided his expertise and services for this project pro-bono,” says Lonergan. The township has had about $150,000 in the pot for street repairs, and in October they approved another $250,000″ says Lonergan, “but costs could run way over that amount.”
Indeed, councilor Cary Africk says Maran submitted some numbers to the council, estimating the project cost would be no less than $750,000, a figure corroborated by an engineering firm engaged by the town.
In the best-case scenario, the construction would begin in the spring, but hundreds of questions are still up in the air. According to Lonergan, the consensus is that only the east sidewalk (on Leone’s side of the street) should be widened to make the block more pedestrian friendly – and the 29 parking spaces must be preserved.
Town Manager Joe Hartnett says the town will be issuing an RFP in the next few days soliciting concept plans. “Erik Maran will certainly be one of those designers submitting a proposal and would be a leading candidate based on all the work he has done to date for the BID,” says Hartnett.
Another vision Lonergan has for downtown is to highlight a pedestrian-friendly “figure 8” shopping loop in the heart of Montclair’s central business disctrict, incorporating Bloomfield, North Willow and Glenridge Avenue with the Church Street triangle. See below.
Figure eigh:t.jpg

32 replies on “Rethinking South Park Street”

  1. Looks like a good use of funds.
    Just don’t put any recycling stations in the place, ROC will protest.

  2. the rendering looks only like a brighter version of the current photograph with the addition of trees. maybe taking a better photograph will make the difference.

  3. Just to “pre answer” questions:
    Africk is in favor of the upgrade. Indeed he spent much time trying to convince the Council to fund the full amount of the project, $750,000.
    But there were other priorities, such as buying and paving a police parking lot. And doing both would have gone over our Capital budget for the year (don’t ask he we managed to do it, though, for Senior Care).
    So, we’ll have to put the rest of the money in for 2010. Assuming we can figure out how to do so.

  4. I love the angled parking. We should have more of it.
    Given the width of the street, a park-like median with trees and seating up the middle would be a nice touch, and narrowing the entrance on the Bloomfield Ave side, as the above photo seems to depict, will be a nicer touch too, and safer for pedestrians.

  5. so the fact that the capital budget will be eaten by the senior center matters not to Cary?
    Is that financial responsibility Cary?

  6. realhawker, you are not playing Space Invaders, easy on the “submit” button.
    No time to spend money, but given the fact that this is supposed to be the featured retail area of Montclair and the fact that there are a tremendous amount of vacancies, it may be something that needs to get done in order to attract more tenants and retain the tenants that are already there. Would be nice to see that block of South Park and Church Street off limits to vehicles and made into a town square with tables, benches, of course bike racks to appease the mayor, trees, etc.

  7. If Mr. Lonergan is the “Executive Director” does he direct executives? Why is he not just the “director”? That title never makes sense to me.

  8. Let me get this straight, they are planning on getting rid of parking?
    Aren’t we supposedly in dire need of parking for all the hordes of shoppers and college students that will be coming to the area?

  9. “it may be something that needs to get done in order to attract more tenants and retain the tenants that are already there.”
    Nonsense. When the economy is good, the stores are full, when the economy is bad, vacancies increase. People with less disposable income are not suddenly going to decide to spend because of brick sidewalks and sapling trees.
    repave the street, clean the sidewalks, repaint the parking lines and act responsibly in a time of fiscal distress, Cary and the rest of the council. When future tax receipts are uncertain it is NOT the time to take on more debt.

  10. ROC,
    It matters greatly to me that the budget will be eaten up by the Senior Care center.
    But I suspect people will say, “Well, we either just borrow more, or we’ll put off everything else but Senior Care” or maybe we say “We’ll buy Senior Care and just do some ’emergency’ work”
    I guess there are many possibilities. But I don’t think we should buy Senior Care, bottom line.

  11. and if we do buy the senior center then it means we definitely should not do this project. Will you support this expenditure even if the senior center is purchased?

  12. What’s it cost to fill a pothole? How about a couple of new street lights strategically placed above crosswalks?
    I think we should concentrate on making the entire township adequately safe for human occupation, then worry about beautifying the neighborhood around the Siena.

  13. I think there is a better alternative which is more cost effective:
    Just close Church St between Bloomfield and Park St (actually just to the apartment building there) and turn it into a Pedestrian Zone.
    At a loss of ~10 parking spaces and a dangerous zone for pedestrians, we would gain a tremendous space for cultural events and quality of live/shopping. Especially in the summer this scenario would be wonderful: outdoor cafe’s and restaurants, live music and easy shopping.
    Speaking of parking: Parking spaces are really abundant in that area. BTW: why is nobody using the Parking Desk on Orange Rd?

  14. yes. I second this motion. Close it to traffic and reduce the parking and drive-up/drop off convenience. This would be KEY to invigorating the businesses on the street.

  15. I think there is plenty of space for vendors right now… why do you need to close the street permanently?

  16. I think there is plenty of space for vendors right now… why do you need to close the street permanently?

  17. Question to Cary regarding the Sr Care Center:
    Is there any policy in place to limit the total debt amount as a percentage of the yearly revenue?
    Or a limit in place to constrain the debt service $ as a percentage of town budget?
    It seems strange to me that a town with a yearly budget of ~55+ mil has an outstanding debt of ~200 mil.

  18. Is there any policy in place to limit the total debt amount as a percentage of the yearly revenue? Or a limit in place to constrain the debt service $ as a percentage of town budget?
    Ha ha ha ha! Ho ho ho! Hee heee heeee ho! That’s a good one, butterfly. Boy, you sure know how to tickle the ole’ funny bone!
    (Of course there’s no policy or plan. The town is run by shopaholics.)

  19. Why don’t we make it into the red light district? That would certainly bring in the dough. Just ask Dick (Grabowsky)
    We could call that area of town “New Amsterdam”.
    It would be quaint. And the schools could be funded with MILF money.

  20. Kudos to the BID and everyone that has been helping to move this project along. This street has such great potential to place Montclair as one of the top shopping destinations in the area! Right now the street is a grossly underutilized waste of prime land. Modest but effective investment in this street now has the potential to pay residuals for a long long time when retailers start looking for space again..

  21. Ugly? It’s nicer looking than Bloomfield Avenue.
    I say get rid of it as a street and fill that one block in to create a plaza continuing the look and feel of Church Street. Make it the center of the community. Move the bandstand & C-mas tree there, and/or toss up a gazebo. Have an open market/outdoor mall area where people can buy charming crap. You could also have a hot dog/popcorn/cotton candy cart, with plenty of benches so people can eat their snacks while watching other people buy charming crap.
    Just make sure Grabowski has no part in it or the vendors may be selling dog collars, leashes, ass-less chaps, and bullets for the various Club 501 patrons.

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