A rendering of an upgraded Newark Avenue Pedestrian Plaza in Jersey City — Courtesy: Jersey City
By Joshua Burd
A nearly $7 million upgrade is coming to a key pedestrian plaza in downtown Jersey City, the latest in a series of streetscape improvements announced by local officials.
In a news release last week, the city said work would begin this spring on upgrades to the Newark Avenue Pedestrian Plaza, an area that was first closed to vehicles in 2015 in an effort to draw new foot traffic to local businesses. After being stretched to a second block in 2018 and then further expanded during the COVID-19 pandemic, the plaza is now slated for a $6.7 million overhaul that was approved Wednesday by the city council.
Those improvements will include granite pavers to replace the green painted asphalt and elevate the street level to match the sidewalk for a more cohesive structure and greater stroller and wheelchair accessibility, according to a news release. Plans also call for decorative trench drains that will line the existing curb, the addition of rain garden tree planters and new café lighting for improved visibility.
The city will also construct a stage area for community events.
“The creation of the Pedestrian Plaza was a risk our administration took when first elected as there was significant pushback,” Mayor Steven Fulop said last week, “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.”
The plan comes amid major investments in two of Jersey City’s other main thoroughfares. Along Central Avenue, the city will add a 400-space parking deck along with a 10,000-square-foot pedestrian plaza, promoting efforts to revitalize the commercial corridor and develop open public space for community events. The project will include curb, sidewalk and drainage improvements, along with new lighting and signage upgrades and the installation of iron benches, trash receptacles and additional tree plantings.
The city has also embarked on upgrades to West Side Avenue, including new underground sewer infrastructure to reduce pollution in local waterways and alleviate localized flooding, the news release said. On the ground level, the streetscape design will get a significant facelift stretching from Broadway to Sip Avenue with additional tree plantings and various green infrastructure installations for storm water absorption and beautification throughout the shopping district.
Future phases of the project will extend the improvements further south into Ward A.
“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. “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.”
The city council voted last week to award the Newark Avenue project to JC Contracting Inc., following a design and community input process and open bidding.
“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, a restaurant on Newark Avenue. “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.”