New look for Broad St. in the making


Photos by James Ribaudo/ A planning consultant outlines the route of the proposed Broad St. streetscape project.


Visitors to a township open house check out renderings of the plan.


By Ron Leir

Coming soon to a shopping district on Broad St. in Bloomfield … it’s the North Center Streetscape project.
The township plans to spruce up part of its downtown retail corridor, stretching nearly three blocks, from the intersection of Pitt and Jones Sts. to Hoover Ave., encompassing a municipal parking lot on Pitt St. and about 40 shops.
Township Administrator Yoshi Manale said this section was picked for the improvements because, “it’s an area that’s grown organically, with store owners putting money into new facades and the owners felt a further investment by the township could help make it an even better place for residents and visitors to shop and eat.”
Manale said the township plans to spend $250,000 in local capital funds, supplemented by up to $100,000 in a discretionary grant from the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey to pay for design and engineering costs.
On Oct. 19 township residents were invited to an open house at the Bloomfield Public Library on Broad St. to get a preview of coming attractions from the planning consultants, Arterial Streets of Montclair.
Arterial has previously designed streetscape improvements along Broad St. in Newark, including the Broad St. Station Plaza and Penn Station exterior circulation improvements, Somerset County Regional Center Greenway, and Connecticut Convention Center Plaza & Streetscape.
Arterial Streets associate James Ribaudo explains some facets of the planned improvements, such as “corner and mid-block bump-outs,” curbside indentations that provide room for things like planters, benches and bicycle racks.
Asked about the proposed bike stands, Ribaudo says that members of the consulting team assigned to the streetscape project spotted “more than 50” bicyclists riding up and down that stretch of Broad St., some with baskets attached, going to and from the various shops.
And so, given the presence of 2-wheel traffic flow, another proposal is for “sharrows,” shared-lane markers designating a separate curbside lane for bicycles and an outer lane reserved for 4-wheel vehicles.
Installation of these lane markings, however, would require prior approval from Essex County since Broad St. is a county roadway, Ribaudo notes.
Then there’s the concept of “parklets”— mini-parks created by replacing several parallel parking spaces with space reserved for a patio, café tables and chairs, planters, trees, benches, sometimes decorated with artwork and/or sculptures.
San Francisco has made extensive use of this concept, with success, according to Ribaudo.
Ribaudo says these parklets would be designed as “temporary” setups keyed to seasonal use.
Because they’d likely be positioned in front of retail establishments, “we’d have to work out who pays for them,” Ribaudo says.
There has been some concern voiced by community members about the loss of parking spaces from implementation of the parklets and that would be taken under advisement, Manale said.
Folks who came to the open house were asked for their feedback on the project and one – Broad St. resident Geoff Gove – had a suggestion that the planners incorporate free short-term parking spaces at the U.S. Postal Annex just north of Baldwin St.
Resident Elizabeth Walsh said she was “excited” about the streetscape plan because “there’s a lot of potential not only to improve the quality of life for people living here but also to show people visiting that Bloomfield isn’t what they think it is.”
Walsh’s husband, Brian Nolan, agreed, adding that, “We plan to live here a long time and these improvements should make it even more likeable.”
The township hopes to begin work in spring 2012 and complete the job in several months and, if it’s deemed a benefit to the neighborhood, Bloomfield would likely look to expand the program, Manale said.
Meanwhile, the public has been treated to a mostly completed improvement geared to younger residents by the Bloomfield Board of Education with the Foley Field project: demolition of old bleachers; removal and remediation of contaminated soil; and installation of a new 8-lane, artificial turf track and field complex that allows the school district to host track and field events for the first time in a quarter century.
Bloomfield voters cleared the way for the project by approving a referendum authorizing the spending of $2,914,160 for the improvements this past April. Work began in June and is now done, except for a new “punch list,” items such as repainting lines on the track and evening out field gates, according to Michael Derderian, the district’s school business administrator.

Photo by Ron Leir/ A view of the new, improved Foley Field athletic complex.

Biggest of the change orders, approved by the school board on Oct. 4, was $69,523 for a new perimeter walkway. Derderian said that when the contractor pulled out old fencing bordering the walkway, workers had to extract footings for that fencing embedded under the walkway concrete and that, in turn, ripped up the concrete.
Other unanticipated work, Derderian said, included digging out deep footings for the old bleachers; drilling into bedrock to install sports lighting poles; installing an extra telephone pole on the berm between Foley and Memorial Fields to protect a future concession stand from power lines; installing a new steel scoreboard and supplying power to it; replacing topsoil with stone for the temporary bleachers site; restaking the north parking lot; installing additional field gates to ensure quicker egress; additional paving over heavy mud at the field’s south end to expand service road; and placing additional stone at the south end to mitigate heavy mud and/or soft soil conditions.
Still, despite nearly $188,000 in contract change orders approved, the project has come in close to the original budget projection, Derderian said.
The final portion of the project will be installation of new bleachers, concession stand and bathrooms, which, according to Derderian, will be done by the township with the aid of $750,000 in state Green Acres funding. The township will be responsible for maintaining those facilities under a newly signed 25-year lease agreement with the district, Derderian said.

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