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A Vision for Revitalizing the French Street Commercial Corridor

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APA-NJ CPAP was invited to New Brunswick by the Esperanza Neighborhood Project and New Brunswick Tomorrow to create a vision plan to enhance the French Street commercial corridor using input and recommendations from community residents, businesses, and shoppers.

The French Streets corridor is located in the heart of New Brunswick near Rutgers University and the Robert Wood Johnson Hospital/University Complex, the train station and other downtown offices. The corridor is about half a mile long and contains mostly small retail businesses that serve a mostly local customer base. The neighborhood has a rich Hispanic/Latin culture and many of the businesses there cater to that market.

The key goals for revitalizing French Street were:

• Beautify and improve Crime,
• Improve pedestrian safety and vehicle flow,
• Improve and create public spaces,
• Reduce crime and loitering, and
• Attract shoppers to the businesses along French Street.

The team conducted a community driven SWOT analysis for the area and extensive outreach and data collection to develop an ambitious set of strategies and recommendations for reaching the goals.

The CPAP Team:

Dan Bloch, Maser Consulting PA
Mike Cassidy, NJCDC, Team Leader
John Duda, MKW Associates
Joe Herbert, Sailfast Development
Jessica Schellack, PANY&NJ
Matt Sprung, Sprung Planning Company
Xunjing Wu, AECOM

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A Vision for Revitalizing the French Street Commercial Corridor

  1. 1. !  A  Vision  for  Revitalizing  the     French  Street  Commercial  Corridor   Prepared  for  the  Esperanza  Neighborhood  Project  &  New  Brunswick  Tomorrow   2015  APA-­‐NJ  Community  Planning  Assistance  Program   FR ENCH STR EET FR ENCH STR EET
  2. 2. Report  Outline   !  Overview  of  Community  Planning  Assistance  Program  (CPAP)   !  Team  of  Volunteers  –  Who  We  Are   !  ObjecNve   !  Process   !  Key  Goals  from  CPAP  ApplicaNon   !  Project  Area  and  ExisNng  Land  Uses   !  Planning  Context   !  ExisNng  Land  Uses   !  ObservaNons  from  Field  Walk   !  SWOT  Analysis  (Strengths,  Weaknesses,  OpportuniNes  and  Threats)   !  Public  Input   !  Strategies   !  Next  Steps   !  Streetscape  Treatment  Techniques  
  3. 3. CPAP  Program  Overview   !  The  Community  Planning  Assistance  Program  (CPAP)  is  an  iniNaNve   to  provide  pro  bono  planning  services  to  community  organizaNons   and  municipaliNes.   !  Each  year  community  organizaNons  and  municipaliNes  are  invited  to   submit  proposals  for  consideraNon  by  the  CPAP  SelecNon   CommiZee.   !  If  chosen,  a  team  of  volunteer  professionals  is  assigned  to  the   Project.   !  The  French  Street  Commercial  Corridor  proposal  as  prepared  by  the   Esperanza  Neighborhood  Project  was  selected  to  be  a  2015  CPAP   Project.    
  4. 4. Team  of  Volunteers  -­‐  Who  We  Are   !  Our  team  of  volunteer  professionals  includes  individuals  with  experNse  in  planning,   development,  landscape  architecture,  traffic  circulaNon,  pedestrian  safety  and   public  space:   !  Dan  Bloch,  Maser  ConsulNng  PA   !  Mike  Cassidy,  NJCDC   !  John  Duda,  MKW  Associates   !  Joe  Herbert,  Sailfast  Development   !  Jessica  Schellack,  Port  Authority  of  NY  &  NJ   !  MaZ  Sprung,  Sprung  Planning  Company   !  Xunjing  Wu,  AECOM     !  Our  role  is  to  idenNfy  planning  techniques  in  support  of  the  goals  idenNfied  by  the   Resident  Leadership  Team  and  NBT/Esperanza  Project  for  the  French  Street   Commercial  Corridor.  
  5. 5. Objective   !  To  create  a  vision  plan  to  enhance  the  French   Street  commercial  corridor  using  input  and   recommendaNons  from  community  residents,   businesses  and  shoppers.      
  6. 6. Process   !  Review  Key  Goals  from  CPAP  applicaNon  and  recommendaNons  from  the  Resident   Leadership  Team   !  Perform  Field  Walk  to  assess  ExisNng  CondiNons   !  IdenNfy  Land  Uses  and  Planning  Context  related  to  city  and  broader  region     !  Review  Relevant  Planning  Documents   !  Conduct  SWOT  Analysis   !  Facilitate  Public  Input  MeeNng     !  Revisit  and  Refine  Key  Goals   !  Develop  Planning  Strategies  to  address  Key  Goals     !  Present  Findings  and  Final  Report  
  7. 7. Key  Goals  from  CPAP  Application   !  The  Esperanza  Neighborhood  Project  idenNfied  the  following  key   goals  in  the  CPAP  ApplicaNon1  for  revitalizing  French  Street:   !  BeauNfy  and  Improve  Cleanliness   !  Improve  Pedestrian  Safety  and  Vehicle  Traffic  Flow   !  Improve  and  Create  Public  Spaces  (War  Monument/Triangle   Park)   !  Reduce  Crime  and  Loitering   !  AZract  Shoppers  to  the  Businesses  along  French  Street   !  The  above  goals  are  consistent  with  recommendaNons  of   Esperanza’s  ResidenNal  Leadership  Team2         1  Appendix  A:  2015  CPAP  ApplicaNon  prepared  by  Esperanza  Neighborhood   2  Appendix  B:  RecommendaNons  of  Esperanza  ResidenNal  Leadership  Team    
  8. 8. Project  Area  
  9. 9. Existing  Land  Uses   !  French  Street  commercial  corridor  is  approximately  0.5  mile  length  between   Bayard  Street  and  Sanford  Street.   !  Heart  of  corridor  is  between  Bayard  Street  and  Bethany  Street  (War   Monument/Triangle  Park)   !  Predominantly  mixed  use  including  1st  floor  commercial/retail  businesses   with  2nd  floor  residences   !  Majority  of  commercial/retail  businesses  are  service  businesses  including   Restaurants,  Grocers,  Pharmacies,  Laundromats,  Beauty  Salons,  Bars,  and   Financial  Services  serving  the  nearby  neighborhood.   !  Retail  uses  account  for  approximately  25  percent  of  the  businesses  along   French  Street,  including  Clothing,  Electronics,  Jewelry,  General/Discount   Stores,  and  other  Specialty  Shops.   !  French  Street  is  located  within  walking  distance  to  Robert  Wood  Johnson   Hospital/University,  New  Brunswick  Train  StaNon,  Rutgers  University   Downtown  Campus,  and  other  downtown  offices.  
  10. 10. Planning  Context  -­‐  1     Down-­‐ town  
  11. 11. Planning  Context  -­‐  2   !  George  Street  and  Easton  Avenue  compete  with  French  Street  to  aZract   shoppers  and  clientele.   !  The  rich  Hispanic/LaNn  culture  surrounding  French  Street  offers  a  unique   markeNng  and  branding  opportunity   !  Fundamental  conflict  between  use  as  commercial  corridor  serving   neighborhood  residents  and  cut-­‐through  for  commuters.   !  New  Brunswick  Master  recognizes  exisNng  parking  problems  along  French   Street  and  a  need  for  more  neighborhood  oriented  shopping.    The  Master   Plan  also  recommends  designaNng  a  Special  Improvement  District  (SID)  to   improve  economic  vitality  along  the  French  Street  corridor.   !  French  Street  is  designated  as  the  Neighborhood  Commercial  District.    The   Master  Plan  emphasis  pedestrian-­‐scale  and  pedestrian  friendly  design  as  well   as  neighborhood  commercial  oriented  façade  and  signage  standards.  
  12. 12. Observations  from  Field  Walk   !  Near  Robert  Wood  Johnson  Hospital  and  other  Medical   Buildings   !  Middlesex  County  Parking  Lot  on  Bayard  Street   !  Many  bars  and  liquor  stores   !  Garbage  receptacles  are  full  and  bags  are  piled  directly  on   the  sidewalk  during  peak  weekend  hours   !  IntersecNons  along  French  Street  are  staggered,  which   adds  to  congesNon  and  safety  concerns   !  No  public  art  or  murals  along  French  Street   3  Appendix  C:  Complete  List  of  Field  ObservaNons      
  13. 13. Observations  from  Field  Walk  (cont’d)   !  Lack  of  ADA  Accessible  Curb  Ramps   !  Crosswalks  are  faded  and  difficult  to  see   !  On-­‐street  parking  is  metered   !  War  Monument  Park  is  referred  by  some  locals  as  Oaxaca   Park   !  War  Monument  Park  is  only  green  space  along  French   Street   !  Day  Laborers  linger  at  Park   !  Many  restaurants  do  not  have  English  speaking  staff   !  Public  drinking  and  disrupNons  from  bars  ojen  spillover  to   Park  
  14. 14. SWOT  Analysis   !  The  SWOT  Analysis  describes  strengths,   weaknesses,  opportuniNes  and  threats  related  to   French  Street’s  vitality  as  a  commercial  corridor.   !  Strengths  and  weaknesses  pertain  to  internal   characterisNcs  of  French  Street.   !  OpportuniNes  and  threats  relate  to  external  factors   (i.e.  University  and  other  commercial  corridors)  
  15. 15. Strengths  (Internal)   !  Rich  Hispanic  and  LaNno  culture   !  Concise  walkable  corridor  (0.5  mile  between  Bayard  and  Sanford  Street)   !  Diverse  group  of  businesses  including  restaurants,  retailers  and  personal  service  shops  serving   the  local  community   !  Urban  Enterprise  Zone   !  CombinaNon  of  on-­‐  and  off-­‐street  parking   !  Situated  on  major  transportaNon  route  and  highly  visible   !  Open  space  at  War  Monument  Park   !  Certain  businesses  aZract  clientele  from  outside  of  the  neighborhood   !  Kim’s  Bike  Shop   !  Somewhere  In  Time     !  Cinco  de  Mayo  Restaurant     !  Costa  Chica  Restaurant   !  Low  vacancy  rates  for  commercial  spaces   !  Cinco  de  Mayo  FesNval  
  16. 16. Weaknesses  (Internal)   !  Loitering  and  Drinking:   "  Bar  and  liquor  store  at  intersecNon  of  Harvey  and  French  St   "  AcNvity  at  bar  near  Handy  and  French  St  spills  over  to  War  Monument  Park   !  Day  Laborers  linger  at  War  Monument  Park  which  discourages  use  of  park   !  Women  express  feeling  uncomfortable  when  walking  by  large  groups  of  men   !  Staggered  intersecNons  and  signal  Nming  adds  to  safety  concerns  for  pedestrians  and   potenNal  for  pedestrian/vehicle  accidents   !  Crosswalks  stripes  are  faded  and  handicap  ramps  do  not  appear  to  be  ADA  compliant   !  Garbage  accumulates  on  sidewalk   !  Infrequent  cleaning  of  sidewalks  and  streets   !  Lack  of  shade  trees  and  street  furniture   !  Many  restaurants  and  businesses  lack  bi-­‐lingual  staff  and  menus   !  Underdeveloped  brand  
  17. 17. Opportunities  (External)   !  Proximity  to  Robert  Wood  Johnson  Hospital:   "  PotenNal  to  aZract  employees  to  restaurants  and  businesses  along   French  Street.   "  PotenNal  for  employment  and  training  opportuniNes.   !  Proximity  to  Rutgers  University:     "  PotenNal  to  aZract  students  to  restaurants  and  businesses.   "  PotenNal  for  educaNon  opportuniNes   !  New  Brunswick  Health  Sciences  Technology  High  School   !  Open  space  at  Middlesex  County  Parking  Lot  on  Bayard  Street   !  Edward  J.  Bloustein/Voorhees  TransportaNon  Center/Walk   Bloustein  Bike    Bloustein    
  18. 18. Threats  (External)   !  George  Street  commercial  corridor   !  Easton  Avenue  commercial  corridor   !  External  percepNon/stereotypes   !  Expansion  of  Hospital  and  Medical  Offices   !  TransportaNon  improvements  that  favor   automobiles  
  19. 19. Public  Input  Meeting   !  Introduce  the  CPAP  Program  and  team  of   volunteers.   !  Outline  the  Planning  Context  affecNng  French   Street.   !  Gather  input  from  residents  and  businesses  to  be   used  in  developing  planning  strategies.  
  20. 20. Public  Input  -­‐  Streetscape   !  What  are  desired  beauNficaNon  techniques  including  decoraNve  sidewalks,   shade  trees,  and  street  furniture  appropriate  for  installaNon  along  French   Street?   !  Street  Lights  with  decoraNve  lamps  and  hanging  flowers  pots   !  Street  trees,  plants  and  flowers   !  Brick  and  decoraNve  sidewalks   !  Benches   !  More  shades   !  Sidewalk  bump  outs  at  crosswalks   !  Bike  lanes  
  21. 21.  Public  Input  –  War  Monument  Park   !  What  types  of  uses  and  events  should  be  held  at  War  Monument/Triangle   Park?   !  Farmers  Market   !  Music  FesNval/Concert   !  LaNn  Food  Fair   !  Playground/Fenced  Play  Area  for  Children   !  Improved  Landscaping  and  Street  AmeniNes  (i.e.  benches,  trash  cans,  lighNng,   etc.)   !  Increased  police  patrol  and  enforcement  to  reduce  loitering  and  criminal  acNvity    
  22. 22.  Public  Input  –  Branding  and  Marketing   !  What  are  strategies  to  build  upon  the  French  Street  culture  and  develop  a   brand  that  will  differenNate  French  Street  from  George  Street  and  Easton   Avenue?   !  MarkeNng  Plan  that  emphasizes  LaNno  character   !  Logo   !  LaNno/Mexican  food  event   !  Need  for  addiNonal  lighNng  as  it  relates  to  safety  –  especially  at  three  (3)  rail   underpasses   !  Façade  Improvement  Program  (City’s  Planning  and  Economic  Development   Department)  
  23. 23.  Public  Input  –  Pedestrian  Safety  and   Vehicle  Traffic   !  What  issues  and  intersecNons  feel  unsafe  for  pedestrians?     !  CriNcal  intersecNons  of  concern:   !  Jersey  Ave,  Handy  St  and  French  St   !  Suydam  St,  Louis  St  and  French  St   !  Weekends  (Friday  –  Sunday)  are  most  congested   !  Loitering  and  drinking  make  others  feel  unsafe  and  deter  people   !  Police  do  not  strictly  enforce  double  parking  and  traffic  violaNons   !  Police  on  foot  patrol  to  improve  sense  of  safety   !  Staggered  intersecNons  and  parked  cars  reduce  visibility/safety  for  pedestrians   !  Majority  from  public  meeNng  not  opposed  to  restricNng  parking  on  French  St   !  Provide/improve  street  lights   !  Enhance/illuminate  pedestrian  crosswalks  and  crossing  signals  
  24. 24. Strategies  –  Beautify  and  Improve   Cleanliness   !  Streetscape  Improvements   !  Shade  Trees,  DecoraNve  Sidewalks,  Street  Benches   !  Light  Poles  with  Flag  and  DecoraNon  Mounts   !  Façade  Improvement  Program   !  Public  Art/Murals   !  Larger  and/or  AddiNonal  Garbage  Bins   !  More  Frequent  Garbage  CollecNon   !  More  RouNne  Street  Sweeping    
  25. 25. Strategies  –  Improve  Pedestrian  Safety   and  Vehicle  Traffic  Flow   !  Enhance  Crosswalks     !  Install  Pedestrian  Signals  with  Countdown  and  Sound   Alerts   !  Construct  Accessible  Curb  Ramps   !  Restrict/Limit  On-­‐Street  Parking     !  Review/Update  Signal  Timing   !  Provide  Dedicated  Turn  Phases  at  Staggered  IntersecNons  
  26. 26. Strategies  –  Improve  and  Create  Public   Spaces   !  Install  Public  Art  representaNve  of  LaNn  Culture   !  Work  with  Day  Laborers  to  reduce  Loitering  and  Gambling   !  Repair  Wall  and  Install  Landscape  Improvements  at  War   Monument  Park   !  Repurpose/Redesign  Triangular  Island  with  Clock   !  Use  Middlesex  County  Parking  Lot  for  Community  Events   !  Cultural/Holiday  Ceremonies   !  Farmer’s  Market   !  Music  Performances   hZp://www.colab-­‐arts.org          
  27. 27. Strategies  –  Reduce  Crime  and  Loitering   !  Provide  AddiNonal  Street  LighNng   !  Implement  Foot  Patrol  Policing  (Police)   !  Enforce  Parking  and  Traffic  ViolaNons  More  Strictly  (Police)   !  Crackdown  on  Public  Drinking  and  Gambling  (Police)   !  Work  with  Bar  and  Liquor  Store  businesses  to  manage   clientele  by  hiring  Security  Guards   !  Work  with  Businesses  to  install  Storefront  LighNng  to  brighten   sidewalks   !  Work  with  Businesses  to  install  Security  Cameras  
  28. 28. Strategies  –  Attract  Shoppers   !  Develop  Branding  and  MarkeNng  Strategy  based  on  LaNn  Character  (i.e.  LaNn   Quarter,  LiZle  Oaxaca,  etc.)   !  Design  Logo   !  Organize  LaNno/Mexican  Food  Event   !  Assist  Businesses  with  growing  Online  Presence/Social  Media   !  Assist  Restaurants  with  PrinNng  Bilingual  Menus   !  Add  Restaurant  Menus  to  Scarlet  Menus   !  AZract  Students  and  Staff  from  University  and  Hospital  with  Lunch  and  Dinner   Specials   !  Engage  Walk  Bloustein/Bike  Bloustein  Student  Group  to  work  with  Kim’s  Bike   Shop  to  host  Walking/Biking  Events   !  Organize  Music/Street  Performers  on  Weekends/Holidays   !  Façade  Improvement  Program  
  29. 29. Next  Steps  (Priorities)   !  Add  Street  LighNng  to  BeauNfy,  Improve  Safety  and  AZract  Shoppers   !  Provide  Large  Bins  to  contain  excess  Garbage   !  Request  that  City  more  strictly  enforce  Parking  and  Traffic  ViolaNons   !  Develop  LaNn  Character  Brand  and  Logo   !  Publicize  Brand  and  Logo  via  Social  Media   !  Print  Bilingual  Menus  for  Restaurants  and  solicit  at  University  and  Hospitals   !  Work  with  City  and  County  to  Host  No  Parking  Experiments   !  Enhance  Crosswalks  and  Pedestrian  Signals   !  Advocate  for  Façade  Improvement  Program   !  Install  DecoraNons  and  Cultural  Banners/Flags   !  Complete  Public  Art  Displays  and  Murals   !  Schedule  Community  Events  for  Middlesex  County  Parking  Lot  and  War   Monument  Park  
  30. 30. Streetscape  Treatment  Techniques  
  31. 31. Streetscape  Treatment  Techniques   (cont’d)  
  32. 32. Streetscape  Treatment  Techniques   (cont’d)  
  33. 33. Streetscape  Treatment  Techniques   (cont’d)  
  34. 34. Appendix  A  –  2015  CPAP  Application  
  35. 35. “French Street Commercial Corridor Revitalization” APPLICANT INFORMATION Organization: New Brunswick Tomorrow 390 George Street, New Brunswick, NJ 08901 Contact: Charles Bergman, Director, Esperanza Neighborhood Project 732-246-0603; cbergman@nbtomorrow.org ORGANIZATIONAL QUALIFICATIONS Since 1975, New Brunswick Tomorrow (NBT) has focused on improving the quality of life in the City of New Brunswick. It was founded through the initiative of Johnson & Johnson as the backbone organization to lead the public/private effort to revitalize New Brunswick. Recognizing that “brick- and-mortar” projects alone are not enough to transform a community, NBT has largely focused on the “social revitalization” of the City, addressing critical community needs and enhancing the dignity and well-being of residents, particularly those who are low-income or otherwise vulnerable. In our almost forty-year history, NBT has worked with public and private partners to develop, incubate and support countless programs and initiatives that meet community needs in health, human services, education, and neighborhood development. Our work is currently organized through four primary vehicles: three Task Forces that gather stakeholders in the areas of Health, Youth, and Neighborhoods, and a Faith-Based Coalition with New Brunswick’s houses of worship. The work of our newly restructured Neighborhood Task Force reflects our history of catalyzing neighborhood development. Over twenty years ago, NBT, DEVCO, and the City of New Brunswick partnered with the First Baptist Church of Lincoln Gardens to initiate the Renaissance Project along the south portion of State Route 27, a project that touched a significant portion of the city’s public housing residents. Ten years ago, NBT collaborated with the Civic League of Greater New Brunswick and Rutgers University on the George Road Gateway Project, where an assessment revealed the concerns of a neighborhood that borders Rutgers Cook College. During the same period, NBT and the New Brunswick Housing Authority partnered to implement a federal HOPE VI grant; NBT provided supportive services to 188 families who were being relocated from antiquated public housing buildings. Over the past seven years ago, NBT has also partnered with and supported Unity Square Partnership, a neighborhood development project of Catholic Charities. In 2014, NBT has for the first time taken on its own neighborhood based improvement project, the Esperanza Neighborhood Project. More on the Esperanza Project can be found on the next page in “Project Overview.” 1 | P a g e
  36. 36. PROJECT OVERVIEW The French Street Commercial Corridor Revitalization project aims to improve and beautify a 0.8- mile corridor in the heart of one of New Brunswick’s neighborhoods, in order to make it a more inviting, safe, and vibrant destination for residents and visitors. The French Street project would be one element of the larger, ambitious Esperanza Neighborhood Project, a comprehensive neighborhood improvement and revitalization initiative focused on a 57-block area of New Brunswick. The Esperanza Project, which launched in January 2014, is spearheaded by New Brunswick Tomorrow in collaboration with the Puerto Rican Action Board (PRAB). Its four principal elements are Neighborhood Building, Housing, Community Services, and Economic Development. It is supported by the Wells Fargo Regional Foundation. The following maps show the area context and boundaries of what we define as the “Esperanza neighborhood.” 2 | P a g e
  37. 37. PLANNING CONTEXT As can be seen in the map, State Route 27, which in this stretch of the city is French Street, runs through the heart of the neighborhood. Route 27 connects New Brunswick with Highland Park and Edison to the north and runs along North Brunswick, Franklin and South Brunswick townships on its way south to Princeton. As such it is a major route through which substantial auto traffic passes. French Street and the adjacent portions of New Street and Jersey Avenue are form an active business district with approximately 90 businesses. The vast majority of these businesses are small businesses owned and operated by local Latino entrepreneurs, a character that befits the neighborhood. Over 75% of the approximately 8,600 residents of the neighborhood are Latino, mainly immigrant families from Mexico and to a lesser degree Central America and the Caribbean. 3 | P a g e
  38. 38. These residents visit French Street for its mix of restaurants, retail stores, beauty salons, food markets, and money transfer operations. Much of this business activity has emerged largely in the last ten or twenty years. Unfortunately the lively activity along this corridor is marred by a number of unseemly attributes: It is also home to a surplus of bars and liquor stores, and suffers from unattractive amounts of litter and a negative perception of its safety. In a neighborhood resident survey conducted by NBT and the Eagleton Institute of Public Interest Polling at Rutgers in September of this year, resident responses revealed this contrast between the positive and negative: Although these responses refer to the neighborhood as a whole, our extensive engagement with residents confirms that the same mix of positive and negative feelings is likewise associated with the French Street corridor. French Street, particularly the small city park in its heart and the spots around bars and liquor stores, is a frequent focus for complaints at the neighborhood Crime Watch meetings we facilitate. The corridor is designated as a state Urban Enterprise Zone, meaning that businesses are eligible for reduced sales tax and other incentives. Based anecdotally on conversations with local business owners, however, it is unclear if most are fully aware of and taking advantage of this program. One relevant planning endeavor formalized by the city is the Jersey-Handy Redevelopment Area, an area 4 | P a g e
  39. 39. of over ten acres that sits just adjacent to French Street to the southeast. While the Redevelopment Area has attracted a Walgreens and several small businesses to a strip mall, a large portion remains an undeveloped, vacant lot. These designated areas can be seen on the map below. Generally speaking, however, French Street business owners appear disengaged from municipal and state planning and economic development processes, and do not benefit from the level of sustained support and attention afforded the City’s downtown business improvement district, for example, through New Brunswick City Market. And although NBT counts the City of New Brunswick as a key partner in the Esperanza Neighborhood Project, their Department of Planning and Economic Development does not have the capacity to tackle a planning project as local and specific as the “French Street Commercial Corridor Revitalization.” 5 | P a g e
  40. 40. PROJECT CONCEPT: FRENCH STREET COMMERCIAL CORRIDOR The French Street Commercial Corridor Revitalization project aims to improve and beautify French Street and adjoining portions of New Street and Jersey Avenue, which together form the Esperanza neighborhood’s most important commercial corridor. Our hope is to make it a more inviting, safe, and vibrant destination for residents and visitors alike. We believe that the priorities for the planning process, based on our surveys and our ongoing outreach and work with neighborhood residents, business owners, and stakeholders, would be the following: Beautification and streetscaping The French Street corridor is busy, but not especially attractive to the eye. Litter is a constant eyesore, sidewalks are in need of repair, and store windows are crammed with clashing and fading signs. There is no public art, while graffiti is an issue. Part of making the French Street corridor more inviting and vibrant has to involve improvements to make it more aesthetically pleasing. Vehicular traffic flow State Route 27 (French Street) and State Route 91 (Jersey Avenue) meet in in the heart of this corridor, creating a staggered three-way intersection with Handy Street. Just north on the corridor, there is a disjointed, irregular intersection where Suydam Street meets French from the south and Louis Street meets French from the north. These two intersections, particularly the latter, are frequent bottlenecks, especially for turning vehicles. Road improvements could help both alleviate congestion and improve safety. Walkability and pedestrian safety The same intersections that are troublesome for vehicles are also hazardous for pedestrians. Any improvements to roads and sidewalks should prioritize pedestrian flow and safety, particularly in crosswalks. Improving and creating public spaces The corridor’s primary public space is the small park bordered by French, Jersey, and Bethany, variously known as Triangle Park or War Monument Park. Unfortunately, it is an asset that has been neglected. The park attracts high levels of negative loitering and associated ills such as drugs and gambling. Design improvements as well as an emphasis on positive park activities could help change the perception and use of the park. In the same vein, the small portion of New Street that connects the downtown to the north end of the French Street business district is currently something of an aesthetic dead space (though it is not vacant) that may offer opportunities for a connective public plaza or “bridge” space. Loitering and crime prevention As mentioned above, Triangle Park and the corridor’s bars and liquor stores are hot spots for loitering and associated ills. Besides the obvious roles of policing and resident engagement, environmental improvements may help curb these activities and improve the area’s character. Our extensive investments of time and energy thus far in this Project has allowed us to surface these concerns and begin to address them through our resident committee and our relationships with businesses and city departments. But we need the guidance of professional planners and a coherent, comprehensive planning process to help translate our efforts and ideas into actionable and practical development strategies. 6 | P a g e
  41. 41. Finally, we would like to emphasize the assets we already have in place to support the CPAP process, if we are fortunate enough to be selected: Resident buy-in The Esperanza Project has a strong base of awareness and involvement among neighborhood residents. Over 300+ residents have participated thus far in our meetings and activities, not including the attendance at our two major neighborhood festivals. With our support, they have done many neighborhood clean-ups, forged a Crime Watch partnership with police, and successfully urged County officials to make safety improvements to the county road that borders the neighborhood. A strong committee of active resident leaders has emerged to take the reins of the Project, and are eager to invest their time and energy in the revitalization of French Street. Business engagement Another element of the Project, which we began to roll out this fall, is our engagement of local businesses. In that short time frame, we visited 70+ of the neighborhood businesses, including many in the French Street corridor. We have begun gathering with key business owners with the aim of supporting the creation of a business coalition or merchants association. Our relationships with businesses will be key to any efforts to revitalize the commercial corridor. Stakeholder partnership New Brunswick Tomorrow’s almost forty-year history in New Brunswick, and its unique model as a convener of the City’s many small and large institutions, mean that the Esperanza Project launched this year with an already wide network of organizational partnerships. We have leveraged this network to form a Stakeholder Advisory Committee made up of representatives from a dozen key institutions, including the City Planning Department, neighborhood churches, schools, and non-profits. This committee, which is already invested in the Project’s success, would be designated as the Steering Committee for the purpose of the CPAP. Neighborhood Revitalization Plan Prior to launching the Esperanza Neighborhood Project, we engaged in a multi-year process of research and preparation. This lead to the development of a Neighborhood Plan, which was also a requirement of the Wells Fargo Regional Foundation. The Plan provides an overarching framework for our work, compiling relevant research and outlining development priorities and strategies. Thus the French Street Revitalization Plan would serve as an in-depth “chapter,” as it were, giving the corridor a level of specific, sustained attention that it has not yet received. 7 | P a g e
  42. 42. Appendix  B  –  Recommendations  of   Residential  Leadership  Team  
  43. 43. Esperanza Neighborhood Project, Resident Leadership Team: Recommendations for Improving Our Community! A safe community: Crime & safety Safety is a big concern among neighborhood residents. In the neighborhood resident survey we did last September, it was the most common answer of residents when asked what they liked least about the neighborhood. 29% say that safety is “poor” or “very poor,” and another 36% say it is only “fair.” Most say the level of safety hasn’t changed much in the past few years. What have we done? We started a Crime Watch group last May so that residents can work with police to identify and resolve crime and safety concerns. Residents give reports to the NBPD Crime Watch liaison, Detective Harry Hudson, and as a group we have also shared the following recommendations about overall safety. Our Crime Watch group has also facilitated conversations with the NBPD Domestic Violence unit, a 911 dispatcher, and two of the newly hired, bilingual NBPD officers. What has the City done? The New Brunswick Police Department has actively worked with us to support our Crime Watch group. Det. Hudson has actively pursued many of the residents’ reports and concerns. Additionally, based on our feedback, the NBPD sent some more patrols around the park on French Street (War Monument Park). Most importantly, the City recently hired eleven new officers, including four who are Latino. What do we recommend? 1. More consistent police presence and patrolling at the neighborhood level, especially in crime “hot spots” (French Street bars and park; Railroad Ave underpasses) 2. Better engage community with information about public safety and crime a. Specific incident alerts and updates through Nixle or otherwise b. Create a publicly accessible crime database and map 3. Continue expanding Police Department’s Spanish-language capacity, especially through new officer hires 4. Reduce harms of liquor stores and bars: more restrictions, fewer licenses An attractive community: Clean-up & beautification Our survey showed that only one-third of residents rate our community’s cleanliness as “good” or “very good.” 38% say that it is only fair, while 28% say that it is “poor” or “very poor.”
  44. 44. Esperanza Neighborhood Project, Resident Leadership Team: Recommendations for Improving Our Community! However, 30% believe that the neighborhood’s cleanliness has improved in recent years, compared to 15% who say it’s gotten worse. We hear frequent complaints from other residents and businesses about litter on French Street in particular. What have we done? The Esperanza Project has been extremely active in cleaning up our community. We partnered with the City’s Clean Communities Program to recruit seventeen new “block captains” among our members in 2014, to take responsibility for clean-up on our streets. Together we also organized seven clean-ups of between 10 and 30 participants, as well as partnered with Holy Family Parish for a large community clean-up with over 150 volunteers! One of our clean-ups also included graffiti removal. Finally, we did an assessment of trash issues on French Street, which led to several of the following recommendations. What has the City done? Donna Caputo of the Department of Public Works’ Clean Communities Program has been an excellent partner. She and DPW supported two of our large-group clean-ups. She also attended an Esperanza Project meeting to hear our concerns and ideas about trash and clean- up in New Brunswick. Because of this meeting and our recommendations, the City installed new public trash cans at three locations on French Street. What do we recommend? 1. Tackle graffiti proactively with a city-led effort 2. Expand use of large plastic trash and recycling bins to neighborhood commercial zones 3. Increase frequency of Green Team sweeping on French Street 4. Work with day laborers to seek a safer, more appropriate gathering space for those seeking work on French Street An accessible community: Transportation Access to transportation was the highest-rated category in our survey: 72% of residents say that it is good or very good. But the survey also showed that residents, especially Latinos, rely heavily on taxis: 50% of Latinos use taxis as a primary mode of transportation, more than cars
  45. 45. Esperanza Neighborhood Project, Resident Leadership Team: Recommendations for Improving Our Community! or buses. We know that many are using unauthorized taxis, rather than the five City-registered companies. What have we done? Pedestrian safety is an important issue for our families. Last year, we joined the campaign to push for safety improvements to Livingston Avenue after the unfortunate accident that injured several schoolchildren. Working with partners like Unity Square, we successfully lobbied the County to make temporary lane changes around two schools to slow traffic. Now we are actively engaged in the County and City’s plans to make permanent improvements to Livingston. We have also addressed the complicated issue of taxi use here in New Brunswick. First we shared concerns about abuses by unregistered taxi drivers in our Crime Watch meetings. This then led us to attend two meetings of the City’s Taxi Commission, to give feedback to City officials and several of the registered taxi companies. We also created and have widely distributed an informational flyer about City taxi rates and regulations. What have the City and County done? The County and City have taken residents’ concerns about Livingston Avenue safety seriously. The County fast-tracked the lane changes around Redshaw/Livingston and Roosevelt schools last summer. This year, they have invited us into a planning process that started with meetings in February. We are encouraged by the possible changes they are discussing, such as the “road diet” to slow vehicular traffic. In sharing our concerns about taxis, we have received assistance and encouragement from City Clerk Dan Torrisi and his office. However, we have been disappointed that the City- appointed Taxi Commission is not more active. What do we recommend? 1. Prioritize pedestrian safety and “complete streets” in road improvements, especially along Livingston Avenue and French Street 2. Work with registered taxi companies and the City’s taxi commission to improve services to Spanish-speaking customers 3. Study possibility of offering more local, in-city bus services and stops
  46. 46. Appendix  C  –  Complete  List  of  Field   Observations  
  47. 47. Field Observations On Sunday, May 17, 2015, volunteer CPAP Team members met with Charles Bergman, Director, Esperanza Neighborhood Project, to perform a field walk and share initial thoughts regarding the French Street Commercial Corridor Revitalization. The following were in attendance: Mike Cassidy John Duda Joe Herbert Matt Sprung Charles Bergman (Client Contact) Notes Beginning at Bayard Street and walking south along French Street, the following items were observed and discussed: 1. Medical buildings and offices associated with Robert Wood Johnson Hospital end at Bayard Street. a. Does the hospital have plans to continue development south along French Street? b. If so, can a plan/design be obtained from the City? c. What techniques can be used to attract employees from medical offices to restaurants/businesses along French Street? d. Are there workforce development and training opportunities for medical/health careers? e. New Brunswick Health Sciences Technology High School is located at the corner of Bayard Street and French Street. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/New_Brunswick_Health_Sciences_Technol ogy_High_School 2. Middlesex County Parking Lot on Bayard Street, adjacent to French Street, may be repurposed in near future. a. How might this space be used by the community (i.e. weekend events, farmers market)? 3. Kim’s Bike Shop and Somewhere In Time are 2 retail businesses that draw clientele from outside the neighborhood. 4. Late night loitering is a problem at the intersection of Harvey Street and French Street due to presence of a bar and liquor store on either side Harvey Street. 5. Buildings housing Latino Supermarket, Chinese Food and Chicken Express are setback for the curb, which provides a large sidewalk spaces for outdoor seating/benches or other. (Area is approximately 100’ x 25’).
  48. 48. 6. Garbage collection is infrequent and not over the weekend, which results in piling of garbage bags and overfilling of receptacles. Receptacles are full and garbage is piled along sidewalk during optimum weekend shopping/retail hours. a. Esperanza Neighborhood Project/NBT has approached City about obtaining large plastic receptacles. b. What other techniques can be used to remove/reduce piling of residential and commercial garbage along sidewalk? 7. Staggered intersection of Suydam Street, French Street, and Louis Street causes vehicle gridlock. a. Intersection is signalized – is it possible to add dedicated left turn signal/phase? b. Pedestrian safety? c. Signal cycle for vehicles and pedestrians? 8. Contact NB Police Department to obtain traffic incident reports for French Street. 9. What/who are uses/tenants at office building at southwest corner of Louis Street and French Street? a. Sidewalk is 15’ to 16’ wide along this frontage. 10. Majority of intersections do not have ADA accessible curb ramps. 11. Crosswalk striping is limited and missing at certain intersections. 12. On-street parking is metered. 13. Sidewalk width varies but generally 10’ to 12’ wide. 14. New 4-story mixed used residential/commercial development at the corner of Seaman Street and French Street. a. Residential apartments on top 3 floors. b. 3 commercial/business spaces are available at 1st floor. c. Building construction includes parking garage. d. Building appears to be vacant. e. Developer Frank Garcia. f. What are rents for residential space? g. What businesses might occupy the available 1st floor spaces? 15. New Brunswick Urban Enterprise Zone (UEZ) encompasses portions of French Street but many business owners are unfamiliar with program. Esperanza is assisting to notify and register businesses. 16. Triangular area/plaza is formed by French Street, Jersey Ave and Baldwin Street. a. Handy Street, which becomes Alexander Street west side of French Street, cuts through the center of the plaza.
  49. 49. b. North of Handy Street is a small triangular sidewalk island with a decorative clock/bench feature c. South of Handy Street is War Monument Park, also referred to by some locals as Oaxaca Park. d. Intersection of Handy Street, Jersey Ave and French Street is heavily congested with vehicle and pedestrian traffic. (Recommend completing a traffic study of intersection). e. What physical design improvements including sidewalk configuration, decorative sidewalk bands, crosswalks, striping, pavement markings can be used to enhance/brighten this triangular plaza/area? 17. War Monument Park (Oaxaca Park) is the only open public green space along the French Street corridor. a. Park is commonly used as a place for laborers to await work. Laborers generally linger at the southerly side of the park, along Baldwin Street, waiting for work opportunities. b. Lingering of laborers is prevailing use of park, which may invite other less desirable uses such as loitering, drinking and gambling. c. Is there a way to improve/formalize the process for hiring laborers by developing a Day Laborer Office (refer to Lakewood model)? i. Joe H. to research Lakewood model d. Park has been used in the past for public events but its location in the center of a major vehicle intersection makes it difficult for pedestrians to cross the street. i. Additional thought should be put towards ideas for repurposing/using this location for events and detouring traffic as needed on event dates as necessary. 18. Mi Tierra Bar at the corner of Handy Street and French Street has been location of public drinking, fights, minor crimes. These activities often spillover into War Monument Park. a. Increase policing. b. Add security cameras. c. Employ crime prevent through design techniques at the park. 19. Main commercial corridor for French Street extends from Bayard Street south to Bayard/Baldwin. South of Bayard/Baldwin commercial is more dispersed and consisting of larger businesses. This is characterized by less pedestrian activity. a. This distinction should be clearly shown on map of French Street corridor. 20. Cinco de Mayo Restaurant at corner of French Street and Hale Street is used by RU students more than other restaurant businesses on French Street. a. There are a number of Mexican and other ethnic restaurants along French Street. i. Are certain restaurants more popular for different dishes or meals (i.e. lunch, dinner, sandwiches, entrees)?
  50. 50. ii. What marketing tools might assist restaurants with distinguishing themselves from one another? iii. What collective marketing tools might assist in defining the corridor as place specializing in Mexican and other ethnic foods to attract clientele from outside the area? iv. Brand as Latin Quarter? v. Many restaurant staff do not speak English well. 21. Need to review current/updated version of New Brunswick Master Plan and associated zoning/land use maps. 22. Vacant lot at Comstock and Jersey Ave was previously approved for commercial development but remains undeveloped. a. Sign indicates that lot has environmental concerns. b. What information can be found out about this property using NJDEP Data Miner? c. Lot is not fenced, which suggests any level of environmental concern is not hazardous. d. Could lot be used for hosting a farmers market or outdoor event? e. Could raised planter beds be placed at this lot as a temporary use? 23. There are vacant businesses spaces at Brunswick Town Center. 24. French Street is State Route and County Route. a. Is it possible to obtain copies of recent County plans for French Street? 25. Policing: a. What is police patrol pattern (vehicles/walking)? b. Installation of security cameras and signs? 26. Arts organization – coLAB Arts a. Mural locations
  51. 51. Appendix  D  –  Garbage  Collection  Comparison   (New  Brunswick  and  Union  City)    
  52. 52. Ideas on Improving Garbage Situation in New Brunswick (French St Area) Current Problems - There is no pickup during the weekends and trash thus piles up on the curb in the daytime. During the weekdays, trash bags are taken out to the curb before the scheduled pickup time. As a result, the smell and appearance of the garbage makes the street very unattractive to locals and visitors. - Questions: Do people take out more garbage than they are supposed to? Is this a problem? Or it is mainly the time of the day that they take out the garbage? Comparison between Union City and New Brunswick Union City doesn’t seem to share the same problem. Therefore, its garbage collection practice is looked into and compared with New Brunswick’s to stimulate thoughts on solving the garbage problem in NB. Key Observations: - Collection frequency: Union City (UC) and New Brunswick (NB) both have pickups for household trash twice a week. For recycling items, UC does it once a week, and NB every other week (Table1). UC has much fewer residents, but its population density is much higher than NB (Table1), which probably explains why UC pickup schedule is more frequent. - Collection load: UC doesn’t seem to have a requirement on maximum pickup load. Based on my own experience, my apt building (two apts) has three 64 gallon trash/recycling bins, including both trash and recycling. NB allows up to 3 trash containers of up to 32 gallons each per household, the total per household load of which is bigger than what UC allows. - Time of bringing garbage to the curb: In UC, residents take out garbage/recycling after 8pm, while in NB it is after 5pm. In the summer, sunset is usually after 8pm, and 5-8 pm could be the golden hours to attract more visitors, students who get off classes, workers who get off work, locals, etc. It is suggested that residents take out garbage/recycling after 8pm in NB to keep the street free from garbage bags and bad smell during the “golden hours”. - Collection time: In UC, garbage/recycling is collected on the same day they are brought out. In NB, however, the garbage is picked up the next day, which leaves the trash/recycling on the curb from 5pm the day it was brought out to 6pm the next day (Table2). As a result, the trash could still sit on the curb waiting to be picked up in the day, which makes the street unpleasant and unattractive.
  53. 53. - Garbage excess: In NB, It is reported there is more garbage brought out to the curb than the amount allowed. Not every household uses trash bin to measure the trash load. A better way of making sure each household not exceeding the max trash load is needed. In UC, trash bins are required and the bins have addresses on them. It is unclear but likely that the town (UC) provides the bins for free. NB only provides free recycling containers for new homeowners (details). Suggestions for Improvements - After-sunset curb time (summer): In order to make the streets more pleasant during the “golden hours”, residents are suggested to bring garbage/recycling to the curb after 8:30pm or after sunset. In the winter, the time after which residents could bring garbage/recycling to the curb could remain at 5pm, as the sun sets around 4:30pm usually in the winter. - Same day pickup: In order to better prevent garbage/recycling from sitting on the curb overnight, they should be picked up on the same day, instead of the next day. - More frequent pickup schedule: Increase the pickup for recycling items to once a week, rather than once in two weeks. - Address on the bin: Provide free bins with clearly-identifiable addresses shown on the bins. OR provide free address stickers and enforce a rule that every bin on the curb has to have an address on. Table1. Land and Population of Union City and New Brunswick, NJ Union City New Brunswick (French St) Land (sq mi) 1.283 5.227 Population (2014) 68,668 57,080 Density (/sq mi) 51,810 10,556 Density rank 2nd of 566 in NJ 34th of 566 in NJ Sources: Wikipedia and Census Table2. Comparison of Trash and Recycling Collection Schedules in Union City and New Brunswick, NJ Union City New Brunswick (French St) Frequency (regular trash) Twice a week Twice a week Collection Days (regular trash) Mon. to Sun. depending on areas Monday and Thursday Frequency (recycling) Once a week every other Monday
  54. 54. Collection Days (recycling) Mon. to Wed. depending on areas Monday Brought to the curb after 8pm after 5pm, the night b4 the collection days Collection time starts at 11pm 6:00am and 6:00pm Trash load Not specified Up to three trash containers; less than 50lbs and lighter than 32 gallons each container. Recycling load Not specified Not specified Other rules Trash bags must be tied to prevent litter. Sources: The municipal websites of Union City and New Brunswick, NJ.

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