Completing Montclair’s South Park Street, Then The World

If you’re tired of looking at the closed road and construction that is South Park street these days, here’s another look at what Mayor Jerry Fried envisions for South Park’s new streetscape. In “Complete Streets Take Us Where We Want To Go,” (published in NJ Municipalities) Fried described South Park street as looking more like a parking lot with its “narrow sidewalks and diagonal parking.”

Over the last decades, the Township Council considered making it more pedestrian-friendly by widening the sidewalks to accommodate cafes, adding landscaping and space for outdoor events.

Despite the constraints of the Great Recession, our local business improvement district worked with a normally-conservative finance committee to make the case that this initiative would more than twice pay for itself. By increasing the property values and accompanying commercial tax revenue, a project that might have been considered a frivolous beautification effort was funded as an Economic Development Project.

Fried adds that his future work will helping move to a “complete streets world.” In January, Fried accepted a part-time consulting job with NJDOT to implement “Complete Streets.”

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  1. It’s going to be lovely. In the rendering, they forgot to block out the sky with renderings of two new proposed developments. Also, they should have added a few people with walkers accompanied by attendants.

  2. The CFC lost its credibility over this if you ask me. The CFC report merely rubber stamped an unsupported claim on the BID’s part that property values would increase 10%. No basis for the assumption was offered.

    Interesting, huh? Cary rightly demands an outside study of the assisted living project assumptions because we should not rely on the developer’s. Yet he and the mayor cite a report by the BID, The Park Street Project’s proponents, as valid.

    I guess it just depends on whose rosy scenario furthers the conclusion you desire?

    The CFC “report” I’ve seen online offers no analysis of the rosy assumption nor even a basis.

    We should question ALL wishful thinking, not just a developer’s.

  3. …and how much will it cost to fix the culverts in a few years since trees are being planted above them? RIDICULOUS!

  4. ROC You must have been reading a different report. While it wasn’t a masterpiece, there was an economic analysis from the CFC. And it’s not as if there is no history here. Cape May’s mall completely revitalized that downtown. There is a reason why the state is providing these low cost loans for downtown “main street” revitalization. They want to help town centers come back and not just get rateables from the outlying suburban malls. Not everyone has a suburban mall – Montclair being the perfect example.

    Your critique of the process here – of the Manager and Engineer blowing it on the cost front and not getting the job done is spot-on-target. They both cost Montclair a year of potentially higher rateables. But your unwillingness to see any long term economic benefits from a diversified downtown “mall” (ie Silver Spring MD etc) remains a short-sighted development view.

  5. Spot.

    Winning the lottery – it does happen – someone actually does take home that big check. That doesn’t make playing the lottery a sound financial decision.

    The odds on a project like this actually “paying for itself” are probably close to the same.

  6. “There is a reason why the state is providing these low cost loans for downtown “main street” revitalization.”

    Keep in mind: The state earns direct revenue from sales transactions. Accelerating these therefore makes sense for the state; there’s a straghtforward mechanism to recover that investment.

    The town doesn’t see any of this. At best, we’ll see a revenue increase if sales increase and this is perceived to be a result of the improvements around the properties so that property values increase.


  7. Carl,
    Payoff in the world of land development is measured in years. Your comparison to a lottery is shallow and inappropriate. With a makeover of the dated, unsafe eyesore known as South Park Street, development of the Church Street lot and the DCH sites will come much sooner than otherwise. Certainly the town should be prudent in crafting development terms for both sites, but only someone with an agenda to suppress growth in the downtown would prefer empty lots and an ugly central location to built out blocks and an extension of the Church Street aesthetic.

    The last town council was derided for being reactionary. The current one is criticized for investing in the downtown’s future, which, with its increased ratables, would help the whole town. Should we be putting our shovels away, or putting them to work?

    Boy, wasn’t it a crummy idea during the Depression when the government decided to invest in infrastructure at all levels? All those new schools, dams, hospitals, post offices and roads. Where did that get us? Oh, right. It anticipated and supported the needs of future generations.

  8. J&J,

    I have no problem with municipalities renovating and upgrading their infrastructure – quite the contrary, I am a very vocal advocate for prudent
    capital investment in public property – in fact, you would have to go back something like 80 years in Glen Ridge history to find a mayor who pushed through as much renovating and upgrading as I did.

    If you want to argue for a project based on its actual merits, that’s very different. That’s not what was done here. Instead, the taxpayers of Montclair are told that this project will “Pay for Itself”. That’s nonsense.

  9. And J&J, while it is probably true that one of us does have a hidden agenda, it’s not the guy who posts under his own name.

  10. Spot,

    Andrew covered this, but I would also point out that the state is lending the money that it is guaranteed to recoup. It doesn’t need for the project to “pay for itself”, because as far as the state is concerned, it already has, since the taxpayers of Montclair are on the hook for the entire balance – every penny in extra sales tax & income tax the project generates (including a nice chunk of the construction costs) is 100% profit.

  11. Reading through these posts, there seems to be a strange consensus agreement that the CFC report, for different reasons, is irrelevant. I think the new Council should ask itself why that is before they ramp up the CFC’s role again.
    For the record, SPARK is tracking now at $1.2MM for total above ground work, from concept to ribbon. The NJ-DBIZ loan, according to the CFC calculations, was equal to an outright grant of $183,000 – about 10% of the taxpayer outlays to date.

  12. Here’s the report.

    it’s based on an assumption made by the projects chief proponents the BID (business improvement district) that property values will increase 10% as a result of the project. That central assumption is taken on faith and never justified, or even explained. it’s just accepted.

    it reminds me of that joke:

    “Everyone has heard the old joke about the physicist, the architect, and the economist marooned on a desert island with a can of beans. The question was how to open the can. The physicist observed that the can could be placed on the fire. Eventually the heating of the can would create so much pressure that the can would explode and the beans could be retrieved. The architect thought that this would be a rather messy solution to the problem and suggested building a small enclosure around the fire. Then, when the can exploded, the beans would splatter on the walls of the enclosure, from which they could then be scraped. The economist had a better solution. First, he said, “Assume that we have a can opener …”

    also the CFC report was based on the then “firm” cost of $750,000, it has nearly doubled that.

  13. J and J,

    The South Street project as the WPA? That’s ludicrous. By your logic there is no government spending which isn’t a new WPA. There is the trivial unpleasantness of how it will be paid for, but tax receipts are infinite, no?

    “assume a can opener”

  14. also the CFC report was based on the then “firm” cost of $750,000, it has nearly doubled that.

    Not that anyone remembers or cares, but I believe we (ROC etc) saw this coming a mile away.

  15. “For the record, SPARK is tracking now at $1.2MM for total above ground work, from concept to ribbon.”

    It’s still unclear if the design costs ($131k ) are included in than. Also the $300k in water main work.

  16. “The South Street project as the WPA? That’s ludicrous. ”
    ….absolutely ludicrous also because the WPA projects were beautiful and artistic….the South Park Project and the DHC projects are mediocre and low quality compared to the existing surroundings. The expenditure for the taxpayers is irresponsible.

  17. $131 in earlier costs was included. Below ground has consistently been $300k and was always separate from above ground…although it did not include repaving. As far as I know, it is still $300k.

  18. “$131 in earlier costs was included”.

    It wasnt originally i never saw it accounted for. Where could i see it?

  19. There is a $100MM project to remake the DCH area. It involves a hotel residences, public spaces, and offices. It will remake Montclair.

    There is a major project to develop assisted living on Church Street.

    Tomorrow the Council will vote on spending $200,000 to repair the tennis courts at Rand, and spend $800,000 repaving a street.

    Why don’t you use your considerable insight and intelligence to effect positive action on projects where you can actually accomplish something, instead of spending your lives criticizing the South Park project?

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