Jersey City officials and restauranteurs cut the ribbon on the Newark Avenue Pedestrian Plaza this afternoon after $6.7 million in renovations were completed.
By John Heinis/Hudson County View
“In 2015, we had the vision to maximize this space by creating a pedestrian-friendly plaza and establishing a sought-after shopping and dining destination and overall economic driver that has since exceeded our expectations,” Mayor Steven Fulop said in a statement.
“Today’s ribbon-cutting is the final piece to accomplishing a permanent, community-driven pedestrian mall that boosts local business, attracts investment, and, most importantly, establishes a premier location to foster community with various free public events throughout the year, weekly entertainment on the new concert stage, and daily foot traffic where residents and visitors can enjoy all the plaza has to offer.”
The city hosted community meetings to garner public input and incorporate feedback throughout the design before the renovations were announced on February 9th and approved by the council on February 11th.
The improvements include a stage area has been constructed for regular live music and performances that will be free and open to everyone.
Additionally, granite pavers have replaced the original painted green asphalt and elevated the street level to match the sidewalk for a more cohesive structure with better stroller and wheelchair accessibility.
The overhaul added 24 new trees, 20 planter boxes with shrubs and landscaping, 14 large square planters with built-in seating under trees, 30 recycling and garbage combination units, 16 bike racks, and 40 benches, among other things.
“Today marks the culmination of many years of hard work. The pedestrian mall has become a vital point in the area, and I couldn’t be happier,” added Historic Downtown Special Improvement District Executive Director Rachel Sieg.
“From holding meetings with business owners to fielding calls from property owners and City officials, this process was not easy but so worth it. I feel an immense sense of pride and accomplishment with the conclusion of this project, and I hope that visitors and residents of Jersey City will enjoy the ,all for many years to come.”
The pedestrian mall was first closed to vehicles in 2015 as a pilot program to limit traffic and create a pedestrian destination and then expanded to a second block in 2018.
At the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, the plaza was lengthened to Grove Street between Montgomery Street and Christopher Columbus Drive, as well as 1st Street and Newark Avenue.
The expanded outdoor capacity helped restaurants and small businesses stay afloat and safely reopen sooner.
“It was important to us on the City level that our design incorporated the community’s input, and we are proud of the finished product seen here today,” noted Paul Russo, the city’s director of engineering.
“The new plaza delivers rich elements that have a cohesive feel. The environment is unique and creates an aesthetic oasis of open space in a busy city for all to enjoy for decades to come.”
The Newark Avenue Pedestrian Plaza upgrade comes after two other major investments in main streets: Central Avenue and West Side Avenue.
“Restaurant and business owners have been through a lot the past two years, and knowing that the mayor is pro-business and always has our backs has allowed many of us to keep our doors open for business,” stated Kenny Caulfield, a co-owner of The Ashford.
“Thanks to the City’s support, we have a thriving corridor of shops and restaurants that attracts local residents and visitors alike. By making this a permanent plaza, we can further demonstrate that we remain open for business and all are welcome.”