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Belleville Council Hires Downtown Improvement Consultant

Local firm will seek ways to bolster Washington Avenue's appeal

The Belleville Township Council voted Tuesday to hire a local consultant to perform a study on ways to improve the look of Washington Avenue, the latest attempt to boost the appeal of the township’s main commercial corridor.

Councilman Michael Nicosia, who had been advocating for such a study for several years, said it was necessary because individual businesses are each improving their small patch of the avenue, but not in a coordinated way.

“That’s the part that’s frustrating. We’re seeing little spurts of construction and it’s not consistent,” he said.

DM Bloom of Belleville was hired by a 4 to 1 vote at a rate of $150 an hour, for a total not to exceed $17,500, the threshold amount above which such contracts must be put out to competitive bid.

Dawson Bloom, the owner of the company and a former member of the Belleville Board of Education, said improving Washington Avenue was not merely a question of aesthetics.

“The entire purpose is to do this in conjunction with spurring economic development,” said Bloom, who has done similar “streetscape” work on Broad Street in Newark, another heavily trafficked commercial thoroughfare.

The process will involve assessing the needs of residents, merchants and landlords along the avenue, seeing what funding may be available for projects, and soliciting opinions from the entire community through a “charette,” or public forum.

A few members of the public Tuesday urged the council to vote against paying for another study. Resident Vincent Frantantoni said other studies performed in the past should be on file in town hall and can still serve as a guide. 

He also noted at least a few blocks on the southern end of Washington have already been refurbished with decorative brickwork, wrought-iron benches and other features, and asked why that basic design could not simply be extended.

Bloom said that studies performed years ago may not account for present-day circumstances and needs, but also said all ideas will be considered.

“We’re not throwing anything away,” he said.

elynch November 28, 2012 at 12:33 PM
What about the rest of Belleville? Haven't we put enough into the Washington Avenue area? Why are so many parcels of land still empty? Belleville should talk to some of the surrounding areas that have done such a great job bolstering up their community.
Mare November 28, 2012 at 03:59 PM
I think this is a great idea. Maybe we need to get some ideas from Nutley. Their downtown area is booming with great restaurants and small businesses. I would love to shop in my town, but there isn't great parking and its a little run down. If you notice alot of people walk Franklin Avenue in Nutley and feel safe, its not so in Belleville. Also, Nutley people contributed to the pathway in their town, maybe Belleville people and organizations could do the same. We have some great restaurants in town that people visit like LaSicilia and Solar, if the area was cleaned up and more parking was available, other nice business could grow.
elynch November 28, 2012 at 08:18 PM
Mare... I agree with you. I think Belleville officials need to look at the surrounding area and see what can be done . Lived in Belleville most of my life and feel less safe then ever before.
watchamean November 29, 2012 at 01:44 PM
A friend of a friend a street scape for empty store got to love it
Miss Mess November 29, 2012 at 09:39 PM
Mare makes some very intelligent points. It's time to whip Belleville's downtown back into shape. If Newark can make such progress with their downtown, there's no reason for Belleville to back down. Again, great points Mare.

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