In checking the records in our engineering department, the earliest documentation we found about the township’s efforts to improve the streetscape along Brunswick Pike date to 2005.
For those involved in all things Lawrence back during that time, you may have a personal recollection of discussions on this topic before 2005, but for our purposes I am putting 15 years as the time-frame… and counting.
We have never been closer to realizing the completion of a plan to improve the portion of road from the Brunswick Circle to Lake Drive then we are right now.
Records that I have reviewed indicate that our township officials and officials from NJDOT were able to reach agreement (2010) on a plan with the stated purpose to create a pedestrian friendly urban streetscape that promotes commercial development.
This would include slowing traffic speed, improve pedestrian circulation and connectivity, as well as add aesthetic elements to provide context for a “main street” environment.
Presently, what we see now at that section is (for the most part) the completed work by the NJDOT that made fairly substantial improvements (i.e., the round-a-bout at Whitehead Road, on-street parking, wider grass medians, pedestrian crosswalks, etc.), which provide the “bones” for the township to complete the final improvements in creating a “main street” type of environment.
For those of you who may not be aware, this section of road (Route 1) is owned and maintained by the State of New Jersey. Our deal with the state was to take it over after it did its part in making the improvements as I described above. With that work (essentially) completed, the township immediately applied for and received a $60,000 grant for the study and design of a streetscape.
This work has been completed, and we are now in the process of having the “community conversation” about the plan to obtain feedback from the stakeholders (i.e., our residents). The link to the Brunswick Pike Streetscape Project is at lawrencetwp.com/documents/planning/BP_Streetscape2.11.20.pdf for those of you with an interest in reviewing it.
We recently had a public discussion of the plan at our Growth and Redevelopment Committee meeting on Feb. 11. At the meeting, I think it is fair to say that the general consensus was positive, with many residents expressing thoughtful opinions.
Clearly, this has been a very long process, but our commitment to get this done as soon as possible is strong and sincere. This section of our town deserves the attention and the improvements we seek to make.
Though there may be some people that say the plan falls short of expectations or possibilities, my response is that the improvements we intend to make are thoughtful, significant, reasonable and fiscally responsible (our search for grant monies is continuous for this project).
It is very easy to do more, but to do more means to spend more. At this time, it is my opinion that the financial commitment that will be made for this improvement is justified, and will be an improvement for all in our community to enjoy and have pride in.
If you have hit on the link I provided to the streetscape plan, you will see on page 35 the conceptual rendering for the round-a-bout.
It is a series of wind turbines. These turbines will also be functional by providing the power source for the decorative lighting in this area. It represents our community’s commitment to sustainability and to our future. It also provides a clean site line through the round-a-bout for better navigation through it.
It’s my hope that our community can rally behind this project, and appreciate the importance of making the strategic improvements we can and should throughout our town in a responsible way. Fifteen years is a long time. Let’s do this thing!
P.S. Once the township takes over the ownership of this section of road, we will be reducing the speed. This was a consistent concern expressed at the last meeting, and it will be addressed.
P.S.S. Once this project is completed, Colonial Lake Park is expanded and improved, and the Lawrence Shopping Center is firing on all cylinders, we have the makings of a successful reclaiming of an area that was lacking for far too long.
Kevin Nerwinski is the Lawrence Township municipal manager.