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Ambitious Plans for Downtown Unveiled

Early ideas for downtown redevelopment show a transformed town center.

The images of downtown Springfield in the plans presented to the Township Committee earlier this month looked markedly different from the downtown that exists today.

The architects, designers and attorneys who made the presentation emphasized that the plan was still in its early stages and was an ongoing process. But even a diluted version of what was presented would be a dramatic shift from the Morris Ave. business district as it stands.

Bob Blakeman, an architect from the firm PS&S, presented images of a bright and modern urban shopping area teeming with pedestrians and lit by sunlight. Blakeman said that the plan was an example of “new urbanism” and that pains were taken to include mixed use of housing and businesses in the space. The end result, Blakeman said, is hoped to make a place that was attractive for people to both live and work.

He said the plan employs sustainable development practices, noting that the shops and homes were positioned and designed to take advantage of natural sunlight.

“The green infrastructure and glass will allow the buildings to use less energy,” Blakeman told the Township Committee on Tuesday, Oct. 9.

In addition, he said the open, sunny design would have impact on public safety through increased visibility.

“It will reduce crime and improve safety,” Blakeman said.

Blakeman termed the plans “smart growth,” saying that the designs, which include a central courtyard, would be compact and kept within the current shopping district’s perimeter.

Mark Lennon, an attorney from the firm McManimon, Scotland & Baumann, the firm that the Springfield Business Improvement District has signed a Redevelopment Counsel Services Agreement, said that the redevelopment was a long time coming.

“Springfield has been trying to redevelop for over a decade,” he said, noting that a recent big push for remaking downtown was upended by flooding in 2007. He noted that flooding issues were taken into account in this plan.

“Because the area is in a flood plain, there are several limitations on what you can build and how you can build,” Lennon said, adding that everything shown in the presentation would clear state environmental regulations.

Lennon said that dealing with the interests of a group of property owners presented a second challenge for the project. He noted that there were multiple owners of the properties alongside some municipal property. Committee member David Amlen noted that property owners have been unresponsive to past calls for redevelopment and asked what would be different with this plan.

“Make it economically attractive and they’ll do it,” Lennon said, adding that tax abatements can be powerful incentives and that knocking down select existing structures would be called for. “Almost all concepts involve demolition.”

Mayor Ziad Shehady emphasized that the plan was not a final conclusion, but instead was a concept plan that could show what was possible and help cut through red tape. Blakeman added that the development was planned to occur in phases.

BART FRAENKEL October 18, 2012 at 02:19 PM
The town of Springfield has a long history dating back to colonial days and to redevelop and change the colonial look would not be appreciated by many people. That is not to say redevelopment should not occur, but it should be done in a manner that maintains the colonial "look". So why in the world would money be spent for a concept plan as Shehady calls it, instead of something more in tune with a colonial concept. And once again, shame on the TC members posting articles without allowing readers to comment. Shehady's monthly mayor's message and now Mr. Krauss's article about the board of health. First these people limited the comments allowed at TC meetings and now they are doing the same thing by not allowing comments for their written submissions to The Patch. In order to avoid comments by the public, these people intentionally request that no comments by allowed, so it's not a coincidence. Maybe The Patch editor should start a poll and see if the public would like the ability to respond to all because these are the same guys who keep talking about open government. All talk and no substance once again.
Marc Krauss October 18, 2012 at 02:44 PM
Mr. Fraenkel, if you were in attendance last Tuesday evening the when presentation was made; the question about the façade of the concept plan was raised and answered. The purpose of this design was show what can be built based on the limitations of the area as stated by Mr. Lennon. “Because the area is in a flood plain, there are several limitations on what you can build and how you can build,” Lennon said, adding that everything shown in the presentation would clear state environmental regulations. The purpose of the design was to clear NJDEP regulations. Mr. Blakeman stated clearly that the façade can be changed to anything that would meet our requirements to include a colonial look. Input from residents on what the downtown area should look like are always welcome.
John A.C. October 18, 2012 at 02:58 PM
The video's interesting, but tough to make sense of with no context. What intersection is that? Where would that large parking area be located?
JAC October 18, 2012 at 03:41 PM
Mr. Krauss, was there any notice given that this would be discussed at last Tuesday evenings meeting? I'm assuming that you are referring to the TC meeting. When I look at the Township website for TC meeting agenda, the most recent one is from June! How come I get an 'robo-call' from the Township to tell me about a town wide garage sale, but something as important as the downtown revitilization presentation comes along and nothing.
BART FRAENKEL October 18, 2012 at 03:55 PM
Thank you for the explanation Marc, since I wasn't at the meeting. Obviously the question was a concern of others, too. Since you do respond here, why don't you allow residents/readers to respond to your other articles?
SaveSpringfieldNJ October 18, 2012 at 05:53 PM
i remember receiving a notice about it in the Patriot http://www.springfieldpatriot.com/backIssues/Oct2012.pdf and reading about it on Patch twice http://springfield.patch.com/blog_posts/springfield-takes-another-step-towards-downtown-redevelopment http://springfield.patch.com/blog_posts/message-from-the-mayor-october-2012 and the TC meeting agenda is up to date on the website, it's on the main page as October 9 http://springfield-nj.us/latest/may-22-2012-township-committee-agenda.html and it's on the town public access channel
Marc Krauss October 18, 2012 at 06:40 PM
John - The area depicted is Morris Ave between Mountain Ave and just beyond Duffy's Corner before I-78. The large parking area depicted is on the north side of Morris Ave behind the buildings. However, it would be one large lot as oppsed to the current configuration based on property lots.
Tiredofhearing negativity From Bart October 18, 2012 at 07:04 PM
Do you ever have anything positive to say, ever? Grow up
StevenS October 18, 2012 at 07:28 PM
First, the agendas are all up including the 10/9/12 meeting. Secondly, the town's "colonial look" is not what the downtown looks like. It is dated stucco. There is no flow, continuity or anything aesthetically positive about the downtown. This is an attempt to improve the town and bring in tax dollars. It will require *gasp* change and *gasp* dollars. But, this is an investment in the future of an otherwise very pretty town.
Heather Krieger October 18, 2012 at 07:30 PM
The town looks awful - take it from a newcomer who is somewhat embarassed to say that I live there. We do not need to return to a colonial look! What we need is to redevelop to bring commerce to our town, then you can begin to make the historical areas a place for people to visit. As it stands now, there is NO reason to come here.
voiceofreason October 18, 2012 at 09:07 PM
I dont want to sound negative because I am in favor of improving the downtown, but I think the word "ambitious" might be a poor choice- Ridiculously unrealistic might have been better. Forgive my skepticism, but what landlord during these tough economic times is going to agree with demolition? And who is going to pay for the tax abatements? Property taxes are already up 12 percent. The timing of this presentation makes me wonder if this is just an expensive attempt to look busy before an election at our cost. The only focus right now should be getting the property taxes under control. The lavish spending on attorneys, designers, architects is not going to help the residents when they can't afford to live here. How much did this presentation cost the taxpayers? Lets get real here and stop throwing money away just so these politicians can look busy. As far as the reverse 911 calls that John is referring to- that is a reckless, irresponsible abuse of power by Mayor Shehady. I don't care who is selling their junk this weekend and my taxes should not be paying for that phone call. Now do i have to sign up for the reverse 911 do not call list too?
BART FRAENKEL October 18, 2012 at 11:11 PM
Thanks mayor for posting under a new name again. The positive message I have is that I am positive that without 100% support by the property owners, nothing can be accomplished. Tax abatements would help but the property owners would still have to make a significant financial outlay and give up whatever income they're currently receiving while construction occurred. Without a single property owner coming forward saying they'd even consider it, this is beyond an aggressive or optimistic plan, it borders on unrealistic.
We Like Springfield October 18, 2012 at 11:50 PM
My wife and I moved our family here 3 years ago. We did a lot of research and picked Springfield for a variety of reasons, and we're very happy with our decision to buy a house here. The one concern we had when we were town shopping, and it is still an issue today, is that Springfield is not a great town in which to socialize. The downtown area is not at all appealing. My wife and I have a date night 3-4 times a month, and we have a family night with our daughter regularly. For those nights we go to Millburn, Summit, Maplewood, Westfield, and South Orange. We choose those same towns when we go out for dinner or brunch when family or friends visit from out of the area. I would love to show more pride in my town by socializing right here. We live in walking distance from Morris Avenue, and plan to live here long term. I voted for Mayor Shahady because I believed he would be the more likely candidate to actively spearhead a drive to improve downtown Springfield, so I find this news encouraging. I'll be watching developments closely.
Ian October 19, 2012 at 12:41 PM
+1 on everything you said. Nothing looks worse than driving down a VERY dated downtown area, and it looks 10 times worse with all the "For Rent, For Sale, For Lease" signs. I know that it would be near impossible to "start over", but something has to be done. Really great work by Krauss, Shehady and Fernandez.
voiceofreason October 19, 2012 at 02:19 PM
The only thing Krauss, Shehady, and Fernandez have done is spent more of our money on a fantasy charade that is not attainable in order to look good before the election. Property taxes are up this year and this is only the beginning. Since another reader pointed out a while ago that the Mayor is known for posting comments under fake names/identities (Anthony D, B Freeman, Save Springfield, Tony, Mom of 3, My Girls) and giving himself compliments we should be suspicious of Ian's post. Ian would you like to confirm or deny you are in fact the mayor too? This is a previous post by the mayor 's identity mom of 3 which got heavy media coverage and portraying Springfield in a very negative light. Momof3 9:11 am on Thursday, August 23, 2012 That would be great Bart but you can't bet something you don't have. You have no say! In 1 hoop or 2 because you are not on the TC board anymore. And since the hoop has been down they have not been back except for last week when they robbed the CVS!! So mom of 3/ mayor Shehady are you a racist or just trying to make our town look pathetic on national TV? This is politics at its absolute worst. Stop treating the residents like we are a bunch of fools Mayor! We know who you are now! Game over.
BART FRAENKEL October 19, 2012 at 03:47 PM
Just about everyone agrees that redevelopment of the downtown would be a very good thing, so it's not a matter of one group arguing with another about whether or not it should be done. It's been an ongoing issue for many years and one where attempts to correct it have been made during at least the past 6-8 years. The only difference now is this group likes to publicize what they do instead of waiting until the property owners are actually on board and ready to move forward. The property is in a flood zone and studies and reports from previous years also showed what could be done, but the costs are so high that not a single property owner was prepared to make that kind of investment. So what has changed now? Where are the property owners who will come forward and state that they are on board? How about just 1 stepping forward, other then the Zuber family who did a great job on their property (multiple years ago) because until that happens no amount of wishing will result in the changes we want and need. By the way, Mr. Krauss, you didn't respond to my question as to why you don't allow readers to comment on the articles you post.
voiceofreason October 20, 2012 at 12:59 PM
Its obvious why Mr. Krauss has not allowed comments on his recent Board of Health article. The Local Source has done a nice job of covering this issue. From what I can gather, this was a desperate attempt to clean up the big mess that Mr. Shehady created. The Board of Health controversy turned out to be an enormous PR nightmare for the Republicans and rightly so. This was simply another of Shehady's temper tantrums because the previous Board questioned him while looking out for the public's health and safety. Krauss and Fernandez sat by and allowed him to act like a fool for the whole world to see on channel 36. Those videos are just hilarious! That is what I would call "combat ineffective". Now, he is trying to clean up the mess by bragging about the new doctors he does not even allow to speak at the meetings. Really he should be doing everything he can to stay away from this issue because it will likely cost him the election.

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