UNION, NJ — Union will witness a series of infrastructure and developmental projects this year, with the Stuyvesant Avenue Streetscape Project and the rise of several mixed-use buildings set for various completion dates.
The streetscape project is meant to enhance and further develop the main downtown area through a collaborative effort of the township and its engineers, Maser Consulting and Arterial Design Studio. The project will renovate two city blocks.
Construction began in May 2016 and is scheduled for completion by September 2018. It’s intended to be a “complete overhaul,” Union spokeswoman Natalie Pineiro said in interview with LocalSource on
According to Arterial Design’s website, the renovated Stuyvesant Avenue sidewalks will include aesthetic improvements such as new bump-outs, lighting, enhanced granite accents, corner designs and tree pits. Engraved granite bands at the intersections and the mid-block crossing paths will reflect Union’s origin as the Colonial village of Connecticut Farms and further represent the pivotal role Union played in the American Revolutionary War.
Currently the project is undergoing the first phase of a two phase plan. A delay initially halted the start of construction, an issue Union Mayor Suzette Cavadas addressed during the June 27 committee meeting.
“This committee, along with our engineering department, needed to ensure that our utility lines, including gas and water, were upgraded before the streetscape began so that the road would not need to be disrupted a second time,” Cavadas said at the meeting.
The first phase of the project includes the area between Vauxhall Road and Morris Avenue, and will be completed in the fall. The second phase will start in the spring and encompass Morris Avenue to the historic canon at Pearl Harbor Square.
The total project cost is approximately $2.2 million, however, it is “rolling out alongside phases one and two of our regular road program with $215,000 of funding coming from the New Jersey Transportation Trust Fund,” Pineiro said.
Union Township Committee candidate Jason Krychiw commended the project as a good first step in its downtown revitalization, saying he wished the revitalization had happened sooner. The longtime resident grew up behind Stuyvesant Avenue and would frequently walk downtown to shop with his parents in the mid 1990s. In interview with LocalSource on Aug. 17, Krychiw said since that time he has seen the “quality of the infrastructure slowly go downhill and businesses entering a revolving-door cycle.”
The goal is to beautify, develop and increase foot traffic within the area, while simultaneously attracting new business, Pineiro said.
Although sidewalk efforts are centralized on aesthetics, the new sidewalk will ultimately serve to manage big crowds during street festivals and the annual Saint Patrick’s Day Parade. Additionally, the raised mid-block crossing will slow traffic, making it safer for pedestrians.
“In essence, we are creating a neighborhood downtown, where people who live in Union Center will also shop, eat and spend their leisure time there,” Cavadas said at the June 27 committee meeting. “This, combined with a new ambiance and an aggressive push for higher caliber retailers, is certain to give the center the energy that it needs to thrive.”
New businesses such as Norma’s Flowers, Vision Eyewear and Care Pharmacy have newly entered the downtown area, formally known as the special improvement district or SID. Coming soon is Kung Fu Tea, Beauty Supply Store, Atlantic Beach Soap Company and Jammed Up, the expansion of Van Gogh’s Ear cafe.
Accompanying the expansive renewal of downtown Union, mixed-use complexes that consist of both commercial, retail and residential spaces are popping up.
The Seabra’s project, located across from the Stop n Shop and O’Lagar Restaurant, is expected to be complete in the fall. This will be a mixed-use development model, similar to the Terminal Mills project, a combination of both retail and residential space.
The planning board recently gave approval for the Terminal Mills project, which allows American Landmark Developers to develop 300 feet of Stuyvesant Avenue, starting at Terminal Mill Ends and moving toward Unity Bank. That project will begin later this year. Additionally, Pineiro told LocalSource on Aug. 21 that 25 percent of the former Merck property, located off of Morris Ave., will be developed as a mixed use building.
Still notably under construction is the main post office on West Chestnut Street. The completion date of the repaving project has not been announced.
“The initial timeline for the customer lot is being readjusted, so we are unable to announce a definitive reopening date at this time,” Postal Service spokesperson George Flood said in email on Aug. 18.
The 65,385-square-foot parking lot repaving project has caused parking and traffic issues for residents and employees. Despite these issues, the “post office is open for business and mail delivery will remain unaffected,” Flood said.
Pineiro said Union has reached out to the post office many times, but has not received any action as a result.